And He afflicted you, and suffered you to hunger, and fed you with manna…that He might make you know man does not live by bread only, but by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord….
This verse is often found outside churches, but the message is important in any religion: The spiritual dimension is what makes life worth living.
In Temple times, the service included the first two paragraphs of the Shema. Our ancestors then recited the Ten Commandments. Jews call these the Ten Sayings and the rest of the Torah was spoken directly by God to Moses and written down.
With the advent of Christianity, heavy emphasis was placed on the Ten Commandments to make it easier for converts. Yet every cheder child knows there are 613 mitzvot!
To emphasise all 613, the rabbis instituted the Shema’s third paragraph. The passage of the Ten Commandments was relegated to an optional recitation at the end of the morning service.
Jewish spirituality consists of the practice of our religion to the fullest extent possible. The mitzvot are a direct communication from God’s mouth.
Since, according to the Torah, we are truly alive only when we perform mitzvot, every single Jew can achieve that every day, through even simple actions such as lighting Shabbat candles or pausing to recognise the day of rest.
Each mitzvah we perform is an opportunity to renew and increase our connection with the source of our lives.
Zvi Solomons is rabbi of the Jewish Community of Berkshire, JCoB.org