Uncle Why is back and, in this episode, Uncle Why is immediately going to answer one of your Jews questions.
This one comes from Rachel somewhere in the UK.
and it was posted as a comment in my previous post. Rachel writes:
Dear Uncle Why,
So, if someone believes completely in the 13 Principles of Faith, but does not keep shomer Shabbat (for whatever reason) - where do they fall?
Well, Rachel, they fall into a very deep hole where nobody wants to go...
Okay, okay. I think I need to shed the "Uncle Why" personna - for now - and get serious (no easy task for
Uncle Why me).
Before I go on, I think it is important to know a few things about our questioner, Rachel. Rachel is an exceedingly sincere, passionate and conscientious individual. Her heart is definitely in the right place. She is also left handed, so her brain is definitely in the right place. And she is striving to embrace Judaism. So her soul is definitely in the right place. Sadly, she is from Britain, so the rest of her is definitely in the wrong place :-(. Rachel has come across my book and has actually written a glowing review which is available on her blog (available HERE) and I am very grateful to her for that (if only you would upload the review to Amazon!). If I had to guess why she liked the book, l would say it's because I wear tefillin on my right arm just like she does. I wish Rachel much bracha and hatzlacha and hope that she merits to become a true ger tzeddek (I don't know how to say that in the feminine).
Now, let's deal with her question.
Now here is the rub. Although belief in thought and belief in practice are interdependent in the final analysis, there is a maturation process (much like the fine Scotches that your Northern neighbors produce). In almost all cases, the two components - religious conviction and religious practice - do not come to an individual at the same time.
Sadly, there are those who come to question and reject the beliefs and fall away. Some of whom, though they claim not to believe, even maintain the practices for social reasons and have recently coined a term to express it: Orthoprax.
The second method works exactly the opposite direction. And it applies to Jews who were brought up non-observant as well as to people like yourself, non-Jews who enter the covenant of Judaism. In this method one first adopts the beliefs and through the beliefs, one comes to sowly but surely take on the Jewish lifestyle. I called this the Atta Yadati approach that was introduced by Yitro, the first convert to Judaism from the time that we were given the Torah.
So here I would recall the first criterion and say that much has to do with where you are coming from. For one who was raised to observe Shabbat and all 39 categories of activities, refusing to observe some of them may be enough to consider the individual as a Mechalel Shabbat (violator of Shabbat). But for one who was brought up with no knowledge of Shabbat, even a partial observance of Shabbat may be considered a bone-fide Shomer Shabbat in the initial stages.(Don't hold me to this, it's not really up to me.) Incidentally, I once heard one of my mentors, Rabbi Avigdor Miller, ZT"L, say in a lecture that if one is used to smoking 30 cigarettes/day and on Shabbat he decides to only smoke 25 in deferrence to Shabbat, he has attained some level of being Shomer Shabbat (don't try this at home, boys and girls).