Fools we were. In the womb, all was warm, all was provided. In the womb, we could just be. What were we missing that we had to squeeze our way through the birth canal, to break out into this cold world? Because from that point on, there is no rest, only movement, constant movement.

That is what life beyond the womb is all about: getting somewhere. And as soon as you are there, getting somewhere else. Scurrying down one corridor to arrive at a doorway to yet another corridor where we must furiously seek out the next doorway. When are we ever in a place for the sake of being in that place? What do we ever do for the sake of doing? Even in the moment of pleasure we yearn for a greater pleasure, until “no one leaves this world with half his desire in his hand.”1 When can we ever once again just be?

If so for the materialist, how much more so for the seeker of knowledge, of wisdom, of spiritual growth. “The students of the sages have no rest,” the Talmud informs us. “They are continually moving from strength to strength.”2 The Zohar describes Abraham, constantly traveling “southward”—meaning, towards the light. And as close as you come, the light, an infinite light, becomes yet more distant, more unattainable.3

Yet a mitzvah is just that: being There, having The Thing Itself—not the light, but the Source of Light. Not because you have come closer to that Source, not because you are holding it in your hands, but because that Source and you have become one.4

Why is this? Because the Essence of All Things speaks gently to you and asks, “Please be My hands, My feet, My mind. Be My presence within your material world. All that I have made, I have made as a stage upon which My innermost desire may unfold, and that most precious drama I have left for you.”

You follow the choreography for which you were formed within your mother’s womb, this mitzvah that has come your way, in its particular way in your particular world. And in that act, the two of you have become one—you, the tiny creature, and He, the Infinite Creator. The same innermost desire breathes within each of you.5

Why can’t you feel it? Because the physical body and the material world—and even the soul as it is compressed into that body—cannot sustain such a degree of ecstasy. When the people received the Torah at Mt. Sinai, with each statement, their souls took flight from their bodies. Even to feel just a glimmer of that energy, the soul must ascend back to its heavenly origin and yet higher—and there it will need the special protection afforded it by its mitzvot so as not to dissipate within the all-encompassing light.

“I was a boor and I had no knowledge,” sings the psalmist about our predicament carrying out our mission in this world. “I was like a beast with You. Yet I was constantly with You . . .”6

In a time to come, we will have bodies capable of sustaining the ecstasy of conscious union with The Thing Itself. In the meantime, the closest we can come to that ecstasy is the celebration of each mitzvah as we act it through. In that joy of a mitzvah, taught the Baal Shem Tov, is an infinite reward beyond anything the highest spiritual world can contain.7 In that joy, you have returned to the very womb of all being.