Have you recently left your former religion? Do you now feel enlightened? Many people who have left Christianity find themselves constantly having to defend their decision to family and friends only to find themselves in heated arguments. If this is you, know that there are some very important aspects which you may not have considered. When I left Christianity, I found myself in this same situation. I had learned the truth and had begun to study the Torah with great fervor. I spent many hours a day watching lectures and learning about many different topics. It was literally a crash course in religious studies. I found myself with a great deal of knowledge in a very short time. But knowledge is of little use if it does not come with wisdom.
While I did have enough wisdom to understand that what I had believed for my entire life had been a lie and that I had to make drastic changes in my beliefs, I did not understand how to use this new knowledge. I wanted to tell everyone I knew. I wanted to rescue them from living a life of idolatry. It was easy for me to understand. It should be easy for them as well. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Fighting and arguing with people about religion is futile. They don’t want to be told that their beliefs are wrong. As far as they know, you are in the wrong. Many of them will try to get you to turn back to your former beliefs. This is a dangerous position for you. They might convince you to do exactly that. It is advisable to learn as much as you can before ever getting into any conversations concerning religion. Even then, be cautious. Heated arguments lead to anger on both sides. But for you, anger is not an option.
The Talmud, Shabbat 105 b, equates anger with the worship of idols. This is because when we get angry, what is actually happening to us is that we lose the knowledge that G-d is in control. The Talmud says, “One who rends his garments in his anger, or who breaks his vessels in his anger, or who scatters his money in his anger, should be like an idol worshipper in your eyes, as that is the craft of the evil inclination. Today it tells him ‘do this’, and tomorrow it tells him ‘do that,’ until eventually, when he no longer controls himself, it tells him ‘worship idols’ and he goes and worships idols.”
Understand that everything that happens in this world is controlled by G-d. Releasing your anger causes great damage to you as well as the other person. It is quite probable that you will do nothing but strengthen their resolve in what they believe. You do not want to be the cause of this tragedy.
Another problem that results from such arguments is that it will make you arrogant. Think for a minute. All of the sudden you know all of these new concepts. You can quote Bible verses that prove every point you are trying to make. Remember, it wasn’t that long ago that you too thought the way they do. You have come a long way in a short time. You feel good about your new beliefs and all of the things you now know. You know more than those other people do and you will prove it to them no matter what it takes. That is arrogance.
Something I didn’t learn right away is that arrogance is the root of all sins. There are no intentional sins that a person can commit without first developing some degree of arrogance. Part of your teshuvah process must be the active removal of arrogance from your personal attributes. Arrogance, especially with regards to religious knowledge, is a key tool of the evil inclination, which as we saw earlier, can lead you to worship idols. Yes, the evil inclination will use your new knowledge against you. You must constantly try to remove any level of arrogance from your life.
For my own part, I became very arrogant when I first started this journey. I found myself thinking that I was actually better than other people because of the things I’d learned. It was wrong and I had to turn away from that and do teshuvah. The things we learn come from HaShem and He offers them to everyone. How dare we think we are better than anyone. When I think back at some of the things I have done in my life, it is easy to see that nothing I ever did could merit my receiving what HaShem has given to me.
So, how shall we live? Up until now, I have discussed how not to live. First, we must realize that we are no better than anyone else. Every one of us could have easily remained as we were. Unless HaShem had revealed these things to us, we could not have known them. Always remember this and remain humble. Humility is the opposite of arrogance. So, if arrogance is the root of sin, humility must be the root of righteousness. We must always walk humbly before our Creator.
Another thing we must do is remain thankful. Again, the knowledge we now have came from HaShem. Do you thank Him? I was reading a post by Rabbi Gutman Locks. He was answering the question, when should we talk to HaShem? He said, “whenever we are not talking to anyone else.” This is how we must live. We have to bring ourselves to the point where we are constantly talking to HaShem. By now you should know that prayer is not solely to ask for things. It is all about communicating with the Creator.
Communication leads to closeness. Look at your personal relationships with other people. When you communicate with others, do you only ask them to do things for you? Of course not. The more you talk with others, the more you get to know them. How much more is it with HaShem? Thank Him for everything He does; the things you think are good and bad alike. Thank Him when you lose your job, get a raise, stub your toe, or receive an insight into something you didn’t quite understand. In all things, thank Him.
If you think about your life up until this point in time, it is easy to see that it has been a journey. For those of us who have made the decision to leave our former religions, it may seem as though we have taken a fork in the road. This is not true. Everything that has happened to you so far has been for the purpose of bringing you to where you are today. The road you are on has not changed. The way you perceive it has. Live your life according to the Torah. Continue learning. Never think you are better than anyone else. Help others wherever possible. Above all, communicate with your Creator. This is how we must live.
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