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November 16, 2014 1:30 pm

What Does it Mean to be ‘Religious’?

avatar by Ronn Torossian

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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.

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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