In this morning’s Ethics class, we were discussing the frustrations and problems of everyday life: juggling technology, making a living without it overwhelming us, ‘Mentschlichkeit’, even though so many people don’t believe in it, religious faith/practice in today’s society, etc.
In The Path of the Just, written 150 years ago, the author quoted a rabbinic Midrash, found in ‘Lamentations Rabba’, that seemed to encapsulate our entire discussion. In speaking to the People of Israel, God is quoted as saying: “It should only be that (if) Israel abandoned Me they would, at least, keep My Torah.”
Many times, when individuals are speaking to me they begin the conversation with the phrase: “Rabbi, I’m not religious….” Inevitably, I respond: “I don’t use the word ‘religious’ because I don’t know what it means.” Usually, it leaves the person staring blankly at me, not quite understanding what I am saying. Why? Because too often, we use the term ‘religious’ with a certain vision in mind and since we do not visualize ourselves within that vision, we are, henceforth: ‘Not religious!’ All I know is, that anyone who describes themselves as ‘religious’, isn’t!
Our Midrash has God saying not to get caught up in (basically frustrating and unending) discussions as to what God or God isn’t and instead, deal with the issues and situations in which life presents to us. Observing what the Torah says on effective parenting, honesty in business, not to gossip, to be a trustworthy individual, respectful of and sensitive to the world God created, awareness that our lives have meaning, and on and on, is the way to show one’s religiosity, as opposed to just speaking about it.
There are too many speeches, too many words and many empty phrases being used in today’s world, both spoken as well in written form, and not enough action and deed. If one wishes to make a difference in one’s world (as broad or narrow as it is), don’t talk about what you are going to do, just go ahead and do it! Belief in God is a very important principle of Judaism, but belief without action is emptiness; belief without it affecting how we live our lives is meaningless. If our belief is not a constant beacon for our souls in the dark of night or during the storms of our lives, then what use is it at all?
During the coming week, keep track of how many empty words you may hear (or even speak) and of empty promises spoken. During the coming week, keep track of how many promises you fulfill and how many of your words will bring results in their wake.
Ultimately, we are responsible for our own actions as well as our own words. Don’t worry so much about ‘religiosity’ and theology; better we spend our time on what is before us: a world in need and in pain and what are we doing about it?
Mitzvah Day was this past Sunday- and was a major success for all, but what have we done since then?
Don’t forget Cantorial Concert on May 5 at 3pm here at temple. Our own Allison Teisch has arranged a wonderful afternoon of Jewish music: Songs of our People, with the monies raised for scholarships at Camp Coleman as well as for the American Cantors’ Conference.
Shabbat Shalom and see you at temple!