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Torah Portion: Eikev

Book of Deuteronomy

Chaps. 7:12-11:25

August 27, 2016

            This past week I was engaged in discussion with a friend regarding a certain recent film. My friend gave a brief review and then suggested to me, “You probably wouldn’t appreciate it. Though funny, it has a strong anti-religious undertone.”

In this “either-or/black-or-white” society we find ourselves living in, there is yet another category of division to further separate us one from the other: You are either religious or secular. What exactly is religion and what does it mean to be religious?

The word religion is derived from Latin, Old French, and Middle English meaning “life of vows, obligations, bonds, and reverence.” In our day religion is used to define one’s faith-Christian, Moslem, Jewish, or more specifically, Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Sunni, Shia, and so on. Religion has become an institution, begging the question “who wants to live in an institution”? I know I don’t!

Too much time and effort is expended enforcing the tenets of one’s particular religion, or brand thereof, and not enough time understanding the requirements of faith.  In Deuteronomy 10:12 it is written, “And now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God demand of you? Only this: to revere the Lord your God, to walk only in His paths, to love Him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and soul.” This is all well and good, but how does one revere the Lord your God, or love Him, or serve the Lord. . . with all your heart and soul?

The prophet Micah, in the 8th century bce, answered the above question when he wrote, “[God] has told you what is good, and what the Lord requires of you: Only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk modestly with your God.” (Micah 6:8) If faith in God is the underpinning of religion, then doing acts of lovingkindness, pursuing justice, uplifting the downtrodden, feeding the hungry, and clothing the naked are the defining attributes of being religious.

If only our religions were more religious.

Rabbi Howard Siegel

© 2017 Beth Tikvah Synagogue, Richmond, BC, Canada
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