I remember when I was in the hospital, and the question came up about doing a tracheotomy. I was asked if I wanted to do it, or perhaps not and pass on to the next world. It was my choice. I was tormented by the question. On one hand, I had suffered so much. On the other hand, I love my family. It was heart-wrenching when I thought of my wife, Dina, and our children—how much they would suffer if I was gone.

Then I thought, what would G‑d want me to do? What would be best for my family? The answer seemed clear, and I went through with it. It wasn’t easy—not for me, not for Dina and not for the family. But we are all happier because of it; it was the right decision.

In the portion of Acharei, we read: “And you should guard My statutes and My laws, that the person will do them, and live by them [vachai bahem], I am G‑d.”1

The Maggid of Mezrich explains that the words vachai bahem can also mean “and put life into them.” We have to bring life into the mitzvahs we do.

How does one bring life into mitzvahs? What can we learn from this for our relationships?

Our approach to doing mitzvahs takes on several different forms.

First, you have the one whose mitzvahs and personal life have no connection. To him, there is a separation between holy and mundane. He prays with fervor in shul, but when he does business, eats, etc., holiness and refinement are not visible.

Then there is the one whose life and mitzvah observances are connected. But he does them with the hope that by performing them, he will get what he needs from G‑d. His drive to do mitzvahs is the physical payout. In this case, his mitzvahs bring life into his needs.

Then there is the one whose every physical need and act correlates to doing mitzvahs. He eats, he exercises, he works and rests, just to be able to carry out G‑d’s will. This brings life into the mitzvahs. Your whole life is for the mitzvahs you do for G‑d.

Most of us fall into all of these categories at one time or another. The goal should be to make G‑d the focus, to bring life into the mitzvahs. You will find that you will become more refined. You will eat differently, act differently, etc. Your every step will become filled with purpose and meaning. Of course, this doesn’t happen in a day; it is a life’s journey. One step at a time, you have the power to reach higher, and the more you do, the more meaningful your life will become and the closer you will feel to G‑d.

The same prioritization applies in other areas of our lives as well.

It is always difficult to maintain a balance between family and work, and family and personal interests. When work and recreation become escapes from family, the equation is off balance. Your spouse and children should be your top priorities; they should know that they are the most important people in your life because you treat them that way. You need to provide for them, but most of all, you need to love them and place them first. Then, work and recreation come with no resentment; in fact, your family will take pride and joy in your outside accomplishments because of the loving provider you are.

But don’t expect to become a “super dad” or “super mom” in a day. Every step in the right direction will bring you closer.

The key is to make G‑d most important to your family and your family most important to you. If your family suffers because of your relationship with G‑d, then you are doing something wrong and should look for a way to correct the problem, even if it means changing yourself and your religious expression.

May we all be blessed with meaning in our lives, closeness to G‑d and closeness to our families.