The weekly Parshah is enlivened these days with the arrival of Abraham on the biblical scene. Our founding father brings new life to the world, as he spreads the message of monotheism in a hitherto pagan society. He also shows his prowess as a fearless fighter for justice, putting his own life on the line to save his nephew Lot, when Lot is taken captive in the world war of the day.

It was after Abraham rescued his nephew that the King of Sodom thanked Abraham for liberating the other prisoners of war—the king’s soldiers and citizens—at the same time. The king offers Abraham the spoils of war, and asks only to have his men back. Ten li hanefesh, he says. “Give me the people, and take the possessions for yourself.”

Twenty-five years ago, I heard a powerful and passionate call by my saintly mentor, the Rebbe of blessed memory. It was Simchat Torah, the yom tov (festival) when we celebrate the gift of Torah in a spirit of boundless joy. He had appealed for charity to be given in the same heightened spirit, i.e., beyond normal limitations or the usual budgetary considerations. Later, he explained his call to have been one of ten li hanefesh, which, literally, means “give me the soul.” It was a special moment, and what he was demanding of his followers was a genuine outpouring of soul, a sincere act of pure faith, beyond reason or issues of affordability. The Rebbe had called for a total, unconditional commitment.

The call, “Give me the soul,” still reverberates. And it applies to everything we do. We are all composites of body and soul. But more often than not, our physical selves get all the attention while our spiritual side is neglected. How many times do we hear Jews, especially young Jews, complaining that Judaism lacks spirituality; that their synagogues and temples are devoid of any real feeling or atmosphere of sanctity? And then we bemoan them trekking off to the Himalayas to find purpose, depth, and all the things we never gave them.

How many bar mitzvahs and weddings have been reduced to empty shells of materialistic one-upmanship, with friends and neighbors compelled to outdo each other in garish extravagances, which miss the whole point of what the celebration is about?

And G‑d calls out, Give me the soul! Give me back what is mine. Put some spirit back into Judaism. Enough with the Mickey Mouse routines and rituals, the song-and-dance gimmicks. Get beyond the external and the plastic. Give me some soul!

When our faith is superficial, we look as foolish as the pathetic thief described in the Talmud. “The thief, at the mouth of the tunnel, calls out to G‑d.” Here is a goniff, a lowly criminal, about to enter the tunnel he has dug to rob a bank, but before he goes in, he prays to G‑d for success. What a chutzpah! He is about to violate G‑d’s express command not to steal, and has the audacity to still ask G‑d to help him do the job?!

But such is the effect of superficiality. He has faith, our Talmudic thief. It just hasn’t penetrated. Because this shallow pseudo-religiosity hasn’t permeated his inner being, he is blissfully unaware of the hypocrisy of his actions. So what’s wrong with stealing and praying at the same time?

The truth is that we all believe, even the thieves among us. The challenge is for the penny to drop; for that faith to reach into our core, to touch our souls. Let us heed the call, Ten li hanefesh—“Give me the soul.” Let us move beyond superficial Judaism to something deeper, profound and real, which will touch our own souls and inspire our children.