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Question - - 04/17/2013
Isn't it enough to be a Jew "at heart"?
Answer by Arachim
We often hear people comment that they don't observe the commandments, but nonetheless, consider themselves "a Jew at heart."
They explain that "it's enough that I'm honest and don't do any harm to anyone. It's enough that I believe in G-d in my heart. Why does it matter to G-d whether or not I keep the mitzvos? Does G-d really care what I eat or what I think and feel?"
Those who observe the Torah and its commandments know: Everything is important to G-d. In His great wisdom, He gave us a set of 613 commandments. It was surely not His intention that we regard these commandments as a buffet table, from which we should select only those that suit our fancy at the moment. All of His commandments have a significance.
For example, we know that there are spiritual forces of which we cannot be fully aware. As creatures of flesh and blood, we are limited. We cannot know how desecrating the Sabbath will affect the spiritual spheres which are hidden from our eye.
The Torah gives us instructions as to how to utilize the natural world which is perceived by our senses. It is our task to comply with these instructions fully. If we fail to do so, we impair the wondrous systems of the cosmos created and set into motion thousands of years ago.
The Creator is above the laws of Nature, for it is He who established them in the first place. Our faith in Him has repercussions also in the realm of the mitzvos, His commandments. Just as He is divine and beyond man's comprehension, so, too, are the statutes which He commanded us to observe. It is not within the grasp of the human intellect to evaluate the significance of the mitzvos and whether or not they are essential. Man is necessarily restricted by the limits imposed on him by his five senses. In contrast, the Source of the commandments, is purely spiritual and divine.
Judaism has no secret obligations. The duties of a Jew are clearly defined, practical deeds. Judaism does not recognize "abstract belief" which exists within the heart alone. It requires us to meet the challenges it places before us. Its commandments are practical acts to be performed in every facet of our lives.
"A Jew at heart" is an individual who arbitrarily exempts himself from practicing mitzvos. He claims that his Judaism holds an important place in his heart, and that is enough for him. He is not familiar with the reasons for the mitzvos, and possibly, has never tried to learn what they are.
This casual, cavalier attitude to the mitzvos is not a fitting response to the kindness and benevolence shown to the people of Israel by the Creator, who designated us as His Chosen People. A Jew's actions should validate the special favor shown our Nation by Him who chose our forefathers and ennobled their descendants through Torah and mitzvos.
Faith comes from the knowledge that the Torah is not the work of flesh and blood. G-d bestowed it on the Jewish People at Sinai, in the presence of over a million men and women. He who created man obviously also knows his strengths and his limitations, his potential and his shortcomings. It is He who determined the needs of his body and his spirit. The balance between the two, as determined by G-d's wisdom, lies in the realm of the mitzvos.
Each time a Jew fulfills a mitzvah, he draws himself that much closer to his Creator.
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