Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Dear Jews of the World:

Just pick and choose which Mitzvot you would like to keep. Sure. Why not? Some Mitzvot are too hard for you? Toss them. No big deal. Do whatever you want to do, because it is all about you anyway, right? Or perhaps maybe, just maybe, it is about dedication to G-d? I mean, do you really believe in Hashem? Do you really believe in Torah? If you do believe, why aren’t you strong enough to keep everything? If you don’t believe, why pretend to when it comes to certain mitzvot? Why do you keep shabbos, but not tzinus? Why do you keep Taharat Hamishpacha, but cheat on your taxes? Why do you do chessed and work on tikkun olam, but don’t keep shabbos? Why do you keep Kosher, but speak Lashon Harah? Why are you so makpid with Limmud Torah, yet so lacking in Bein Adam L’Chavero? Why do you fast on Yom Kippur, yet do not keep anything else to the point where you eat chametz on Pesach? Why do you teach your kids Jewish values, yet engage in acts of sexual harrassment? How can you do some things, but not others? Serve Hashem, or don’t serve Hashem. Pick one. As Eliyahu said to the Jewish people when they worshipped both G-d and idols, in Malachim 1, Perek 18, Verse 21: “Until when are you hopping between two ideas? If the Lord is God, go after Him, and if the Baal, go after him.” Either serve Hashem completely, or don’t serve him at all.

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Just pick and choose which Mitzvot you would like to keep. Some Mitzvot are too hard for you? That is OK. Hashem values every single positive thing that you do. Every Mitzvah counts. So perhaps you have fallen once or twice and haven’t been able to keep everything? Maybe you messed up. Don’t give up completely! Don’t turn your back on everything just because one thing is too hard. Do what you can do. Judaism is not all or nothing. Just because you broke your diet and ate one cookie, doesn’t mean you should finish the box. Pick whatever mitzvot you can do and do those. Even if it is just avoiding gossip or using foul language. Even if all you do is light shabbos candles, even if after that you drive to shul. No act is too small to be appreciated by G-d. Hashem loves you more than anyone else in the world and all He wants is for you to do as much as you can to bring Him into your life. He loves every Mitzvah that you do, even if you don’t keep all of them. So perhaps you connect to some mitzvot, but not to others. Perhaps you’re trying, but you failed. Pick yourself up and choose what is within your ability to achieve. It may not be everything, but it is something. Serve Hashem as much you can.

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Food for thought: Which approach do you take?


  1. So the question I have is are they truly different perspectives or are they the same perspective that gives different answers depending upon the situation?

    Both are words of Hizuk. They both strive(hopefully) to push a person on to greater devotion.

    It would appear to me, that in each case, you are dealing with a person who is focused on themselves. In one the person is focused(overly) on their own failings, and thus is being disheartened in his avoda. In the other the person is focused on his own desires, and thus is willingly sacrificing his avoda.

  2. This has been one of my pet peeves for the longest time. People pick and choose what they want to take seriously. They constantly justify all the forbidden things they do because its convenient for them.
    Great post!

  3. Tznius is not exactly of the same standard as keeping Shabbos. That is a mostly over-hyped concept by some, being confused with skirt length and is mostly about proper decorum. But one also has to consider that there isn't equal punishment for all mitzvos, so one can't equate some things.

    As Jews, we don't ever say they former concept, and it is very dangerous to bandy it around. The pasuk in Melachim was in a time when Jews were still receptive to "fire and brimstone" - I doubt it was meant to be taken literally. Rabbi Yisroel Reisman said that the age of such mussar is over - since the time of churban Bayis Rishon.

    It should never be thought of that Judaism demand all or nothing.

  4. I totally disagree with Data and want to add a short bit to your second perspective. Judaism does require a lot of us, it isn't easy, and never has been, even with all the wonderful advances in kashrus, technology, etc that we have nowadays.

    Nevertheless, who says we have to be perfect from the get go? Just as any child learning something new for the first time will always make mistakes, such as riding a bike and falling off, etc, that doesn't mean he/she should give up.

    Rav Nebenzahl has a wonderful remark in one of his sefarim on the yomim noraim (I think it's Titharu, the Yom Kippur one) wherein he asks how it is possible to do teshuva accept to do the entire Torah if you really don't know everything or can't do every mitzva just yet, whether beyond your means or your personal ability? He answers, in a very intriguing fashion, that when doing teshuva and accepting to do all the mitzvos, what you are committing to is learning and growing and observing the mitzvos as you come to them and know about them.

    So in effect, yes HaShem asks a lot of us within Judaism, but He doesn't make it an impossible task. Every person is absolutely obligated to do their very best to improve, learn more, and ascend in their avodas HaShem, each at his/her own appropriate level and speed.

    That's what being a Jew is - which is one of the many explanations we are given for Yaakov's ladder-dream from last week's parsha. A Jew cannot be complacent in his Judaism, which is compared to a ladder, either you're going up or down - no one stands still on a ladder. So too, we have to strive to be better, or we could, chas v'Shalom, lose part of ourselves and our observance.

  5. Wow. Very enlightening comments!

    Mekubal- interesting way of looking at things, that both sides have value in the right time. I also take both approaches, though I am more inclined towards the second.

    Lawyer Dov- it is hard to know exactly what each person's motives are. But one does wonder when a person seems so serious about some things and seems to not care about others.

    Data- Pirkei Avot says that we should treat all mitzvot equally- be as careful with a small mitzvah as with a bigger one because we do not know the reward of each mitzvah. I agree that it is not appropriate for us to give Mussar to others in this day and age and I would NEVER say the first paragraph to someone unless it was someone who I was close to and I knew it would be received properly. It is not my place to tell others what to do, but it is something I have thought about.

    Shades of Grey- Hashem doesn't demand that we be perfect, but He does tell us to keep Mitzvot and not sin. It is not ideal for us to not keep any mitzvah or to do any aveirah.

    I like Rav Nebenzahl's explanation- that sounds like something he would say. And I completely, very strongly agree that Judaism is about constantly striving to grow and be better. Hashem does not demand the impossible from us.

  6. This debate swirls about the Israeli singer Etti Ankri every time she performs in public. She's one of the most famous of the contemporary Israeli חוזרי בתשובה, and she currently wears a tichel (and generally looks as though she's stepped straight out of Tanach), keeps Shabbas, שם שמים שגורה בפיה - the one Halachah that she notoriously does not follow is refraining from singing in the presence of men.

    Here's a sharp debate on Hidabroot, about the (Haredi) site's decision to feature (non-singing) programming hosted by her:

    And see this:

    and the outraged reaction on Shofar:

  7. Pirkei Avos, I think (perhaps blasphemously) meant in general, that one should treat all mitzvos with reverence, and use each as an opportunity to be close to Hashem. But if an individual has to struggle with some rather than others, we do not write him off.

    I will say again: upholding today's perception of tznius is not of the same stature as keeping Shabbos. Tznius is different things to different Jewish cultures - in some areas, I'm wearing questionable garb; in others, I'm being too religious.

    In the end, there were only a few Jews listed as having gone to their grave sin-free (Yishai being one). But Dovid, while not without aveira, was the only one of two known as eved Hashem. Being guiltless of sin does not make one, necessarily, the best Jew. That is why we so thankful to He who accepts forgiveness for human error. If we are not bound to mess up, why do we have a Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur?

    In the end, the first concept, I believe, should not, ever, be used as a means to describe Judaism. It may be another religion, but not ours.

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