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Addiction to Mitzvot

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Topic: Additction to Mitzvot

Ethan Greenwood from London UK wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

Since Judaism opposes addiction because it implies a loss of self control, is it therefore also forbidden to be addicted to the observance of mitzvot?

Dear Ethan Greenwood,

Just a minuteI can't answer your question yet...I've got this uncontrollable desire totostick this dollar into that charity box...There! I feel much better now!

Now, what was your question again? Oh yes, does Judaism oppose "addiction" to mitzvot (commandments)?

Judaism encourages behavior which enhances physical and spiritual well-being, and opposes behavior detrimental to physical and spiritual well-being.

If a person accustoms himself to proper behavior, and as a result he is uncomfortable doing what he feels is wrong, that's healthy. Call it an addiction if you want.

On the other hand, if a person falls into a depression because his observance is not up to par, or if his observance expresses itself in counter-productive or destructive behavior patterns -- such as obsessive compulsive behavior -- that's not healthy. Call it a negative addiction.

But that's true of almost any activity or lifestyle: Almost anything can be expressed in either a healthy or an unhealthy way. Take eating, for example: When was the last time you went a day without eating a bunch of food? So, you're a food addict, are you? But you decide whether to stuff your face with chocolate cake ten times a day, or to eat three nutritious meals, or a compromise between the two. Either way, you must eat.

So, you might be right: We Jews are mitzvah addicts. We must do the mitzvot! Done properly, the mitzvot enhance our lives and nourish our souls.

In fact, the Sages have taught us over and over again that unless you approach Judaism with a passion and an intense desire -- unless you are "addicted" to Judaism -- you'll never scale its heights and grow!

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