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Being a Good Jew Without Keeping Torah?

Published on Sunday June 6th, 2021

Those who don’t have the chance to keep Torah and Mitzvot sometimes ask themselves this question: can I fulfill my life purpose without Torah and Mitzvot? Can a man be satisfied by simply choosing what is right?

There is no doubt that good deeds have great value. The Holy One, blessed be He, only chose Avraham Avinu because he was a man of truth and goodness.  Moshe Rabbeinu even took pity on cattle, and fled Egypt after having rescued a Jew and having tried to make peace between two Jews, saying: (Shemot 2,13): "Why do you hit your brother?" When he fled from the desert, poor and destitute, Moshe fought again to save women from the grips of bad people. Moshe Rabbeinu demanded justice and compassion, and that is why the Holy One, blessed be He, chose him. Our Sages teach us that the Bnei Yisrael are compassionate, and this is one of its most valuable traits. That is why the Creator chose us as His people.

What does a good man look like?

The correct answer to this question is: the Torah is designated for good people! The Torah is a guide for the spiritual ascent of virtuous people who aspire to do good.

What does a good man look like? An unpolished diamond. A diamond is polished in order to make it shine. A Jew has the potential to reach high spiritual levels, but without the Torah, he cannot access this wholeness.

One day a medical student approached me and asked me about the purpose of life. He claimed that he wanted to study medicine to advance humanity and to save lives. "It is probably a high goal in life to aim to be a good man," I replied, "but is it really the highest level you can aspire to? Isn't there a higher and more important goal in life?'' (Since he was not a religious Torah believer at the time, I used a parable from science fiction literature.)

Imagine yourself traveling back in time and finding yourself in the year 7000, wherein human beings have arrived at the pinnacle of technological and scientific advancement. Medications have been discovered to cure all diseases and disabilities, robots perform all our tasks, there are no more poor or unhappy people, and all the physics equations have been solved. Moreover, it is no longer necessary to learn anything, because an electronic chip has been implanted in our brain to give us all existing information. What will then be the purpose of your life? Will you be sitting all day observing three-dimensional reality on TV while eating popcorn?

Although today, you have chosen to practice medicine and bring technological comfort to man, but are you losing the meaning of your life in a world where nothing is missing? Do you notice that your life purpose revolves around the negative: you want to fill a void, but what is the positive value that you aspire to in life? "

To be honest, I was surprised by his silence. The student was so convinced of his life purpose that he had not even imagined the possibility of a spiritual purpose higher than this world, higher than material life. He replied that he did not know.
I then asked him: "You told me that you believe in the Master of the world, so why do you think the Creator created disability, illness, and hardship? There is no doubt that the Creator has hidden plans for our good, and we do not see the complete picture. The Creator has granted us the ability to be compassionate and the ability to research and discover drugs and technology. It is therefore clear that He wants us to practice medicine as well as to perform acts of kindness to the poor, but that does not mean that the meaning of your life in this world ends here. I suggested that he read a booklet entitled "Sicha Goralis".

In this world...and in the one to come

The Holy One, blessed be He, looked for the best humans to give them the Torah, so that they attain even higher levels, and merit an eternal reward. To possess a good heart is an extraordinary spiritual power to do good, not only in this world but also in the world to come. Our Sages write in Bereshit Rabbah (44: 1): "Mitzvot were given only to help mankind," namely, that the Mitzvot were given to polish souls in order to enable them to attain holiness and reach their potential. Mitzvot do not only help us to be good, but they also help us to overcome our evil inclination, and enable us to develop the character traits buried within each of us, and achieve authentic and spiritual happiness, for eternity. The goal is to acquire knowledge of the Torah, to perform the Mitzvot properly, to pray, to make efforts, and to sacrifice ourselves for our Creator, all in all to fulfill this verse: 'You will love Hashem your G-d with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might.'  This is the purpose of our life here, and it is superior to life itself.

Be aware! This does not mean to say that virtuous people will not enjoy the reward for their good deeds. On the contrary: our Sages say that the Holy One, blessed be He, does not hold back anyone’s reward, and even a pervert can enjoy a reward for the few good deeds accomplished in his life! Thus, a righteous and honest person will even more so receive a reward from G-d for all his good deeds.

But we must keep in mind that these same noble individuals will be able to obtain, even more, thanks to the Torah and the Mitzvot because the Torah is the divine guide for upright people.

The Torah-Box Team - © Torah-Box

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