Sunday, July 4, 2010

Torah Judaism, Is It Enough to Be Spiritual Without Keeping The Laws?

There are those who say it's enough to be "spiritual" without keeping all those 613 mitzvot and various "amendments," halachot, customs etc.  This is an old debate.  Jesus claimed it was enough to be "spiritual in your heart," but true Torah Judaism is an active, kinesthetic and community experience.

I saw a post about this recently on another blog, and I commented that it's like doing "free-fall" from an airplane.  After one jumps, the first few seconds one enjoys the wind רוח ruach spirit, but then if you don't open your parachute, which makes an אוהל ohel tent structure, you're going to crash and die. 

For someone to convert to Torah (the genuine, unabridged) Judaism one must be part of a community.  Isolation and Judaism don't mix.

This Shabbat was very special.  I was able to pray in the synagogue, in my regular seat, since my daughter and her family were over, meaning that my father wouldn't be alone.  There are so many prayers I hadn't been able to say or hear for months, since they are only to be said in a minyan.  We are now, also, in the period of the "three weeks" when we're supposed to remember that our Holy Temple was destroyed.  Our prayer service is a modern substitute for the worship in the Holy Temple, so it's very fitting to be reminded of it, the epitome of Jewish ritual.

Without ritual, we lose our religion.  Judaism isn't just food.  Pesach, Passover is more than eating kneidelach and matzah.  Purim is not just a hamantache, and Chanukah can be Chanukah even if you don't eat a latke.  Something more, the foods mentioned are only the tradition of eastern-European Jews.  Ask a Jew from Morocco or Majorca about them and they won't know what you're talking about.  But Jews all over the world  fast twenty-five hours on Yom Kippur, read the Megillat Esther night and morning on Purim and circumcise their sons on the eight day after birth.

The rituals, Jewish Law and history make us a People.  It's not enough to feel the spirit.


yoni said...

who are you talking about here, christians? which jews claim that "spirituality is enough without action or ritual"? even the reform don't go this far, as far as i know. this may be an "old debate" between jews and christians, but among jews?

Batya said...

no, not christians, just Jews who think they can get Judaism from the "abridged" version.

Hadassa said...

We have a non-religious (nominally Conservative) relative who complained that observing the mitzvot takes all the spirituality out of Judaism. I imagine that there are many more like her. Yoni, I'm sorry, but many Jews do "go that far".

Batya said...

Hadassa, I wish there were more who are at least searching. Few of my relatives are.

Hadassa said...

Unfortunately she's not searching, just complaining... I respect the searchers, even if they haven't started looking in the right direction yet.

Minnesota Mamaleh said...

batya, i like & respect your response.

we've already discussed this, but i still think that there's more than one way to *do* things and i appreciate people doing some in lieu of none. what a shame for someone to not practice any form of religion/ spirituality if they feel like it's "not enough."

this was a well done post! thanks much for that. feel free to leave a link to it so others can come on over and read it, too.

Batya said...

Hadassa, too many Jewish people don't even complain. Religion just doesn't interest them.

Minne Ma, thanks. Torah Judaism isn't all that rigid the more you know it. In my neck of the woods, the vast majority of the married (and formerly married) women cover their hair in such a variety of ways for example. Also Shabbat meals can be pizza and quiche, rather than chicken soup and kugel, as long as it's all prepared in advance, no cooking on Shabbat etc.

Moriah said...

"Torah Judaism, Is It Enough to Be Spiritual Without Keeping The Laws?"

Of course not. Not if You're a Jew. We have a covenant with Hashem. His expectation of us has not changed. And it will never change. It has been us who have changed in the past saying, we don't need to follow 'those' laws in 'our' day. But we do need to follow the laws. G-d is not a man that the should change His mind. G-d did not make anything/laws too hard for his creation to follow. It is for our benefit..

Batya said...

Moriah, yes, it's a sad old story. Thanks for your comment.

Susan B said...

I suppose it's possible that God's expectations of us haven't changed, but certainly our expectations of ourselves have changed. Halacha has changed over time.

We can't keep all the mitzvot because there is no longer a Temple in which to make animal sacrifices. And not everyone agrees on the details of halacha.

I'd agree it's not enough to be a spriritual Jew without keeping any of the laws, but I'd say it is enough to be spiritual without keeping all the laws, particularly since none of us is capable of keeping all the laws.

Batya said...

Susan B, halacha does change. That's the beauty, because it's meant to last.