I believe that the ultimate manifestation of Torah Judaism is Chesed, acts of loving-kindness. It’s not the number of times one davens in a day, or the type of kippah he wears, or if her hair is covered completely, not at all, partially, or only sometimes. It’s whether all that davening and all those halachic guidelines and all that learning yields a better person, a better Yid. Does the person smile more, give others the benefit of the doubt more frequently, look for ways to make peace with others (instead of always getting his/her way), help others in time of need (whether it’s a seat on the bus, or picking up a dropped object, or bringing a meal to a new mother/sick friend/random member of the community), encourage children to play with those who seem to have no friends?
If all of that learning and studying and rushing to classes and davening does not make one a better person, then it does not matter to me how many of the mitzvot that person observes, or how stringent; it means they are not taking the Torah’s lessons to heart.
Years ago, I was surrounded by loving, kind, and generous observant Jews, and that spurred me to grow in my own observance. I believed that the Torah guidelines make for a pretty good foundation for life, and I still believe that. We must always keep the big picture in mind.
This is the first in a series of defining Torah Judaism for our non observant co-religionists in 500 words or less.