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The 24/7 Jew

By Rabbi Moishe Rockove

"Early to bed, early to rise" is no longer an option for many American workers. Some check in late at night and work until dawn. Others head to work when most are headed home. Our 24/7 society forces companies to utilize their resources like never before to succeed in today's global economy. Financial firms must monitor developments in overseas markets throughout the night so that they can update their clients on the very latest market trends. Many stores, such as K-Mart and Wal-Mart, stay open twenty-four hours a day to accommodate shoppers who can only come in late at night, due to their own extraordinary job demands.

"Our society is so geared toward work that we've become crunched for time," says Gerald Celente, director of the Trends Research Institute in Rhinebeck, N.Y. Workers may even sacrifice personal time during nighttime hours to research job-related information on the Web or to catch up on work that they didn't finish during the day. How can one find meaning and purpose in his existence when life is lived at such a hectic pace?

Halacha, the Hebrew word for Jewish law, governs all the actions that we do throughout the day. Halacha teaches us how to act from the moment we arise until we lie down to sleep--how to pray, eat, conduct ourselves in business, how to lead moral lives--and encompasses all the significant lifecycle events, such as holidays, weddings and circumcisions. No moment of the day or phase of life is neglected. One who leads his life according to Jewish law is thus living as a "24/7 Jew."

Some may find such a lifestyle a bit demanding and intrusive on their personal liberties--after all, why can't each individual decide how to lead his life? Recognizing the significance of the halachic regimen, however, will help us better appreciate it.

G-d created a beautiful universe with tall mountains, deep valleys and canyons, delicious fruits and vegetables and a wealth of natural resources. He placed man in this wonderful world to use its abundance to help him pursue the ultimate goal in life--the service of G-d. How, though, is one supposed to serve the Creator, a purely spiritual being, while living in a physical environment? To this end, the Creator has given us Halacha, a detailed instruction manual showing us how to achieve spirituality, using all the resources of the physical world as our tools.

Halacha, derived from the Hebrew word meaning "to go," enables us to reach our life's destination by aspiring to spiritual heights through ordinary, daily activities. For example, one who wishes to eat a hearty steak makes sure that the meat is cooked exactly to his liking: the meat rare, the exact amount of salt, pepper and other seasonings added. Only then can he eat his steak to his heart's content. Halacha mandates that he take the extra step of pausing to recognize and thank the Creator for this delicious food. With a simple utterance [of a blessing] one can elevate his repast from a mundane dinner to a tool for fulfilling his life's mission. Halacha thus helps him keep his focus on his 24/7 responsibility to his Creator.

When we serve G-d on a 24/7 schedule, we receive 24/7 protection from him in return. As a practical matter, we value police officers for enforcing the laws of the land, even when we don't always see them on patrol. Just knowing that they're out there gives us a measure of security at all times. Likewise, the Creator monitors our behavior on a 24/7 cycle, simultaneously protecting us, guiding us and steering us through life's various challenges. "He neither slumbers nor sleeps, the Guardian of Israel," writes the Psalmist (Chpt. 121). At every moment of the day, whether during the hectic workday or through the eerie night silence, we can take comfort that the Creator is looking out for us.

The 24/7 Jew, guided by Halacha, focuses on fulfilling his spiritual purpose in this world at all times. Rather than being an encumbrance, Halacha serves as a constant reminder of G-d's presence in his life. The Creator gave us his Torah not just as a belief system, but as a practical way to find true meaning in a hectic world, but only if we apply its tenets to our every activity. For Judaism isn't just a religion, it's a way of life.



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