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Imagine, a couple gets married, and the man says to his new wife, “Would you make me something to eat, please? I’ll be right back.” She begins preparing. The guy comes back 3300 years later . . .

Cold Soup

Cold Soup


If you ask someone coming out of church on a Sunday, “Do you believe in G‑d?” the worshipper is shocked. “What type of question is that? Of course I do!” If you then ask him, “Do you consider yourself religious?” what will the answer be? “Certainly. That’s why I’m here!”

If you go to a mosque on Friday and you ask the average person there, “Do you believe in G‑d?” what will the answer be? “Definitely.” “Do you consider yourself religious?” “Well, obviously.”

This is normal. These conversations make sense.

Now go to a synagogue on Yom Kippur. Ask the Jew sitting in the synagogue on Yom Kippur, fasting, “Do you believe in G‑d?”

You cannot get a straight answer. “Umm, it depends on what you mean by ‘G‑d’.” That’s if they’re the philosophical type. Otherwise they’ll simply say, “What am I? A rabbi? I don’t know.”

So then ask them, “Do you consider yourself religious?” Have you ever asked an American Jew if they’re religious? They crack up laughing. And they assure you that they’re the furthest things from religious. “Are you kidding? Do you know what I eat for breakfast?”

Then every one of them will say, “I had a grandfather, on my mother’s side, oh, that was a religious man. But me . . . ?”

So you ask what appears to be a logical question. “Then why are you here?”

For some reason, this average Jew, who doesn’t believe in G‑d and is very not religious, will look at you like you’re crazy and say, “What do you mean? It’s Yom Kippur!”

This is not normal.

Let’s analyze this for a moment. What is this Jew actually saying?

You asked him if he believes in G‑d, and he said “No.” Or “When I was younger, I used to.” Or “When I get older, I’ll start to.”

“So you don’t believe in G‑d?”

“No. I don’t.”

“Are you religious?”

“Furthest thing from it.”

“So why are you here?”

“Because it’s Yom Kippur!”

What he’s saying is this: “Why am I here? Because G‑d wants a Jew to be in the synagogue on Yom Kippur. So where else should I be?”

So you say: “But you don’t believe in G‑d.”

He says, “So what?” and he doesn’t understand your problem.

He is saying: “Today is Yom Kippur even if I don’t have a calendar. This is a synagogue even if I don’t like it. I am a Jew even if I’m not religious, and G‑d is G‑d even when I don’t believe in Him. So what’s your problem?”

Now that can be dismissed, and unfortunately many of us do dismiss it, as sheer hypocrisy. We say, “You don’t believe in G‑d and you’re not religious—don’t come to the synagogue. Don’t come here just to show how Jewish you are.”

The Lubavitcher Rebbe has a different approach. This insanity is what makes us Jewish. This is what shows how special we are in our relationship with G‑d.

That’s called truth. It’s not about me. I don’t want to be religious. I don’t want to believe in G‑d; I don’t want to hear about this. But He wants me here, so here I am.

The same thing happens on Passover. Every Jew sits by a Seder. Ask the average Jew at a Seder, do you believe in G‑d? Leave me alone. Are you religious? He chokes on the matzah laughing. So you’re celebrating the Exodus from Egypt 3300 years ago? History is not my subject. Then why are you here? Where should I be? It’s Passover! That’s what’s so magnificent about the Jew.

Now, let’s put it all in context. Three thousand, three hundred and twenty-six years ago, G‑d asked us if we would marry Him. We had an extraordinary wedding ceremony, with great special effects—we were wowed. After the wedding He said, “I have a few things I’d like you to take care of for Me, so, please . . . I’ll be right back.” He hasn’t been heard from since. For more than three thousand, three hundred years. He has sent messengers, messages, postcards—you know, writing on the walls . . . but we haven’t heard a word from Him in all this time.

Imagine, a couple gets married, and the man says to his new wife, “Would you make me something to eat, please? I’ll be right back.” She begins preparing. The guy comes back 3300 years later, walks into the house, up to the table, straight to his favorite chair, sits down and tastes the soup that is on the table. The soup is cold.

What will his reaction be? If he’s a wise man, he won’t complain. Rather, he’ll think it’s a miracle that the house is still there, that his table and favorite chair are still there. He’ll be delighted to see a bowl of soup at his place. The soup is cold? Well, yes, over 3300 years, soup can get cold.

Now we are expecting Moshiach. The Rebbe introduced this radical notion that Moshiach is going to come now. What makes that so radical? It means he’s going to come without a two-week notice. We always thought there was going to be some warning, so that we could get our act together before he comes. Moshiach, coming now? But now I’m not ready. I don’t want to be judged the way I am. I need a little bit of a notice.

If Moshiach comes now, and wants to judge, what’s he going to find? Cold soup?

If Moshiach comes now, the Rebbe tells us, he will find an incredibly healthy Jewish people. After 3300 years we are concerned about being Jewish, which means we are concerned about our relationship with G‑d.

Yes, if Moshiach comes today, he’ll find that our soup is cold. We suffer from separation anxiety. We suffer from a loss of connection to our ancestors. We suffer a loss of connection even to our immediate family. The soup is cold. The soup is very cold. But whose fault is that? And who gets the credit for the fact that there is soup altogether?

We are a miracle. All we need to do is tap into it. We are the cure. Not only for ourselves, but also for the whole world. Through us the healing is holistic, it’s natural, it’s organic. Our relationship with G‑d is organic. It’s not a religion that we practice—it’s us, it’s who we are, it’s what we are.

So the Rebbe tells us that the way to go is straight to G‑d. Skip all the steps, skip the Kabbalah, go straight to G‑d and be in touch with your purpose. The purpose is not Kabbalistic. The purpose is personal. G‑d needs you to do a mitzvah. He sent you into this world to be who you are, because only you can do this particular kind of mitzvah. True, the mitzvot are the same for all of us. But when you do it, it’s different, because it’s holistic. It’s with your emotions, with your past problems, with your family background, with your knowledge and with your ignorance. All that comes together and makes your mitzvah holistically unique.

So, let Moshiach come now and catch us here with our cold soup, because we have nothing to be ashamed of. We are truly incredible. When G‑d decided to marry us, He knew He was getting a really good deal.

Rabbi Manis Friedman, a noted Chassidic philosopher, author and lecturer, is dean of Bais Chana Women's Institute of Jewish Studies.
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Discussion (52)
October 2, 2016
So very cleverly laid out, it's so true, I want to congratulate you on being so "on the ball". You made me smile,identify, wish I was a better Jew, and from the corner of my eye...I can see the soup sitting on the table....
June 20, 2016
Is believing in G-d's existence not part of the law? In the Sh'ma - Love G-d. Is the Sh'ma just words to repeat, or is it also a commandment reminder to Love G-d with all our being? How can you love that what you deny the very existence of. All of the warnings and promised cursings attached to unbeleif given by G-d. I find it very dangerous to treat unbeleif politely.
June 20, 2016
The Rebbe was a righteous and insightful man. Even as a child, he rescued another child from drowning. He knows what he is talking about. It doesn't matter if the Jew is in services on a Shabbat or on Yom Kippur. Either way, belief is irrelevant. Either way, the relevant question is this: Are you a Jew? If you are a Jew, then you do the things that Jews do, regardless of your beliefs, or you don't do them, again regardless of your beliefs. Being a Jew is about a covenant, a promise to observe certain behaviors. The scripture says, "Speak to the Children of Israel and tell them" to do this and that and 611 other things. If you are one of the Children of Israel, you may feel spoken to and you will feel a need to do this or that, more for some and less for others. Being Jewish is not a faith or a religion. It is living by the Covenant at Sinai--some more, some less
June 20, 2016
I know that Gd is real. Gd is the only reality. I go to services whenever my arthritis allows, because prayer is stronger in a group. Otherwise I pray alone at home, sitting down.
Some posters invent motives for people who attend services regularly. They are mistaken.
People must love the services in order to spend two hours or more getting up repeatedly, singing the prayers in Hebrew.
People who only go for social or such reasons, usually attend a non-orthodox service in mostly English where they can sit down most of the time.
In a service, the worshipper serves. It is hard work. Shallow reasons will not sustain working so hard for two hours or more week after week after week.
So if you want to say why people attend services, speak for yourself. Plenty of people attend services every week, or even every day, because they find the prayers meaningful or even pleasurable. If you cannot do that, please respect those who can, and do
June 18, 2016
For your consideration...
There must be judgment of the group and to the individual for unbelief. This is what is taught in Yesha 'yahu. At the very beginning G-d is angered for unbelief in the assembly of His people. I like to know which husband is happy with a wife that denies His existence. There must be judgment. It is like the time when Yoshiyahu was king. This king heard the words of the Torah 18 years into his rule. The men that found, "Hey, King, we have found this book. You may want to see it. It seems important." You think! What was the response of Yoshiyahu. He assumed G-d must be furious at them since their fathers neglected obedience to Torah, didn't even read it, didn't even know it existed! He tore his clothes. He feared because his people did not observe 'everything' written in the book. One other thing. I find it rather insulting to G-d that you blame G-d for a man's unbelief. The cold soup theory is not found in the Law or the Prophets. It is man that sins; not G-d.
June 24, 2015
Initial situation
Although I like the message of this article and similar messages I've heard, I would like to point out that if you went to a shul on Shabbat instead of yom kippur you might get an answer more like the Christian or Muslim on their holy day of the week. Similarly their are plenty of Christians (or culturally Christians) who would only attend church on Christmas or Easter and may or may not believe in G-d.
June 9, 2015
Thank you, Rabbi Friedman
The big picture is a mosaic of many small mitzvot and acts of kindness, sacrifice, devotion, a continuity of people for people by people. This treasured essay captured my heart, and warmed it. This place is intentionally impossible to understand. Who are we if we don't know Who We Are? We are finding out, all of us, together. There is a Master, and He has a plan. If we quiet and listen, where has He placed the instructions for our purpose to create our meaning? A little in this essay, within our own stillness, within Torah. I think the meaning is so simple, we look past it. It is no commodity. No agenda, or purpose or reason other than goodness for goodness sake. :)
January 9, 2015
WOW thank you!
August 24, 2014
Warm soup?
I believe, as many others probably do too, that waiting for Moshiach is not the answer. We have to come up with a renewal that does not change the scripts of thora and talmud as Conservatives, Reformists, and others do, but by sticking with our old values. The only thing I would like us to do is to reinterpret the sctiptures for our new world. HaShem is changing this world all the time and He probably expects us to change with it. I believe that He wants us to stay the same people but to change our ways into more active people. I believe that Reb Schneerson intended to do exactly that when he instructed his desciples to go our into the world and bring the Jews back to their own roots. As they come back to their roots though, they need to reformulate the meaning of our old laws. Not change the "constitution" but to change the reactions to it. I believe that it is our task to warm up the soup so our creator can enjoy it when He comes back.
Norbert Nusson Steiner
Newton, Ma
August 23, 2014
Cold Soup
Change your hearts. Do not wait for Moshiach to change you. Talk to the Eternal, and ask Him for a change of HEART. A renewal of your spirit. Stop your descriminating people. Most of us are Jewish descend. Our paternity was stollen from us. Everything was taken from us. Including the letters of our husband. We were lelft alone in this world. Many of us were lost, because we could not find those letters. All parcels were adds to convince us that there was a better G-d than the One we once knew. Now those letter are beginning to appear. The truth is coming out. Hashem, blessed be He, is awakening His lost children. But then, we are not accepted. But He knows, He knows, and the return of His lost children will be the greatest miracle mankind has ever experienced. You just watch!