Mitzvah: My Obligations to God and to Judaism

by Jen Onefater

If I understand correctly, I was assigned to talk about my obligations to God and Judaism. I might as well stop right here, because I can state outright that I have no obligations to my religion whatsoever. My morality and everyday decisions, as well as my plans for the future, do not stem from the desire to appease a higher power. The nature of my actions is not based on a fear of not being a good enough Jew, or whether I thoroughly uphold Jewish principles. It is not the Torah that dictates my right from wrong, but rather the lessons I was taught as a child and any revelatory experiences I’ve had in the past. The whole idea of having obligations implies being burdened to do something, which should never be the case when contributing to the sustenance and enrichment of one’s religion.

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Therefore, rather than obligations, I have certain self-appointed passions and goals that I wish to accomplish as a Jew. I am determined to continue my Jewish education throughout high school, and perhaps find some other source for learning about Judaism as an adult. I also want to teach my children as much as I know about my religion, and encourage them to further educate themselves, as well as celebrate the High Holy Days with them. Primarily, though, I will try to spread any knowledge I have about Judaism. Although traditions are important, they will very easily disappear if there is no meaning behind them. It is imperative that uninformed people today, as well as future generations, acquire some understanding of the philosophy and ancestral stories that create the foundation of our faith.

A huge part of learning about Judaism encompasses the Holocaust. One cannot fully appreciate the admirable level of a stubborn, relentless people without learning that Judaism persevered despite the mass slaughter of our ancestors, simply because of what they believed in. We must also thoroughly educate ourselves on the Holocaust to ensure that history will not repeat itself. I do not plan on being extremely devout and religious, but I do wish to pass along my Jewish knowledge (no matter how limited), as well as show how proud I am to be a Jew. However, the Jewish community would benefit most if our deeds are done out of genuine desire to better the world. An act done out of fear of a higher power or desire to be viewed as a “good Jew” is in itself morally tainted. There is no true benefit if, as Jews, or even just as human beings, we do not contribute our faith to the world out of genuine desire to do so. I will only adhere to my individual morality and judgment to determine my contributions to our religion. When I look in the mirror at the end of the day, I need to be satisfied with myself and all that I have accomplished, and I know that I cannot reach that level of satisfaction unless I continuously strive to enrich others’ understanding and appreciation of Judaism.