(Many outside the “Orthodox world” have had questionable experiences with it. I’m no exception. However, it’s a very diverse world. Far too rarely, we get to see the beautiful, uplifting aspects of it. The post below is a good example of some of its breadth and beauty.)
SERVING G-D in EVERY MOMENT
Rabbi Hyim Shaffner 
The Torah describes Sara our foremother’s death by enumerating the years of her life. Then the verse repeats, “…these were the years of Sara’s life.” Rash”i is bothered by this repetition, and comments, “All of them were equally for good.”
The Rebbe of Tosh, Rabbi Meshulam Feish Segal, may he live and be well, writes in the name of the Ariza”l, the great [16th century] mystic, Rabbi Isaac Luria, that there are things in our world which hide the Divine light so deeply (klipah) that we can not utilize them at all to raise up their divine potential. These things are forbidden in the Torah, such as the meat of a non-kosher animal. But there is a large range of things which the Torah permits us. These have the sparks of the Divine embedded within them in such a way that if we use them (really this applies also to deeds, speech and even thoughts) in the right way, with the intent to bring them and ourselves through them, closer to G-d, then they are holy and the act or speech or thought is a mitzvah. If we do them just to fill our own desires then they are unholy and a sin. Thus, writes the Tosher Rebbe, nothing is neutral. Everything is either a mitzvah or a sin. To eat kosher food is not OK, it is either holy or unholy, depending on how we eat it, what our intent is, what our reasons for doing so are. And so it is with everything. Every moment in life, every step, is pregnant with spiritual power, for good or not.
He concludes that Sara was unique among people in that she was able to use everything — all her time, her actions, her thoughts and her speech to raise herself up spiritually; and so all of her days were “equally good.”
It is, I think, an important message for us living in today’s world. I believe that we should be involved in the life of the world, bringing holiness and compassion to the people, culture and communities around us. Jews today have access to everything — the best restaurants, the best sports tickets, the best shows, the best cars, and the best vacations. But in all we do it is not enough to ask, “Is this forbidden or permitted?” We must ask, “Will this be a holy act, one that will bring me and the world to a better, more spiritual place, or not?”
May we merit, in great joy, to know G-d in all of our unique ways. ____________________________________________________________________________________________