Religious Obligations, Mandatory Or Voluntary? – Special to The Jewish Week

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U.S. News & World Report once published an article, “50 Ways to Fix Your Life,” or at least improve it. “Learning to Meditate” was near the top of the list, the article demonstrating how meditation leads not only to spiritual enlightenment but better health.

What a great way to market Jewish prayer (tefillah) and get more people to services. Tefillah, after all, is a form of meditation so it wouldn’t be like I was making something up. But then I thought: here I go again, promoting a Jewish observance based on its “benefits.” Pray because it’s healthy, because it relieves stress. Is that really why we should pray or perform any mitzvah? Because we found some benefit? What then becomes of all the Jewish traditions that don’t seem to profit us? Do we take them less seriously? What does that say about our relationship with God? If we only perform mitzvot that benefit us, then who are we really serving, God or ourselves?…

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