Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Requirement or A Choice?

One of the things I've been thinking about lately is whether religious restrictions and activities are a requirement or a choice.

For instance, I work in an office where everyone but me keeps strictly kosher.  I respect that, and I make sure all the snacks I bring to work are certified kosher, and I don't start conversations with others about what non-kosher foods I eat outside the office, though I'm honest if anyone else brings up the topic.  And I don't tell anyone else that they should change their ways (let's face it, being an observant Jew is not a bad thing, it's not like being a heroin junky or something that harms others) and I generally don't disapprove of other people living their lives the way they want.

But a few times I've had discussions about meals and some of my religious coworkers sigh and say they wish they could eat what I eat, "but I can't eat that."

On fast days that are still work days, some (not all, of course) of my coworkers lament that they can't eat or drink all day, as much as they would really like to, and they don't sound happy about fasting.  On those days, out of respect for my coworkers I choose to not eat or drink, so as not to make the fasting harder on them.  It's a sacrifice I choose to make, and I don't grumble about it during the day, and generally I don't even mention that I'm doing it unless someone else brings the topic up first, I accept it's my choice.

Yesterday I did not fast on Yom Kippur, a choice I made to not participate.  In an online conversation someone else said they wished they could eat, and that while I cut my finger on a food related item during the day, they said that they'd happily make that trade themselves, a cut finger for not fasting.

So, why not?

I think I'm missing something.  People are following religious restrictions, but in some cases don't sound happy about them.  They don't sound like they accept that being religious and following the religious activities and restrictions is a choice they've made.

The word "can't" implies that one doesn't really have a choice, that someone else is forcing it on you, possibly against your will.

What I'd rather here instead of "I can't" is "I won't" or "I choose not".

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