When I first heard the word mitzvah I was utterly intrigued. What is a mitzvah? It means "a good deed". Many, many sunrises later I learned that it strictly meant "a commandment". In my sentimental ruminations, I imagined I had a physical bowl of mitzvot, then I asked my self: "What would be in it?".
As time passed, I came to understand that a mitzvah is the singular mechanism by which I can actualize my self - the only venue by which I can completely trans-substantiate the Divine Breath that had animated me in the first place. I become fully my self by giving of myself. I only own that which I give away. I cannot exist out of context of my present world and of my present time and of my present neighbors. I cannot live only for my self if I wanted to live meaningfully and purposefully. It is by emptying me that I become whole. For every good deed that issues from me could be the response to a prayer, could inspire someone who needs uplifting, could lighten the yoke of someone with a heavy burden, could warm someone who is dreadfully cold, could countenance a smile or a chuckle, could be anything simply optimistic and healthy. Hence anything I do or do not do is a manifestation of the stance of my spirit. My beliefs are translated in my demeanor. My actions are aligned with my creed. By doing so I maintain a symmetrical relationship between my God vertically and my neighbor horizontally. I am in balance and I become integral. As I use up my self, I become more useful. I am replenished as I give away. By emptying my self I am never truly empty because I become a useful vessel to contain and then to transmit, convey, transport - with the end in view of making life lighter for another and the world gentler for everyone, and delighting all souls in these wondrous graces. This is a manifest of the belief in a God who is benevolent, providential and graceful - hence I approach my world and all that is in it in the same benevolent, providential and graceful generosity. My behaviors cannot be diametrically opposed to my God.
The God of the Old Testament kept the Jewish people occupied with feasts and rituals in accord with 613 mitzvot - I believe the idea is to focus attention on God, exult, adore and thank Him through these busy chores. These keep the soul away from the harmful snares and lures of the devil. In the Christian tradition, especially in our home which was headed by my Dad who was Protestant, we manifested our love of God through what is referred to as tithing although we went over, above, beyond and in-depth of the narrow definition of the word. Amongst Buddhists practitioners who made compassion a trendy concept, in its purest form, compassion has no limits in time, space and resources. In all religions, every one thing one does to advance the good of all in the world is a mitzvah. It is compassion incarnate. It is a tithe that represents all the best of one's harvest. Therefore living life in all its sacred nuances is itself a prayer, a good deed, a tithe or can be if one commits to living life to its fullest wonder. In monastic terms, such a way of life is considered contemplative, i.e. prayer, meditation, activity are inseparable. Everything is adoration of God - there is no defined edge where one begins and the other ends. This way of life is a tranquil and gentle life, generous and prosperous beyond one's comprehension. This is heaven on earth.