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Friday, 21 August 2015

What's your unique derech?

Daf Yomi Nedarim 89

The Orthodox Jewish community is often accused of being homogeneously black-and-white by non-Orthodox Jews.   But ask any single who has tried online dating about their different experiences on the various Jewish dating sites.  If you go to JDate, they’ll tell you, you can choose between Orthodox, Conservative, or Reform.  On Frumster, which is for Orthodox Jews, there are so many different ways you can describe yourself: Modern Orthodox, Yeshivish, Chasidish, Litvish, Carlebach, Chabad, Breslov, Chabakuk, the list goes on and on.

A fellow once made a vow of abstention from all humankind if he would get married without having first learned Torah.  But he got caught up in his business affairs and did not find the opportunity to learn.  He wasn’t getting any younger, and so Rav Acha the son of Rav Huna came along and tricked him into getting married.  He then dirtied his clothes, so that he would require a dry-cleaning service.  Of course, the problem was he had sworn off benefiting from anyone and so Rav Acha took him off to Rav Chisda to have the ridiculous vow annulled.

Why would this fellow have vowed not to get married until he had learned Torah?  Because sometimes we get the impression from certain circles that you’re not a good Jew unless you’ve committed to learning for years and years before and after marriage.

Of course that’s not the case.  While it’s true that we must all be devoted to Torah study day and night, we don’t all need to be full-time Torah scholars.  Rav Acha realized that this individual’s talents lay in business pursuits and so he found a way to trick him out of the vow and help him get on with his life.

Pirkei Avos teaches that the world is built on three pillars – Torah, prayer and good deeds.  We are all obligated in all three areas.  But each of us may be stronger in one or two of the pillars.  Some are Torah-scholars, others are strong daveners, and others are very generous with their time and money.  Don’t be fooled into thinking – like this young man was – that there’s only one way to serve G-d.  Orthodox Judaism is the most diverse religious program that exists!

You need to find your derech (best approach) to serve Heaven.  You were placed upon this earth because you have a special mission to fulfil that only you can fulfil.  If the way to get there is Torah, then go for it – full-speed ahead!  If it is prayer or good deeds, then likewise, give it your very best shot!  The Almighty gave us a Torah that is choc-a-bloc full of positive mitzvos to choose from to excel in.   It goes without saying that the Torah’s prohibitions are non-negotiable; but regarding the positive commandments, you are free to choose where to place your efforts!

Traditional Judaism offers an incredible menu of options to serve G-d.  Don’t let anyone push you into their box or derech.  May you merit discovering your unique mission and fulfil your destiny here on earth!

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