We Will Hear and We Will Do

Central motif of the festival of Shavuot: is it better to act out of volition or obligation?
Dr. Shaul Magid is a Fellow of the Kogod Research Center at the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America. He is a Professor of Jewish Studies at Dartmouth College, where he teaches Jewish Studies and Religion, rabbi of the Fire Island Synagogue in Sea View, NY, contributing editor to Tablet Magazine and editor of Jewish Thought and Culture at Tikkun Magazine. He is also a member of the American Academy for Jewish Research. Shaul received

“Is it better to do something because one is obligated or because one chooses? One is usually not rewarded for following the law — for example, stopping at a red light. But one is viewed as praiseworthy when acting out of volition — for example, helping an elderly person across the street. It is precisely because one is not legally mandated to do something that the act is often considered meritorious.”

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