Thursday, May 18, 2006

Why Is Judaism Relevant To You?

The Jewish Atheist has a post that gives good food for thought. It is called:

Intermarriage and Interdating, Part II: or, Jewish Guilt

There were a couple of comments that caught my attention:
"I want to speak to the question of Jewish survival, since this comes up all the time as the key reason not to intermarry. My question is why is Jewish survival so important? I think there's a significant difference that tends to be lost on some between the horribleness of the destruction of the Jewish people through genocide and the gradual waning of a faith because it is no longer as relevant to the lives of some people today as it was to their ancestors."

I think you hit on an important point. That Judaism seems no longer relevant now. That is the failure of our religion, that it hasn't sufficiently adapted to the changing needs of our society."
So here are a few questions to consider. Would you be able to respond to these comments? Can you provide an answer based upon logic and reason? Why is Judaism important to you?

The floor is open. I am interested in hearing what you have to say.

(crossposted here)


Anonymous said...

There is an obligation to make judaism relevant every 50 years or so (witness Steinsaltz English translation of Talmud).

For me, Judaism is an open ended discussion. A mythic structure through which to access the Divine. It is not an answer to ultimate questions but rather a method of dwelling on ultimate questions. All I can say is that if you feel that it is not relevant to you, you need to come at it another way.

Have you studied Torah? Talmud? Have you done so with a rabbi or a study group? Have you committed to bringing awe and wonder into the world?

As for Halacha, I view the commandments like religious speed bumps. They cause us to pause througout the day and remember that this is sacred time. That even while doing the mundand -- driving the kids to school, working, etc., ever moment is, as Heschel describes, a small mosaic of infinity. Each mitzvah is an opportunity to appreciate the fact that you stand for something greater than yourself and to recognize the ineffable mystery of existence.


Anonymous said...

For me, Judaism is tradition and poetry, a "dance" around the synagogue with a lulav and etrog in my hands. For me, Judaism is beauty, a sukkah open to the sky, reminding us to be grateful for what we have. For me, Judaism is a teaching, from which we learn that it is our obligation to invite all those who are hungry to come and eat, even when we have only unleavened bread to share. For me, Judaism is song, an opportunity to raise our voices in joy. For me, Judaism is blessing, putting our hands on the heads of our children, hoping that they will follow in the ways of our ancestors and inherit all that I have just mentioned.

Once upon a time, I had a friend who was single and childless. She gave a gift of Judaism to her next-door neighbors' children by paying their Hebrew School tuition. All Israel is responsible for one another. And we remember the stranger, because we were strangers in the land of Egypt. This is the inheritance and the joy that we owe to all Jewish children, and to ourselves.

Anonymous said...

"why is Jewish survival so important?"

It's important because we learn in Pirkei Avos that the world was created so we would learn Torah, follow the mitzvos, and do kindness. If the Jews didn't survive, there would be no Torah learning and that would be catastrafic because it is what makes the world keep existing. Plus, the Torah teaches us morality and lessons on how to be good people. Obviously we don't always act this way but if we stick to the lessons, then it works. Some may think that morality and good values are just commen sense, but it's not. Every society has it's own morals and values. Some are good like respecting people, and some are bad like hurting people for some reason. Who's to say to what's right and what's wrong. You might say 'Obviously it's wrong to hurt people.' But that specific society doesn't see that. In order for the world to truely know what to do and how to behave well, we need to learn it from G-d because since He is the only one that sees the whole picture and is totally objective, only He is able to say. And He has in the Torah He gave to us.

Also we have to think about the oath that we made at Har Sinai. We Jews took an oath while at Har Sinai, to keep the Torah and mitzvos that Hashem gave to us. And so it's not something that's optional. It's our obligation. But it's benificial for us because it connects us to Him and that's what our soul wants and needs.

As for the other nations, they can connect to Him too by following the seven laws of Noah and being good people.

Anonymous said...

In regards to being relevant today, Hashem's Torah is eternal. Eventhough it may appear not adapted for today, it really is. We just sometimes don't understand how it fits with our needs today because we think we know what's best for us when really it's Hashem who knows what's best. And so we should trust Him(like a knowledgable parent) and look deeper into the Torah. You'd be surprized how many things it helps us with and is really needed. For example, interpersonal relationships, business ethics, peace in the home, how to improve our character traits, peace of mind, and other things.

Anonymous said...

In regards to it being relevant to today, Hashem's Torah is eternal. Eventhough it may appear like it's not adapted for today, it really is. We just sometimes don't understand how it fits with our needs because we think we know best when really it's Hashem who know's best. And so we should trust Him as a knowledgable parent and look deeper into the Torah. You'd be surprized how it helps with all kinds of things. For example, interpersonal relationships, business ethics, peace in the home, how to improve our character traits, peace of mind and other things.

Anonymous said...

I have been wrestling with this issue. When my children will come to me and say -- "why should I marry a Jewish person? What does it matter if there are Jews in the world or not?" I want to be able to answer the question.

In the process of answering the question, you come to the definition of Judaism. Would it matter to the world if no one observed Shabbat? Would it matter if there was no Chanukah? Would it matter if there were no Passover seders?

Rituals and holidays are the glue that keeps our people together. But what about the substance of what is being glued?

Looking beyond our culture and rituals -- what importance does Judaism offer the world today? Ethics -- morality -- how to live your life -- tzedakah -- caring for the widows and orphans - justice? And if we do indeed offer this to the world in an important way -- is this a priority for most of the Jews you know?

Are we even asking the right questions as we educate our young people? It seems like we spend more time teaching about history and culture than about the mitzvot, or about our value system as defined by the Torah and Talmud.

Wrestling with angels.....

Melinda said...

So, I do not really consider it may have effect.