What is Torah Judaism (in 500 words or less) #6

Purposeful Creation

Judaism provides a foundation to understand the physical and spiritual world and to use that understanding to perfect ourselves and unite the entire world. The first axiom is that life has meaning and purpose because it was created by a purposeful, spiritual G-d. The word spiritual at its most basic level means anything that can not be physically sensed or measured.

Being absolutely perfect, G-d had no need to create the world, rather he created the world to bestow good upon man. Because G-d defines the essence of good, the ultimate goodness is experiencing and communing with G-d Himself. For anything to be appreciated, some degree of contrast is needed and therefore G-d created the physical world where spirituality can not be measured or accessed with our senses.

Free Will

Man was uniquely created with a physical body, a spiritual soul and free will. Free will empowers us to overcome our physical side and become G-d like givers as opposed to physically centered takers. By continually making proper choices we strengthen our soul and become more spiritual beings. Knowing our spiritual development is due to our own choices and not because of compulsion allows us to truly experience the pleasure of our accomplishments.

From the spiritual perspective, closeness is defined as the similarity of things. When we develop our spiritual side, we become G-d like and unite and partake of His goodness. The reward of spiritual development lasts for eternity since the soul exists after death.

Spiritual Mission of the Jews

In the first 20 generations, the world failed at its spiritual mission until Abraham’s kindness and spiritual awareness resulted in G-d choosing him as the world’s spiritual leader. Isaac and Jacob further developed this spiritual inheritance by excelling in self-discipline and mastering the balance between giving and discipline.

Jacob’s 12 sons and their families were exiled to Egypt for 210 years to remedy certain spiritual deficiencies. This ended with the Exodus and Moses reaching the highest level of spiritual development and prophetically receiving the instructions of the Torah at Sinai.

Developing Our Spirituality

The Torah provides us with instructions to make the free will choices that will maximize our spiritual development and unify body and soul. These mitzvos prevent us from damaging our spiritual selves and teach us the positive acts which further develop and strengthen us spirituality.

Mitzvos such as Shabbos, the Jewish Holidays and prayer enable us to become more aware and appreciative of G-d. Man to man mitzvos such as helping the poor and showing love and respect make us spiritual givers and unite humanity. Self-development mitzvos like eliminating arrogance, envy, and unbridled desire correct our self-centered negative traits.

By freely choosing to follow the mitzvos, a Jew develops his spirituality. When a significant number of Jews develop high levels of spirituality, a process will have begun which will culminate in the entire world uniting in spiritual harmony and experiencing G-d and the world at the highest possible level.

Note: A few friends thought this was a little too philosophical for the average non-observant Jew, so I am back to the drawing board.
Please send in a contribution to this series remembering the goal is to interest somebody to learn more about Judaism.

7 comments on “What is Torah Judaism (in 500 words or less) #6

  1. Yasher Koach on a very important post. For too long, some of the issues discussed on this blog struck me IMO as “water cooler insider baseball” in nature. IMO, as the Mesilas Yesharim pointed out in his introduction, we need to discuss the obvious facts.

    One cannot underestimate the importance of Shabbos observance on any thinking Jew’s development, BT or FFB, regardless of their hashkafic orientation. Seeing a family together around a meal in their finery without any technological bells and whistles impeding communication and communicating only with their family members , friends and HaShem with Tefilah, Zemiros and Torah study over a meal and adhering to both Zacor and Shamor is as R E Buchwald maintained, one of the most important and inspiring means and elements of Kiruv available to all of us. A lot of people in the secular Jewish communal world prattle about “Jewish continuity”, but IMO Shabbbos observance is one of the most positive and powerful elements of Jewish continuity. There is no question that keeping Shabbos as an individual and as part of a community is one of the key portals of entry for any BT or for a FFB that cannot be replicated by any of the various displays of “hipster” or ersatz Judaism that one reads about in the secular Jewish media. BTs especially are impressed with the fact that someone other than their family has gone out of their way for them, especially in a world where being oblivious to the next person and “bowling alone” are almost accepted as the means of living in this world.

    When I leave the office any Erev Shabbos, my preparation begins when I turn off the computer, head to the subway, learn on the way home and get off the bus in a community where and when I can smell the aroma of Shabbos Kodesh in the air.Even men can contribute to this aroma-buy the challos ( suggested by the MB) or as many men do-make the cholent and/or help your wife if she needs help or even set, clear the table or serve any course during one of the meals. I love setting the Shabbos table, arranging the clocks,setting up my wife’s candles filling the urn with hot water, getting physcically and pyschologically “Shabbosdik” with a shower and wearing a white shirt, tie and suit that I reserve for only Shabbos use, and anything else that helps in the hectic time before Shabbos arrives.Regardless of the time of the year, we are always rushing to get everything done , but we manage to do so!

    Sometimes, I need until Shabbos morning to completely mentally unwind from the tensions of the week, but by the time Shabbos davening is over and lunch is on the horizon, I understand very well why the Tefilos and Zmiros evolve on Leil Shabbos from a theme focusing on Maaseh Breishis to Matan Torah Shabbos Morning to Ymos HaMoshiach on Shabbos Afternoon.

  2. The starting point is the realization that Hashem created and continues to create and sustain a very good world, and he created us to bestow upon us the greatest possible good. As a receipient of good, when I perceive the incredible dimensions and levels of this good, I realize that I am chayiv (obligated) to try to pay back the One who gave me the good. Hashem gave us the Torah to teach us how to pay “him” back.

    Note that the opposite of the word Chayiv is the word Patur, which means exempt. The most passive form of the word Patur is Niftar. The implication is that the best, most active way to live is to be chayiv. We need to realize that to be chayiv is a most tremendous blessing. Interestingly, one could say that the first “free choice” is the choice to accept that one is chayiv.

  3. This is the 6th time for this question.

    I suggest that it not be asked again here until June 2011.

  4. “A few friends thought this was a little too philosophical for the average non-observant Jew, so I am back to the drawing board.”

    Let’s not underestimate the “average” non-observant Jew, if such a person exists.

    This article is a good summary of the beliefs of Judaism. I heard a lecture where the first of the Ten Commandments is interpreted as “I am the L-rd your G-d, believe in Me.”

    To many Jews, our faith is defined as non-belief in other deities/prophets, and a few basic rituals.

    Practically, increased understanding of beliefs should be accompanied by the beginning of consistent observance of key mitzvot, such as those listed in the post on the yahrzeit of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. (https://beyondbt.com/?p=1248)

    At Sinai, the Jewish people said “We will do and we will understand.” They were ready to observe all the mitzvot without any explanation or philosophical basis. Those of us here today don’t measure up to that generation, so we need some intellectual or emotional support before beginning such an undertaking.

    Mark has provided the newcomer to observant Judaism with a rationale for why he or she is taking on a completely new way of life.

  5. The potential audiences are not easy to define, so coming at them from different directions in experimental mode is a good idea. Don’t write off anything in advance as too philosophical.

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