How Far Are You Willing to Go For Your Beliefs?
The battle between culture and religion is fought daily.
Anyone familiar with high tech culture knows about lunchtime and the many discussions regarding it, and its fantastic force to grow friendships between coworkers. I didn’t expect it to be any different when I left the office with some friends to eat Hummus today. At least not until an unfamiliar man came out of an alley, rushing towards me and pleading for my help, right in front of my friends.
He said he needed my help for Minyan. In Judaism, Minian is the assortment of ten men coming together for prayer. Anyone can pray alone, but it’s always encouraged to pray with a Minyan in cases of grief or holiday. The former was the man’s reason for asking my help. He said he wanted to say Kaddish for his late father and that I would be the tenth man missing to make that happen.
My friends were looking at me from the one side, and he was imploring me from the other. A split second thought that felt as a small eternity crossed my mind. Should I refuse and continue walking with my friends?
If I did that, I would refuse a person’s opportunity to engage in an activity that signifies his mourning for his father. Granted, he could find someone else on the street, but now, at that moment, I could have filled in for that role. If I refused and walked away, my friends — non-religious people — wouldn’t have cared but would have frowned. I’m essentially declaring I’m religious by walking around with a Kippah on my head but then when the universe throws a request to fulfill a Mitzvah my way I refuse? That doesn’t look good.
A part of the small eternity passed as a new thought made its way to the surface of my mind:
Should I act according to how I will be perceived?
No. I shouldn’t do that. It’s never OK to base your actions according to how people will perceive them. Such a way of life demonstrates little self-esteem and is never encouraged. I have a will of my own, and it should shine through my actions.
The small eternity had passed, and I had made up my mind in that split second. I turned to my friends and told them I’d meet them later in the restaurant. The man thanked me and led me through the alley he had come through to the other waiting men. The prayer had started the moment I joined.
When I had arrived at the restaurant about twenty minutes later, my delicious Hummus with mushrooms was already ready. I had texted one of my friends and told him what to order. I thought the experience was over, but as soon as I started eating, the jokes commenced. “Why aren’t you praying before eating?” , “Aren’t you holy?” they laughed at my expense. It wasn’t terrible, and at some point, I joined in, but it still stung.
There should be prayers before eating, but I’m not as religious as some people to chant them before I eat. I only do that in specific meals, like those during Shabbat.
I paid the price by choosing my religion. But I feel it was the right choice, the choice that my own will had dictated in agreement with my moral compass. I might have been laughed at for acting in a religious way around my secular friends, but it’s a price I’m willing to pay.
How far are you willing to go for your beliefs?