Friday, September 16, 2011

Who Is Religious?

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.


Batya said...

Being religious is more than eating kosher mehadrin. There are complex laws between man and man, too.

Gibbo said...

Love this post, people criticise me as I am a frum Jew but have good friends from all sectors. I really believe that what the Rebbe said is true.

Shabbat Shalom

Anonymous said...

very true and an inspiring teaching. most polite way of instructing not to be judgemental on anyone and that only Hashem is the true Judge.

Dvora said...

I love this post, but unfortunately in my community the orthodox people who I would label right of modern orthodox judge by the color a man wears (black pants and a white shirt). Funny how "black and white" they are in a world full of gray.
And women better wear the "uniform" from hair to toe as well or else "they" don't want their children playing in the park with the "other" women's children etc. I know that this exists in most Jewish communities and the worst is in Israel. When my daughter spent a year in seminary in Jerusalem she used to go to "frum" communities to buy her sepharim. She had a "uniform" that she bought to wear to this neighborhood so they would not physical attack her by throwing things at her as they had done to her roommate for wearing the "wrong" color albeit tznius shirt.
This terrible message of judgeing based upon superficial signs comes from their rabbis and rebbes that run the yeshivot both here and in Israel. This must stop for its truly damaging not only for those frum from birth, but even worse, the newest baal teshuvahs and their families.
Who is going to make sure that this terrible chilul Hashem is changed from all the institutions from the top down???
Fortunately I belong to an amazing congregration where my Rabbi knows never to judge a book by it's cover. Simple but true. Thank God our shul keeps growing and growing and the number of people moving into the eruv keeps growing and growing...

Anonymous said...

Every Jew has a Jewish neshama - a pintele Yid that can be awakened at anytime. It is our obligation to be loving and kind to all Jews no matter how difficult. The more often, the easier it gets. At the minimum we should be praying that Hashem bless them by opening their eyes to His presence in the world, that He give them wisdom and insight and take care of ALL their needs. These we should pray for everyday.