I Am Jewish, But I Am Not Sure What Judaism Is

Despite the fact that Judaism is the oldest living faith in the western world, there is no universally accepted definition of Judaism.  Consequently, Jews often have difficulty explaining what Judaism is and what Judaism is not.

If Judaism is to survive in a meaningful way in America, Jews must have a fuller understanding of Judaism.

Mobilerabbi was not raised Jewish.  He embraced Judaism for the following reasons:

Judaism is not a religion of simple answers.  The focus is on asking cogent questions.

There is no dogma or catechism in Judaism.  There are no set of beliefs one must accept to be Jewish. Being Jewish does not require a declaration of belief in God.   Judaism encourages free inquiry.

Judaism does not deify people.  Jewish heroes are honored, but not worshipped.  The flaws of Jewish heroes are openly revealed.  Jewish holidays celebrate the events of the Jewish people.  Judaism is not the product of one person, but the product of teachings of many people living in many countries.  Judaism is the product of the Jewish people.

The home is the center of religious life.  Jewish holidays and Shabbat are family-oriented.  A human’s life is not considered complete unless one has a family.

Judaism does not strive to be a universal religion. One does not have to be Jewish to serve God or to be a good person.  Instead, Judaism teaches that the righteous of all nations will be saved.

Arguing with God for the sake of the righteous is encouraged.  The word “Israel” means one who has wrestled with God.

Judaism focuses on achieving human salvation now, not later.  Judaism is primarily concerned with the living and not the dead. The stress is making this world better.

Judaism teaches the importance of memory. If we forget our Jewish history, if we forget that Jews were once slaves, Jews may become oppressors.  Our ancestors were freed for a moral purpose: to be witnesses against evil and advocates for just causes. Remembering our past events should affect our current behavior.  Jews must act ethically became we know what it is like to be victims of immoral acts.

Humans are responsible for our own actions, including one’s sins.  There is no notion of original sin. Judaism is opposed to the notion that someone can die for our sins.

Jews have a contract with God to take care of this world, to complete God’s work (tikun olam), to try to fix God’s world.

Judaism teaches us to love life.  Jews tend to be over-achievers because we want to make the most of our lives.

Mobilerabbi is interested in why others are Jewish.


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