“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.
There is a trend in religious life, whether one was born into it, or one joins it later in life, to live a certain lifestyle, within a certain community. Aspects of religious service become rote. We do things without giving it much thought. It becomes convenient. If we are confronted with a change from the comfortable, if there is something in the religious obligation that we don’t like or inconveniences us, then we decide that we are doing enough in our divine obligations, that there is no need to be “so” religious.
In a related theme, there is an unusual and particularly harsh punishment concerning eating of sacrificial meat that was offered during Temple times. It is meant to be consumed within two days. If it is eaten on the third day – a sin known as “pigul”, the violator’s punishment is “karet”, which is translated as “cut off”. “Karet” is variably explained as he will die young, his children will die, and/or his eternal soul will cease to be. However one looks at it, it seems like an inordinately unforgiving penalty for what amounts to eating leftovers a day past their expiration date.
The Netziv on Leviticus 19:8 explains that the infraction reveals a much deeper problem. If one eats within the prescribed time, then all is well. However, if one decides that it is not convenient, that he wishes to indulge a bit more in the tasty and expensive meat that he already paid for and grilled, then it demonstrates that his entire service of God is really self-serving. His lifestyle is in reality one of indulgence and gratification and is an express rejection of and rebellion against God. Such a person though outwardly “observant” has issues with his understanding of the demands and responsibilities of divine service.
May we strengthen the good things we do and do them because they are right, and not just convenient.
To all those who exerted themselves in preparing and providing Kosher for Passover food. It certainly wasn’t convenient, but was highly delicious and appreciated.