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he young woman in the doctor’s office was complaining of swollen joints and severe pain and discomfort. The doctor’s response: “Talk fast — I have to run to Minchah. It starts in five minutes.”

Let us analyze this comment. Is the doctor a frummer Yid? On the surface, yes. He is anxious to daven with a minyan. But probing a bit deeper, someone who can so blithely ignore the pain and suffering of others in order to fulfill a mitzvah is trampling upon a fundamental tenet of being a Jew: concern for the other. How much more is this true of a medical doctor, whose purpose in life is to alleviate suffering and to provide healing. Is he a frum Jew? No.

Is he a good doctor? Just as he is a Jew going through the motions of piety without realizing what piety is, so is he someone with a medical degree going through the motions of healing without understanding what a doctor is supposed to be. His concern for davening with a minyan was essentially not a service of G-d, but a service of his own self . Is he a good doctor? Even if he graduated first in his class, my answer is No.

One wonders what he was thinking when he beseeched G-d during Minchah to “chus v’racheim aleinu — have mercy and pity upon us” — when his personal chus v’racheim was sorely lacking. One wonders how his Minchah was received in Heaven.

But before we cluck self-righteously at the insensitivity of this doctor, it might be worthwhile to consider if we ourselves are very far removed from such behavior. Do we not sometimes tend to lose sight of the spirituality that lies behind the mitzvos we are observing? We can become so immersed in our own selves that it is easy to overlook the ultimate objective of all mitzvos – to connect with G-d. For example, do we not occasionally (and maybe more than just occasionally) mindlessly mumble through our davening, while our minds and hearts are a thousand miles away? Is our day-to-day performance of mitzvos always done with G-d in mind?

Orthodox Judaism has come a long way in the past 50 years, but with its success it confronts two serious maladies: a) religious robotics, and b) religious selfies.

Robotics is the modern word for the prophetic plaint about serving G-d mitzvas anashim melumadah (Yeshayahu 29:13), the mindless, automatic, mechanical performance of mitzvos. Rachamana liba ba’i, say the Sages in Sanhedrin 106b: “G-d desires the heart.” He does not desire robots, but Jews who freely turn to Him in sincerity and integrity. Do not send Me offerings, say the prophets of Israel, that are not from the heart. “Mi bikeish zos… Who requested this from you, to trample upon My courtyards” (Yeshayahu 1:12).

Selfies: This is the all-about-me mentality, the self-indulgence, the world-revolves-around-me syndrome. In a religious selfie, performance of mitzvos, davening, Shabbos, is all about me: Does it make me feel good, does it do something for me? If this minyan takes five minutes longer, or davens too early or too late, or I have to walk an extra 500 yards to get there, I will start my own minyan. The religious selfie has forgotten that the meaning of Torah Judaism is to do what pleases the Creator and not necessarily what pleases the Me. Otherwise, we are worshiping not G-d but our own selves.

This attitude of me first — which hides behind the facade of piety — is not unrelated to the breakaway pathology, the shtibel-non-shul syndrome, and the kiddush clubs that plague so many communities. I am already frum, therefore I need no sermons; therefore I need to finish the davening without undue delays; and I am not concerned about the possibility that others might be turned off from Judaism by my behavior.

The great challenge for Orthodox Judaism today is not to create observant Jews. In that, we have done quite well. The next level is to create truly religious Jews. To be observant and to be religious are not always identical. And to be truly religious goes beyond wearing a yarmulke and davening and eating cholent and napping on Shabbos afternoon. To be religious — in addition to observing all the mitzvos — means never to dismiss anyone because you “need to run to Minchah.” It means to look at the mitzvah you are now doing and to ask why and for Whom you are doing it.

With Elul and the Yamim Noraim looming before us, this not a bad time to consider our robotics and our selfies. A good idea is to begin with small things — such as, for starters, how we daven Minchah…. (Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 722)