This post first arrived here and was crossposted here. I thought that it might be interesting to combine all of the comments, or at least list them in one central place so that is the purpose of this post.
From my blog:
At 5/18/2006 2:09 PM, Irina Tsukerman said…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, itÂ´s a uniting element for the nation.
Rabbi tatz has some FAB answers for that!!
I like that.
I think that it is a question that some people have never asked themselves.
Catch a little shut eye and get back to us. 😉
At 5/18/2006 6:20 PM, JH said…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.
Let me preface by saying that I am not politically correct and I couldn’t give two shits about the sensitivity of this topic to whomever, and there are converts in my extended family..
I’m about to double barrel.
If you are easily offended you best skip to the next comment.
This to me is ultimate worship of self! My soul would not stand for it. I’m not crazy religious but I feel a weight of responsibility regardless.
The analogy I would give is someone who walks into a wonderfully decorated dining room, with an immaculately set table with all manner of delicious and scrumptious foods and simply sits down and begins gorging himself, nary giving even a thought as to how, who or why all this was provided, let alone thanking anyone.
People who feel that way have a profound inability to see beyond themselves, I imagine them as selfish brutes with no concept of history.
Judaism no longer seems relevant!?
I can’t even absorb the egotistical pig headedness of that statement. An individual will come and go in 80 years, compared to Judaism we are all insignificant gnats.
Empires have come and gone, blown to dust, yet Judaism remains. it takes a real donkey to elevate himself above all that and pass such judgements. I’m not talking about my parents, I’m talking about every parent that has come before for over 5000 years.
If it were to end because of a generation or two of selfish me me pigs, what does that say about me, what does that say about you?
Not very much to be proud of I can tell you that, and I don’t need to consult a Rabbi either. You either use it or lose it, but I am sure of this, when you lose it, you are NON the richer.
I would advise such a person to pick up a history book and see exactly what price has been paid on their behalf for this irrelevant thing called Judaism, and I’m not even talking about this past century, geez.
Jack.. I’m sorry if this is offensive to you, if it is delete it!
At 5/19/2006 5:12 AM, seawitch said…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.
At 5/21/2006 5:48 AM, Mirty said…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.
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.
At 5/23/2006 11:05 AM, Darius said…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…
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.
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.
- 8:05 AMon
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.
- on 6:05 AM
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.
- on 2:03 AM
“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.
- on 2:53 PM
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.
- on 3:04 PM
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.