Newsletter 46: What we think is what we are
My thoughts are definitely stimulated by encounters I have with observant Jews.
In Israel observant Jews are everywhere; in religious neighborhoods, in cars on the road, at picnic sites, in the bank, in the post office etc. Here encounters with observant Jews crop up all the time in places and times that aren't particular to religious Jews.
A few weeks ago I guided a group of 3 observant young ladies on a tour of the Galilee.
They did things that tourists usually do; they visited the graves of holy rabbis, they went horse riding in the beautiful Galilean hills, they ate fish on the shores of the Sea of Galilee etc. etc.
All their actions and appearance showed they were Jewish and they were pious; they dressed and spoke modestly, they said their prayers, they visited the graves of pious rabbis buried in the Galilee.
They obviously thought that by performing these religious customs they had established my opinion of them as pious Jewish women.
In my opinion, however, my opinion didn't count.
In my opinion what counts are their thoughts not their actions. Even though I couldn't see their thoughts only their actions, their actions must be accompanied by thought.
The observance of Jewish customs and laws must be accompanied by thought.
Paradoxically the only way for me to know that they were pious is actually not according to their performance of Jewish religious customs but their performance of customs not related to Jewish customs.
These customs relate to encounters with their environment; the way they talk politely to other people who aren't necessarily Jewish, how they treat animals and plants and how they keep themselves and their environment decent and clean.
These things don't appear as laws in Judaism but these are the things that are important in Judaism.
Jewish laws relate to what you may or may not eat, when you should pray, when you should light the Sabbath candles etc. etc. But they're only important when they are accompanied by thought.
Unfortunately this isn't the case with many observant Jews; they perform these actions completely thoughtlessly.
One cannot escape the physical visibility of deeds, on the one hand and the physical invisibility of thoughts on the other.
Typically Jewish deeds like eating kosher food, observance of the Sabbath, prayer three times a day etc. seem to be important because they're prescribed in the Torah.
Deeds not prescribed in the Torah don't seem to have the same importance.
This is a mistake many people make through thoughtlessness; blindly following Jewish laws.
Why should one think when nobody can see our thoughts? Many people ask: What does it matter what we think if nobody can see our thoughts? "What counts is what we do not what we think."
When the observance of Torah laws are accompanied by though their action leads to performance of deeds not written in the Torah which are, in fact more important than deeds written in the Torah.
Am I what I think or am I what I do?
Have a great no news day.
Yours truly. Leon.