Rejecting Judaism - In Memoriam of Mr. David M. Warren (Menachem Dovid ben Harav Yosef Z'L
Parshat Bechukotai is an in depth explanation of what will happen when the Children of Israel do or do not perform the Torah’s statutes. The Torah commands us to perform all the Mitzvoth, all 613 commandments, in letter and spirit.
As the Torah starts with the consequences of when Israel does not observe the Torah, it tells us the exact reason why one chooses ideologically not to observe the Torah. “And if My statutes you find revolting and My ordinances repulsive in order not to observe My commandments.” (Leviticus 26:15) As the Sforno (Rabbi Ovadia ben Yaakov, Bologna, Spain; 1475 – 1550) explains, the Torah clearly states the reason one would find the Torah revolting and repulsive is in order to not observe the Torah. Meaning, because someone chooses to not observe the Torah, he therefore finds its commandments “revolting” and “repulsive”, not the other way around.
But isn’t it possible for someone to rationally conclude that certain statutes are “revolting” and “repulsive” and then choose to reject them? I.e. the statutes regarding capital punishment, homosexuality, eating meat, ritual purity, distinctions between men and women, etc. The Torah says no.
The Torah makes a sharp distinction between someone who simply doesn’t follow its laws (i.e. a person who grew up irreligious or is overcome with temptation) and someone who rejects the Torah’s statutes. The only reason someone would find the Torah’s laws “revolting” and “repulsive” is to seek justification for rejecting them. Why does he need justification? Because every Jew knows the Torah is his heritage, is part of his very identity, and cannot be ignored but must either be accepted or rejected.
The Torah shows us a revolution in human psychology. When someone rejects the Torah’s commandments, it’s not enough for him to simply ignore the Torah’s demands; he must also invent reasons to despise them. This is human nature.
Why can’t a person just choose not to oblige? Why can’t one simply say this isn’t for me? When it comes to the Torah, we cannot. Some things are too close to the heart to ignore.