“Matters of Torah only endure in a person who kills himself over it.”

BT Shabbat 83b



            The Pew Research Center just released a global study of religion whose findings have appeared in newspapers and social media everywhere. They found that one out of every six people has no religious affiliation – the third largest group in relation to religion, equal to the world population of Catholics, about 16 %. Christians double that population. Jews are only about 0.2% of the world’s population. An increasing number of people, however, do not attach themselves to any world faith. This should be of concern to anyone who cares about religion.

Jon Stewart once said “Religion: it’s given people hope in a world torn apart by religion.” In a world where religion has been the source of so much violence and internecine battling, many people will just walk away altogether from faith. But in the absence of religion people may lose a language in which to express deep universal sentiments about love, suffering and community. In the words of a friend who began his involvement in Judaism late in life, “Since I’ve become involved with Jewish life, not one day has passed where I have asked a question about my purpose in life.”

Clergy and religious leaders often spend the majority of their time trying to strengthen faith in those who show a sparkle of commitment, and yet the disengagement of tens of thousands should make us think more about what it takes to enhance faith in the world generally.

            Contrast this spiritual malaise to a passage of Talmud that highlights the role of passion and religion.  A rabbi entered a study hall and suddenly a matter he had studied for many years about an esoteric detail was suddenly clarified for him by one sage and he had yet another level of illumination. One cannot miss a moment of study for int  at one moment, all clarification can occur.  Torah is only attained by one who kills himself in a tent” ‘This is the Torah: A person who dies in a tent (Numbers 19:14)

Rabbi Yonatan said: One should never prevent himself from attenidnging the study hall or from engaging in matters of Torah, even at the moment of death.


I will sing to the Lord for God has been good to me.” “I trust in Your kindness; my heart will exult in Your deliverance.” Psalms 13:6