"In reality, we are not independent beings; we are all living manifestations of God. Jewish consciousness promotes this fundamental concept through behavior, lifestyle, and speech — in essence, through obeying God's commandments and thus serving to manifest God in the world.

"As mentioned earlier, according to the great Hassidic master the Baal Shem Tov, our goal in life is to realize that we are a manifestation of God. But 'serving God' is a negative concept to many people, because they don't understand that God is the source of all being, all energy, and all creativity.

"To understand this concept, imagine a time when you were completely engrossed in painting, singing, or another activity, to the point where you found yourself performing, quite naturally, on a much higher level. If you are a runner, remember those times when you felt like you couldn't go on, then all of a sudden something possessed you and drove you across the finish line. At times like these you'd wonder: Who did that? Did I do it? I was running but something else gave me the power to do it. Was I really the runner or the running?

"Others might ask: Am I the singing or the singer? I think I am the painter, but am I really the painting? I know for myself that my best moments as a rabbi are when I know I am the just the speaking, not the speaker.

"Serving God means being completely connected to our divine source and channeling divine presence into the world. That is what serving God means. Unfortunately, many people think 'serving God' is submitting to an egomaniacal deity who dwells in heaven and demands, 'You must serve me! Obey my commandments and do them with a smile! Or else I will punish you.' In actuality, serving God is like the dance serving the dancer, the song serving the singer, the speech serving the speaker.

"It is not a question of whether or not to serve. The question is who to serve. Serving another human being is enslavement, but serving the source of all life and creativity truly is liberation.

"To serve God means striving to portray God's qualities of love, wisdom, understanding, kindness, justice, compassion, beauty, truth, peace, and so on. When we act mercifully, we are serving the source of all mercy. When we act intelligently, we are serving the source of all intelligence. And when we are serving justice, we are serving the source of all justice. This is how we authentically portray our godliness and experience true fulfillment. The path to ultimate meaning requires making our life a means to expressing God in the world.

"Just how to make that path our own is explained in the Torah. In fact, Judaism makes an amazing claim — that living according to the mitzvot of the Torah is the most natural, authentic, and meaningful way to be who we really are.

"The first man and woman were driven by their innate godliness to express and experience their true essence, but they didn't know the difference between the dance and the dancer. As humans, we are not the dancer; we are the dance. We may think that we're the dancer, but we can really only emulate the dancer and follow the steps God choreographs for us.

"Asking why we would want to obey the commandments is like asking why the song would want to follow its singer or why the dance would want to follow its dancer. Judaism explains why: You are the creation, therefore, follow your Creator. And it is the mitzvot that enable us to do so in the most authentic, natural, and meaningful way — to express who we are as godly beings."