By HaRav Ariel Bar Tzadok.
Religion is supposed to be about G-d, learning how to commune, how to serve, how to fulfill our purpose in being human. Yet, when communion with G-d is lost, so is true religion. All that remains is but a hollow shell.
Hollow shells look full from the outside but are completely empty from within. A religion that places all emphasis on the shell and leaves the insides empty is no religion at all. Instead of being religion, it becomes oppression. Instead of bringing one closer to G-d the empty shell only serves to separate one from G-d. This is the illusion of religion and not its reality.
We are all spiritual beings in human bodies. We are created in the Image of G-d. We have within us the potential to soar to the highest heights of universal achievements, if only we allow ourselves to do so. Yet, herein lies the greatest of problems. We limit ourselves because we have forgotten our Divine origins.
We look at ourselves in the mirror and see only flesh; we therefore erroneously conclude that there is no more to us than what meets the eye. We have forgotten what it is like to be fully human, created in the Image of G-d. Religion is supposed to remind us of this. When religion fails us, we end up failing ourselves.
G-d is within us, within our very essence, within our souls, within our unconsciousness minds, within our hearts. Only when we close our physical eyes and cease looking upon our flesh can we peer inside to see our spirit. G-d dwells within, therefore in order to find the Divine we must search inside ourselves.
True religion therefore must teach us how to look within, how to recognize the Image of the Divine within us. True religion is not the external learning by rote; rather it is experience of inner awakening. It is the exploration for and the discovery of the internal knowledge.
True religion is experienced not as something new, but rather it is felt, as if it is a knowledge remembered, like something one has always known. True religious teachings merely guide us to recognize this inherent, internal and universal reality.
Knowing true religion one will experience G-d. Knowing only the hollow shell one will believe many things, but in the end, while the head will be full of beliefs, the heart, like the hollow shell, will remain empty.
One with a strong shell and a hollow heart is asleep before G-d, unaware of the condition. Can the sleeper awaken? Better to ask whether or not the sleeper cares.
Religion is about experiencing G-d. Judge for yourself whether you embrace G-d or an empty shell. Do you experience? Is your heart full? Are you aware of the Divine Presence; do you feel it within yourself? Judge for yourself what you embrace. Know the truth by what you experience, not by what you believe.
In order for the sleeper to awaken, one must first recognize that one is asleep. Dreaming in one’s sleep one can feel most awake; nonetheless, the dreamer is still asleep. It is time to stop dreaming about G-d and to start experiencing the Divine Presence for real.
True religion is about being awake and experiencing life. The dreamer only has a glimpse of this, but knows not the fullness of life. Therefore, in order to truly live, the sleeper must awaken.
Do you want to awaken? Will you make the efforts to be aroused? Do you care to live, or do you want to continue dreaming and wasting your life away? Only one who has awakened and experiences the reality of living in the Divine Presence can be called truly religious. Sleepers know only the hollow shell of unfulfilled dreams.
Shalom, Ariel Bar Tzadok www.koshertorah.com