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Relieving the Pressure of Judaism

Tuesday, 2 May, 2017 - 4:50 pm


Relieving the pressure of Judaism


Sefiras HaOmer 5777 -

Rabbi Mordechai Z. Hecht

Anshe Sholom Chabad JCC


This morning I went with a community member and his wife to the Rebbe’s OHEL in Queens, NY.


On the way we were talking about life and Mitzvos, and out of no-where he says to me,"you know I just started learning the laws of Shabbos, if we really have to do all these laws how can anyone enjoy Shabbos?!"


Ironically, we were driving, so I said to him, the first thing that fell into my head (how empathetic), “you know, for a new driver, learning to drive and the laws of the road and road safety is soo much to manage, often even overwhelming to handle. It's why we have instruction booklets, websites with information and driving schools, as well as a whole life to get good at it. Our insurance companies even offer discounts if we take additional-safety-driving courses and the like. Like driving, I said, we live and learn and adapt and slowly we get use to it and grow into it” as one of my mentors once & always used to say, “If you’re driving and you feeling the turns - there is something really wrong, or you’re just new at  it”.


Then he says, “Rabbi, in Brooklyn I know many Jews who left their communities and abandoned their childhood values, too much pressure".


I paused, (searching deep for empathy) and I thought to myself (sometimes), “he's not wrong”.

“For years I've been saying”, I told him, “if Judaism hurts, you’re doing it wrong"!


Did you know that Judaism even has a mitzvah "Vchai Ba'hem - to live in - or by them" (Vayikra 18:5). There are only 3 Mitzvos that we must give up our lives for - this mitzvah is not only teaching us a trifecta mitzvah - an actual commandment - but rather displaying for us a philosophy of sorts. Judaism is meant to be beautiful! Sure, good things don't always come easy, but like with blood pressure, pressure must be released. We must always draw a line between "challenge" and "pressure". The fact that the pressure broke these individuals in Brooklyn, as he says, is itself a representation that they were mishandled or they themselves neglected caring for their Jewish-practicing-selves and neglected to find a path that works with less pressure and pain, and perhaps avoiding the “spiritual crash”.


The mitzvot in the Torah are meant to make a person grow and prosper - (so you can do even more mitzvos; a catch - I know) if it kills you, how can it possibly be proper, unless it's that time where you’re faced with one of those “3” (the scope of another conversation).


As I was going to the Rebbe afterall, I was reminded of a story I once personally heard from Rabbi Leibel Groner the Rebbe’s secretary. Once, the Rebbe had heard that someone’s father had passed away, and the Rebbe knew that this person was scheduled and departed for a long needed break and vacation, they were about to inform him of the passing, when the Rebbe said, “wait until he comes back from his vacation before you tell him”. I remeber when i heard this story i was amazed at the Rebbe’s sensitivity, to say the least.


Interestingly in the late 70’s when the whole 70’s movement and meditation was at a ‘high’ the Rebbe gave a talk, which I re-visited some years ago. There, the Rebbe speaks of the Bnei Mechuzah - a group of people who were in modern terms ‘workaholics - if they were to stop working they would get sick. In that talk the Rebbe expounded upon the idea of Meditation explaining how it’s a good thing and even important for some and not neccesarly so for others.


Thank G-d Judaism today is filled with what I call Super Jews - great Rabbis and Teachers, Hassids, Mighty women, oyspoken scholars and mentors who never stop with their Jewish practice and growth, individuals who are inspiration to all of us... but not all of us are filled with inspiration - and that’s ok too.


Then there are some who are even strict, (oy uber strict) - more than necessary , and who’s expense and at who’s life.

So I say - if you need a break, take it. And if you need a vacation - take it. And when you feel that morbidity and independent lividity creeping up on you - be aware and address it accordingly - don’t let Judaism kill ya, you need it - and it needs you.


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