A lot of people call themselves “culturally Jewish.” They feel connected to the Jewish people, are active in the community, advocate for Israel, and may attend shul on major festivals. But they don’t keep Jewish law.
For example, when it comes to Shabbat, they will argue that the laws are not important, it is all about family time. If you come to Shabbos dinner, whether you walk or drive doesn’t make a difference. As long as you eat chicken soup, it doesn’t matter if it was cooked before Shabbos came in or after. These people believe it’s all about the feeling, not the little details. Let’s call them Chicken Soup Jews.
On the other side of the spectrum, there are some Jews who are scrupulous in their observance of Shabbos, keep every law down to the last dot, but do it without joy. They keep Shabbos neurotically, obsessing over what you can’t do and making the day of rest into a day of stress. Let’s call them Chicken Coup Jews.
Both are missing something. Chicken Soup Jews have their heart in the right place, but Jewish feeling without observance is wishy-washy and short lived. And the Chicken Coup Jews are indeed truly committed, but their robotic observance can become dry and uninspiring.
The only Judaism that survives and thrives is a Judaism of passionate commitment, observance with feeling, the forest and the trees. When I am Jewish in my heart and in my head, in my kitchen and in my office, in what I do as well as what I say, that is living, breathing Judaism.
That’s why we light two candles, to symbolize the duality of Shabbos. There are the laws we have to keep, as well as the meaningful messages we have to remember. There is the technical side of Shabbos, its rules, as well as the meaning that those rules are supposed to bring and the feelings they arouse. There is structure, and there is soul.
When you study the laws of Shabbos and appreciate their deeper meaning, you have the best of both worlds. You really can have your soup and eat it too. The Shabbos rules are not there to make you feel cooped up, they are there to free you from the mundane, so your soul can fly.
Mendel (Menachem) Bluming and Rabbi Moss