What Judaism Means to Me
Judaism means everything to me. It’s a part of my life from the second I get up in the morning to the moment I fall asleep at night–and it also accompanies me in my dreams.
As a ba’al tshuva, someone who accepted the “yoke of Heaven” at quite an advanced point in my life, I’ve fought tooth and nail to maintain my edge; that “edge” being the level of observance I’ve chosen for myself. It’s been far from easy and I haven’t always succeeded in my quest for holiness. I’ve made many sacrifices to get to this point.
It’s been extremely rewarding to say the least. It’s like a mountain climber, I guess. The climber has to make a singular effort to climb the mountain. As the mountain top comes into view, he gets excited and his motivation to get to the top grows with every second. Then, when he’s finally reached his goal, it’s almost as if it wasn’t all that hard to begin with, but the overwhelming feeling is one of gratefulness.
Personally, I’m extremely grateful for all that this way of life has given me. It’s saved me a lot of heartache and negative emotions. I’ve become a better, more composed person as a result of leading a life of purity and the fear of Heaven.
As we prepare to receive the Torah, it’s time to do a cheshbon nefesh: an accounting of our shortcomings as well as our accomplishments. Every religious Jew needs to feel that they have the special power to usher in the Messiah; that their actions are of immense importance whether they’re doing something in the open or behind closed doors. We must always be extremely careful as far as what we say and do because the world–and G-d are paying attention.
The example of the mountain climber may also be applied in the count of the Omer. We count the days from Pesach to Shavuot, making a cheshbon nefesh of our sins and trying to figure out ways of dealing with the pressures we face. If we internalize this count, we have the capacity to reach very lofty levels.
As we get farther into the Omer, we feel like we’re “getting there,” that we’re reaching that mountain peak. That “mountain” is, of course, the Sinai Mt. for us. It’s where our forefathers received the greatest gift Man could ever hope for: the Torah, an owner’s manual on how we should live our lives. The Torah directs us in our daily actions. We can learn how to do everything from cutting our hair to getting married there.
Judaism is more than just a nationality or a religion, it’s an entire way of life. Let’s try to internalize this message as we approach the giving of the Torah. Let’s learn from our mistakes and do tshuva–repent for our shortcomings. Each one of us is a “world unto himself.” We have the power to bring the Moshiach.