Elul Reflection for 19 Elul 5776

The Rabbi & The Soap Maker

A rabbi and a soap maker were walking down the street together. The soap maker was puzzled. “Rabbi,” he asked, “why do we bother keeping our Jewish traditions alive? We’ve been studying Torah and learning about Judaism for thousands of years. They teach us values of truth, kindness, compassion and love. Yet if we look at the world, all we see is lies, cruelty, apathy and violence. Why hasn’t Judaism really helped us change our lives for the better?”

The rabbi simply remained silent.

As they continued on their stroll they came upon a young boy, dirty and grimy from head to foot. Said the rabbi to the soap maker: “What good is the soap you make? It has been around for years and years, and yet look at this filthy little boy. Why hasn’t your soap helped to make little boys like him more clean and neat?”

“What do you mean?” the soap maker replied. “Soap doesn’t do any good unless you use it.”

“Aha!” replied the rabbi. “So it is with Judaism. Unless we apply the lessons and teachings of our tradition to our daily lives it is of no use. We can learn, we can study, but if we don’t apply it, then Judaism is as useless as an untouched piece of soap.”


--Rabbi Gersh Lazarow (adapted from Yom Kippur Readings ed. by Rabbi Dov Peretz Elkins, 2005)


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