Latest update: June 11th, 2012
If you ask someone coming out of church on a Sunday, “Do you believe in G-d?” the worshipper will be shocked.
“What type of question is that? Of course I do!”
If you then ask him, “Do you consider yourself religious?” what will the answer be?
“Certainly. That’s why I’m here!”
If you go to a mosque on Friday and you ask the average person there, “Do you believe in G-d?” what will the answer be?
“Do you consider yourself religious?”
This is normal. These conversations make sense.
Now go to a synagogue on Yom Kippur. Ask the Jew sitting in the synagogue on Yom Kippur, fasting, “Do you believe in G-d?”
You cannot get a straight answer.
“Umm, it depends on what you mean by ‘G-d'” That’s if they’re the philosophical type. Otherwise they’ll simply say, “What am I? A rabbi? I don’t know.”
So then ask them, “Do you consider yourself religious?”
Have you ever asked an American Jew if they’re religious? They crack up laughing. And they assure you that they’re the furthest things from religious.
“Are you kidding? Do you know what I eat for breakfast?”
Then every one of them will say, “I had a grandfather, on my mother’s side, oh, who was a religious man. But me…?”
So you ask what appears to be a logical question. “Then why are you here?”
For some reason, this average Jew, who doesn’t believe in G-d and is very not religious, will look at you like you’re crazy and say, “What do you mean? It’s Yom Kippur!”
This is not normal.
Let’s analyze this for a moment. What is this Jew actually saying?
You asked him if he believes in G-d and he said “No.” Or “When I was younger I used to.” Or “When I get older I’ll start to.”
“So you don’t believe in G-d?”
“No. I don’t.”
“Are you religious?”
“Furthest thing from it.”
“So why are you here?”
“Because it’s Yom Kippur!”
What he’s saying is this: “Why am I here? Because G-d wants a Jew to be in the synagogue on Yom Kippur. So where else should I be?”
So you say: “But you don’t believe in G-d.”
He says, “So what?” and he doesn’t understand your problem.
He is saying: “Today is Yom Kippur even if I don’t have a calendar. This is a synagogue even if I don’t like it. I am a Jew even if I’m not religious, and G-d is G-d even when I don’t believe in Him. So what’s your problem?”
Now that can be dismissed, and unfortunately many of us do dismiss it, as sheer hypocrisy. We say, “You don’t believe in G-d and you’re not religious–don’t come to the synagogue. Don’t come here just to show how Jewish you are.”
The Lubavitcher Rebbe z”tl, had a different approach. This insanity is what makes us Jewish. This is what shows how special we are in our relationship with G-d.
That’s called truth. It’s not about me. I don’t want to be religious. I don’t want to believe in G-d, I don’t want to hear about this. But He wants me here, so here I am.
The same thing happens on Passover. Every Jew sits at a Seder. Ask the average Jew at a Seder, do you believe in G-d? Leave me alone. Are you religious? He chokes on the matza laughing. So you’re celebrating the Exodus from Egypt 3300 years ago? History is not my subject. Then why are you here? Where should I be? It’s Passover! That’s what’s so magnificent about the Jew.
Now let’s put it all in context. Three thousand, three hundred and fifteen years ago G-d asked us if we would marry Him. We had an extraordinary wedding ceremony, with great special effects–we were wowed. After the wedding He said, “I have a few things I’d like you to take care of for Me so, please… I’ll be right back.” He hasn’t been heard from since. For more than three thousand, three hundred years. He has sent messengers, messages, postcards–you know, writing on the walls… but we haven’t heard a word from Him in all this time.
Imagine, a couple gets married, and the man says to his new wife, “Would you make me something to eat, please? I’ll be right back.” She begins preparing. The guy comes back 3300 years later, walks into the house, up to the table, straight to his favorite chair, sits down and tastes the soup that is on the table. The soup is cold.
What will his reaction be? If he’s a wise man, he won’t complain. Rather he’ll think it’s a miracle that the house is still there, that his table and favorite chair are still there. He’ll be delighted to see a bowl of soup at his place. The soup is cold? Well, yes, over 3300 years, soup can get cold.
Now we are expecting Moshiach. The Rebbe introduced this radical notion that Moshiach is going to come now. What makes that so radical? It means he’s going to come without a two-week notice. We always thought there was going to be some warning, so that we could get our act together before he comes. Moshiach, coming now? But now I’m not ready. I don’t want to be judged the way I am. I need a little bit of a notice.
If Moshiach comes now, and wants to judge, what’s he going to find? Cold soup? If Moshiach comes now, the Rebbe tells us, he will find an incredibly healthy Jewish people. After 3300 years we are concerned about being Jewish, which means we are concerned about our relationship with G-d.
Yes, if Moshiach comes today, he’ll find that our soup is cold. We suffer from separation anxiety. We suffer from a loss of connection to our ancestors. We suffer a loss of connection even to our immediate family. The soup is cold. The soup is very cold. But whose fault is that? And who gets the credit for the fact that there is soup altogether?
We are a miracle. All we need to do is tap into it. We are the cure. Not only for ourselves, but also for the whole world. Through us the healing is holistic, it’s natural, it’s organic. Our relationship with G-d is organic. It’s not a religion that we practice–it’s us, it’s who we are, it’s what we are.
So the Rebbe tells us that the way to go is straight to G-d. Skip all the steps, skip the Kabbalah, go straight to G-d and be in touch with your purpose. The purpose is not Kabbalistic. The purpose is personal. G-d needs you to do a mitzvah. He sent you into this world to be who you are, because only you can do this particular kind of mitzvah. True, the mitzvoth are the same for all of us. But when you do it, it’s different, because it’s holistic. It’s with your emotions, with your past problems, with your family background, with your knowledge and with your ignorance. All that comes together and makes your mitzvah holistically unique.
So let Moshiach come now and catch us here with our cold soup because we have nothing to be ashamed of. We are truly incredible. When G-d decided to marry us, He knew He was getting a really good deal.Rabbi Manis Friedman
About the Author: To meet Rabbi Friedman and to inquire about training visit Rabbimanisfriedman.org
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