Laws about food, business, relationships, worship, time and even the way one should speak…Is Judaism all about laws, about doing this and not doing that?

Human nature resists laws and limitations (ask any parent of a teenager). And yet, no matter what culture we live in, society needs them in order to properly function. The purpose of halacha, Jewish law, is not to make life more difficult, but to make life more meaningful. The arguments are obvious: Why should a person restrict what they eat to only kosher foods? Why should a person not go out to a fund-raiser on a Friday night, (since it would be supporting a good cause)?

While there are halachot (laws) that, to our individual perceptions, might seem unnecessary–for example kashrut–one cannot doubt that their very discipline brings structure to people’s lives and shapes their values.

How can people be expected to learn all of the laws, especially if one’s education begins later in life? There is so much to learn! The Talmud, however, provides numerous examples of famous rabbis who began to learn Torah only later in life: Rabbi Akiva was 40 when he first learned the alef-bet and Hillel, who was too poor to receive a proper education, was found curled up on a study-hall roof where he could hear the lessons within.

God Himself addresses this fear: “For this commandment that I command you this day, it is not too hard for you, neither is it far off” (Deuteronomy 30:10-11).

The key, of course, is perception. Believing that something is too difficult to do makes it far more difficult to achieve. Those who believe in God’s promise that “it is not too hard” have already taken the first, and most important step. After that, finding success often means taking life and learning one little step at a time (or, perhaps we can add, one Treat a day).

Copyright © 2010 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.

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