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A gentle inquiry about Judaism.


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Anyone familiar with Judaism may chime in but I want this to remain a friendly discussion - please do not hijack this into some political discussion of the situation in the Middle East.

 

Ds 10 is very interested in the history of Israel. We completed the Story of the World Ancients, twice actually, along with reading aloud from the Old Testament. We are evangelical Protestant, not legalistic at all if that helps you understand ds's background.

 

He'd really like to do more study about Israel. I'd like this to be a "fair" study so not particularly zionist but not particularly anti-zionist either. I really would like him to have more of an outline history of the Jewish people in Diaspora and a nuts and bolts explanation of the formation of the modern Jewish State. I'd also like him to have a better understanding of the Jewish Feast Days and Holidays than what we have managed to encounter from general reading.

 

He has asked me if it is okay for a Christian to observe an orthodox Jewish Sabbath as a protestant or if this would be considered offensive. He also wanted to know if Jewish families have ever invited gentiles to participate in Hannakuh. I didn't have any answers for him. We do not live in an area where we have any Jewish neighbors or acquaintances. We are 50 minutes from the nearest synagogue and I have considered taking him to meet the Rabbi but I don't want to do that if it is rude to do so.

 

He is genuinely interested and very respectful so if it is appropriate, I do think I'd like to take him to meet the rabbi.

 

Also, I'd like to purchase a children's book on Israel...something with maps and general notes on history, culture, etc. If someone could submit titles, I'd really appreciate it.

 

Thoughts????

 

Thanks,

Faith

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I cannot help with any specific book titles right now - I would have to check with my children to see whether we have anymore anything good and general in English - but I did want to comment on your other two questions.

He has asked me if it is okay for a Christian to observe an orthodox Jewish Sabbath as a protestant or if this would be considered offensive.

This is a tough one to explain, but the answer comes down to a very firm no, the kind of no I'd have to bold.

 

From a religious Jewish perspective, there are 613 commandments for the Jews and 7 commandments for non-Jews. The latter are regarded as basic moral laws - no killing, no eating animals alive, establishing just courts, no idolatry, etc. A non-Jew who keeps those 7 laws is regarded as righteous.

A non-Jew may opt to do some of the 613 as well. He doesn't have to, but in some instances he may. There is no prohibition for non-Jews to eat kosher food, for example. Jews must eat kosher food, non-Jews aren't obliged, but they may opt to. There are quite a few such "extra" things which non-Jews can do.

 

However, there is a set of things which are ONLY allowed for Jews to do, in a sense that Jews must do them and non-Jews mustn't do them. Those are the commandments pertaining specifically to the "signs" between God and Israel. For example, a non-Jew is not only not obliged, but technically not supposed to deal with tefillin or mezuza... or shabat. It's actually forbidden for a non-Jew to observe shabat the same way a Jew does. Of course, it would be extremely unlikely that he'd even be able to do it given all the rules and stringencies of shabat, but no, he's not supposed to do it. They even don't allow prospective converts to fully observe shabat until they convert - they're supposed to break at least once each shabat before their conversion is full and valid, because non-Jews are not supposed to observe shabat in the same manner the Jews are.

He also wanted to know if Jewish families have ever invited gentiles to participate in Hannakuh.

I'm not sure what exactly you mean by "participate in" Chanuka? Come to visit? When? Do what?

Most of the Jewish communities - even the fairly modern ones - are still somehow insular when it comes to holidays, simchot and other "Jewish" stuff, even if they're well-integrated in the societies at large. Conservative and reform streams typically aren't so "closed".

 

Chanuka is essentially a victory over Greeks and assimilated Jews (mityavnim) and the ideology of Hellenism, a sort of celebration of the Jewish not only political autonomy, but also of the Jewish singularity and non-assimilation. The only reason why it's "popular" is because it usually happens close to Christmas time, so it's commercialized, but originally, it's actually a very "typically Jewish" holiday, i.e. not very universal.

 

There are no religious prohibitions of any kind, though, with regards to inviting non-Jews for Chanuka (or for anything, really). It's just usually not practiced.

He is genuinely interested and very respectful so if it is appropriate, I do think I'd like to take him to meet the rabbi.

Appropriate. :)

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A book I found to be informative for teaching children the "holidays" of Judaism is God's Appointed Times: A Practical Guide for Understanding and Celebrating the Biblical Holidays by Barney Kasdan. I have the original edition.

 

I know this doesn't help you with the statehood question, but I like Kasdan's book, as it is written for parents to be utilized with children.

 

 

a

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Thank you Ester Maria, I really appreciate your respectful candidness.

 

I will take him to meet the Rabbi if the Rabbi is interested. Could you give me a list of Jewish Holidays that DS could at read about in order to better understand the faith?

 

Also, would it be considered offensive for him to read about and study the Shabat laws/commandments as long as he is not looking to observe Shabat.

 

One more question, due to the Judaic heritage of Christianity, he is particularly interested in Passover. Do you know of any resources explaining the observance of Passover to children and how that tradition may have changed over time since the Exodus? He'd be interested in not only the spiritual aspects of the Feast but also the foods served, songs or chants, etc. how it is observed in modern times, etc.

 

Thank you again, I really appreciate it.

 

Faith

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Could you give me a list of Jewish Holidays that DS could at read about in order to better understand the faith?

The major ones are Rosh Hashana (the Jewish New Year), Yom Kippur, Sukot, Simchat Torah, Chanuka, Purim, Pesach, Shavuot, Tisha B'Av. I omitted a few ones of lesser overall importance.

 

Also, would it be considered offensive for him to read about and study the Shabat laws/commandments as long as he is not looking to observe Shabat.

Informative learning, googling, reading books on the topics, talking to rabbis and so forth is always fine, of course, according to everyone :); it's only the serious religious learning (a la' Talmudic minutiae etc.) that's sometimes - depending on whom you ask - considered to be also one of those "only Jewish" things. (Oh, and one of those "only male" things too in some circles...)

 

Personally, I'm always for learning so I say go for it. You do need to find Jewish children sources, though, for elaborations on shabat laws, etc.

One more question, due to the Judaic heritage of Christianity, he is particularly interested in Passover. Do you know of any resources explaining the observance of Passover to children and how that tradition may have changed over time since the Exodus?

You might wish to read Haggadah of Pesach which is read on seders and explains in details the things done, etc. Children read it too, and you have many nice editions, even editions aimed specifically at children. :)

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I'm afraid that I don't know much about what's out there for children your son's age, but I love this book:

 

http://www.amazon.com/Jewish-Holidays-Michael-Strassfeld/dp/0062720082/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1291058685&sr=8-1

 

It's not a children's book, but I remember reading it as a young teenager (I think I got the first edition as a Bat Mitzvah gift eleventy million years ago) and it was very accessible.

 

This is also not a children's book, and it's probably a bit dry to hand to a 10yo, but if you're looking for an overview yourself I'm currently reading this:

http://www.amazon.com/Short-History-Jewish-People-Legendary/dp/0195139410/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1291058857&sr=1-1

and finding it very interesting and readable. It's a strictly secular book -- he treats the Bible as one historical source among many.

 

I wish I had more to offer; perhaps others will. And I agree that it's perfectly appropriate to touch base with the local rabbi. I remember when I was in 10th grade my Hebrew school class took a field trip to St. Patrick's Cathedral and met with a priest. It was completely fascinating.

Edited by JennyD
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[quote

 

Personally, I'm always for learning so I say go for it. You do need to find Jewish children sources, though, for elaborations on shabat laws, etc.

 

 

 

:iagree: I also meant to add that you really should seek out at least some Jewish sources. The Christian take on the Hebrew Bible and Jewish practices is often very different from the Jewish one (or ones, I should say).

Edited by JennyD
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Anyone familiar with Judaism may chime in but I want this to remain a friendly discussion - please do not hijack this into some political discussion of the situation in the Middle East.

 

Ds 10 is very interested in the history of Israel. We completed the Story of the World Ancients, twice actually, along with reading aloud from the Old Testament. We are evangelical Protestant, not legalistic at all if that helps you understand ds's background.

 

He'd really like to do more study about Israel. I'd like this to be a "fair" study so not particularly zionist but not particularly anti-zionist either. I really would like him to have more of an outline history of the Jewish people in Diaspora and a nuts and bolts explanation of the formation of the modern Jewish State. I'd also like him to have a better understanding of the Jewish Feast Days and Holidays than what we have managed to encounter from general reading.

 

He has asked me if it is okay for a Christian to observe an orthodox Jewish Sabbath as a protestant or if this would be considered offensive. He also wanted to know if Jewish families have ever invited gentiles to participate in Hannakuh. I didn't have any answers for him. We do not live in an area where we have any Jewish neighbors or acquaintances. We are 50 minutes from the nearest synagogue and I have considered taking him to meet the Rabbi but I don't want to do that if it is rude to do so.

 

He is genuinely interested and very respectful so if it is appropriate, I do think I'd like to take him to meet the rabbi.

 

Also, I'd like to purchase a children's book on Israel...something with maps and general notes on history, culture, etc. If someone could submit titles, I'd really appreciate it.

 

Thoughts????

 

Thanks,

Faith

 

I am probably the least familiar of anyone here, but here is my experience as it relates to what you asked (yours in red italics).

 

He has asked me if it is okay for a Christian to observe an orthodox Jewish Sabbath as a protestant or if this would be considered offensive. He also wanted to know if Jewish families have ever invited gentiles to participate in Hannakuh. I didn't have any answers for him. We do not live in an area where we have any Jewish neighbors or acquaintances. We are 50 minutes from the nearest synagogue and I have considered taking him to meet the Rabbi but I don't want to do that if it is rude to do so.

 

I grew up in a neighborhood that was 98% Jewish -- yes, two Gentile families, us and one other. Our family became the closest of friends with half a dozen families who were Jewish -- 50 years later, the friendships are still intact, going strong, they have attended my daughters' weddings, we attend their weddings, a grandchild's bris, everyone went to everyone else's bar and bat mitzvahs and confirmations, funerals, etc. You get the idea. Those families (and their families) LOVED that we wanted to be included in their faith observances and they wanted to be included in ours. They came to our house for Christmas, we went to their house for Hanukah. I have been at Seder every year since I was 6 (that would be fifty years). As I recall, one family was Reformed, the others Conservative (?) - not sure if that's the correct word.......the middle of the road group......

 

Anyway, I would have to say that the most important thing that came out of this was RESPECT for everyone's beliefs -- us for them and them for us.

 

I think that your son's idea of meeting a Rabbi and talking to him is a great idea. Two of the boys that I grew up with are now Rabbis -- go figure, huh? They are in Westchester County, NY - but I imagine that is NOT where you are b/c if you were, you would be alot closer than 50 minutes to a Rabbi.

 

you might find materials at http://www.behrmanhouse.com/ -- I get alot of stuff from them -- I hope maybe there is something that helps.

 

:)

 

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I also grew up (and continue to live) in a heavily Jewish neighborhood. Being part of Shabbos with neighbors, going to Seder dinners, lighting our Chanukiah, are all about as "normal" a part of our years as they could possibly be.

 

This year we were invited by Orthodox neighbors to offer prayers while we beat branches and held an citron (etog) on Sukkot. I've even been wrapped with tefillin by an ultra-orthodox rabbi who knew I wasn't Jewish (although he proclaimed me an "honorary" Jew*) and he was from a sect that takes tefillin wrapping very seriously. He said it would not count as a mitzvah, but what could it hurt? Not everyone might agree that was 100% kosher, but to me it seems the importance revolves around "intent."

 

If you want to show friendship and solidarity with people you love and care about, I don't know a Jew (and I know a heck of a lot, from the atheistic-anti religious to the most Torah observant ultra-Orthodox) who would have a problem with a sincere person respectfully sharing a tradition. But maybe there are a few who might feel otherwise.

 

The only thing I've seen that does provoke extreme hostility is when groups try to re-cast Jewish holidays as Christian ones. Things like "Christian Seders", or Christian groups calling themselves Messianic Jews and observing "Jewish" traditions in a Christian context. That makes people nuts.

 

Bill

Edited by Spy Car
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The only thing I've seen that does provoke extreme hostility is when groups try to re-cast Jewish holidays as Christian ones. Things like "Christian Seders", or Christian groups calling themselves Messianic Jews and observing "Jewish" traditions in a Christian context. That makes people nuts.

Bill

 

This made me giggle a bit. Not at the fact that it drives Jews nuts, but that we had a Seder meal every year at our Lutheran church.:001_huh: I never had any idea it was we were re-casting anything. Now I'm curious as to why our church practiced this. I know other churches that currently do as well.

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I also grew up (and continue to live) in a heavily Jewish neighborhood. Being part of Shabbos with neighbors, going to Seder dinners, lighting our Chanukiah, are all about as "normal" a part of our years as they could possibly be.

 

This year we were invited by Orthodox neighbors to offer prayers while we beat branches and held an citron (etog) on Sukkot. I've even been wrapped with tefillin By an ultra-orthodox rabbi who knew I wasn't Jewish (although he proclaimed me an "honorary" Jew*) and he was from a sect that takes tefillin wrapping very seriously. He said it would not cout as a mitzvah, but what could it hurt? Not everyone might agree that was 100% kosher, but to me it seems the importance revolves around "intent."

 

If you want to show friendship and solidarity with people you love and care about, I don't know a Jew (and I know a heck of a lot, from the atheistic-anti religious to the most Torah observant ultra-Orthodox) who would have a problem with a sincere person respectfully sharing a tradition. But maybe their are a few who might feel otherwise.

 

The only thing I've seen that does provoke extreme hostility is when groups try to re-cast Jewish holidays as Christian ones. Things like "Christian Seders", or Christian groups calling themselves Messianic Jews and observing "Jewish" traditions in a Christian context. That makes people nuts.

 

Bill

 

 

:iagree: with what I bolded -- that is my experience as well.

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The reason why your church celebrated a Passover is that Jesus did! That was the Last Supper. Christianity emerged from Judaism so there is necessarily some connection and overlap there. So while Jews might be offended by it, it really is quite natural to Christianity to celebrate it. All the apostles for example were devout Jews. In fact the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass which Catholics celebrate every day is very recognizably rooted in the Passover meal.

 

My husband is Jewish. I'm glad he never got offended over Christians celebrating Passover. Of course he married me! And the only Messianic Jew I know was raised Jewish and then converted. It is totally natural for her to celebrate the Jewish holidays.

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I think that learning about other religions and cultures is great. And I can see why Christians would want to explore biblical-era Judaisms to give context to Jesus's life and practices. That's great, too. The only thing that I sometimes find frustrating is when folks take the Seder -- or other modern Jewish practices -- as they have developed over hundreds of years during which Christianity and Judaism were entirely separate religions and call that their 'roots.' Judaism and Christianity certainly share common roots, but 2000 years is a long time. And Judaism is a *contemporary* religion.

 

What WILL make someone nuts, though, is going to a Seder at your church and then telling a Jewish person that they're doing it wrong, as my friend's SIL did.

Edited by JennyD
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I cannot help with any specific book titles right now - I would have to check with my children to see whether we have anymore anything good and general in English - but I did want to comment on your other two questions.

 

This is a tough one to explain, but the answer comes down to a very firm no, the kind of no I'd have to bold.

 

From a religious Jewish perspective, there are 613 commandments for the Jews and 7 commandments for non-Jews. The latter are regarded as basic moral laws - no killing, no eating animals alive, establishing just courts, no idolatry, etc. A non-Jew who keeps those 7 laws is regarded as righteous.

A non-Jew may opt to do some of the 613 as well. He doesn't have to, but in some instances he may. There is no prohibition for non-Jews to eat kosher food, for example. Jews must eat kosher food, non-Jews aren't obliged, but they may opt to. There are quite a few such "extra" things which non-Jews can do.

 

H

 

This is interesting! What do Jews think of churches that observe the sabbath, such as Seventh-day Adventist?

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I also grew up (and continue to live) in a heavily Jewish neighborhood. Being part of Shabbos with neighbors, going to Seder dinners, lighting our Chanukiah, are all about as "normal" a part of our years as they could possibly be.

 

This year we were invited by Orthodox neighbors to offer prayers while we beat branches and held an citron (etog) on Sukkot. I've even been wrapped with tefillin by an ultra-orthodox rabbi who knew I wasn't Jewish (although he proclaimed me an "honorary" Jew*) and he was from a sect that takes tefillin wrapping very seriously. He said it would not count as a mitzvah, but what could it hurt? Not everyone might agree that was 100% kosher, but to me it seems the importance revolves around "intent."

 

If you want to show friendship and solidarity with people you love and care about, I don't know a Jew (and I know a heck of a lot, from the atheistic-anti religious to the most Torah observant ultra-Orthodox) who would have a problem with a sincere person respectfully sharing a tradition. But maybe there are a few who might feel otherwise.

 

The only thing I've seen that does provoke extreme hostility is when groups try to re-cast Jewish holidays as Christian ones. Things like "Christian Seders", or Christian groups calling themselves Messianic Jews and observing "Jewish" traditions in a Christian context. That makes people nuts.

 

Bill

 

 

:iagree: Exactly. I'm married to a very non-religious Jew, but as a family, we attend a very reformed synagogue. We live in a predominantly Jewish town and have everything from ultra-Orthodox to atheist non-practicing Jews in a 5 mile radius. Even before I married dh, I was invited to participate in various holidays and religious events. A long time ago, too, my sister was interested in learning more about Judaism, and she contacted an orthodox synagogue in her area. The rabbi invited her to his home for Shabbos and she ate with the family and attended services. If your son is really interested in learning more, I would definitely contact a local synagogue. At our temple, the rabbi even teaches a course for any and all people that are interested in learning more about Judaism.

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The reason why your church celebrated a Passover is that Jesus did! That was the Last Supper. Christianity emerged from Judaism so there is necessarily some connection and overlap there. So while Jews might be offended by it, it really is quite natural to Christianity to celebrate it. All the apostles for example were devout Jews. In fact the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass which Catholics celebrate every day is very recognizably rooted in the Passover meal.

 

My husband is Jewish. I'm glad he never got offended over Christians celebrating Passover. Of course he married me! And the only Messianic Jew I know was raised Jewish and then converted. It is totally natural for her to celebrate the Jewish holidays.

:iagree: But since Christianity is different, I can understand their problem with it too. Luke was a gentile, wasn't he?

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This is interesting! What do Jews think of churches that observe the sabbath, such as Seventh-day Adventist?

To my knowledge, there is not a single Christian denomination which actually observes the Jewish shabat; what they call their sabbath is very different from the orthodox Jewish concept of shabat.

 

There are so many intricacies to the laws of shabat that if one isn't very well-acquainted with those things one just breaks the rules or the extensions of rules they do not even know they exist. The Jewish concept of shabat is much more complex than "the day of rest". Shabat comes from the same root as the modern Hebrew word for strike (shvita) - it's not exactly a rest, it's more like an active refrainment from doing certain types of actions.

 

If you turn on/off any electrical device, you've broken shabat. If you open your fridge door and the light goes on, you've broken shabat. If you live in an area without eruv and just walk out of your house carrying something, you've probably broken shabat. If you write a note to somebody, you've broken shabat. If you make food, you've broken shabat. There are very intricate and complex elaborations on why taking medicines on shabat constitutes breaking shabat. If you drive in a car on shabat even if you don't drive it, you've broken shabat because your weight does an active work which affects the vehicle (trains and such are less problematic, but cars are), which is work, ergo you broke shabat. And so forth - I could go on and on and on enumerating simple everyday activities which, from the orthodox Jewish perspective, constitute as breaking shabat but which "sabbath-observing" Christians don't take into account because they're rabbinical extensions of certain commandments and alike, and Christians don't share oral and rabbinical tradition with Jews.

Laws of shabat are definitely not something light, something that's based on "general principles", those are very detailed and very intricate things which, if you don't know them, you just break them all the time.

 

I'm talking exclusively about orthodox Judaism here. Various conservative and liberal streams are quite removed from the traditional "matrix" of Judaism with many new interpretations, but frankly, those people are not really considered religious by the orthodox Jews. (This also has its repercussions in conversions, as the orthodox don't even accept non-orthodox conversions.)

I suppose that, with regards to practices, our family would be something that in North American terms could be called "conservadox", but we all define ourselves secular as we don't want to call it what it's not. When I don't go to shul, I don't go to orthodox shul, not a conservative one. When I say I don't keep shabat, I mean that I don't keep orthodox shabat, etc. My husband's family is all over the shades of orthodoxy (from modern to black-hat crew), and the answers to all of those questions would vary. There are those people who would openly welcome you with a "we have nothing to hide" attitude, sort of the way Bill is accepted; and then there are those who would certainly be kind and polite, but you'd probably leave with an unambiguous impression that their Judaism is insular and something that's not meant to include you. They'd still be your great colleagues, or even friends - but outside of the Jewish-specific sphere. That sphere would be shared only with Jews, and usually among religious people, only with religious Jews.

 

It also depends a lot geographically, the whole acceptance or not. Bill's experiences are typical of North America, but maybe not so much of some more close-knit European communities. Jewish culture has always been a rather "closed" one and "openness" with regards to Jewish-specific things to that extent is typically quite an American phenomenon. With America's more democratic past, the huge rates of intermarriage which have brought a lot of non-Jews directly into Jewish communities and schools, being less burdened about setting "lines" than Europe historically was, partially it's understandable where it comes from. But the question is, is such a behavior in accordance with the actual "matrix" of Judaism, in which there are very strict lines between many things? One of the reasons why I'm not religious are these things, I guess I'm too much of a universalist (and too "hellenized" by my classical education in a Catholic culture) to accept some dichotomies which do rule the Jewish thought, whether we like to admit it or not - and one of those dichotomies is precisely the "us and them" one, which actually managed to perserve Jews as a nation throughout centuries. The "tribal" aspect is still very strong, and so is adherence to certain things as "only ours", especially backed up religiously (tefillin, shabat, some aspects of learning, etc.) and not everyone will be comfortable to open up there.

 

It's a beautiful tradition, and a very valuable one. It's a tradition everyone can learn something from, in my opinion, and become richer as a person. I'm on the more open side, obviously - here I'm just stating the possibility that you encounter somebody who's not, and a hope that maybe, just maybe, even with all the universalism of your own culture, you can understand it, or at least respect that stance. The sole fact I'm writing this so openly - and these are the kind of conversations that are usually led behind closed doors, our of respect and not to insult others by admitting that quite often there is some amount of rejection, at least in some aspects - is also a sign of openness. :)

 

Faith, I hope you find a good modern orthodox (emphasis on both words) rabbi to answer your son's questions and satisfy his curiosity. You can learn a lot from Jews, they're a clever nation ;) and love to learn.

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EsterMaria,

 

Thank you so much for the above, very thoughtful response. I do so appreciate it. I do not have any idea what viewpoint of Jewish faith I will will encounter when I contact the rabbi. We are in a rural area sandwiched in between three smaller urban areas that are not known for great diversity. Only one of these areas has a synagogue.

 

I have been reading these reponses to ds and though some of it, at the age of ten and without a Jewish heritage, is over his head, I think he is already learning and gaining even more respect.

 

I hope you have a pleasant evening.

Faith

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To my knowledge, there is not a single Christian denomination which actually observes the Jewish shabat; what they call their sabbath is very different from the orthodox Jewish concept of shabat.

 

There are so many intricacies to the laws of shabat that if one isn't very well-acquainted with those things one just breaks the rules or the extensions of rules they do not even know they exist. The Jewish concept of shabat is much more complex than "the day of rest". Shabat comes from the same root as the modern Hebrew word for strike (shvita) - it's not exactly a rest, it's more like an active refrainment from doing certain types of actions.

 

If you turn on/off any electrical device, you've broken shabat. If you open your fridge door and the light goes on, you've broken shabat. If you live in an area without eruv and just walk out of your house carrying something, you've probably broken shabat. If you write a note to somebody, you've broken shabat. If you make food, you've broken shabat. There are very intricate and complex elaborations on why taking medicines on shabat constitutes breaking shabat. If you drive in a car on shabat even if you don't drive it, you've broken shabat because your weight does an active work which affects the vehicle (trains and such are less problematic, but cars are), which is work, ergo you broke shabat. And so forth - I could go on and on and on enumerating simple everyday activities which, from the orthodox Jewish perspective, constitute as breaking shabat but which "sabbath-observing" Christians don't take into account because they're rabbinical extensions of certain commandments and alike, and Christians don't share oral and rabbinical tradition with Jews.

Laws of shabat are definitely not something light, something that's based on "general principles", those are very detailed and very intricate things which, if you don't know them, you just break them all the time.

 

I'm talking exclusively about orthodox Judaism here. Various conservative and liberal streams are quite removed from the traditional "matrix" of Judaism with many new interpretations, but frankly, those people are not really considered religious by the orthodox Jews. (This also has its repercussions in conversions, as the orthodox don't even accept non-orthodox conversions.)

I suppose that, with regards to practices, our family would be something that in North American terms could be called "conservadox", but we all define ourselves secular as we don't want to call it what it's not. When I don't go to shul, I don't go to orthodox shul, not a conservative one. When I say I don't keep shabat, I mean that I don't keep orthodox shabat, etc. My husband's family is all over the shades of orthodoxy (from modern to black-hat crew), and the answers to all of those questions would vary. There are those people who would openly welcome you with a "we have nothing to hide" attitude, sort of the way Bill is accepted; and then there are those who would certainly be kind and polite, but you'd probably leave with an unambiguous impression that their Judaism is insular and something that's not meant to include you. They'd still be your great colleagues, or even friends - but outside of the Jewish-specific sphere. That sphere would be shared only with Jews, and usually among religious people, only with religious Jews.

 

It also depends a lot geographically, the whole acceptance or not. Bill's experiences are typical of North America, but maybe not so much of some more close-knit European communities. Jewish culture has always been a rather "closed" one and "openness" with regards to Jewish-specific things to that extent is typically quite an American phenomenon. With America's more democratic past, the huge rates of intermarriage which have brought a lot of non-Jews directly into Jewish communities and schools, being less burdened about setting "lines" than Europe historically was, partially it's understandable where it comes from. But the question is, is such a behavior in accordance with the actual "matrix" of Judaism, in which there are very strict lines between many things? One of the reasons why I'm not religious are these things, I guess I'm too much of a universalist (and too "hellenized" by my classical education in a Catholic culture) to accept some dichotomies which do rule the Jewish thought, whether we like to admit it or not - and one of those dichotomies is precisely the "us and them" one, which actually managed to perserve Jews as a nation throughout centuries. The "tribal" aspect is still very strong, and so is adherence to certain things as "only ours", especially backed up religiously (tefillin, shabat, some aspects of learning, etc.) and not everyone will be comfortable to open up there.

 

It's a beautiful tradition, and a very valuable one. It's a tradition everyone can learn something from, in my opinion, and become richer as a person. I'm on the more open side, obviously - here I'm just stating the possibility that you encounter somebody who's not, and a hope that maybe, just maybe, even with all the universalism of your own culture, you can understand it, or at least respect that stance. The sole fact I'm writing this so openly - and these are the kind of conversations that are usually led behind closed doors, our of respect and not to insult others by admitting that quite often there is some amount of rejection, at least in some aspects - is also a sign of openness. :)

 

Faith, I hope you find a good modern orthodox (emphasis on both words) rabbi to answer your son's questions and satisfy his curiosity. You can learn a lot from Jews, they're a clever nation ;) and love to learn.

 

Thank you for your very thorough reply. I appreciate your openness.

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But since Christianity is different, I can understand their problem with it too.

 

This is true. If you look at the early church practices, you may see some of the Jewish traditions affecting what the Church did (the early church services were reminiscent Jewish temple worship, thinking of the use of incense, daily prayers, vestments, etc.), but they weren't practicing Jews. You do not see the early Christian Church keeping the dietary laws or partaking in a seder, for example.

 

ETA - Just commenting on this statement, by the way. I have very little experience with traditional or current Jewish practices so am not making any kind of comment on that, please forgive me if it seemed I was. Our family had been considering Messianic Judaism, very briefly, at one point but went a different route.

Edited by milovaný
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Nice post, Ester Maria. I find the comparison between American and European Jewish communities especially interesting.

 

Various conservative and liberal streams are quite removed from the traditional "matrix" of Judaism with many new interpretations, but frankly, those people are not really considered religious by the orthodox Jews. (This also has its repercussions in conversions, as the orthodox don't even accept non-orthodox conversions.)

 

Faith, I hope you find a good modern orthodox (emphasis on both words) rabbi to answer your son's questions and satisfy his curiosity. You can learn a lot from Jews, they're a clever nation ;) and love to learn.

 

Not sure if this is what was intended, but I would strenuously disagree with any implication that a non-Jew would not be able to to learn about Judaism from a non-orthodox rabbi. Obviously you're not going to get the same perspective on well, anything, from a Reform rabbi that you're going to get from a black hat rebbe, but both represent important strands in American Jewry. Indeed, the overwhelming majority of American Jews are not Orthodox. Just because the Orthodox don't think that other denominations are "really Jewish" -- and I certainly agree with Ester Maria that that's the case -- does not make that actually true. In fact, I'd say that the hotly contested diversity of the American Jewish experience is in and of itself a very important thing to know about Judaism. As is the fact that the Jewish landscape in Israel is completely different, with all sorts of implications for American-Israeli Jewish relations.

 

Welcome to your study of Judaism. 13 million Jews and every last one has a different opinion. :001_smile:

Edited by JennyD
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Not sure if this is what was intended, but I would strenuously disagree with any implication that a non-Jew would not be able to to learn about Judaism from a non-orthodox rabbi. Obviously you're not going to get the same perspective on well, anything, from a Reform rabbi that you're going to get from a black hat rebbe, but both represent important strands in American Jewry. Indeed, the overwhelming majority of American Jews are not Orthodox. Just because the Orthodox don't think that other denominations are "really Jewish" -- and I certainly agree with Ester Maria that that's the case -- does not make that actually true. In fact, I'd say that the hotly contested diversity of the American Jewish experience is in and of itself a very important thing to know about Judaism. As is the fact that the Jewish landscape in Israel is completely different, with all sorts of implications for American-Israeli Jewish relations.

 

Welcome to your study of Judaism. 13 million Jews and every last one has a different opinion. :001_smile:

 

:iagree:

Each Jewish person has a different take and opinion about Judaism, this includes different Rabbis.

 

Here are a few children's books that might be interesting for your ds:

A Family Treasury of Jewish Holidays

Welcome to Israel!

 

I think that Knowledge Quest also has an Israel Unit Study.

 

And personally, we have invited Gentiles to our holiday celebrations, such as Shabbat dinner, Hanukkah and Passover. It might not be acceptable to an Orthodox, but it's fine for our family to celebrate with both non-Jews and Jews.

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Faith, I hope you find a good modern orthodox (emphasis on both words) rabbi to answer your son's questions and satisfy his curiosity.

 

Ouch. That can be a bit offensive. My Conservative, female Rabbi is truly gifted at educating non-Jews about Judaism. She firmly believes open dialogue between all religions is necessary for peace.

 

Any Rabbi, other than Orthodox, would freely and openly talk about the differences between Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist. I sincerely hope that you and your son find some one that wouldn't be so closed minded that they believe every Jew that isn't Orthodox isn't really a Jew.

Edited by jadedone80
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Nice post, Ester Maria. I find the comparison between American and European Jewish communities especially interesting.

 

 

 

Not sure if this is what was intended, but I would strenuously disagree with any implication that a non-Jew would not be able to to learn about Judaism from a non-orthodox rabbi. Obviously you're not going to get the same perspective on well, anything, from a Reform rabbi that you're going to get from a black hat rebbe, but both represent important strands in American Jewry. Indeed, the overwhelming majority of American Jews are not Orthodox. Just because the Orthodox don't think that other denominations are "really Jewish" -- and I certainly agree with Ester Maria that that's the case -- does not make that actually true. In fact, I'd say that the hotly contested diversity of the American Jewish experience is in and of itself a very important thing to know about Judaism. As is the fact that the Jewish landscape in Israel is completely different, with all sorts of implications for American-Israeli Jewish relations.

 

Welcome to your study of Judaism. 13 million Jews and every last one has a different opinion. :001_smile:

 

:iagree: Yep, we are a peculiar people :D

~~Faithe

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Ouch. That can be a bit offensive. My Conservative, female Rabbi is truly gifted at educating non-Jews about Judaism. She firmly believes open dialogue between all religions is necessary for peace.

 

Any Rabbi, other than Orthodox, would freely and openly talk about the differences between Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist. I sincerely hope that you and your son find some one that wouldn't be so closed minded that they believe every Jew that isn't Orthodox isn't really a Jew.

 

I grew up Orthodox, went to an orthodox Yeshiva ...yes...we wore long skirts and no sleeve above the elbow, boys and girls separated, school on Sunday etc. Our Moreh wore a sheitel, our Rebbe wore tsisis and a full beard...and none of them were EVER closed minded. They were loving and kind to everyone .They welcomed questions and those of other faiths to ask those questions...So, I think an Orthodox Rabbi would be more than happy to answer anyones questions concerning Torah or Talmud or any other cultural questions and I wouldn't be surprised if they didn't know an answer, that they wouldn't go out of their way to study and find it. I also think it would be very interesting to ask those same questions of different sects of Judaism.

 

I have never experienced any Orthodox jew looking down on any other Jew or them having the feeling that they are not "really" Jewish. My family had a very difficult time understanding how I could be a Christian and a Jew...but I am...and even though they don't "get" it, not one has ever said i was not "really" a Jew.

 

Faithe

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I have never experienced any Orthodox jew looking down on any other Jew or them having the feeling that they are not "really" Jewish. My family had a very difficult time understanding how I could be a Christian and a Jew...but I am...and even though they don't "get" it, not one has ever said i was not "really" a Jew.

 

Faithe

 

The issue is that Orthodox Jews refuse to recognize Jewish converts and their descendants as Jewish, unless they converted under an Orthodox Rabbi. The Orthodox don't see non-Orthodox converts or children of converts as Jewish, even though the are. It has been an issue in Israel regarding the Law of Return. Ironically, since you have converted to a different religion, the Law of Return would no longer apply to you.

Edited by jadedone80
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How loving. It isn't always such an easy acceptance. (In any direction! :))

 

I have never experienced any Orthodox jew looking down on any other Jew or them having the feeling that they are not "really" Jewish. My family had a very difficult time understanding how I could be a Christian and a Jew...but I am...and even though they don't "get" it, not one has ever said i was not "really" a Jew.

 

Faithe

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Bill's experiences are typical of North America, but maybe not so much of some more close-knit European communities.

 

Actually, my experiences have been quite atypical when it comes to the access I've had inside in the Orthodox and Hasidic community here. I've been inside this world enough to know how just how rare my experience has been.

 

Bill

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Actually, my experiences have been quite atypical when it comes to the access I've had inside in the Orthodox and Hasidic community here. I've been inside this world enough to know how just how rare my experience has been.

 

Bill

Yep, even North America has it's subcultures. One Hasidic or Orthodox area may be different from another. It can vary place to place.

 

Mommyfaithe, your experience is lovely!

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Contact the Rabbi of the closest synagogue. Most are happy to discuss and teach about Judaism to anyone who is interested. Are there some who look down their noses at others or refuse to teach? Absolutely. I find that to be a human trait that is not an exclusive to any religion or race.

 

I have had many of my non-Jewish friends partake in Holiday celebrations and I have been at their celebrations. Knowledge is a good thing.

 

Here is a website that offers some excellent basics. http://www.jewfaq.org/index.htm

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Contact the Rabbi of the closest synagogue. Most are happy to discuss and teach about Judaism to anyone who is interested. Are there some who look down their noses at others or refuse to teach? Absolutely. I find that to be a human trait that is not an exclusive to any religion or race.

 

I have had many of my non-Jewish friends partake in Holiday celebrations and I have been at their celebrations. Knowledge is a good thing.

 

Here is a website that offers some excellent basics. http://www.jewfaq.org/index.htm

Or a nice, practicing Jewish friend; that is who I direct all my questions towards and I've learned much from her. Unfortunately, there is one Rabbi in our area that I would NOT send my kid to about Judaism. Thankfully, just like Christianity, you can't view one person as an example for the whole.

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To my knowledge, there is not a single Christian denomination which actually observes the Jewish shabat; what they call their sabbath is very different from the orthodox Jewish concept of shabat.
:iagree:As with the various attempts at seder. I've inquired about the Christian "seders" friends of mine have attended, and not one involved flinging tiny marshmallows.

 

-Sharon, who was horrified to learn that her surname is Hebrew for "cattle plague"

Edited by Sharon in Austin
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The issue is that Orthodox Jews refuse to recognize Jewish converts and their descendants as Jewish, unless they converted under an Orthodox Rabbi. The Orthodox don't see non-Orthodox converts or children of converts as Jewish, even though the are. It has been an issue in Israel regarding the Law of Return. Ironically, since you have converted to a different religion, the Law of Return would no longer apply to you.

 

Ummmmm.....I never said I gave up being a Jew. I will never give up being Jewish any more than I could give up being who I am. I don't think Paul or Peter or any of the disciples ever considered themselves anything but Jewish men who loved the Lord. As far as the Law of Return, my mother is Jewish, My father is Jewish, and you can follow back as long as you wish. My children consider themselves Jewish. My husband considers himself a Christian married to a Jew...and a God Fearer.

 

Whether or not the Orthodox consider themselves the "only" Jews is like Catholics or Episcopalians or Jehovah Witnesses considering themselves theo "only" real Christians...well the rest of Christendom would surely disagree. I have many friends in Israel, both born there and emigrant,and although they may have come from Orthodox roots, most are secular with traditional values. Some have emigrated from Spain and other countries and were definitely not Orthodox. (Just my experience.)

 

I didn't convert. I completed. You don't have to argue or convince. I have been through it all. I get it...not everyone agrees with my perspective. I do not proselytize, I do not push, As far as returning to Israel, well we have a saying for that:

Next year in Israel. (Said with my best Yiddish accent :001_smile:)

 

~~Faithe

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Not sure if this is what was intended, but I would strenuously disagree with any implication that a non-Jew would not be able to to learn about Judaism from a non-orthodox rabbi. Obviously you're not going to get the same perspective on well, anything, from a Reform rabbi that you're going to get from a black hat rebbe, but both represent important strands in American Jewry.

Oh, I agree with that - nobody has a "monopoly" over Judaism. ;)

The reason why I suggested a MO rabbi is because I find that perspective to be a very good starting point to learn, as it "combines" in itself many traits particular of the old orthodoxy as well as of the greater secularity and openness typical of the reform movements; it's a sort of "in-between two worlds" position - or at least *I* always viewed it that way - and as such, maybe, a "didactically good" one, if that makes sense.

Just because the Orthodox don't think that other denominations are "really Jewish" -- and I certainly agree with Ester Maria that that's the case -- does not make that actually true.

Here I, at least partially, disagree with you. While I would certainly not go around telling anyone that they're "not really Jewish", and I detest the idea itself, the orthodox might have half a point in some things, as halacha is quite clear-cut on that matter: one is Jewish either through (i) a Jewish mother or (ii) a valid conversion. Some liberal Jews, on the other hand, consider to be Jewish also people with a Jewish father as well - and consequently, those are not considered Jewish by the orthodox, even if a mother converted, since liberal and conservative conversions are challenged due to a lesser degree of holding mitzvot.

 

The orthodox do not challenge the Jewishness of ethnic halachic Jews, even if those are secular / liberal / conservative / "freid out". It's only mixed marriages with non-Jewish mothers and non-orthodox converts who are problematic from the orthodox perspective.

(Not writing this for you, Jenny, as I'm sure you know these things, but for the sake of clarification for those who may not know them and wonder what's the big deal. :))

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