Why Judaism Is Not A Religion
Sharing a beautiful article by alumna and shlucha class of 2008, Zeldie Cunin.
People often ask me about life as a religious Jew. I tell them, "I don't view myself as religious, or even as orthodox. "
I mean, at least not in the well-known definitions of those terms.
And oh do I believe that!
When I was a student studying in Israel, we had a teacher who would tell us constantly that Judaism is not a religion. I didn't really get it. What about all those nuances like lighting candles on time before Shabbat? Separating the milk and meat, plus all the details that go along with that? What about the holidays, and being sure to pray at the right time of day?
I didn't get it. I really didn't.
Until I learned about relationships. I studied how the relationship with my Creator is synonymous to a relationship with a parent, a master or boss, a sibling, and possibly most importantly to a spouse.
And as I grow into each of those roles and find the beauty in each one, I'm starting to get it. Finally. Some parts of it. No, I don't plan to ever grasp it all, or the whole of any concept with depth to eternity, but it is starting to make sense to me.
And oh do I want G-D in my life!
It's honestly, just too overwhelming otherwise. That may mean doing some things He asks me to do. At particular times. Even when it's inconvenient. It may mean filling our home with the most beautiful, meaningful traditions and practices. Even when I feel like there's enough meaning in my life. Like when there are four holidays in a row. And G-D wants another one.
It's an interesting journey.
One Sunday morning, I ran out of my house for a quick twenty minute walk before the hush and rush of dressing, feeding, and entertaining my children for the next bunch of hours.
I live in a beautiful neighborhood, where people take good care of their lawns, and plant beautiful flowers and greenery. It's a great place to exercise. Yes, I prefer it over a gym.
As I walk along, I contemplate how G-D really orchestrates every moment of life, and He really wants the best for us. Somehow the tranquil nature surrounding contributes to inward contemplation as such.
I'm walking. Our neighbor is out on the grass, working and watering. He stops to say hello. He'd met my family just weeks before, when we were standing at the corner in front of our home giving out lemonade and Challah to neighbors and passersby. My children love this practice, and it's a great way to educate them about sharing and giving.
Rico passed by that Friday afternoon and he stopped to "schmooze" with my husband.
Today Rico said to me, "I have something for you and your family. I wrote a book and I want to give you a copy. It's about the small miracles I've discovered throughout my life.Though it's already published, I'd even have more to add to it now that my son has met a Chabad rabbi and is putting on Tefillin every day."
He asked me if I had a minute to wait while he ran inside to fetch a copy.
He gave me the book, "My Hand to G-D".
Woh, that walk-turned-to-discussion-about-G-D was a surprise that morning!
No, Judaism is not a religion, it is a way of life.
Judaism is not about the hour spent at the synagogue on Shabbat, or even the two hours spent there on Rosh Hashanah. It's not about fasting on Yom Kippur. It's not about what garb you wear or don't wear, about what you eat or don't eat, how you speak or don't speak. It's about ALL of that and more.
It's about the choices we make at every and any given moment.
It's about strengthening our relationship with G-D through the things he asks us to do, because He loves when we do them. Actually, there are six hundred and thirteen to be precise. Some people like to refer to them as Mitzvahs, which by the way translates as "connection", because each one strengthens the connection between the human and the divine. Almost seems impossible. The infinite G-D offers a finite human being to grasp His Hand. That's quite a reward in itself.
It's about the every moment in our day when the constraints of the world and of the human condition tries to convince us that we have no place, that the world is evil and ugly, that our innocence is tarnished and gone forever, that there is no light in the near future. And we respond to that voice.
We respond with, "My place is right here. Right now. The world is a beautiful garden, waiting to blossom and grow and smell of fresh aroma. My core is pure, and my G-D lives forever. I am invincible because there is literally a piece of the infinite inside my big soul. There is light in the near future."
The world is ready for a change, for a shift in perspective. For G-D's light to be rampant and obvious, and it is up to you and me to spread that message of goodness to all.
It's about choosing to see My hand to G-D or even more so, G-D'S Hand to me.