The fundamental question that so many ask daily:
What is Judaism?
Well folks, I've got some answers for you.
Judaism is a fence.
What do I mean a fence? Judaism is similar to fences in a couple different ways.
Firstly, in the holocaust, Jews were almost constantly surrounded by walls or barbed wire. You're going to ask, "But the Jewish religion has been around for thousands of years before the holocaust. How does the holocaust define Judaism when all the way back then they had no inkling of the future events?"
Let me explain a certain truth of the jewish world. This truth is hard to cope with. The reality is, everywhere, when we as a nation finally start to settle, we are thrown out with such a force that the horrors echo throughout the world. This happened in many different places including, during the destruction of the first and second beit hamikdash (Temple), the spanish inquisition, and more recently, the holocaust.
Unfortunately, human nature entitles denial as a reasonable reaction to difficult current events and thus we continue to be shocked when we realize that our neighbors rufuse to help us when we are in our time of need and when men come breaking in our door to use our children as scientific experiments.
THIS is why judaism is a fence. Because we HAVE to remember this simple fact: Do not get comfortable. We are never safe, religious or not. We will never truly belong, and that's okay. What makes people extraordinary is the ability not to belong to the mass huddle of people and to still survive. So we should not be content with our daily, boring lives. We should yearn for the redemption of the messiah with all of our being. Why would we not? What normal human being do not want peace on earth? Nothing is good enough and the only way it will be is through our own hard work, blood, sweat, and tears. This is the jewish mentality, which leaves us with our next fence.
The second fence is how we keep the halachot (Rules/ Regulations/ Laws). There are halachot for almost anything we do in life, teaching us how to take an ordinary action and how to elevate it. One example of this is after using the bathroom and washing our hands as required, there is a special blessing to say to thank god for the proper functioning of our body. This is not seen in many other places.
But that is just a rule. What's the fence?
The fence is how we make sure to remind ourselves, and how to make sure we keep the rules. The analogy to this would be that to make sure we remember to say the blessing after relieving ourself, we would have a little sign placed on the wall outside of the bathroom in plain view with the blessing written on it.
Major Rabbis have said that some one who tries to make it more difficult for themselves to not be able to break the law is considered a tzadik, or a righteous person.
As many of you may know, the jewish people seem secluded into their own communties. This is true in many cases. This is moslty because the more religious want to fence off any distractions from their avodat hashem, (Service to God). This however, is not required or entirely recommended because we as a nation must have pride, but not excessively so. Which brings us to our next fence.
The inner one.
What is our inner fence? What is inside it? What's outside? Why should it be there in the first place?
Imagine our personalities behind a fence. What IS the fence? Our humility.
This is not ordinary, usual, embarrassment.
Humility has another definition; to be humble. In this way, everyone has to find their own balance between realizing their self importance and imperfections. This is a great test for us. There are many cases of anorexia, bulimia, depression, even those who hurt themselves. All these examples are for those of us with self confidence issues. However, there are plenty of examples of the opposite, where people have excessive pride and self worth.
The fence should be there to remind ourselves that, while our inner lights and talents can shine across the border, there are others in the world who are better. We should remind ourselves that we are created equal under Hashem (God) and only he is greater than anyone on this earth.