If you use Yiddish expressions in conversation and can tell a great Jewish joke, but you never daven; if your friends are all proudly Jewish but none of them keep kosher; if you’ve got Jewish-themed wall hangings in your house, but you hardly ever step foot in a shul, can you honestly be described as Jewishly engaged?

At our weekly coffee and discussion group, we somehow wandered onto the topic of performance versus feeling, theory pitted against practice. The question was whether it’s enough to feel deeply, passionately, and proudly about being Jewish, while not doing all that much on a regular basis, or do you have to do mitzvahs to be counted as a full member of the tribe?

At the time I attempted to diffuse the tension by cracking the old joke that people who claim to have a ‘Jewish heart,’ can more properly be described as ‘Jews with a heart condition,’ but in truth, I was torn. Over the course of my career I’ve met so many truly wonderful people, who, while not observant in the classical sense, are proud and passionate about Judaism and care deeply about Jewish causes.

Contrast them with those people who don’t seem to believe in anything, but go through the motions out of habit or inertia. We’ve all met people who walk the walk and talk the talk, but are hollow on the inside.

Which is worse, feeling Jewish without doing, or actions devoid of belief?

Of course they’re both not kosher. A good Jew will mean what he says and say what he means. A sincere individual will continue working on himself until his actions and thoughts are both in sync. But which way shows more promise?

Perhaps we can attempt to tease out a lesson from the non-kosher animals described in the Torah. There are two signs of a kosher animal: cud chewing and split hooves. Kosher animals have both, and most non-kosher ones have neither.

Chewing the cud is emblematic of belief. The food one eats becomes the stimuli that are integrated into one’s consciousness; you are what you eat. The cloven hooves, by contrast, symbolize hands and feet, the deeds that one does. A truly kosher animal will possess both characteristics; actions and beliefs operating in sync in the service of G‑d.

There are four non-kosher animals that possess one of the signs of kashrut without the other. The camel, hyrax, and hare chew their cud, while the pig has split hooves.

Interestingly enough, we are told that the non-kosher status of the pig is not necessarily permanent. In the time of the final Redemption pigs will begin to chew their cud and their status will change to kosher.

The difference between a pig and the other three animals is that the pig has ‘kosher’ limbs; in contrast to the others who ruminate about doing the right thing, yet ultimately do nothing.

At the present time, neither is kosher. A good Jew must think as well as do, act as well as believe. Yet, actions without intention trump belief without observance. If you do the right thing long enough, eventually you may come to believe as well, whereas one trapped in the empty fog of positive feelings, without a commensurate commitment to positive action, may well get stuck in the mire of indecision forever.