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Sunday, 14 June 2015

Are frum Jews better than secular Jews?

Daf Yomi Nedarim 19

What separates the average observant Jew from the non-observant Jew?  Nothing more than accident of birth.  One was born into a more religious family while the other was born into a less religious family.  As a result, the former ended up with a good Jewish education; the latter is lucky if he can read Hebrew, let alone translate a verse of the Chumash.

The Mishnah states: Concerning unclear vows, one must err on the side of stringency. 
The Gemara asks: Elsewhere we learned that we treat unclear vows of nazirism with leniency.  How do we reconcile these two contradictory teachings?
Rabbi Zaira answers: The nazirism ruling was made by Rabbi Eliezer, whereas our Mishnah was a ruling of the Rabbis.
Abaye challenges him: But Rabbi Eliezer teaches that in the case of questionable firstborns, the burden of proof rests upon the cohen seeking to claim the firstborn.  But they are nonetheless forbidden for work or to benefit from their wool.  Thus, we see that Rabbi Eliezer errs on the side of stringency!
Rabbi Zaira responds: How can you compare naturally occurring holiness to man-made holiness?  Firstborns become sanctified at birth by natural occurrences, whereas vows are a form of holiness induced by human beings.

The fact that you may be a frum Jew doesn’t make you any better than a secular Jew.  If you are who you are because of the family you were lucky enough to be born into, that is called ‘naturally-occurring holiness.’ It’s not a bad place to be, you are indeed blessed.  While you may not be any better than a non-observant Jew, you are certainly better off. 

But if you actually want to become a better Jew, you have to start making conscious choices.  You didn’t make any choices to get here.  Your parents made a choice and you went with the flow.   You can’t compare naturally occurring holiness to man-made holiness!

What efforts are you making for your spirituality?  Are you simply treading water?  Or are you determined to take ownership of the incredible heritage bequeathed you by your parents?

Maybe your parents taught you to keep Shabbos.  But their Shabbos table was dry and lacking spirit.  You can make a choice to imbue the atmosphere with divrei (words of) Torah and zemiros (songs of praise)!  Maybe your parents taught you how to daven.  It’s your choice whether you will daven with a thrice daily minyan and focus on each word of the prayers! 

Are you continuing along the path set you by your parents, without having accomplished anything on your own?  It’s time to create some man-made holiness in your life.  May you merit taking the blessed lot you were granted in life to a whole new spiritual level through your own incredible efforts!