I write this with a sincere desire that you – our religious readers – share my words with those who are yet not religious. I am convinced that some of those with whom you share this article, will realize the profound lessons of the Shavuos holiday…helping another person in the most profound manner. And as we are commanded to teach others, you will – on this holiday commemorating the greatest act of education – fulfill that great mitzvah, as you attempt to benefit others. How can we not share our “wealth”? Of course, we must first comprehend our fortune as a real fortune…I mean this Torah God gifted to the world, and us.
Why Read any Further?
I ask you to consider reading this entire essay based on the following. The most brilliant minds including Kings David and Solomon, Moses, Maimonides and an array of other sages and prophets selected the Torah lifestyle. They did so out of sheer enjoyment and happiness experienced in Torah study and fulfilling the various commands. They saw it as God’s will. Since they are wiser than us, give them the benefit of the doubt, and read on…perhaps you too will understand why they chose such a life, and you will enjoy your life more than you imagined. Don’t pass an opportunity to finally answer yourself on this issue.
Why You Exist
Think about it: this massive universe and us were once nothing: an abyss of all that was to be. “Then”, God created everything: expansive space itself, the billions of galaxies, our souls, and our bodies. Scientists as well admit that some “Intelligence” had to cause the Big Bang, since nothing can create itself. And even after all was created, nothing could sustain itself, since its existence remains dependent on the Creator’s will. We are here by God’s will. How then can we violate His conditions of our existence? And why should we violate: do we know better than our Creator the purpose and true benefit of our existence? Can you answer the simple question, “How can you be happiest”?
The first thing you must ask yourself is, “Am I convinced of God’s existence?” You must admit that “Something” caused everything else. To suggest the eternity of the universe, that there was no beginning, is akin to saying that nothing “caused” this universe. In that case, if there is no cause…it could not exist! But as we do witness a universe, we simultaneously must admit of a Cause. Call this Cause what you want.
The event of Revelation at Sinai – what we celebrate on Shavuos – is as indisputable as any historical account. If you accept Caesar’s existence, you must accept any historical account witnessed by masses, including God’s revelation at Sinai. Now, primary to Revelation at Sinai, was the intelligent voice emanating from flames. The “sudden” nature of the inferno out of nowhere - itself - was also a miracle. The next fact you must accept is that only that Being that created and governs all existences including laws of fire, can perform this miracle of a mountain suddenly ablaze with no fire source. Thereby, Sinai synthesized natural law and Torah law as emanating form a single source…God. Meaning, God who gave Torah on Sinai, also suspended natural law at that precise moment. Both systems came together, validating “God of the universe”, as the same “God of Torah”. And to prove the event was not man made, God created intelligent words emanating form flames: for it is fire that opposes all biological life. Thus, the source of those intelligent words was not of this world…but it was God. This idea alone is sharp: God orchestrated a specific fire/voice miracle, for this miracle precisely addresses His objective to prove that a supernatural being exists, which is not of this Earth. This should appeal to you…it should hit you with a sense of appreciation for His wisdom.
Consider this next truth: you exist due to the will of the Creator, and He also wills that you adhere to the Torah given at Sinai 3319 years ago. Does this make clear sense to you? Ask yourself. You have but one life, so be careful to examine it well, and understand your mission. If He created you and also gave a Torah to follow, does this not impose an obligation on you? Do you feel God is unjust by demanding so many Torah laws? If you do: then do you also feel He is unjust, by granting you life this far? Do you enjoy how you have lived so far? If you do enjoy the life He gave you, then you must be thankful to your Creator. And with this thanks for this good life He has given so far, don’t you feel He has intended good by offering you the Torah as well?
Can you really feel that God, who designed you with pleasant emotions, also created the Torah lifestyle as something that causes pain? Isn’t it possible, that whatever you know about Torah, and kept you non-observant, is somewhat incorrect? Hundreds of genius Sages and Rabbis for 1000s of years gravitated to daily Torah study and practice. That was all they desired, and we are including great people like King Solomon, in whom world leaders marveled at his wisdom. These leaders did not marvel at ‘our’ wisdom, but at Kings David and Solomon. These facts should compel you to finally give the Torah lifestyle a thorough examination. Don’t you want to know what drew thousands of the wisest people to it? Don’t you wish to sample that, from which geniuses could not tear themselves away? And they weren’t geniuses when they started…but they were like you and me. And even then, they were drawn to something you have yet to experience…but you can.
Be aware of your emotions. Admit that you don’t enjoy following rules, instead of your own wishes. You want no restrictions: no religious book telling you what to do. “I’ve been free to live as I wish for so long, so any change is going to feel uncomfortable”, you think to yourself. But do you know better than God how you should live your life? Do you know better than your doctor, who knows nothing compared to God?
Honesty is demanded at this point, and if you seek to deny what is proven and sensible, you need not read further. I write for those who do not wish to fool themselves.
When you feel the urge to repel Torah investigation or practice, ask yourself if it is the “Torah” that is frustrating, or perhaps, your desire to do “something else” frustrates you: you are not doing what you’re accustomed to. Many times we assume that our pain comes from a current activity, when in fact, we are frustrated because we’d rather be somewhere else. But the current activity is not painful at all.
You must admit: since you still don’t grasp the Torah’s message, something “unknown” cannot be distasteful. So why do you associate pain with observance? It is because humans crave consistency, and any change in your daily pattern arouses uncertainty, uneasiness, and a desire to fall back to your regular, comfortable activities. Many people stay with partners and jobs that are painful, simply because they’re “used to it”. So too, when you experience pain in an attempt to study or observe Torah, this is not a reflection on Torah. It simply means that people select known ‘comfortable’ activities, over the ‘unknown’ Torah lifestyle. How many times did the Jews say to Moses, “Take us back to Egypt”? They too preferred the ‘known’ and painful slave existence – to the unknown life that awaited them. But they lacked intelligence at that point. They forgot that God rendered 10 Plagues to save them. They forgot quickly…so I advise you: don’t repeat their mistake. Have some trust in the 1000s of genius minds that never veered from a Torah lifestyle because of the pleasure they found. King Solomon was one of the world’s wisest men. Place some trust in his mind for a brief while.
Unhappy with Life?
Are you unhappy with your life? Do you know why you are unhappy? Wouldn’t you have already changed your life, if you knew what it was that required change? Now what if someone told you that you could change and be happy? What if you were not only told, but it was explained to you exactly how and why you could be happy? Wouldn’t you at least listen? Of course you would. So of you would give another person your ear, why don’t you give at least that much to God and His Torah?
The greatest minds understood: man cannot be happy simply by earning a living, being social, enjoying pleasures, or traveling. In all these activities, man’s central component – his soul – remains unattended. And when the central element of man is not engaged, he feels pain. Foolishly, we blame our pain in life on not traveling enough, or not earning enough. But this is easily disproved. A fish requires fins to reach its food: without fins, the fish is frustrated, and soon dies. A monkey requires arms for swinging, to collect its food, and reach others of its species. Remove its arms, and even if surrounded by others, it will yearn to climb, since it was designed to do so, and removing its arms does not remove its internal makeup. The monkey will be frustrated. Mammals and humans have lungs that require air. If we avoid breathing, we soon die. In every being, there are central functions and components, and when they are removed or even stifled, the being is in pain. Most central to man is his intelligence. For this is our distinguishing mark. This is our definition. If you do not engage in study and personally enriching enlightenment, you will be in pain. But you falsely think your pain comes from the lack of money or lack of travel.
Do you know what hurts you most? Not if someone else says you can’t dress, or that your ball pitching is very poor. You are most disturbed if someone calls you stupid. Here, your central and defining component – your intelligence – is attacked, and you sense that this is what truly defines “you”. Not your pitching or your clothing style. Similarly, if you ignore your soul, and attempt a life without Torah study, you will always remain frustrated. Your lifeline is severed. God designed man to achieve fulfillment only in a life that includes intellectual and philosophical activities. God designed man to be happy through Torah study and observance.
We all want to be part of something, something bigger than ourselves. We sense this. Well, this is your soul making a desperate plea that you pay attention to. It is your soul reaching out for you to enrich your life with meaning and purpose, not simply to be “well traveled” or to “die rich”.
Many considerations may hold you back from making an honest effort at examining a religious lifestyle, like peer pressure, or your self-image. “How can I follow what I have rejected for so long?” “How can I change, while my peers will mock me?” you ask yourself. “It’s demeaning to accept what I have refuted for so long”. The list goes on. But these arguments hold no water. Not one of them is a critique of the Torah itself. I can only tell you to follow one rule: abandon your ego. It will get in the way of your true happiness. Forget about what people will say, and live for yourself. Forget about your own pride…for pride cannot satisfy your need to be happy.
Extremist Jews may be a turn off to you. “I don’t want to dress that way,” you say. Well you don’t have to. Much of what is repelling to you may in fact not be required by Torah, like dress codes. So ask someone you respect who has sound Torah knowledge.
Be sensitive and alert to the numerous rationalizations that will present themselves to your emotions. Recognize that they are all attempts to take the easy way out. But do not listen. Instead, remain focused on the indisputable truth that God created you, He knows what you need to be happy, and He gave you a Torah.
The first Jews, who by definition were not yet observant, received the Torah on Shavuos. This Shavuos holiday – and for all generations – God teaches us the same lesson: mankind cannot achieve happiness and purpose without a Torah.
Shavuos is truly a Holiday for the Non-Religious. And this one can be the first of many happy ones for you. Make the next step and meet with a knowledgeable Jew, ask your questions, start learning regularly…and you will see how wonderful your life will be. Trust those wiser than you…like our greatest kings and prophets. Give a chance to hear what they have to say.
Start your quest now with an investigation into a proof that God exists, based on Rabbi Israel Chait’s essay reprinted herein, “Torah from Sinai”.