Iâ€™m trying to write a short essay explaining Torah Judaism to interest people to learn more about Judaism. In the latest draft, Iâ€™ve written the following opening paragraph:
Many people realize that true happiness requires that a person lead a meaningful life of self-actualization and giving to people, community and the greater good. Torah Judaism provides the means and framework whereas a person can infuse every second of their life with meaning and happiness.
Although I believe the above paragraph is true, few people I know are living such a life. Most of us are so distracted by day to day events, that weâ€™re fortunate if we can infuse a few mitzvos each day with the above-mentioned meaning. Yes we appreciate Shabbos and the fact that our children are being raised with a solid moral compass, but where is the encompassing meaning-based happiness that we perhaps felt when we started out.
Iâ€™ve been recently learning the dialog version of the Mesillas Yesharim and perhaps it holds the key. One deterrent to a Torah based life of meaning is complacency. Many of us worked hard to integrate successfully into the Torah community and after achieving that goal we feel that we made it and that we can take pleasure in our accomplishment. But the Mesillas Yesharim tells us that we can never be complacent in our Judaism, we need to constantly focus on become a better Jew today than we were yesterday. We need to focus on the next step we need to take to become that better Jew and not fall into the trap of being complacent with our achievements to date.
A second deterrent is lack of focus. In the dialog version, the Mesillas Yesharim makes it very clear that knowing all the halachos is necessary but insufficient for our Divine service. Every mitzvah act needs to be accompanied by a focus on why weâ€™re doing the mitzvah and then performing it with love, fear and emulation of Hashem. Without this focus we are performing the mitzvos at the lowest possible.
Here is the basic focus we should have before performing a mitzvah:
1) Hashem the creator of the universe has commanded me to perform this mitzvah
2) I am accepting upon myself to perform it because I have been commanded by Hashem
3) Through the performance of the act, I am fulfilling Hashemâ€™s commandment
Here is the basic focus we should have before davening Shomoneh Esrai:
1) I am standing in the presence of the Creator
2) Hashem is elevated and raised above all blessing and praise and above all forms of perfection that the mind can envisage and comprehend.
3) Due to our inherent earthiness and the sins weâ€™ve committed, man is of a lower and inferior quality
It takes a lifetime to reach the highest levels but with a little focus in our daily mitzvah acts we can find happiness in our meaningful quest to perfect ourselves and our world. When it is evident that we are tapping into this meaning-based happiness, perhaps it will be easier to interest our fellow Jews in investigating Torah.