By Rabbi Manis Friedman
If you ask someone coming out of church on Sunday or a mosque on Friday, “Do you believe in G-d?” the worshippers would answer “Of course I do!” If you then ask them, “Do you consider yourself religious?” the answer will be “Certainly! That’s why I’m here!”
This is normal.
Now go to a synagogue on Yom Kippur and ask the Jews fasting there if they believe in G-d. You will not get a straight answer. If they’re the philosophical type, you might get an “Um, it depends on what you mean by ‘G-d.’” Otherwise they’ll simply say, “What am I: a rabbi? I don’t know!”
As for being religious, they would laugh and assure you they’re the furthest things from it, saying “Are you kidding? Do you know what I eat for breakfast?” Then they might say “I had a grandfather, on my mother’s side, oh, that was a religious man. But me…” When you ask the logical question: “Then why are you here?” these average Jews will look at you like you’re crazy and say, “What do you mean? It’s Yom Kippur!”
This is not normal.
Let’s analyze this. What are these Jews actually saying?
What each one is saying is, “I am here because G-d wants every Jew to be in the synagogue on Yom Kippur. Today is Yom Kippur even if I don’t have a calendar. This is a synagogue even if I don’t like it. I am a Jew even if I’m not religious, and G-d is G-d even when I don’t believe in Him. Is there a problem with that?”
This can be dismissed as sheer hypocrisy, which unfortunately many of us do. We say, “You don’t believe in G-d and you’re not religious, then don’t come to the synagogue just to show how Jewish you are.”
The Lubavitcher Rebbe has a different approach. This insanity is what makes us Jewish. This is what shows how special we are in our relationship with G-d. Those average Jews think “I don’t want to be religious. I don’t want to believe in G-d. I don’t want to hear about this. But He wants me here, so here I am.”
Now let’s put it all in context. 3,315 years ago, G-d married us in an extraordinary wedding ceremony, and after the wedding He said, “I have a few things to take care of…I’ll be right back.” He hasn’t been heard from for more than 3,300 years. He has only sent messages, postcards, and writings on the walls.
Imagine a recently married couple, and the man says to his wife, “Would you make me something to eat? I’ll be right back.” She begins preparing soup, and the guy comes back 3,300 years later, sits down at the table and tastes the soup. The soup is cold.
If he’s a wise man, he won’t complain about the soup being cold. Rather he’ll think it’s a miracle that the table and soup are still there.
The Rebbe introduced the radical notion that Moshiach will come now, without warning. “Moshiach is coming now? But, I’m not ready. I don’t want to be judged the way I am,” most Jews today would say. If Moshiach comes now and wants to judge, he will find cold soup. The Rebbe tells us that he will find an incredibly healthy Jewish people, which after 3,300 years is concerned about being Jewish, which means concerned about their relationship with G-d.
Yes, if Moshiach comes today, he’ll find that our soup is cold. We suffer from separation anxiety, from a loss of connection to our ancestors and even to our immediate family. The soup is cold, very cold. But whose fault is that, and who gets the credit for there being soup altogether?
We are a miracle, and we need to tap into it. We are the cure not only for ourselves, but also for the whole world. Through us, the healing is holistic, natural, and organic. Our relationship with G-d is organic. It’s not a religion that we practice—it’s us, who we are, and what we are.
So the Rebbe tells us that the way to go is straight to G-d, skipping the steps, skipping the Kabbalah, and getting in touch with our purpose. The purpose is not Kabbalistic, it’s personal. G-d needs you to do a mitzvah. He sent you into this world to be who you are, because only you can do this particular kind of mitzvah. True, the mitzvot are the same for all of us. But when you do it, it’s different, because it’s with your emotions, your past problems, your family background, your knowledge and your ignorance, which come together and make your mitzvah holistically unique.
So let Moshiach come now and catch us here with our cold soup. We have nothing to be ashamed of. We are truly incredible. When G-d decided to marry us, He knew He was getting a really good deal.