I claim to hate labels, particularly when they refer to religious observance, because really, we’re all Jews- no more, no less. But the fact is, they are there, and we can’t pretend they’re not. They exist for a reason. We, as humans, long to put each other into little boxes, neatly labelled and filed away on a metaphorical shelf somewhere. This person is ‘frum’ because they wait six hours between meat and milk; more than that, they’re ‘Lubavitcher’ because they daven at a Chabad shul and have a picture of the Rebbe on the wall. While this one is ‘Masorti’ because they carry on Shabbes but they would never work, and they believe women can be rabbis.
What does it mean?
Do we really think that at the gates of Gan Eyden, these people we’ve labelled as ‘Reform’ or ‘Masorti’ will be refused entry, while those who wait six hours will be allowed to reap the rewards of their holy life? Does it really work that way? Some of the Jews who, like me, identify as ‘Frum’, probably would like to think so. But the fact is, we’re all Jews. If that applies when we’re mekareving college students, it applies throughout the lives of Jews everywhere.
And it does apply. Chabad aren’t wrong. We are all Jews. No matter how observant we are or aren’t, we’re Jews. And that means that we have a spark of Moshe Rabbenu within each and every one of us. So if the labels don’t really mean much, then what does matter? Ignoring the stringent chumros which many seem so drawn to, it’s what’s on the inside that counts. If you wait six hours between milk and meat, but you’re too busy learning to volunteer to help the homeless, are you a tzaddik? If you’re learned in Gemoro, yet you won’t invite a widow for Shabbes because of her standard of tznius, are you really fulfilling Hashem’s will?
Some would say yes. Some would say no. I would say that only Hashem knows for sure. But I daresay that the Chassidic masters are close to Hashem, and they famously taught that Ahavos Yisroel trumps everything. Ahavos Yisroel is the most important thing of all. As a nation, as a people, we need to love each other and look out for each other. Only when we do this will Moshiach come- and only then will we find out the answer to the question of labels.