Some projects take a lot of work. Say you’re stitching a giant needlepoint with a huge variety of colors and intricate details. It takes hours and hours to complete such a masterpiece, needing plenty of patience to go along with it. But when you are finished, there’s an inherent reward. It’s not something external, like an ice cream cone; your reward is intrinsic. It’s the needlepoint itself, ready to grace a wall in your home.

Mitzvahs work in much the same way. When a Jew does a mitzvah, he or she elevates a chunk of the world. For example, if Jews perform the mitzvah of shaking a lulav and etrog during Sukkot, they elevate those ritual items and draw down a holy light upon them. The energy that people use to do the mitzvah also becomes holy, and that is why the more energy invested in a mitzvah, the more holiness is drawn down.

Not only that, but all the food that that person ate—providing the energy to do the mitzvah in the first place—gets elevated as well, because it indirectly assisted in the performance of the mitzvah. In this way, with every good deed performed, more and more of the energy in the world becomes transformed. Thus, the reward is not something external; it becomes the cumulative effect of the mitzvah itself. The reward is intrinsic—a world transformed into a holy place, otherwise known as the messianic era.

Here’s the important part. No one can transform the corner of the world reserved just for you. Every soul was put on this earth for one purpose: to elevate sparks assigned to that particular soul. This makes every Jew indispensable in the global endeavor of drawing down holiness into the world.

Not all mitzvahs are equal. Some require more effort and sacrifice, such as giving tzedakah. When people donate hard-earned money to a cause or charity, they pass up on things that would enhance their own lives. The more effort and energy a mitzvah requires, the more of the world it transforms. It is more effective in completing the worldwide “project” of elevating this physical, mundane world into a holy home for G‑d and completing the purpose of creation.

Tanya Bit: There is a little piece of the world that is waiting for you to make it holy.

(Inspired from Chapter 37 of Tanya)