Dear Rabbi Brody,
I’m not religious, but I get a kick out of your column and your broadcasts, even though I disagree with you plenty. One thing I particularly don’t like is the fact that you’re always hounding Jews about keeping all of the 613 commandments. So what if I’m Jewish? Why can’t I just keep the seven Noahide commandments like you tell the non-Jews to? How come you’re so nice to the non-Jews, and you’re all over the case of the Jews. That doesn’t seem fair. Please explain. Thank you, GA from Ohio
Diesel fuel is fine for a diesel engine, but it won’t propel a jet engine. The spiritual profile of a Jew differs that of a non-Jew. Therefore, the spiritual diet that can keep a non-Jew healthy won’t get a Jew off the ground. A non-Jew can eat shrimp and lobsters all day long, and as long as he/she observes the seven Noahide laws, he/she is considered righteous. If you eat 28 grams of shrimp, you put a gaping hole in your soul. Whenever you turn on a light bulb with a tiny flick of the finger on the Sabbath, you cut yourself off from Hashem. On the other hand, a non-Jew can do whatever he or she pleases on their Saturday.
If a Jew keeps 612 out of the Torah’s 613 commandments, and willfully breaks #613, he or she is considered a transgressor. Not fair? Consider this – if a grain of sand lands on your hand, nothing happens. But, if it lands in your eye, you suffer excruciating pain. Not fair? A hand and an eye – while both being very necessary parts of the body – are built differently with different strengths and sensitivities; the same goes for a Jew and a non-Jew. While both are Hashem’s beloved creations, they have different strengths and different sensitivities because of their different tasks in the world. Yet, like an eye and a hand, both are vital.
Since you’re a Jew – whether you like it or not – the only way for you to guarantee yourself true happiness in this world and in the next is to keep all 613 mitzvas. There’s no easy way out. We all came down to this lowly world to perform a difficult task, and not to have fun and games. Yes, I will continue to get on your cage for your own good – if that’s so distasteful for you, why do keep on reading the Lazer Beam? I’ll tell you why, GC – deep down, it makes your soul feel good. Think about it, GC. If you add some emuna to your life, you’ll feel great.
With smiles & blessings, Lazer Brody
Originally Published Here.
Bob Miller’s comment, added to the metaphor of an Olympic pole vaulter, jogged a memory. I remember years ago that there was a particular athlete (sorry, can’t recall the fellow’s name) who was attempting to win an Olympic gold medal in the Decathlon. As you probably know, the Decathlon is a challenging series of ten track and field events where points are added up for accomplishment in each of the ten events, the winner being the competitor with the highest total. Well, this particular decathlete was in first place after nine events and all that was left was the pole vault. However, he miscalculated and set the bar too high for himself, and ended up missing it completely. There went his dreams of Olympic gold.
To get back to the “nimshol” behind the “moshol”: Certainly Charlie and Bob are correct in saying it is not wise to voluntarily take on extra stringencies in religious observance that one is unable to fulfill. Doing what has been commanded of us to do (and finding out exactly what that is) should be enough for one lifetime. Trying to reach an unattainable level of piety could risk losing everything, similar to the unsuccessful decathlete.
If an individual sincerely wants to go beyond requirements without fanfare, and without trying to force others to do the same, there is no problem, but he has to assess his ability to carry it off.
I am not suggesting not observing even a single mitzvah, chas v’shalom. But our religion is different from Christianity in that we place primary value on doing things we are *commanded* to do rather than adding level after level of voluntary piety. We are supposed to follow the Torah, not to add things to make it “tougher”. The Torah is designed so that all may fulfil it, not just world record holders.
It’s really an honor to face tougher requirements. Olympic pole vaulters literally and figuratively keep setting the bar higher for themselves in their quest for gold medals and world records. Someone who wants to utilize his/her talent and ability to the utmost is not satisfied with being mediocre. G-d gave us the Torah knowing we had the capability to fulfill the mitzvot. Why voluntarily settle for less when you can be the best?
I think we often make this seem harder than it actually is. No one individual is individually required to keep all 613 mitzvot. While some apply to the entire Jewish community, some are directed only towards women, some only towards men, some only towards priests, and some only apply to farmers in the Land of Israel. Furthermore, the majority only apply when there is an operating Temple.
And people coming to observance don’t take on every single one of the mitzvot at once. Better to go slow, and not backtrack. HaShem will understand that we are indeed committed to keep all the applicable mitzvot, we may be on the path and not quite there yet. Some have more immediate practical importance — for example, to be a part of a community in a meaningful sense, you have to be shomer Shabat and have a kosher kitchen in your home. And there is a difference between mitzvot required by the Torah, mitzvot required by the rabbis, and customs. This is a beautiful path and we should not scare people away by making it seem like an overwhelming burden, or by insisting on stringencies that are beyond halachic requirements.