Ever go out with a friend to a restaurant, eager to try out new tastes and foods, only to find the chef’s special to be called “Grandma’s cream of mushroom soup”? Or to see at the bottom of the menu “a taste of home”?

What are they trying to mimic? Not the actualWhat are they trying to mimic? measurements and spices. They are attempting to evoke a sense of nostalgia, of the loving memory of grandmothers everywhere stirring and serving large pots of soup. That’s because beyond the chopping and the peeling, humans crave to feel the passion and intention that comes with a sense of home.

After spending a number of chapters highlighting the importance of just fulfilling the physical requirement of a mitzvah, Chapter 38 presents us with the flip side. Sure, we can do mitzvahs like a robot, checking them off mindlessly. But G‑d craves that we do them with intention, known as “kavana.” The same G‑d that wants us to perform a mitzvah, such as eating matzah on Passover or waving the etrog and lulav during Sukkot, wants us to do so with the intention of connecting to Him! He wants the experience to be filled with passion, which gives life to the mitzvah. Our sages compared a mitzvah without kavana to a body without a soul, for it is the emotions that give soul to the mitzvah. When a mitzvah is performed with the express intention of connecting to G‑d, it literally contains a greater quantity of G‑dly light.

There are actually varying levels of doing mitzvahs, ranging from a “robotic” performance to the “human” performance of them, each one symbolized by a higher form of creation.

A physical act done without any emotion at all is compared to an inanimate object, one that exists but is not in any sense “alive.”

A physical mitzvah that inherently involvesAsk yourself if you’re really feelin’ it some thought on the part of the person performing it, such as prayer, yet done without passion can be symbolized by a plant, which experiences growth and is more “alive” than an inanimate rock.

When a person does a mitzvah motivated by a natural love of G‑d, it can be likened to an animal, which is very much “alive,” but operates only on a natural, instinctual level.

And when a mitzvah is performed with a love and fear that is intellectually stimulated, it represents the ultimate level, where we are inserting that “human touch” and “taste of home” into the mitzvah itself.

So while the first thing is to make sure that you are actually going through the motions, don’t stop there! The next step is to ask yourself if you’re really feelin’ it.

Tanya Bit : Doing a mitzvah with the intention of connecting to G‑d not only enhances our mitzvah, it is the way G‑d wants us to serve Him.

(Inspired from Chapter 38 of Tanya)