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Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Why bother being religious?

Daf Yomi Yevamos 101

After many years as a celebrity bodybuilder and successful actor, Arnold Schwarzenegger ran for public office and was elected to the position of governor of the state of California.  Here was a man who had achieved fame and fortune; he had everything material a person could ever dream of!  And he was willing to subject himself to the rigors of the campaign trail and the life and relatively meager salary of a public servant.  Why?

The Mishnah states:  If a woman failed to wait three months after marriage to her first husband prior to marrying the second, and subsequently gave birth, we do not know if this child was born after nine months of conception from the first husband or seven months of conception from the second.  If both husbands were priests, the child may go up to perform the service in the Holy Temple with each of their divisions, but he does not receive a portion of the sacrifices, since each division may contend that he is not really part of their group. 

The Gemara asks: If he does not receive a portion, why would he want to go up?
‘Why would he want to go up?!’ the Gemara exclaims rhetorically, ‘He is saying, I desire to perform the mitzvah!’

Many people approach their Judaism with the attitude of ‘What’s in it for me?  If it’s not going to give me instant gratification and spontaneous satisfaction, then I’m not interested.  Why would I want to do Judaism if it will take a lot of effort?  It’s just not conducive to my lifestyle.’

But that’s not why we do mitzvos.  It’s not about you.  It’s about serving the Almighty.  At the peak of his career, Arnold Schwarzenegger recognized that there is more to life than the empty pursuit of fame and fortune.  And so he made the decision to dedicate his life to public service.  And along the way, he realized that the feeling one gets from serving is the greatest reward one could experience in life.

When that cohen goes up to the Holy Temple to perform the service, he’s not looking for a piece of meat for supper.  He is reveling in his great fortune at simply having the ability to serve.  His Israelite brothers don’t get that opportunity!  What could be more rewarding than that?

It’s time to stop asking, ‘What am I going to get out of my Judaism?  What am I going to get out of serving the community?’  Serving G-d and man is the greatest reward!   Every other pleasure in life pales in comparison.  The joy of serving is eternal – rewarding both in this world and the next.  There is no greater joy and source of satisfaction.  Of course, you shouldn’t be doing it for your own satisfaction – service to G-d and your fellow human beings should be performed because it’s the right thing to do – but it certainly doesn’t hurt to know that it is incredibly emotionally and psychologically satisfying as well!

There is no greater joy than serving the King of Kings.  You are blessed to have been born a priest of G-d, He made a covenant with you at Mt. Sinai!  Don’t ask what G-d can do for you, but what you can do for G-d!  May you merit the ultimate satisfaction and joy – in this world and eternally – of becoming a servant of the Almighty!