Partial Observance


Dear Rabbi,

I am Jewish but not Orthodox. I do not follow all 613 commandments. I do not say all the prayers and I don’t keep completely kosher. Too often, I speak improper words and think improper thoughts.

My question is this: Am I doing any good at all? Do abbreviated prayers, selective mitzvahs and acknowledged Jewish identity reap any reward at all? Or, by being “Jewish Lite” is it the same as if I were completely non-observant?



  1. Believe it or not, you and I have a lot in common. Like you, I also don’t think of myself as “Orthodox” (although most people would call me that); rather, I think of myself as a Jew who tries to observe the Torah which God gave us. But, like you, I often succumb to the inexorable onslaught of human failings – laziness, desire, convenience, etc.

    Everyone fails. Nobody is perfect.

    So, I think my answer to your question should be evident by now. Any mitzvah you perform is certainly praiseworthy and should be encouraged. (Obviously, a mitzvah shouldn’t be done at the expense of a transgression. Examples: Friday night after sunset, lighting Shabbat candles is no longer a mitzvah but rather a transgression. The same goes for driving to synagogue. In such a case, the way to express your Jewish identity is to stay home!) Furthermore, your deeds can influence others, without you even knowing it; for example, a Jewish friend may stop eating pork because of your example. Or, he may simply tell another person “I have a friend who doesn’t eat pork,” and that third party, who you may never even meet, may decide to re-think his own level of observance.

    There is a danger of being “Jewish Lite,” however: It could furnish you with a feeling of being “comfortable” with your observance level. That should never happen to anyone. We all need to continually strive to grow, study and learn more and more about the Torah. Therefore, you should feel happy about the Jewish things that you do, but you shouldn’t think of yourself as being at a fixed level of observance. Realize that you can add, if even just one mitzvah a year. Example: Get a tzeddaka (charity) box in your house and put in a coin (even a small one) every day (except Shabbat and Holidays). Perhaps the most important thing for you now is to study Torah on a daily, or at least weekly, basis. If you tell me where you live, I can try to suggest some possible study partners for you.

    Best wishes from the Team