There is a little old lady in a small village who has an old cup and saucer placed on a special shelf. She never fails to show it to people who come into her house.
“It was a dark night,” she relates, “many, many years ago, when I was young. Our country was in danger of being invaded. The king was on his way back from inspecting the army, when he passed through our village.
“It was known that the king, although courageous, was not a very healthy man. And as he passed through our village, he needed something warm to drink.
“It was late at night. Our house had a light on, so his guards came in. I was delighted to be able to serve him a hot cup of tea, in this very cup, on this very saucer.”
This cup will always be different from her other cups. She had heard of the king before, but had never seen him. Now he had come into her house and asked for a cup of tea. And she had given it to him. In this cup.
Through this cup, she has established a relationship with the king.
Through a mitzvah, we establish a relationship with G‑d.
The object with which we perform the mitzvah becomes different from all other objects.
It has fulfilled the wish of G‑d.
But we cannot fulfill the wish of G‑d through an object that does not lend itself to such fulfillment.
A small group of children went out on a hike with their teacher.
They stopped on a road, near a farm, at the foot of a large mountain range. Running down from the mountains was a bubbling brook of fresh water.
The children drank some water. But first they said a berachah (blessing).
They washed their hands (ritually) before their lunch, and again they said a berachah. They sat under a tree. They ate their lunches, and then they said Birkat Hamazon (Grace After Meals). They then studied Torah under the tree.
The water they drank.
The grass they sat on.
The water that washed.
The shade of the tree.
(Rabbi Mattis Kantor)