To most people the word religion conjures up ideas such as restriction and obligation. As baalei teshuva we’ve heard it all before from our parents: “why would you want to limit yourself”, they ask rhetorically.
And herein lies the profound beauty of religion. True religion that is.
Hold on to your seats.
True religion is limitless. Yes, limitless.
In our day and age being tied down to something for longer than we can check our news feed is limiting. We live in an age where the average person changes jobs every two years and stays in uncommitted relationships because that seems safer. We’re scared to commit, we’re scared to constrict ourselves physically. We’re on the hunt for physical freedom. And so too spiritually, we do the fun hippy stuff and one week retreats (cos hippies are free right?!), and stay away from anything that smells of obligation, restriction.
But really the only thing we fear is to go beyond ourselves. We fear to think beyond our physical situations, to dream big and follow through. We’ve lost the ability to imagine. Religion is a scary concept because we don’t risk even dreaming what it could be beyond what our eyes tell us. We only see its physical manifestation. Our minds are captive to our own experiences, and the hearts follow. We stay with what we think we know and can control, the physical. That’s safe. We lose our childhood dreams of changing the world, flying, reaching for the stars and replace them with the false security of stuff. Physical. Grounded. Can you see the irony?
The baal teshuva, in their return to religion, is in essence a rebel, an innovator, a dreamer, a superhero, for they have dared to look beyond themselves and their circumstances. They’ve dared to explore and imagine. They’ve dared to look beyond the illusionary safety of physical limitlessness.
And what did they find? True limitlessness. Infinity. Eternity. Endlessness. Hashem. He is the ultimate opportunity, for He truly has no limits. Not even physical ones. To have a relationship with Him is to be free. True freedom is not a physical manifestation (this is why the Torah was not given straight after our physical freedom from Egypt, but only after we freed ourselves spiritually/emotionally). We do live in a world of physical limits and definitions, and no matter how much we run from this, you’re still running with your legs – they’re physical, and you’ll get tired. Changing our physical situation frequently doesn’t make the experience any less physical, just more tiring. True freedom is the ability to imagine beyond ourselves and our physical situations, to be part of an Infinite Being that by definition has no boundaries.
Judaism doesn’t ask us to live restricted physical lives. Nor to live purely spiritual lives hiding from physical obligation. The challenge is to elevate, to raise the spiritual sparks and bring out the spiritual from the physical. To imagine and connect to the Infinite through the mundane physical, to expand the here and now and elevate it. That is true religion. We can only do that with imagination. We can only do that by recognising the Source of Inifinate Limitless Possibilities.
So open your mind, imagine, connect to the Infinite, elevate. Everything is possible through Hashem’s limitlessness.