Judaism FAQ

What's love got to do with Judaism?

I know Christians emphasize loving Christ - isn't Judaism a more rational religion?

American Hebrew Schools tend to over-emphasize the place of logic and rationality in Judaism. Often, they ignore the spiritual aspects of Jewish theology. The basic explanation of Jewish theology is contained in the She'ma. Here's an English translation of the first few lines:

Hear, O Israel, the L-rd is our G-d, the L-rd is One.

The following verse is traditionally recited in an undertone:
Blessed be the name of the glory of His kingdom forever and ever.

You shall love the L-rd your G-d with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command you today shall be upon your heart. You shall teach them thoroughly to your children, and you shall speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road, when you lie down and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they shall be for a reminder between your eyes. And you shall write them upon the doorposts of your house and upon your gates.

The Shema is a powerful prayer, which Jews are expected to recite twice a day. As you can see from the third line, loving God with all your heart, soul, and might is central to Jewish faith. It's part of the reason that loving your neighbor as yourself is a tenet originating in Judaism - divine sparks reside in all of us and we should appreciate the divine emotionally as well as logically. More to come...

Is the Bible true?

From my perspective, the Bible is a window to ultimate truth, though it is not always factually true. By understanding the stories contained in the Bible, one can gain insights into human interaction. 

As with all questions in this series, more information will be added later.

Do you believe in commandments?

First a definition - the correct definition of a mitzvah is "a commandment." It is more than a good deed - it is something humans are obligated to do in order to enhance their relationship with The Divine. (The plural form of mitzvah is mitzvot, i.e. commandments.)

Over the centuries, Jewish rabbis defined 613 mitzvot. Do I think you have to follow these commandments to be a good person? Of course not.

Do I think these mitzvot are the only way to create a meaningful relationship with The Divine? No. I think more than one wisdom tradition has created a convenant with God. The Jewish tradition speaks to me and is my preferred way of connecting with my higher self and the Essence of the Universe. 

That doesn't mean I follow every commandment in the Bible or written by ancient rabbis. I'm exploring a path that is meaningful to me. There's no law requiring Jews to wear a head covering, but it helps me to feel closer to The Divine and my higher self, so I choose to wear a yarmulke. On the other hand, I'm not sure kosher dietary practices change my relationship with The Divine, so I eat kosher style. I don't mix milk and meat, don't eat pork or shellfish. But my kitchen is not kosher and the meat I buy isn't kosher. My parents will tell you this "kosher style" thing doesn't exist. Then again, they don't bother with any dietary restrictions. More to come..

Why do you pray?

Prayer is a form of meditation. It is a dialogue with The Divine.

Does it feel weird to pray in Hebrew, since it's a language you don't know? Do you feel the same way when intoning Sanskrit during a yoga class?

more to come...

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