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From the Cyber Rav--  Rabbi Rafi Rank

Rabbi Rafi Rank

It’s easy to be a Jew.  How about that for a new spin on an old idea!  And I mean no disrespect to that old Yiddish saying—Si shver sizein a Yid—it’s difficult to be a Jew.  For the first Jew who coined that phrase, living most probably in some European shtetl, impoverished, separated from schools of learning, separated from the trade guilds, exposed to the virulent attacks of a predominantly anti-Semitic society, and living obediently by the minutia of Jewish Law, being a Jew was no picnic.

But really—the world has changed.  The ghetto is gone.  The Jewish people—thank God!—have earned themselves a modicum of wealth.  With just about every aspect of society open to us, the time has come to reassess just how difficult being Jewish really is.

Of course, there will always be those who find authentic Jewish living in the minute and often tedious details of Jewish law.  If that is how they choose to express their Jewishness—great!  But we should remember that Avraham Avinu, Abraham our Father, the first Jew, was no less Jewish than the most pious Jew in the world.  And Avraham, in a single parashah—this week’s parashah Hayyei Sarah—teaches us many of the fundamental principles of being a good Jew.

We see him treat his deceased wife, Sarah, with utmost respect.  We see him negotiate a business deal with absolute integrity.  We see him worrying about the kind of mate his son Isaac will marry—for he certainly wants his son to be part of a strong family.  We see him express his absolute faith in God.  For Avraham, being a Jew was that easy!

Recently, one of my very observant friends made a comment that I found so profoundly refreshing.  He said, “It’s interesting that God demands so little of us.”  What does God really want?  God wants us to say a few prayers during the day, nurture our minds through a little Torah study, be honest, be kind, and best of all—God “demands” that we not work so hard.  On Shabbat and the holidays—God wants us to relax!

As for keeping kosher, is it really so difficult? These days, buying a kosher egg roll has never been easier!

I certainly do not mean to minimize Jewish law, but many in the Jewish community have never been exposed to the very principles that gave rise to all those details of Jewish life.  The time has therefore come to return to those fundamentals, to paint our Jewishness with the broad strokes of its golden generalities, to feel confident that our baby steps toward a deeper Judaism are nevertheless the authentic steps of serious Jews.  And to do that, we must do that which is clearly of benefit to our fellow human being, to always act with much deference to God, and to choose the path of sacred living.

Still not sure what to do?  Read about Avraham Avinu and how he lived his life.  It’s that easy! 

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