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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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Anonymous London 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.... Reply

Kent 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. Reply

Jeremy Detroit 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 Reply

Jacob Cleveland 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 Reply

Kent NOLA 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. Reply

Anonymous 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. Reply

Joel 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. :) Reply

Michoel via January 9, 2015

WOW thank you! Reply

Norbert Nusson Steiner Newton, Ma via 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. Reply

Anonymous USA 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! Reply

Sue Kanata August 23, 2014

Losing vision and multi lingual documents This might be challengingly arduous, but the words that are transliteration of Hebrew, like Moshiah, need scripting for auditory on the web. It has been a tradition to exclude the ayin from the. English word, G-d , but adding the o for the Internet might represent more interest in universal reading access, and not through posturing in vain. Please, listen to this text on your iPod. You will hear how gee dee is discussed, and also Moshee achhh. Reply

Victor Walker Timonium, MD August 22, 2014

So let Moshiach come and warm up the soup I'm sure Moshiach is proud of His People, will warm up His soup, and love It. Reply

Anonymous HAYFIELD August 21, 2014

They go for the same reason Christian do. Because their friends do. They want to consider themselves Jewish culturally. They want nothing to do with the actual religion Reply

rut USA August 21, 2014

Cold Soup The enemy came to my house. Burnt it down, destroyed everything in it. Killed my family...There was no trace of anything called "home" left. 3300 years later I have not soup for my husband, but my heart and soul feel the same love for Him. I had lost track. I thought He was killed too, together with my family. I had nothing to hold on to. Until... One day, I found a Letter from my husband. I started to read it. I began to recognize the handwritten statements. His Name, everything that belongs to Him, what He had told me in the past in case something happened. In case some evil would bring me far away, what I needed to do. The signal he gave me just in case. It was all there. Then I knew. I called Him, desperate... I need you back. I have been waiting all these years. I am alone, I have been seeking for you. It took almost my whole life, but one day...He answered me. He gave me His secret Name, and told me He was waiting for me. My marriage is back. There are some changes, but it is me. Reply

Shoshana August 21, 2014

Baseless Hatred I am weary of the constant attacks on Hassidism. Rabbi Friedman, as always, is expressing truths that are intended to raise the morale of the Jewish people. The Bal Shem Tov knew this to be a priority. The Vilna Gaon, although in opposition to many points, also studied Kabbalah extensively and knew we had a problem. It exists to this day; all this infighting and judgment. There is nothing wrong with being proud to be a Jew and understanding our roles as Jews to be incredibly important. Thank you Rabbi for continuously reminding us of the special beauty we have as Jews b/c with that we see the special beauty in all nations. B"H. Reply

Mushka August 21, 2014

As a not always frum girl from a Chabad family, thank you, though it will take time and effort to internalize and believe this fully. It hurts to be so cold...

I also have a question. At this point, I am a very angry wife. In our eyes, will the gains of Geulah truly justify Hashem:
-separating our neshamos (we were once one and things were fine...),
-placing us in such a world where feel ourselves as distinct from Him,
-giving us a Torah we need, but then also free choice and difficulties in keeping it,
-giving us a mission filled with challenges to make His Dirah Betachtonim?

Hashem decides it's worth it, but He wants a Dirah Betachtonim, not just to be one, and creates this situation. When Moshiach comes, will we also see how it is worth the pain although things were also fine before when we were one?

Also, how can I not be so angry and not be so cold now? Reply

Angela Hoffberg Richland August 20, 2014

The Bride Only in this world of time has it been 3300 years. And God has yet to unite us with himself because we haven't yet overcome. This won't truly happen until the new heaven and earth is created, but God doesn't see future. Plus God isn't religious. He just is. That's what we need to strive for--just to be. Reply

Batsheva August 19, 2014

I love this article! Reply

John Smith FL August 19, 2014

To judge I have never understood this ideology. Now, because one man decrees, they should all prepare, regardless of past deeds, and all is fine. How brazen, how egoistic that no matter what has been done, said, implemented into "Law" other Lands....because let's face it.....they are not who really cares what happens as long as we get ours in the end.....because only We have the direct connection...... on high holidays....
Really? That's the plan? It didn't really matter because in the end, or the new age, G-d loves us no matter what.....because WE are who cares.....Really?

Wow! It's no wonder the soup is cold.....but it didn't have to be, even if it was over 3000 years later...

G-d Bless Israel......but really...."What difference does it make".....according to the story told Reply

Katura Il. August 18, 2014

What a wonderful way to teach of G-d's love for His people and for His everlasting promise to be known. Reply

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