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Shomer Mitzvah

Keep your soul -

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Shomer mitzvah, shomer nafsho...

Proverbs 19:16

He that keepeth the commandment keepeth his own soul;
but he that despiseth his ways shall die (Proverbs 19:16 KJV).

In Jewish thinking, mitzvot (commandments) are not burdensome things, but rather opportunities to express gratitude to God for the gift of life. Mitzvot are compared to "garments" or "angels" that accompany a person in their journey through life. The one who keeps or observes (shomer) the commandment of the LORD guards his own life, for the keeping of the commandment aligns the soul (nephesh) with life. "Shomer mitzvah, shomer nafsho."

Shomer Mitzvah

On the other hand, the one who despises his own ways (derekh) will die. The word translated "despises" comes from bazah, a verb that means to accord little worth to something. The one who is heedless of his ways or otherwise unconcerned about the high calling of obedience aligns the soul with error, and the end thereof is death (Prov. 14:12).

In short, we are duty-bound to care about our lives. Being shomer mitzvah is thus a form of wakefulness, where we consciously attend to our actions in light of God's expressed will. Since every moment of our lives provides an opportunity for decision, we may always ask whether we are keeping or despising the way of life.

Proverbs 19:16 Transliterated

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