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    Hard to be a Jew – Nitzavim

    “This commandment which I command you this day,” says the Almighty, “is not too hard for you, neither is it far off” (Deut. 30:11).

    Not too hard? It feels that way.

    The Rambam’s calculation is that there are less than a hundred commandments which apply to the ordinary person living an ordinary life.

    Put to one side those commands that apply only to rare categories of people or in rare situations or at rare times, and we are actually left with far less than the famous figure of 613.

    Then analyse the commandments that do apply to us, and most of them are not so-called “rituals” but ethical commands – loving one’s neighbour, honest weights and measures, keeping far from a falsehood.

    Yet whether it is ritual or ethical duties that devolve upon us, it is often a difficult task. To keep kashrut or Shabbat correctly is not easy, nor is living a decent, moral, modest, truthful life.

    The important thing is to remember that it can be done, not by constantly obsessing about our duty but by developing a mind set which says, “I am training myself to act instinctively in the way I am commanded to”… and to use this method in matters of ethics and not just ritual.

    The Jew who has a well-honed ethical instinct will automatically avoid shameful or questionable modes of conduct.

    Their instinct will also tell them what to say and what to do when it comes to making decisions, whether they appear great and world-shattering or small and almost insignificant.

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