The college professor wrote two words on the blackboard: “spirituality” and “religion.” Our job was to articulate the difference between the two. It was a conversation that would change my life.

Many people claim to be “spiritual” without attaching that spirituality to any specific religion. For them, spirituality is a state of mind. They are searching for G‑d wherever they can find Him.

There is something beautiful in this search, and yet, without a root in ritual and without a foundation in the Divine, that spark can easily be corrupted and used for man’s self-interest instead of for what is good and holy in the world.

Even if one is aware of a higher power, spirituality without ritual is like channeling Divine light into the world without any vessel to contain it. The Religion that is motion without emotion is missing somethinglight is in danger of burning out.

On the opposite end of the spectrum are those who label themselves “religious.” They are the “ritual” people. It is through the traditions of their religion that they feel connected and rooted in their communities and, ideally, to their Creator.

But just because people claim to be “religious” doesn’t necessarily mean that they are spiritual, especially when they make their religion about the rules and not about the spirit behind those rules.

Religion that is motion without emotion is missing something. That something is the spirit of the law, the whole reason why we are doing things in the first place. The big picture.

So, what was our conclusion in class? Spirituality and religion are not mutually exclusive. Both are quests to find and connect with G‑d.

That answer profoundly changed me. We need both, I concluded, to live a good and meaningful life. And when I explored Jewish thought, I found a beautiful symbiosis of spirit and ritual.

Judaism is not about ritual for the sake of ritual. Judaism is about uplifting the physical world to a spiritual level. We take the mundane pleasures of life and elevate them to a spiritual dimension through ritual. And while performing these physical mitzvahs, we connect to G‑d.

On Chanukah, we dedicate our homes to the true definition of spirituality. In Judaism, a house is a mini-Temple. This most mundane of places where we sleep, eat and entertain is a place of spirituality. That is where the menorah—the symbol of the holiday—is displayed. The ideal place to put our menorah is outside our front door across from the mezuzah.

The words mezuzah and menorah are similarly spelled, except for three letters. The letters that are different in the word menorah spell the Hebrew word ner, which means “candle.” The letters that are different in the word mezuzah spell the word zuz, which means “to move.”

The menorah and the mezuzah represent two ways to influence the world. The menorah symbolizes light. People who illuminate lead by example. Their spirit emanates from them. They make you want to be a better person because they live an elevated life.

The mezuzah represents another way to influence the world. The mezuzah represents movement. We are supposed to put a mezuzah on every doorway in our house. Every room has a different energy because of what it is used for, so as you walk through each room in the house, you enter one energy and exit another.

The mezuzah symbolizes ritual and action, going out and actually changing the world.

The purpose of Chanukah is to publicize the miracle of true spirituality. The one that is eternal. The one that merges ritual and spirit.

The The purpose of Chanukah is to publicize the miracle of true spiritualitystory of Chanukah illustrates this point. The Greeks didn’t mind the “spirituality” of the Jews. What they did mind were the rituals that would connect that spirituality to G‑d. They were okay with the Jews having an intellectual and aesthetic connection to G‑d, but not an emotional one.

The Greeks didn’t want to destroy the Jews’ holy Temple. In fact, they loved it for its beautiful architecture. Yet they didn’t mind making the Temple impure so that the Jews couldn’t practice their rituals there anymore.

The Greeks banned Shabbat, circumcision and Rosh Chodesh. Shabbat sanctifies time and gives it a spiritual dimension. On Shabbat, we stop our creative work in the world in order to return to the essence of who we really are, a soul. On Shabbat, we remember our Source.

Circumcision perfects the male body through ritual. It also represents man controlling his impulses. The Greeks didn’t like the idea of imperfection or restraint of the body.

Rosh Chodesh is the celebration of a new Hebrew month; without it, Jews would not know when to celebrate the holidays. Without holidays, the Jews could not perform the rituals linked to the spiritual energy of each month. Additionally, the Jewish calendar is based on the moon instead of the sun. The moon is a reflection of the sun’s light, which represents how our lives should be a reflection of G‑d’s light.

The Greeks defined spirituality the wrong way. They defined it by aesthetics, hedonism and intellectualism. Their spirituality was linked to physical beauty and pleasure, but they didn’t connect it to a deeper and higher purpose. They weren’t interested in rituals because that would connect the “spirituality” they saw in the physical world to G‑d.

True spirituality requires utilizing the physical world to connect to the Divine. Our knowledge of Torah is meant not just to be learned as a subject, but also to be integrated into our lives through ritual in order to change us—and the world—for the better.

We need both spirit and ritual, because they are really one.