Rabbi Dr. Jonathan Romain responds to the question: What is the value of religion in one’s life?
I would suggest three aspects :
- A sense of community : it offers a place where, whatever the troubles you face elsewhere, you can find a home, a safe place, warmth and friendship. You might experience that if you come on a Friday evening or Saturday morning service, or to a communal meal or some other event that is not necessarily religious, but where you can be part of the camaraderie that a community offers.
- A sense of God : that you can always turn to God, pray to God – aloud or silently, in Hebrew or English – not just to ask things (you can do that, but of course there are no guarantees about the answer), but also to express things : be it negative feelings such as anger or frustration or confusion; or positive ones such as hope or appreciation. God is always there for you, even at your lowest points or loneliest moments.
- A sense of values : it offers a guidance as to how to behave, how to interact with others, how to earn the respect of those around you, how to earn your own self-respect; it offers a path through the jungle we call life.
But the key to all three is to get involved. The benefits only come from getting stuck-in, mixing and meeting and becoming part of the regular community. Conversely, that is why those who come just once a year and then disappear for the next 365 days often find it an unsatisfactory experience. This is not a criticism of them for coming so rarely, but rather to say that they are not giving themselves a chance to derive any tangible bonus because meaning comes from involvement.