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Rational Irrationality

Friday, 22 January, 2021 - 2:09 pm

Glasses near pool.jpg

Photo by timJ on Unsplash

Although we like to think of ourselves as rational people, the truth is we’re not. Before you get defensive, consider that the advertising industry spends hundreds of billions of dollars per year to make products look attractive - not to explain the virtues and value of the products they’re promoting. 

We make all sorts of decisions that are irrational; which type of smartphone to use or which car to drive, which type of house to live in and sometimes even the utmost of irrationality: to buy timeshares. Yet when it comes to matters of holiness, when it comes to doing a mitzvah, we start to rationalize. 

Wouldn’t it be hypocritical to do this, if I don’t do that? How can I keep kosher, it’s so much more expensive? We find every rationalization to explain to ourselves why it’s ok that we aren’t as observant as we truly want to be.

You know what the solution is? We have to treat our relationship with G-d just like we treat our relationship with the physical world: Irrationally. 

In other words, do what we know is right even if it doesn’t seem to make sense. 

And just like we can rationalize our physical choices after the fact, our divine service will begin to make much more sense. And unlike irrational purchases we won’t be left with any debt - only credit. 

This attitude of using the physical world and its attitudes to advance G-dliness and spirituality is the hallmark of the Rebbe’s approach. Tonight and tomorrow is the 10th of Shevat, the anniversary of the start of the Rebbe’s leadership, an excellent time to highlight his approach. 

While some parts of the Jewish world might work to avoid modern technology and its use (for fear of it’s potentially harmful influence), the Rebbe’s approach is to find a way to harness it for a higher purpose.

This is truly the key to ushering in the era of redemption. The Jewish belief in Moshiach (Messiah) is not about drastically changing the world from the way we know it. It’s about the same world we know and love being elevated and infused with G-dliness. 

And this is what we accomplish every time we use worldly attitudes for holy purposes.


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