One of the misconceptions many Jews have is that you are either religious or not religious — that Judaism is either all or nothing. When I suggest to someone to study a little each day or take on a small observance of mitzvot, the reply often is, “Oh! But I am not religious or Orthodox.” Many people seem to think you either always keep kosher or you don’t. You observe all of Shabbat or none.
Our sages teach us that each small act of kindness, Torah study, or an observance of any mitzvah, no matter how small, has infinite reward. Imagine if you were in a diamond mine with piles of diamonds but you were only allowed to leave the mine with one. Would you not take any? Would you not at least take one? Each act of kindness or bit of Torah study is like a diamond! If you could only study two minutes a day, or make one phone call to make someone happier, then grab it. If you want to keep kosher but it is too daunting, start by keeping kosher a few hours a week or wean yourself from one non-kosher food. I remember a friend telling me how proud he was that he keeps kosher on Friday nights.
On Hanukkah, we light on the first night one small light and then we add one more each night. A possible message for us is the importance of each deed we do and that even one minute of learning God’s infinite wisdom has great value. We say in the special prayers for Hanukkah “the many in the hand of the few.”
The Maccabees were just a small group of Jews fighting for the right to keep kosher, study Torah and observe Shabbat. But through the purity of their deeds, God miraculously helped them succeed. We celebrate their victory on Hanukkah and are inspired to overcome all the obstacles in our way and begin spending more time helping others, studying Torah and observing mitzvot. But we begin celebrating with just one small light, one small act of kindness.
I was very inspired by an essay I read from Rabbi Brevda, who suggested committing oneself to learning just one line of Torah each day (or exercising one minute a day), and if you have time, to add a little more. If you miss a day, don’t worry about it. Through this commitment of learning just one line a day, I have been blessed to complete a few books of Torah.
Let us be inspired this Hanukkah to add a little bit more Torah to our lives.