Rabbi Aron Moss contributes regular Q&A commentaries to Gather the Jews. Rabbi Moss is the proprietor of Nefesh and can be reached at email@example.com. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Rabbi Moss.
Is Judaism an all-or-nothing deal? I can’t see myself ever becoming religious, but I have started to incorporate Jewish spirituality into my life. If I get more involved in Judaism, will I have to change my entire lifestyle? Is there no grey area in between being totally religious and being totally secular?
Welcome to the grey area. That’s where the Jewish soul finds itself. We don’t identify ourselves as either religious or secular. That division is an artificial one, completely foreign to Judaism. In fact, biblical Hebrew does not have a word for “religious”, and there was never such a category in Jewish life.
Rather than boxing people into religious or secular, the Jewish view differentiates between two other categories: those who are growing in their spiritual life, and those who aren’t. We are either souls alive, or souls asleep.
In matters of the soul, more important than how high you have reached is how far you have moved. And you’d be surprised; someone who may look very holy could actually be completely stagnant in this struggle, and someone who you may have labelled as secular is in fact a spiritual hero.
One person may pray every day, while another prays only once a week. But the first prayed every day all his life, while the second guy never prayed before at all. One has taken a step forward, while the other is just treading water. Who is achieving more?
In truth, we don’t know. To compare one person’s spiritual level to someone else’s is impossible and pointless. But we do have to compare our own spiritual level today to what we were yesterday. Whether we pray daily, weekly, or not at all, we each have to ask ourselves, Am I on the way up in my soul development, on the way down, or just cruising?
Forget about becoming religious. Just become a soul alive. The Jewish challenge for all of us is to live and grow in that shifting grey area, where my today is higher than my yesterday, and tomorrow will be even better.
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