Dear reader,

A while ago, I was asked to speak for a group of university students. The organizer cautioned me that my talk should be “very sophisticated.”

“Wow them with philosophical ideas and a strong intellectual presentation about Judaism,” she had said.

Listening to her advice, I prepared for the event. The talk went very well; the students were engaged and a riveting question and answer period followed. But one of the questions in particular intrigued me and taught me a lesson for life.

One student asked, “I noticed that in the middle of your talk, before taking a sip from your glass of water, you recited a blessing out loud. Can you tell us some more about that?”

I began explaining about the meaning and purpose of brachot, the blessings we say before we eat thanking G‑d for providing us with sustenance. At this point, all the students enthusiastically asked me if I could teach them how to say a brachah! And so, for the next several moments, I practiced with them, word by word, as I do with my youngest of children, how to thank G‑d for the drink and food that He provides us.

I laugh at this incident because so often we think we need to wow people with intellectual and philosophical theory. Sure, Judaism has plenty of that. We could spend a lifetime and beyond plumbing the depths of its profundity before even scraping the surface. We could invest decades studying how it addresses our existential purpose and how to find greater meaning. And our lives would be enriched in the process.

Or, we can simply do it.

I remember at one Shabbat meal, my husband and son were having a very long and detailed discussion on the intricate humanistic aspects of kindness and its legalistic application in Judaism. The dialog was stimulating but at one point, I finally tired from the discussion and said, “Okay, enough with the philosophy. This very tired Jewish mother wants you to practice the kindness you so eloquently address by getting up now and clearing these dishes off the table!”

As the Rebbe so often said, quoting from our sages, “Hamaaseh hu ha-ikar”—the deed is the essence.

Don’t get me wrong. Intellectual deliberations to expand our horizons and to appreciate our world in a deeper and more meaningful way are great, and essential. But let’s not get so sidetracked by the theory that we lose track of the practical.

Because ultimately, as those university students realized, as much as we speak, study, orate, dissect and discuss great ideas, the deed—even the simplest one—is most important!

And perhaps that is one of Judaism’s most profound teachings.

Here’s to a great week of doing!

Chana Weisberg

Editor, TJW