What is Judaism? Is it something we do, “aside” from life? Unfortunately, this is the response you will hear from many Jews: religious and not. This thinking, or lack thereof, is a byproduct of a culture, which focuses and praises wealth, fame, lusts, and entertainment. Since the lifestyle of Judaism paints a picture bereft of these fantasies portrayed in magazines, and acclaimed by celebrities (part of the problem) many leave the fold, or never experiment with Judaism. Many observant Jews are also at fault for promoting animosity towards gentiles and irreligious Jews which drives away other Jews from Jewish life, and claiming superiority…something God never said. If one is religious, he gains. But in no way is he or she permitted or correct in degrading another soul, Jewish or gentile. The Rabbis criticize this as “Lomade l’Kantare”, “Learning to degrade”. Yeshivas too promote this religious, superiority complex, which is nothing more than ego, and not part of God’s Torah in any measure. Many religious Jews rush through prayers in minyan each morning…their own abilities are their barometer for what creates success, and God is second: further grounds for them not to degrade irreligious Jews. Of course, we must work, but rushing through our blessings of, and prayers to God is foolish. It displays just how minor is its role, and that we require immediate correction.
For a person to view God as a reality, when one does not see him, hear Him, or witness miracles, this definitely requires a reorientation of how we estimate what is “real”. We are ingrained in sensual lives, “When I see it I’ll believe it”. Well, this is actually true, but what you need to see is evidence of a Creator, and this universe is exactly that. We must team our seeing, with intelligent reason. No miracle will be better proof that the Earth was created, or that you were created. “Mind” must begin to lead the emotions, a role-reversal battle that must ensue.
If an irreligious Jew would be given the opportunity, he too would realize the truth: he is a “created being”. There is a Creator…the universe didn’t simply appear of its own, as nothing can create itself. He may finally come to the astounding realization: “God created me”. (Can you actually say this with a thrilled conviction? You should.) Realizing this through the assistance of properly educated Jews, currently irreligious Jews will certainly desire to know further proofs of God’s existence, and why and how the Torah is not merely an activity “aside” from others, but a way of life that addresses each aspect of our days, weeks, and years.
If I could speak to my irreligious brothers and sisters I would tell them this: Do you realize that there must be a Creator? Are you aware that He is cognizant of each of us, of you, of me, and all our thoughts and actions? This must be the case, as he created everything alone. He knows His creations. Do you feel any other source can better advise us all as to which path in life will be most fulfilling, and what choices we must make to completely meet all of our physical, intellectual and psychological needs? Of course my brother, you agree that the Creator of man and Earth is the exclusive authority, and should be listened to. Surely, making a change to include daily study is the easier choice, but charting a new lifestyle, abandoning all previously cherished feelings, thoughts and actions, will take courage, and time. But don’t cower, and don’t be weak. Slowly, you can strip from yourself the false view of Judaism, which has kept you distant from it, feeling it is just “another” activity, replacing it with the accurate view.
The correct view is that as created entities; we are bound to our Creator with a mission. We were not created to simply follow the leaders of Western civilization. We were created – each man and woman – with the capacity for great satisfaction, but this satisfaction only comes from our involvement in wisdom. Only when we engage this highest element of our being – our souls – are we to ever realize true happiness. But everyone has been geared from youth to seek happiness as depicted in commercials and society at large. This is one of the major curses of our exile: we are absorbing the values of all those cultures around us, and via the media we are expose us to distant idolatrous cultures, and we assume that the majority cannot be wrong. Hence, many Jews feel “other religions too must offer some good”…and sadly, some of our Rabbis voice this error too. But Abraham did not. He opposed falsehood in any form. We too must get back on Abraham’s path, for God chose him, and He did not choose not today’s false leaders. Reason supports Abraham’s position.
Another point I would tell you my brother, is to review all the examples of people who God assisted. From the Patriarchs through the Sages, God is not shorthanded. And although we cannot predict when God steps into our lives, our Torah indisputably teaches that this is how He works: He supports those who follow Him. This must be real to you. If it is not, stop and review the many Torah stories. Once you are convinced of this, your problems will follow with an assurance that He can answer you too.
You will also view your problems in perspective, realizing that your life has more meaning that simply working, eating, and sleeping. With no involvement in wisdom and the marvels that we may uncover each day, we tend to overly focus on insignificant areas in life that are bound to get us down. Yes, we can get depressed when work does not come in as fast as we like, or need. But work cannot be, and is not, all of life. If we do view work in that light, then yes: we will be depressed when our work diminishes. But a person, who has Torah study in his life, where he is delighted at new concepts, will not view work or any other area that is lacking as a reason for depression.
Another example is a person who gets self-absorbed, to the point that she undergoes a dozen plastic surgeries to correct a problem that only she viewed as a “problem”. Since all she had in life was an exaggerated value of beauty, she ends up with irreversible deformities, all because her values were corrupted by society. Had this same person – prior to her first surgery – focused more on a life of wisdom, charity, and kindness, this small imperfection would not have been that significant, as her studies would have taught her that she is so miniscule in comparison to all that exists, and all who have existed, and her energies would be directed outwards towards greater satisfaction in understanding this immense universe, and its Creator. She would have accepted her deformity as we all have them, and her interests in intellectual pursuits would have placed her values in check. She would not be deformed now.
Time after time, more irreligious Jews are making the return path towards a life where wisdom becomes central, and all other matters by definition, become less intense, and cause fewer problems when they don’t work out. Just as winning the lottery obscures our pain of losing our wallet, our smaller problems, which we now view as catastrophes, will become nothing in our eyes when we realize what else is awaiting us in this life of Torah.
It is difficult for you to imagine, as you have yet to immerse yourself in study, but if you can only find the trust in the thousands of years and thousands of sages who devoted their lives to study for its satisfaction alone, then you will be pleasantly surprised with the knowledge and happiness you will gain in study, and the sense of satisfaction you now miss.
What is Judaism? Is it something we do, “aside” from life? No…it is all of life. And since we do not live forever, and have but one chance, consider the passing time, and trust me. I made the return too.