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November 16, 2014 1:30 pm
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What Does it Mean to be ‘Religious’?

avatar by Ronn Torossian

Man applying tefillin. Photo: wiki commons.

My pet peeve as a proudly involved and committed Jew has to do with the word “religious.” Some synonyms for the word include devout, pious, reverent, godly, faithful, devoted, and committed.

Someone who has a beard and a yarmulke is not necessarily “religious.”  He may be “Orthodox,” but he is not necessarily “religious.” One could pray three times a day as required, don a yarmulke, tefillin and tzitzit – yet those acts exclusively wouldn’t qualify someone to be called a religious Jew.

Judaism has many different commandments and rules. Half of the primary Ten Commandments dictate deeds and acts from one person to another, not merely those involving a presumed relationship with G-d. Ultra-Orthodox, Orthodox, and other Jews aren’t necessarily religious merely because they dress a certain way, attend synagogue, or study Torah regularly.

Do they practice what the Torah teaches? There are many ways to answer that question. My children attend Orthodox day schools, and I am a member of a few Orthodox synagogues; there are some religious people there, and some non-religious people there. I’d venture there’s also some very religious Jews who do not pray three times a day – yet have intense love, commitment, and focus for the Jewish people and our religion.

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Judaism is about the religion, philosophy, and way of life. Don’t just come around and talk about “religious” people unless you know them – and you cannot know them from their clothes alone.

As CEO of a public relations firm, I know that words matter – and how one uses them does too.

Ronn Torossian is an entrepreneur and author – with pet peeves about words.

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