Ted is a shoe salesman. All day he meets customers, asks their shoe size, goes to the back of the store and brings them pairs to try on. Then he trudges away with those that don’t fit and returns with yet another pile for the customer to try on. Again and again, all day long. He is so tired; he keeps stealing glances at the big clock on the wall. He wants to go home.

Robert has also been working hard allWhy is one so tired? day, bringing shoes to customers and putting back the ones that don’t fit. But he doesn’t trudge; he leaps! When the clock shows closing time, he doesn’t rush out the door. He stays and sweeps up, even though it’s not part of his job.

Ted and Robert both did the exact same thing all day. Why is one so tired, the other still bright and fresh? Ted can’t wait to go home; Robert is looking for more ways to help out.

Dig a little deeper and we find out that Ted is an employee, while Robert is the owner’s son.

Ah, now we can understand them both.

There is no explicit commandment in the Torah to be joyous, yet one who fulfills the commandments begrudgingly fails to appreciate G‑d’s great kindness.

The Torah reading of Ki Tavo includes a section commonly referred to as “The Rebuke,” describing many terrible calamities that G‑d will—Heaven forefend—bring upon us if we fail to fulfill our mission in this world:

… because you did not serve the L‑rd, your G‑d, with happiness and with gladness of heart, when [you had an] abundance of everything.1

This verse is usually understood to mean that the Jewish nation didn’t observe the Torah’s commandments happily, even though they lived in a time of plenty. The Holy Ari, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, however, explains the verse to mean that the Jewish people would be severely punished because they didn’t serve G‑d with a joyful heart. Yes, they served G‑d faithfully, studying Torah and fulfilling its commandments, but as a tiresome chore—not joyously, in a fashion befitting the child of the King.

It’s time to take a closer look at ourselves. Are we a Ted, serving G‑d like an employee punching the clock? Or are we a Robert, serving Him like one of His beloved children, which we indeed are?

Moreover, who do the commandments benefit, after all? The Almighty doesn’t need our subservience; we can’t add anything at all to His magnificence. The Torah is His beneficence to us, affording us an opportunity to refine ourselves and to be embraced by His Holy Presence.

Do we look at G‑d’sWho do commandments benefit, after all? commandments as responsibilities and chores? Or do we see a mitzvah as another opportunity to become closer to Him? Chassidic thought teaches that the word mitzvah comes from the root tzavta, meaning “together.” The King is giving us an opportunity to come close to him, and we shrug our shoulders. We’re tired, we’re busy, we haven’t yet sat down in a comfortable armchair to read the news.

G‑d can wait a bit, we think:

My beloved is knocking [G‑d is entreating]:

‘Open for me, my sister, my beloved, my dove, my perfect one.’

[But the Jew replies:]

‘I have taken off my tunic; how can I put it on? I have bathed my feet; how can I soil them?’2

But those who view themselves as the King’s beloved children fulfill the commandments with joy and exuberance, expending time and energy, sparing no expense to do His will.