Years ago, during the time of Shavuot that we are now approaching, the Jewish Nation stood before Har Sinai and screamed out as a nation, נעשה ונשמע, “We will do and we will listen.” This seems a little a strange since it is human nature to listen first and then act.
Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler gives a suggestion that might help us understand how one could act before he listens. He writes that the fundamental aspect of love is the ability to give to your loved one. He goes further to say that one does not always love and then give. More often than not, the giving comes before the loving, and love grows from the giving. The more one gives, the more one loves.
Rabbi Avi Weiss mentions a program called Marriage Encounter. This program believes that love should be considered not only as a feeling, but also as a decision. Feelings can always change; for instance one can feel anger towards a friend one day and be friendly again the next. Love is different because love is a decision. When one makes the decision to love and takes that step, the feelings will follow. That is why love is not always measured as what one feels for another, but as what one is prepared to do for another.
This concept applies very much to our connection with Hashem. If one were to consider prayer for a minute, one would realize that prayer is an expression of love towards Hashem. So why do we not pray when we feel like it? Instead, we are obligated to pray, and after making the decision to do so, the feelings from prayer will surface.
Now we see an underlying concept of all Jewish rituals. First we should perform the act and then the feelings will come. This is why at Har Sinai the Jewish People first said, “We will do,” and then said afterward, “We will listen.” One can learn a great lesson from this. It is not good enough to feel love toward our family and friends; one must also express this love and let them know they are loved. There is never a better time than now, as Rabbi Weiss writes, “Actions are primary, they are the indicator, the inspiration for true love.” (Adapted from a Dvar Torah given by my uncle, Rabbi Avi Weiss.)