The Commandments: Biblical Reasons to Obey

There are a number of reasons given to obey God's laws.

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“You shall faithfully observe My commandments: I am God. You shall not profane My holy name, that I may be sanctified in the midst of the Israelite people—I the Lord who sanctify you, I who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God, I am the Lord” (Leviticus 22:31-33).

The Bible recommends that Jews do what is right—perform God’s commandments —because God’s reputation depends upon it. Sanctifying God’s name is a powerful motivation to do what is right.

The Commandments Are a Way to Become an Extraordinary People

The Hebrew word for “holy” is kadosh, which literally means, “set apart” or “like no other.” The Torah states that in obeying the mitzvot, the Jewish people become a nation that is unique and set apart from all the other nations in the world. Since the Israelites agree to obey God’s com­mands, they are called God’s treasured people. While this theme permeates the Bible, there is one especially famous expression of it, which occurred when the Israelites reach Mount Sinai:

“Moses went up to God, and God called to him from the mountain saying, ‘Thus shall you say to the house of Jacob and declare to the children of Israel: You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Me. Now then, if you will obey Me faithfully and keep My covenant, you shall be My most treasured possession among all the nations. Indeed all of the earth is Mine, but you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation’ ” (Exodus 19:3-6).

This passage defines “holy” as meaning special and unique from among all others. It is important to note that the Israelites are to be God’s holy people only if they are obedient to God’s commandments.

Obeying Commandments is the Way for Israelites to Show Their Adoration of God

The Torah describes God as the lover of the Jewish people. Giving them the Torah was a sign of that love. The following biblical passages illustrates God’s extreme affection for the Israelites:

“For you are a people consecrated to God: of all the peoples on earth God chose you to be His treasured people. It is not because you are the most numerous of peoples that God set His heart on you and chose you. Indeed, you are the smallest of peoples; but it was because God loved you and kept the oath He made to your ancestors that God freed you with a mighty hand and rescued you from the house of bondage, from the power of Pharaoh, king of Egypt.

“Know, therefore, that only the Lord your God is God, the steadfast God who keeps His gracious covenant to the thousandth generation of those who love Him and keep His commandments, but who in­stantly retaliates with destruction against those who reject Him—­never slow with those who reject Him, but paying them back in­stantly. Therefore, observe faithfully the Instruction, the laws, and the norms with which I charge you today” (Deuteronomy 7:6-11).

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Rabbi Ronald H. Isaacs

Rabbi Ronald H. Isaacs is the spiritual leader of Temple Sholom in Bridgewater, New Jersey. He has served as the publications committee chairperson of the Rabbinical Assembly.