The Philosophy of Chabad
The Ultimate Question
Question for Discussion:
Does G-d Need Your Mitzvos?
We are dealing here with the ultimate fundamental question. This is not something we can dismiss easily
or be half-hearted about. This is it.
For thousands of years we have mesiras nefesh to do the mitzvos and not to do aveiros. To then be told
that G-d himself doesn’t necessarily need the mitzvah doesn’t sound right at all. You can’t be inspired if
He is not, you can’t serve Him if He doesn’t even really want you to! Even to say G-d that wants you to
serve Him and He wants the mitzvah on a certain level, but really deep down G-d doesn’t need it, etc.,
that’s like saying, “Don’t take it seriously.”
Unless, of course, you want to get Gan Eden; you want to be a Tzadik because you want a reward. In
that case, as badly as you want the reward, that’s how seriously you are going to take the mitzvos. But
then what does the Mishna (Avot 1:3) mean to not do a mitzvah for the reward? If I am not doing the
mitzvah for the reward and G-d doesn’t necessarily need it, what am I doing? It’s either for me or for Him
—it can’t be for nobody!
Now, if you look at the Mishna, before you even get to Chassidus, the mishna puts the message into a
context. What is the context? Don’t be like a servant who serves his master for the sake of the reward,
etc. Why do you have the mashal of a servant and a master; why don’t you simply say don’t do the
mitzvos for the reward?
The context is important because it explains the sense and the reasoning behind the message: Why
should we not do mitzvos for the reward? If not for the reward, then for what? The mashal is teaching us
that a servant serves his master without the thought of a reward because he is serving his master. In
other words, by knowing that the master is getting what he needs, I don’t need to get something I need
because his pleasure is all the reward I need. But if there is no Rav, there is no master, and I am not
doing anything for him, then why I should do a mitzvah without thought of a reward?
So, the Mishna is telling you don’t need more reward than knowing that what you’re doing for the Eibishter
is what He needs. To then come along and say, “But He doesn’t need…,” well then what are we left with?
People are justifiably uncomfortable with the word “need” if you apply it to the Eibishter because that
sounds like a contradiction. The reason He is G-d is because He doesn’t need anything, so if He needs
how is He G-d?
It’s a good question, but you can’t avoid the logic of saying that there is something in it for G-d. “Brieshis
bara elokim es hashamayim ves haretz…” Nu? He didn’t need it? We certainly didn’t need it—we weren’t
even created yet.
Now, you can say that G-d doesn’t need it for Himself; He only created the world because we would
eventually benefit, and He wants to do what’s best for us. Some use a mashal that G-d is like a father
who is trying to do what’s best for his kid: A father doesn’t need to do what’s best for his kid, but he wants
to; it’s just for his kid. But still, there is obviously an interest, an investment that the father is making