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Friday, 20 March 2015

Are you a lobotomized Jew?

Daf Yomi Kesubos 46

The prophet Isaiah was born into the royal family.  First cousin to King Uzziah, he turned his back on the pomp and grandeur of nobility and railed against the excesses of the middle and upper classes.   Material prosperity had brought in its wake spiritual decline, and Isaiah was determined to show the nation her true religious colours.  It wasn’t that people were no longer observant.  They still kept mitzvos, but they were doing them by rote, just going through the motions. 

The Book of Isaiah famously opens, “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto Me? says G-d; I am full of the burnt-offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he-goats.  Bring no more vain offerings; it is incense of abomination to Me; new moon and sabbath, the holding of convocations, I cannot endure iniquity along with the solemn assembly. Your new moons and your appointed seasons My soul hates; they are a burden to Me; I am weary to bear them.”

The Torah declares, “When a man shall utter a vow of persons unto G-d, your valuation shall be for the male from twenty to sixty years old, fifty shekels of silver.”

The Beraisa states: One who says, ‘I hereby pledge half my valuation,’ he gives half his valuation.  Rabbi Yossi the son of Rabbi Judah says: He is hit and pays the full valuation.
The Gemara asks: Why do we hit him?
Rabbi Papa explains: He is hit with a bill for the full amount of valuation.  What is the reason?   The Rabbis instituted a decree in the case of one who pledges ‘half his valuation’ on account of the case of one who pledges ‘the valuation of his half.’  Pledging the valuation of half of him would include limbs that his soul depends on.

If you pledge half of you, that would include half a brain, half a heart, and so on.  You can’t survive with half a heart.  Making such a pledge deems you responsible for the full amount.  Pledging half of you makes no sense.  It’s all or nothing.

Sadly, many people adopt the ‘half of me’ attitude in life.  They don’t give G-d their all.  They don’t give work their all.  They don’t give their family their all.  They think that investing half a heart is good enough.  But you can’t survive with half a heart.  Half a heart equals dead.

When your kids see that you are only giving half a heart to your Judaism, they recognize you’re not really invested.  When you embrace your Judaism ‘wholeheartedly’ they see that it is meaningful and worth investing their own hearts and minds into.   And that was the malaise of the day during Isaiah’s time: his imagery of G-d being weary of the people’s sacrifices was designed to mirror their own service of Him.  If they were bored and disinterested, how did they think G-d felt?

It’s time to give it your all!  Give your whole heart to G-d!  Give your whole mind to G-d!  Jump up ecstatically to perform a mitzvah!  You have the power to decide whether your Judaism is going to be half-baked and dead, or completely alive and exciting!  Merely going through the motions is as boring to G-d as it is to you and ultimately to your kids who are watching you.  Don’t just be Jew-ish, like kind of into it, but not really.  Be utterly consumed by your Yiddishkeit! 

Half a heart is a dead heart.  Half a brain is, at best, a lobotomy.  May you merit giving your everything to G-d, to your family, and to your community, so that you are serving with passion, enthusiasm and unwavering joy!