Rabbi David Weissman
During the course of each week, we all engage in some activities on a continuing, regular basis. Some of us may go to a gym. Some of us may go bowling. We may play cards or mah jongg. We may go out to eat. We may watch certain television pro-grams. We engage in these various activities because they are important to us. We engage in these activities religiously.
What does the word “religious” or “religiously” mean?
What people mean when they use the word “religiously” in speaking about these activities is that they do these things on a regular basis. They are part of their regular schedule. They are a vital part of their lives. And if they skipped doing them in any given week, they would miss not having done them.
But the word “religiously” comes from the word “religion.” The word “religion” may be defined as “a set of beliefs, traditions and practices dealing with the ultimate meaning of life.” So someone’s religion shouldn’t be a casual thing. It’s shouldn’t be just a casual leisure time activity. It’s something that should be important. Just like all of the activities I mentioned in the first paragraph of this article, it’s something that should be practiced on a regular basis if it’s important to us. It deals with the search for ultimate mean-ing in life. It deals with the bottom line in how we live our lives.
If someone engages in the activities I’ve mentioned religiously, but devotes his time to the ultimate questions in life only on a casual basis, then actions speak louder than words. The only conclusion is that these activities are more important to the person than the questions with which religions are concerned: Where did I come from? How should I live my life? Where am I going? Or-ganized religion enables people to explore these questions as part of a group. If religion is important to someone, then that person would practice his or her religion religiously, just as that person engages in these other activities religiously.
Our time is limited. We spend our time on the things in life which are important to us. If the ultimate questions dealing with the meaning of life are important to us, then we should spend at least as much time on religious activities as we spend on these other activities which are so important a part of our lives.
It is not easy for people to change the way they live, to break out of a pattern of indifference to the ultimate questions of life. But at some point in their lives, people should ask themselves: What does it all mean? Why am I here? What makes life worth-while? Religion can provide the answers to these questions.
Going to the gym. Going bowling. Playing mah jongg. Playing cards. Eating out. Watching football games on televi-sion. These are all part of our regular weekly activities. And even though most of us are retired and have plenty of time on our hands, we’re not willing to spend an hour or an hour and a half to attend weekly Shabbat services on a regular basis. But shouldn’t religion – which deals with the ultimate questions of our lives – be more than something on which we spend only a few days a year? Rabbi David Weissman