Question of the Week - by Rabbi Aron Moss
My brother is very religious and I am not. We are on good terms now, but for a while he disowned me for what he deemed as my straying from the path. Is this the Jewish way, to shun those who are less religious than you?
Let me share with you a different view. Here is a story of how a spiritual giant of the last century saw the religious/secular divide.
In the 1940's the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneerson, was looking for a sponsor to publish a religious text. The funding came from an unexpected source. An elderly woman who was known to be completely secular made a large donation to pay for this project. She had come from a religious background in Europe, but had long abandoned the ways of her family and raised her children without the traditions of her people. Nevertheless she maintained certain emotional ties to her past, and would occasionally support Jewish causes such as the Rebbe's.
When the book was published she was invited to a private audience with the Rebbe. He thanked her for her generosity, and then blessed her that her children and grandchildren should go in the path of Torah and be G-d fearing and righteous Jews.
This blessing came as a surprise to the lady. She thought the Rebbe may have mistaken her for someone else. Her children were far from anything Jewish, so why would he bless her that they be righteous Jews?
She said, "But Rebbe, I am not religious."
The Rebbe looked at her with serious eyes. Then he told her, "We don't know who is religious."
This response is striking. Here is a venerable rabbi with a long white beard telling an assimilated modern woman that we don't really know who is closer to G-d. He was not giving an easy excuse for rejecting Judaism. Rather he was completely destroying the idea of a spiritual hierarchy based on human standards. In true religion, there is no room for snobbery on the part of those who see themselves as committed, nor feelings of inadequacy on the part of those who feel they are on the periphery. We don't know who is religious. So we all need to try harder.
We don't know which mitzvah is the one our soul came into this world to do. We don't know how precious our efforts are in the eyes of G-d, even if they seem small in the eyes of man.
So who is religious?
G-d knows. We don't.