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Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Regarding religion, should you fake it till you make it?

Daf Yomi Kesubos 68

In the early years of the Hasidic movement, there was a good deal of opposition from certain circles that felt that Hasidism was being too innovative in its approach to Judaism.   They adopted all manner of stringency in mitzvos, along with extended prayer sessions; and so, among other things, they were accused of feigning piety. 
‘Look at these Hasidim,’ the Misnagdim (opponents) would say, ‘even the most unlettered, simplest of them davens for hours on end.  Who do they think they are?’

The Rabbis taught: One who pretends to be blind or that his stomach is bloated or his leg shrivelled will not leave this world until he is afflicted with that malady.  One who takes charity without needing it will not leave this world until he indeed needs it.

Rabbi Dovber, the Maggid of Mezritch, was the successor to the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Hasidism.   Exclaimed the Maggid, ‘Even if the accusations of the Misnagdim are true about many of my Hasidim, I am not concerned.  For if the Gemara declares that one will not die without experiencing a negative practice that he has faked, then how much more so will a person not leave this world without experiencing a positive practice that he has pretended to aspire to!  They might not yet be as pious as they demonstrate, but I know that one day during their lifetimes, they will indeed be the Hasidim they yearn to be!’

The Sefer Hachinuch explains that one’s actions influence one’s values.   You might not believe in keeping Shabbos, but the more you do it, the more you will value it.  You might not believe in putting on tefillin, but if you start donning them each day, you will begin to appreciate the mitzvah. 

Many people mistakenly believe that the feeling must come first, before they can observe the mitzvos.  That’s not Judaism’s approach.  The Talmud declares, ‘A person should always perform a mitzvah for the wrong reasons, because out of the wrong reasons will eventually come the right reasons.’   Stop putting off getting more committed to Torah and mitzvos because of your doubts.  Everybody has doubts.  Doing mitzvos will go a long way to resolving those concerns.

It’s not about faking it till you make it.  It’s about believing deep down that it’s worth a serious shot.  And by doing, you will train your value system to follow suit until it becomes a natural, comfortable part of who you are.  May you merit training yourself to appreciate our incredible heritage of Judaism!  

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