Acting On Judaism

Judaism has never been a system of belief alone. Judaism is enacted faith.

Immediately following the declaration “Shema,” we read about the ways that declaration is carried into the world: teaching children, mezuzah, tzitzit. When a child reaches maturity we do not say he or she has reached the age of belief, but rather the age of action, a son or daughter of mitzvah. To be a mature Jew is to be an acting Jew.

Judaism is a system of mitzvoth, and you can no more be a wonderful Jew with sentiment alone than you can be a great baseball player in your heart. Which mitzvot become central to your life as a Jew varies; some Rabbis have suggested that every person has a special mitzvah that they seek to make their touchstone. But we redeem ourselves the way God is said to redeem in the Torah, with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.

At Sinai, Israel “Saw the voices [Ex. 20:14].” What can it mean to see a voice? Our sages explain that Israel could see the effect of the voices in people’s lives — in their actions. Then as now, who we are is measured in what we do.

Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter: @RabbiWolpe. His latest book, “David: The Divided Heart” (Yale University Press), has recently been published.

About the Author
Named the most influential Rabbi in America by Newsweek Magazine and one of the 50 most influential Jews in the world by the Jerusalem Post, David Wolpe is the Rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, California.