Why Is Judaism Relevant to You?

Bumped up because it is worth a second look.

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.”

And

“Esther-

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.

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15 Comments

  1. Monica June 18, 2006 at 9:28 pm

    Judaism is important, actually critical, for many reasons. But in the first place, it is, as Maurice Blanchot once said, an essential modality of all that is human. Similarly, Emmanuel Levinas says that we must first experience atheism to truly experience Judaism. Judaism is the foundation of the ethical and the ethical encounter; the ethical encounter (the face-to-face) is what brings us closer to God.

  2. Jack's Shack May 24, 2006 at 6:15 am

    Mirty,

    I wouldn’t suggest writing off interfaith couples either, but I won’t lie and say that I don’t wonder about their children. I really do hope that they raise them to be Jewish and it doesn’t always work out that way.

    Darius,

    Yes, it is a question that can be applied to a lot of groups. Sometimes I think that as people we don’t spend enough time questioning why we believe what we believe.

  3. Darius May 23, 2006 at 6:05 pm

    This is really interesting to me. You’re asking questions with parallels for people who were raised as Christians but don’t believe. I bet there are Muslims with the same issues.

    What is a Jew, or Christian, or Muslim, minus the beliefs that divide us? I would venture that if our focus then turns from theology to finding the wisdom in our traditions, we’ll find ourselves on a common path.

    At the same time, from the outside looking in, my impression is that Judaism may be richer in tradition than Christianity. I mean, what’s a “cultural Christian?” An atheist?

    Sounds like a punch-line…

  4. Stacey May 21, 2006 at 1:21 pm

    Mirty’s answer was spot-on.

    Judaism is relevant to me because it is my heritage. I am less into the spiritual aspect of it, identifying more with its moral conscience and cultural aspects.

  5. Mirty May 21, 2006 at 12:48 pm

    I wouldn’t write off interfaith couples. That’s my 2 cents. I know of many interfaith couples who married as two religions and later the spouse converted to Judaism. I can look in the mirror and see someone who was in an interfaith marriage and later returned to Judaism.

    Don’t have a simple answer to the question. It helps to open the scrapbook my mother made and look at pictures of my great-grandparents. Funny how the big white beards disappeared (in my family) from one generation to another. That happened in the 1920’s in America. Both my grandfathers were clean-shaven. Both their fathers wore long black coats and wild, untrimmed beards.

    Then hats disappeared sometime in the 1950s. My grandfathers wore hats; my father didn’t.

    What do clothes have to do with Judaism? Clothes, food, manners, how we interact with others, honesty (we would hope for), respect (also)…. Judaism is a religion with a very strong “ben adam l’chavero” (person-to-person) leaning. What you feel about God is also important, but how you treat others is more so.

    I’m a very flawed Jew. I suspect many of us are. It’s important now, in 2006, to broaden the circle, not make it smaller. We’re still Jewish.

  6. Jack's Shack May 21, 2006 at 9:16 am

    Some good answers here, but I want to see more. I am going to bump this up again.

  7. Soccer Dad May 19, 2006 at 8:25 pm

    May I recommend this by the late great Dr. Eliot Shimoff. (h/t Elie’s Expositions)

  8. seawitch May 19, 2006 at 12:12 pm

    Judaism is so very relevant! I am returning to the faith of my fathers. Practicing Shabbat and resting from all work is a privilege I look forward to every week. Passover is as relevant today as it was in the time of Moses.

    My father and grandfather both intermarried. Because of that, I have missed out on a lot. There are times when I wonder what my life would have been like if I had grown up in a Jewish household surrounded by my Jewish cousins in Chicago. I feel that I have missed something wonderful in my life.

    The daily prayers and services are filled with richness and beauty.

    The dietary laws make you aware of everything you eat. Behind those laws is the desire to spare the animals as much pain as possible and not denigrate them.

    My only regret is that I did return to Judaism sooner so that I could have raised my son and taught him. I have noticed when I’m at Friday Evening Services, he has been reading the books the rabbi suggested. He also participates in lighting the Shabbat candles and Havdalah.

    I hope no is offended by my next statement. Being Jewish is more than just being born Jewish. You have to practice it. It should premeate every facet of your life, from ethics to justice to singing with joy.

  9. JH May 19, 2006 at 1:20 am

    Many intermarried couples express similar sentiments. An answer that I believe is true but needs to be addressed delicately, is that the deficiency is not inherent in Judaism but in the Jewish spouse’s connection to it.

    Too much emphasis is put on the symbolism with losing sight of the WHY’s. If Judaism is about asking questions then religion must be more than menorahs and latkes, seder plates and dancy mezuzahs. People need to learn WHY these things are done.

    Doing so will bring about a fresh appreciation and a sensitivity that would hone their wish list for a potential spouse.

  10. Jack's Shack May 19, 2006 at 12:04 am

    Irina,

    I like that.

    Miriam,

    I think that it is a question that some people have never asked themselves.

    Kasamba,

    Catch a little shut eye and get back to us. 😉

  11. kasamba May 18, 2006 at 10:18 pm

    Wow- i’d love to answer this if I wasn’t soooo tired.

    Rabbi tatz has some FAB answers for that!!

  12. miriam May 18, 2006 at 9:35 pm

    I meAnt SOME.

  13. miriam May 18, 2006 at 9:34 pm

    I really can’t say–why do you prefer your mother to same strange woman?

  14. Irina Tsukerman May 18, 2006 at 9:10 pm

    Sorry, for some reason, it reposted twice.

  15. Irina Tsukerman May 18, 2006 at 9:09 pm

    Judaism is important to me because despite some anachronistic elements, it provides a very good ethical and intellectual foundation relevant to this day.It is also a unifying element for our nation.
    Judaism is important to me, because it provides a good ethical and intellectual foundation which has survived centuries and has remained relevant to this day. Moreover, it´s a uniting element for the nation.

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