Shabbat, Kashrut, and Taharat Ha-Mishpacha
These mitzvot are held up by (most in) the Orthodox community (at least the online Orthodox community) as those which divide "real Jews" or "Torah-True Jews (TM) " from the rest of us. I have long wondered what the fixation is about - why these, rather than honoring your parents, or writing a Torah scroll for yourself, or not to put any Jew to shame...
Well, the obvious answer is that if you are defining your community in opposition to others which might be confused with it (by the unwary, the unholy, or the ger), you need a line somewhere.
- Kashrut is a line about fellowship - if you can't eat their food, you are limited in socializing with them.
- Shabbat is a line about faith - if they don't leave the lights off (or on), they either don't believe in the Divinity of Tanakh or its interpretation by the sages and later rabbanim.
- Taharat Ha-Mishpacha is a line about propriety (as well as a barrier to marriage) - who knows what other weird things they may do, if they don't even follow basic norms about married relations.
In a discussion of aliyah, Rafi G claims:
"It is presumptuous for anyone to say they know the value of mitzvos and some are more important than others and some make your practice into real Judaism and some don't."
Without diminishing the importance of those mitzvot, here are *my* big 3:
- Lashon HaRa: Not to wrong any one in speech
- Torah: To learn Torah and to teach it
- Tzedakah: To give charity according to one's means
Avoiding Lashon HaRa is the basis of all respectful social interaction between Jews (and others), and, despite yesterday's naughty post, a sign that Judaism is a societal system, not "just" a religion.
Learning Torah requires patience, humility, diligence, and critical thought. Teaching Torah requires patience, humility, and faith. aside from cultivating these character traits, studying Torah reverently leads one to all other mitzvot.
Tzedakah - not just in the money sense, but in its framework of justice - reveals the underlying Torah truth that we are all in this together; what you have is not yours to "own" but to steward for the entire community (and the earth). it is incumbent upon you to use these gifts wisely, for the good of all.