A while ago, I was asked to speak for a group of university students. The organizer cautioned me that my talk should be “very sophisticated.”

“Wow them with philosophical ideas and a strong intellectual presentation about Judaism,” she had said.

Listening to her advice, I prepared for the event. The talk went very well; the students were engaged and thoughtful and a riveting question and answer period followed. But one of the questions in particular intrigued me and taught me a lesson for life.

One student asked, “I noticed that in the middle of your talk, before taking a sip from your glass of water, you recited a blessing out loud. Can you tell us some more about that?”

I began explaining about the meaning and purpose of brachot, the blessings we say before we eat thanking G‑d for providing it for us. At this point, all the students enthusiastically asked me if I could teach them how to say a blessing! And so, for the next several moments, I practiced with them, word by word, as I do with my youngest children, how to thank G‑d for the drink and food that He provides us.

I laugh at this incident because so often we think we need to wow people with intellectual and philosophical theory. Sure, Judaism has plenty of that. We could spend a lifetime and beyond plumbing the depths of its profundity without even scraping the surface. We could invest decades studying how it addresses our existential purpose and how to find greater meaning. And our lives would be enriched in the process.

Or, we can simply do it.

I remember at one Shabbat meal, my husband and son were having a very long and detailed discussion on the intricate humanistic aspects of kindness and its legalistic application in Judaism. The dialog was stimulating but at one point, I finally became tired of the discussion and said, “OK, enough with the philosophy. This very tired Jewish mother wants you to practice the kindness you so eloquently address by getting up now and clearing these dishes off the table!”

As the Rebbe so often said, quoting from our sages, “Hamaaseh hu haikur”—the deed is the essence.

Don’t get me wrong. Theoretical deliberations to expand our intellect and to appreciate our world in a deeper and more meaningful way are great and essential. But let’s not get so sidetracked by the intellect that we lose track of the practical.

Last week’s Torah portion, Yitro, details the majesty of the giving of the Torah, an awesome, life-transforming experience. What lofty ideas will follow?

Mishpatim opens with the discussion of how to treat slaves. It includes practical civil laws of damages caused by negligence.

Ultimately, as those university students realized, as much as we speak, study, dissect, and discuss great ideas, the deed—even the simplest one—is most important!

And perhaps that is one of Judaism’s most profound teachings.