Windows and Doors

Windows and Doors

12 Things You Didn’t Know About Judaism

Now that Rosh Hashanah, one of the best known Jewish holidays, has arrived we have a chance to start again, to discover new things about ourselves, each other and even about ancient traditions like Judaism. While there’s a lot to learn (just think of Jews who’ve studied the Torah over the centuries), every journey starts somewhere. With that in mind, here are 12 things most people don’t know about Judaism. From sacred time to sacred sex, you may be surprised by what you learn.

Adam, Eve, and the Snake

1. Judaism isn’t about being Jewish; it’s a spiritual-ethical technology for being a good person. From the very beginning, the Bible tells the story of the first humans, Adam and Eve, who were not Jewish – they were simply two people trying to make a good life in the world as they found it. That’s what Judaism is all about.


Cloud Stairway to Heaven

2. You don’t need to be Jewish to get into Heaven. For those people concerned about the after-life, even the most ancient and traditional understandings of Judaism embrace the notion that all those who live ethical lives, no matter what tradition they follow, will be “close to God” in the world to come.

Jewish woman holding Kiddush candles


3. Being part of the Chosen People is not about being better than anyone else. While the Bible and most of subsequent Jewish tradition view the Jews as chosen, they make no claims about Jews being inherently better than other people. Judaism teaches that Jews have a mission, which is to draw close to God and be a blessing to the entire human race – to be a light to the nations.

A family celebrating shabbat

4. Once a Jew, always a Jew. Who’s a Jew? Well, if you have a Jewish parent, that may be your answer. From the time of Abraham until the time of Jesus (about 1,500 years), having a Jewish father made someone a Jew. For the next 1,900 years after that, having a Jewish mother made someone Jewish. That rule changed, for many Jews, about 20 years ago. Now depending on denomination, it’s the mother if one is Orthodox or Conservative, or either parent if one is Reform or Reconstructionist. The other way to become a Jew is through conversion. Either way, once a Jew, always a Jew. You never stop being Jewish and nobody can take your Jewishness from you, no matter how you do Jewish.


Star of David

5. Conversion to Judaism is more a leap of belonging than a leap of faith. Joining the Jewish people is just that, committing one’s self to sharing the destiny of a community. Not all converts, let alone all born-Jews, agree about they believe or how they should practice, but they all share that feeling of connection to a shared destiny as Jews.

A crowd of orthodox jewish men


6. There is no “Jewish Pope”, no single spiritual authority for Jews. All Jews are spiritually equal. While communities may elect chief rabbis, that is what they are — the elected officials over the community which empowers them. Judaism has accepted and even celebrated degrees of diversity unknown in other monotheistic traditions, and still does.

A hamsa symbol

7. Kabala is not a different religion. Kabala, Hebrew for that which is received, is the mystical thread of Judaism, dating back thousands of years. Like all mystical traditions, it privileges personal experience and is therefore attractive to a wide range of people. While far more complex than special water, or red thread bracelets, it does embrace the power of ritual to directly transform one’s life.


Kosher Matzah ball soup

8. Kosher does not mean “blessed by a rabbi”. Like people of many faiths, Jews traditionally recite a blessing before eating, acknowledging the sacred source of all things, and the sacredness of acts such as eating. But that’s not what makes food kosher. Kosher means fit for use, according to Jewish tradition. In the case of food, it means eating according to a biblically-rooted code which asks that people eat with reverence for all life, and nurture the awareness that there is a connection between what we put in our mouths and how we act in the world.


Handle of a closed wood door

9. The hole in the sheet for sex is a myth. While there is a range of attitudes towards human sexuality in Judaism, no community advocates that people make love through a hole in a bed sheet. In fact, Judaism overwhelmingly embraces sex not only for procreation, but for pleasure. It even teaches that the optimum time for making love is on the Sabbath, and imagines that the holiness of the day and of great sex are a good match for each other.

Moses on stained glass


10. The idea that Jews have horns is based on a simple misreading of a Biblical verse. While this misconception has often been used by anti-Semites to link Jews to devils, its origins and use by artists like Michelangelo in his famous sculpture of Moses are far less hostile. It grows out of a poor translation of Exodus 34:30, which describes Moses as having an aura of light. The Hebrew word for the aura can be misunderstood as having horns.

Kippa, torah chumash books, tallis, and Hannukia menorah11. Chanukah both is, and is not, the Jewish Christmas. Chanukah is far more than a holiday seeking gift-giving parity with the day celebrating Jesus’ birth. It recalls an ancient fight for religious freedom and celebrates the deep spiritual light that can be found even when we least expect it. Like Christmas, Chanukah comes at the coldest and darkest time of the year, seeking to remind us that the light can be found in the most unexpected places – for Jews, in a small flask of oil which burned longer than anyone expected and for Christians, in the form of a little baby in a Bethlehem manger.


Genesis, earth and the sun

12. Rosh Hashanah is not the beginning of the Jewish year, not exactly anyway. While the Jewish ritual calendar does begin anew on Rosh Hashanah, what the day really celebrates is the birthday of the world. It’s not about things starting again for the Jews, but about the fact that we all get to start again, be Adam and Eve again. Rosh Hashanah celebrates that renewal is possible and that second chances are real.

Judaism is a living tradition. It began more than 3,000 years ago and remains a work in progress. What one fact about Judaism, or whatever faith interests you, would you share with others? That sharing helps keeps a tradition alive. Give it a shot!

  • irene diamond

    what are your sources for the statement that until the time of Jesus having a Jewish father made one Jewish?

  • Scott R.

    That’s pretty much understood by most Jews – even Orthodox.

  • Anti-Idol

    Re: Number 3 –
    The unfortunate thing that happens, generally speaking, is people who hold and practice religious views have a tendency to cast judgments putting themselves in a self-perceived higher perspective much more so than those are not religious. Sadly, this becomes so much a part of who they(the ones that do this) are that they become blind and unaware of how hurtful they and their choices are towards others.
    This is from personal experience and observations having been raised religious. Since I left religion behind I have never been happier or more at peace with myself and the people I know and meet.
    Love yourself and it is easy to love others, no god or gods, can do that for anyone. Love comes from within.

  • ahh

    i dont kno why i stumbled 2 this

  • Susabelle

    Thank you for an easy-to-understand, very insightful post. I strongly believe tolerance is borne of understanding and education, and every effort to educate others about our belief systems can only help us all towards tolerance.

  • Amador

    I’m 100% with you, anti-idol

  • gerrie

    I happend upon attending jewish services a few years back while
    taking week end care of an elderly jewish lady. she wanted to
    attend and so did I. I was curious. I am a catholic. I was so
    impressed with the jewish service and so moved by it i tried to
    obtain their “book” that i used during service. Could not get
    one so I joined this site and it truly a God loving and inspiring
    site. It keeps me in tune with jewish religion. Thank you for
    your 12 things I discovered. Blessings!

  • David Simms

    So, why do Jews spit on Christians?

  • Newton

    Any religion that has a drawing of scantily clad men and women immediately captures my imagination and attention.

  • passer by

    In order to be considered one of God’s Chosen People, your mother has to be Jewish.

  • Rob

    A couple of these are misleading.
    For instance: The description of Chanukah implies a level of religious significance that, really, just ain’t there. If it wasn’t for the lineup with Christmas, Chanukah would be just another one of the several holidays which revolve around the idea of “They tried to kill us! They didn’t manage it!”, like Purim. In some traditions, Chanukah didn’t even involve presents to family members – it was used more like Halloween for the guys studying Torah, who would go around and get small presents of money from the community, so as to support them in their studies. The Chanukah/Christmas equivalency is really a product of Jewish integration into the larger culture (“All the other kids get presents in December!”), not a religious factor. Christmas is, on the other hand, the biggest of the Christian holidays (although Easter used to be bigger, if memory serves) … so this is kind of like comparing Wade Boggs to some guy on a single A team. Sure, they both play baseball, but one’s a much bigger deal than the other. The High Holy Days are a *much* bigger deal.
    Kosher (or kashrut) is also not described all that well: sure, there’s an element of respect for life in there, but the majority of the kosher laws at this point have more to do with the weird-to-people-who-aren’t-used-to-it attitude of the Torah commentary in the Talmud than anything else. For instance, there’s an explicit instruction in Torah as to how you’re not supposed to boil the kid in the mother’s milk. You’d think that’s straightforward, right? But over the years, Talmudic scholars have gone and thought through every possible situation, to the point that, just to make sure that God can’t catch them out on any imaginable technicality, you wind up with two dishwashers, two sets of dishes, two sets of pots, and you wait a while after having any milk products before you eat ANY meat, just to make sure you don’t mix milk and meat in your *gut*. Yeah, there are aspects of kashrut that involve being nice to the animals, and no, it doesn’t involve being “blessed” by a rabbi – but it DOES involve being *monitored* by a rabbi to make absolutely sure that, when push comes to shove, God’s not going to lean down and say “Whoops, you had point ought two micrograms of cheese sauce still stuck to that plate when you had that steak. Welp, I guess you boiled the kid in its mother’s milk. I’m so *disappointed*…”
    Any time anybody starts describing Judaism as a big bundle of love and unconditional respect for all mankind, those people need to look past key selections of Torah and see what the Jewish community actually *does*. Being Jewish is, in many cases, kind of like being audited every day for your entire life. There’s 618 things you’re supposed to do, and every single one of them has had clauses and addendums and refinements added, to the point where it can feel like you’re living in the middle of the U.S. tax code.

  • Jon

    Once a jew never a jew.
    e cigarette

  • Adrian

    I am proud to be a Jew. I am grateful that my parents had the foresight to send me, a girl, to Hebrew School, so that I could learn about my religion, my history and most important the traditions that our families can carry on today, with the freedom to do so.

  • SpiritDove

    First, may I make a small correction, it is 613 commandments, not 618, and you are referring to “rabbinical Judaism” which was non-existent when the Torah was given, and the “thou shalt not boil a kid in its mother’s milk” referred to a sacrificial custom of a heathen nation. The Karaite [“scripturalist”] Jews only ascribe to the Tenakh. Blessings of all that aspire to inspire Love, SpiritDove

  • yepers

    Just curious, a good life according to who? What is your reference point for good?

  • Bonnie

    How perfectly Jewish that we still argue even in the ‘comments’ section! Great article, and I look forward to more commentaries it stimulates.

  • Paul

    As a Catholic-raised person interested in Judaism, I felt this was a great article.

  • Your Name

    Can one be both Jewish and Christian? I know that if you are born Jewish and accept Christianity you are a Messianic Jew but what about those like myself who is Christian but also wants to accept the Jewish faith.

  • defrockedrabbi

    No, you cannot be both Jewish and Christian. If you are born Jewish and accept Christianity, you are an apostate. If you are a Christian but want to accept the Jewish faith, you’ll have to give up Christmas trees and Easter eggs. Talk to your local rabbi.

  • A Fellow Jew

    With all due respect, you need to get your facts straight before you write an article like this. Some of the stuff you said is correct, but most is sadly not. Misinforming people by using fluffy ideas is not the way to portray the essence of who we are.
    I will try and cover as much as a I can. I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but I feel it important to set the record straight. Feel free to comment on what I say below. I do not mean to offend anyone and am sorry if anyone feels hurt by anything I write. I hope everyone is well and that everyone has a happy and healthy year full of blessing.
    1. Judaism isn’t about being Jewish – Your idea is nice and stuff, but it’s not so true. Judaism is not about making “a good life” in the world as we find it. There are 613 laws/rules/whatever you want to call them that are there to govern us and teach us how to act properly. True, being a good person is a result of this, but it’s not the endgame. It’s all about using this world to elevate yourself spiritually in the quest to become closer to the almighty.
    2. You don’t need to be Jewish to get into Heaven – This IS true. You left out some stuff, but it’s probably better that way :)
    3. Being part of the Chosen People is not about being better than anyone else – True. I can’t argue with you here. We’re not better people, we just have a different purpose in this world. We also have more responsibilities because of it.
    4. Once a Jew, always a Jew – This isn’t a rule thing my friend. It’s something called halacha (Jewish law). Your mother being Jewish makes you a Jew, that’s how it works. End of story. You can’t change the rules all of the sudden because you think they’re unfair. The Reform and Reconstructionist movements don’t decide Jewish law. They do whatever makes Judaism suit their needs. They “reform” Judaism, as their name would imply, by doing away will the laws that they don’t feel like doing (sorry to offend anyone that’s Reform, but it’s true). Judaism isn’t something to reform. We have laws and guidelines. A Jew must have a Jewish mother. If not, he or she is simply not Jewish. If your dad is Jewish and your mom isn’t, I’m sorry, but you missed the boat.
    5. Conversion to Judaism is more a leap of belonging than a leap of faith – No comment. Side note – Jews don’t encourage conversion. We actually try to dissuade people from doing it. If you don’t convert properly and for the right reasons (accepting all 613 commandments because you truly want to be a part of them), you’re still not Jewish, by the way.
    6. There is no “Jewish Pope” – All Jews are not spiritually equal. I have no idea where you get that idea from. There are great scholars and the likes of you and me will never be on par with them. Rabbis are not elected officials. That’s may be how the non-Orthodox sects may do it, but that’s cuz it’s a job to them. There’s no substance to it.
    7. Kabala is not a different religion – Yes and no. It’s attractive to a wide range of people because to them it’s a fad. One cannot learn real “kabala” unless they are on an extremely high spiritual level. Madonna doesn’t really qualify. Kabala is way out of a normal person’s reach.
    8. Kosher does not mean “blessed by a rabbi” – True, it doesn’t mean blessed by a Rabbi, but I have no idea where you came up with the rest of the fluff you wrote. Kosher means food that follows certain dietary and procedural guidelines. This includes slaughtering animals in very specific ways, as well only eating certain animals, and certain parts of animals. It also includes laws regarding who prepares the food and the utensils it’s served on. It’s a very complex set of rules that are hard to grasp if you didn’t grow up doing it everyday. It’s not at all how you describe it. Sorry. Maybe that’s how the non-orthodox community has re-defined it, just so they don’t have to really do it.
    9. The hole in the sheet for sex is a myth – Well put. Pleasing your wife, sexually, is actually an obligation that every husband has.
    10. The idea that Jews have horns is based on a simple misreading of a Biblical verse – I actually have no idea where this comes from, but your source makes sense. Very interesting. Thanks. You learn something new every day.
    11. Chanukah both is, and is not, the Jewish Christmas – Chanuka is about much more than that, but okay. Your idea is nice and doesn’t contradict anything (at least not fully).
    12. Rosh Hashanah is not the beginning of the Jewish year, not exactly anyway – Umm… not exactly. Rosh Hashana is about re-declaring G-d as the one and only king and master over everything. “Second chances are real” is a concept that Judaism has everyday. It’s called teshuva (or repentance). In Judaism, you can repent for your sins at any time. When praying 3 times each day, we ask forgiveness for our sins. Rosh Hashana is more of a last chance wake-up call in case you’ve been sleeping all year.

  • Asd

    “2….You left out some stuff, but it’s probably better that way :)”
    And that is?

  • doa766

    on the southern hemisphere (where the jewish tradition was created) Chanukah takes place during the hottest and clearest part of the year
    you have to see issues beyond you’re point of view to understand them and write an article about them

  • A Fellow Jew

    @Asd LoL. Sorry. The point of this is not to start a religious debate. It’s simply to set the facts straight. The “left out” stuff isn’t something that should be mentioned. It’s not really relevant for the topic at hand. I’m sorry I mentioned anything.

  • Stewart

    You mention in your heading “…3000 years of Jewish wisdom”. We are just entering the Jewish Year 5770. What is the explanation? 2,700 years of no wisdom? I doubt that. Can you explain, please?
    Thank you Rabbi.

  • A Fellow Jew

    @doa766 I could not agree more. The winter thing is part of the “fluff.” Hence, I said “Your idea is nice and doesn’t contradict anything (at least not fully).” Chanuka, I don’t believe, has nothing to do with the winter being dark and cold.

  • Asd

    No need to apologize, just got curious.
    and why would this start a debate, these are info stuff right?
    Ill open the dumb box to watch debates( no thanx):P.

  • A Fellow Jew

    LoL, nice try :)
    You think the author of the article will respond to me?

  • Rabbi Brad

    Of course I will respond to you “A Fellow Jew”, but not to debate with you, simply to encourage more people to follow your lead and make a claim about that which they believe. Though I would also caution them against labeling that with which they don’t agree as “fluff” or in any other way attacking those with whom they disagree.
    It’s sweet of you to praise me when we happen to agree, but the real issue would be to consider what you might learn from the places where we don’t. Unless of course you think that yours is the only appropriate read of the tradition, in which case we will simply have to agree to disagree.
    Either way, I can assure both you and “doa766″, who raised the issue, that Chanukah time is indeed quite dark and cold in the Land of Israel, where the story unfolded. Having lived through many Jerusalem winters in unheated yeshiva dorm rooms, to that I can personally attest!
    And to “Stewart” who asked about the “3,000 years of Jewish wisdom”, I use that figure because, according to tradtion, there was no Torah until about then. There was human wisdom from the time there have been human beings, but the Jewish contribution begins with Torah, or perhaps with Abraham, the first Jew, who lived about 200 years, before, again according to tradition.

  • A Fellow Jew

    Thank you for your response.
    I didn’t say that it’s fluff because I don’t believe it. I say it’s fluff because it’s simply untrue. Do you honestly agree with your definitions of what makes someone a Jew and what Kosher is? Both are not factual have have no basis in Torah, Neviyim, Kzuvim, Mishna, Gemara, Shulchan Aruch, Mishna Brurah, etc. Need I go on?
    Regarding Chanuka… It makes no difference if it was cold when you were there, or even if it was cold when the miracles actually took place. Chanuka has zero connection to X-mas, so to even say that it does is ridiculous. Why do we have to compare our holidays to theirs? There’s no connection and there doesn’t have to be. I’m not going to get into Christian holidays because it makes no difference to me, or to the conversation. We have Chanuka, they have X-mas, they happen to fall around the same time. That doesn’t mean there’s a connection.
    I don’t believe there’s only my approach to tradition. Who am I? I’m a simple Jew. I have my Rav who I follow. The Torah says “Aseh Lecha Rav” (make for yorself a Rabbi), so that’s how I assure myself that I’m following tradition properly. The commandment is to find a Rav, not that will tell you what you want to hear, but rather one that’s a trustworthy source who sees the world through the glasses of Torah. Yes, there are many views within our tradition. Shivim Panim L’Torah (there are 70 faces to Torah). But that doesn’t mean that one of them is based on personal beliefs of men who live in the 21st century that have very little Torah knowledge to back up “their beliefs” with (which is how the conservative and reform movements began).
    I just don’t see any basis in Torah for the post you made today. Most of the stuff has no sources to support it. The ideas are nice and friendly but they simply aren’t based on Torah. That’s all I’m saying. Correct me if wrong… Please.
    Oh, and Judaism isn’t “a work in progress.” It was set in stone a long time ago (some things must be interpreted by the great Rabbaim of our time in order to apply them to modern day situations, but the underlying laws don’t change, and never will). The only work in progress is the individual bringing him/herself to follow it properly, as intended, to the best of his/her ability, and to become as close to G-d as possible.

  • Fireled

    As a Christian, it seems to me that Christians (on the whole) doctrinally view Judaism as an older and still “correct” religion, because Jesus never repudiated his Jewish faith. On the contrary, he held himself as the fulfillment of Jewish prophecy. In essence, Christianity might liken itself to an “express lane”, which does not require observance of umpteen hundred commandments — but neither does it invalidate the Jewish faith. For Islam, however, it seems that there is a much greater disconnect from Judaism and Christianity. But what is the Jewish view? Are Christians doctrinally as “other” as Muslims?

  • Joe Costello

    La Illaha Ilallah Muhammadar RasoolAllah

  • Mika

    Dear “A Fellow Jew,”
    As another fellow Jew… I couldn’t disagree more with much of what you are saying. Judaism is more than a religion; it is also an ethnicity, a nationality, a culture, and a historical people. Your definition of Judaism which only takes into account evidence from Torah and other Jewish texts is a valid definition of Judaism… for you. But it is NOT the only valid way of reading Judaism.
    The phrases you use such as “following tradition properly,” and “set in stone a long time ago” are extremely disturbing to me. What was the Talmud itself if not an attempt to make Jewish tradition and halachah relevant to the upheavals of a radically different time period? Why should we, today, in the 21st century, abandon that Talmudic approach of seeking to make Judaism a living and ever-relevant phenomenon? I do not see Judaism as “set in stone” in any way.
    Finally, why the unnecessary dig at Conservatism and Reform movements? “based on personal beliefs of men who live in the 21st century that have very little Torah knowledge…” Are you saying that you are more Jewish, or somehow a better Jew, than those who follow a different denomination? Two of the most incredibly knowledgeable Jews I have known, Jews who could recite Torah and Talmud inside and out, identified as Conservative Jews. I studied Talmud and Midrash with one of them – a great scholar. Guess what? They were also both women. Since you define liberal denominations of Judaism as “the personal beliefs of MEN,” I’m not sure that Jewish women are even on your radar?… (Correct me if I’m wrong). But you may want to consider the situation of modern Jewish women, women who want to learn and teach, women who want to read Torah, women who want to be considered equals in an egalitarian Jewish community… before you dismiss Conservative and Reform Judaism (not to mention Reconstructionist and Renewal Judaism) out of hand.

  • Lord EOD

    As an “atheist” myself (yes, meaning I am evil, damned, has no morals, blah, blah, lol…).. I was shocked back to reality by the varied comments, some supporting the article and others debating its true basis in the Torah.
    Certain traditions, in my humble opinion (especially through the teachings of most religions) is, at best a double-edged sword.
    On the one hand, there is an importance I recognize in keeping a culture and ways of life intact and true to their forms, and certainly what works, should stay… on the other hand you have a stagnation and slow death that comes from an inability to change or grow.
    I grew up in a very religious home, but was turned away from religion once I read about (on my own, since its almost never taught in schools and certain not in churches) of all the atrocities committed in one gods name or another – about the imprisoning and killing of people because their views differed from the church.
    Even now, here in the US, I watch as extremists from both sides argue evolution and homosexual marriage.
    This article was, initially, refreshing in that it presented some ways for others to look into the world of Judaism and cast aside some of the myth and ignorance about it… however, after reading the very good comments posted later, I was shocked back into the reality that no matter how nice it was dressed up by the author, the fact remains that it is still religion.
    And as some of you have proven, via your comments, any religion is open to as many interpretations as its followers deem fit… one day to save the world, perhaps the next to kill many in it.
    To be a decent human being does not require so much as to have to worship, or follow a deity.. morals do not depend the fear of wrath from a god, but the willingness to help out a fellow human, regardless or religion, color, or lifestyle.
    The aspects of Judaism outlined in this article sound pleasant and can be attributed to anyone living a sane and peaceful lifestyle, Jew or not… too bad it really doesn’t pertain to the reality of our world and to each individual, otherwise this many have truly been a wonderful world to live in – free of violence, prejudice, hunger and greed.

  • boyhowdy

    Lord EOD: I, too, am shocked. You were turned off “religion” because so many atrocities were done “in the name of religion”? I’m sorry, but that has never made sense to me. Are you equally turned off being white [if you are] because so many atrocities were done in the name of race? Are you turned off ideology at all because so many atrocities were done in the name of an ideology? Are you turned off nations because so many atrocities were done in the name of nations? Are you turned off humanity because so many atrocities were done in the name of humanity? And when will you finally be turned off atheism because atrocities have been done in the conviction of doubt and the belief that others with other beliefs are evil?
    In the case of Judaism, of course, there ARE no leaders, so there is no one to say “come on, Jews, we’re all going to kill in the name of X”. So I am especially startled to find your conviction here.
    If sinister people do something in the name of some belief system, that shouldn’t taint the belief system. Instead, it suggests how mutable belief IS, and how far some people — not beliefs — are willing to go to claim justification for their actions. Atrocities have been done in every name, since the beginning of time. Rather than cursing names, act to curse those who would adopt belief as justification for evil action. For it is, after all, the decision to act, and to CLAIM justification, which is the true culprit here.

  • Jessika Light

    No matter the religion, there is always debate, isn’t there? I’m a practising Christian myself, but I’ve had a Messianic Jew for a teacher in middle school, and my mother used to nanny for a few families of Orthodox Jews, so I personally find it fascinating to see how so many things are different, and yet the same. Even in Christianity, things are different between denominations — there are people far more liberal with the word, while some are very conservative, doing only things mentioned in the Bible, and some disavow the Old Testament altogether, which I find shameful.
    Personally, I’d always been a great fan of King David, and learning about the Jewish culture is always interesting to me, because that’s where our roots come from.
    Although the sex thing was something I noticed. My mother would comment on how amusing it was that the Jews would break their toilet paper into squares so they wouldn’t have to “work” when they went to the bathroom, but they would make love like bunnies all day, which she considered deserved far more exertion. But, that is tradition, I suppose. I daresay a lot of the little rules here and there can be rather annoying, if not getting in the way, but you guys dedicate yourselves to them anyway, in the spirit of obedience, and for it, you shall definitely be blessed.
    I consider you brothers in religion, if a bit older and different in your ways. Shalom!

  • Your Name

    Interesting, Jessika. I would never have imagined that an Orthodox family would have a Christian nanny. Not because she was Christian, but because she was not Jewish, and would not have the full knowledge of what was permitted.

  • A Fellow Jew

    Work doesn’t mean work that’s hard to do or that requires effort. Work is a loose translation of the word “melacha.” The work that is forbidden for Jews to do on their sabbath are the 39 actions that were done while creating the tabernacle in the desert (and the actions derived from them). Since G-d told us to stop doing those 39 actions when the sabbath day came, and to cease “working” on the building, we no longer do those actions on the sabbath day. I hope that clarifies the working on the sabbath thing.
    I appreciate your response and I have a lot to say regarding your points. As soon as I have some free time at work, I will address everything to the best of my ability. Sorry for the wait.

  • A Fellow Jew

    I never said that Judaism was just a religion, because that’s simply not true. You are right. Judaism is a race. It’s a state of being. It’s not something that’s governed by choice (unless you convert, of course, but then you no longer have a choice of un-converting). Judaism is in your blood. This is not the case by other religions.
    You said that defining Judaism through the Torah (I use that to mean all forms of Jewish scripture) is not valid because that’s only my way of defining it and not all people would agree with that. What confuses me is that you are using the Talmud as proof that things change with time. First of all, the Talmud is the written down version of the Oral Law, which, without, we cannot fully understand what the Written Law (the 5 books of Moses) is talking about. Talmud is part of the “set in stone” aspect and was passed down through our ancestors since the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai. Due to the risk of forgetting it, it was written down in what we call the Talmud. Talmud is set in stone. All books of Torah are set in stone. The Torah even says in it that nothing may be added or removed from it, not even a single letter.
    What makes you think that the Talmud is Rabbis adjusting the Torah to conform to a different time period? That’s simply not true. The last time something like that was done was probably with the Mishna Brurah, which takes all the laws from the Talmud and explains them in a way that we can easily understand. But don’t think that they “changed” Torah. Not at all, they just explained it in a more relevant way. Not a single law was changed or revoked. We have many books today that take all of these halachos in the Mishna Brurah (and Shulchan Aruch) and apply them to today’s situations, but we don’t have any new authoritative sources that are straight from G-d that say, “hey, turning on a lightbulb is the same as lighting a fire” because those things didn’t exist when the Torah was given. We have competent Rabbis in today’s world who explain to us how these laws apply today (not tell us why they don’t apply at all). The Mishna Brurah did this for its time period, and today, we take that and use it to figure out any issues we have with modern technology and situations that arise because of it.
    Which leads me to your next question regarding Conservative and Reform… I am not saying that anyone is better or worse. We are are all Jews and all come from different places in life. I am no-one to judge another person. G-d knows what each person has been through and why they are who they are. I don’t get involved with all that. Unfortunately though, over time, many Jews have veered farther and farther away from tradition. The movements aren’t just coincidentally called Conservative and Reform for no reason. They are, in essence, watered down versions of tradition that either partially or completely disregards the need to follow the Torah, Talmud, Mishnah Brurah, and laws that are written in them. Maybe I used the wrong term when I said “men who live in the 21st century that have very little Torah knowledge.” Some Conservative and Reform do know a lot, yet, strangely, they still ignore what they “learn” and try to rationalize why it no longer applies today and why they don’t keep it. I rephrase my comment to say “men who pick and choose what they consider to be relevant in Torah.”
    Can I ask you a serious question? Do these Conservative Rabbis you speak of keep kosher? Do they keep Shabbos? How about Taharas Mishpacha? And please don’t tell me “yes, but in their own way,” because that completely defeats the purpose of having laws to begin with. If I could just say, “well, this burger comes from a cow, and cows are kosher animals, so it’s ok to eat it” then why should there be laws to begin with that tell me how the animal has to be slaughtered? If it doesn’t matter, why does the Torah discuss it? If all Judaism is is a race, then why do we have the Torah to begin with? There are no Rabbis today with any understanding even close to the ones from the time of the Talmud. If you disagree, then you are simply stubborn and refuse to look at facts. How can one of today’s Rabbis, Reform or not, tell the world what G-d meant some 3,000 years ago? It’s absurd! Why is it that members of Conservative and Reform temples are most likely to completely renounce Judaism altogether and intermarry, never to be heard from again? Maybe because they have lost sense of what being Jewish is. Maybe because they feel that they know better than the Rabbis of generations before them. Who are you and I to say that we don’t have to do everything the Torah says because that’s not what it meant? Is that what you mean when you say there are other valid ways of reading Judaism? I’m sorry. I don’t consider those readings to be very valid. They’re destructive to Judaism and have resulted in losing a large number of Jews. Do you know how many Jews there are out there that no longer know that they’re Jewish? It’s sad, sickening, and disturbing.
    Lastly… Women. Women are to be looked up to and respected. They are much holier than men are and naturally have a more spiritual connection to G-d. There have been great women throughout Jewish history. Even today, there are many women who help shape the world, guiding people in matters of spirituality. Women being Rabbis is another topic that I do not want to get into. It’s a Conservative and Reform concept that’s not relevant to what we’re discussing. Women that want to learn are more than welcome to do so, and should. Women being EQUAL is a whole nother story. The whole equal women’s right business is a ridiculous concept. In the eyes of Torah, men and women are both equal, but just have different purposes in this world. Men and women have commandments that only either men or women can do. That’s the way life is. The women’s rights movement is confusing and misled. These women aren’t asking to be equal, they’re asking to be the same. They don’t understand the difference. Men and women look different. They are different. G-d intended it that way. We can’t be the same and aren’t supposed to be. Men and women are equal, but we’re not the same, and never will be. Forget equal. Women are looked at as greater than men in the eyes of the Torah and must be respected in that manner. I don’t know why women have to be “the same.” It’s a topic that baffles me. Women are great. They don’t need to put on tallis and tefillin. They don’t need certain spiritual reminders that men need. That’s how it is. It’s a good thing. Why do people have to make it look sexist and negative? It’s just not.
    Again, my intention is not to offend anyone. I apologize if anyone felt hurt by anything I wrote above. You mentioned many things and I wanted to fairly and honestly address them from my perspective. I welcome comments and am more than happy to discuss anything and everything. I hope that no matter what category of Judaism you fall in to, that you continue in a way that brings you closer to the almighty.

  • Bill

    The way I see it, “A Fellow Jew” has more in common with fundamentalist Muslims and Christians than with his fellow Jews.

  • A Fellow Jew

    LoL… What are you talking about?

  • Jessika Light

    @A Fellow Jew – I understand it, but it’s just one of those things. Kind of like how Hindus won’t eat beef because their god(s?) takes the form of a cow, and out of respect, they don’t eat it. Just because we understand it doesn’t necessarily mean it makes a whole lot of sense to us.
    @Your Name – My mother was VERY well recommended. Their last nanny had actually been a girl in our church (another Christian, obviously) and when she moved out of state, she recommended my mother to the job. She used to run her own home day care company, so she has TONS of experience. She was a very dependable woman, and would often go out of her way to help people. Made her an irreplaceable nanny, regardless of her own religious practises, but even as her children, we got some secondhand experience with their culture, which was neat.

  • A Fellow Jew

    @Jessika Light
    I hear ya. It’s not easy to understand when you haven’t lived it.

  • Another Jew

    It’s actually not so hard to understand at all when it’s not being presented as a mindless dogma which one either accepts wholesale or rejects totally. But you are correct Fellow Jew, that living it is the key. Just quite insisting that your life is the only model for doing that.

  • MRA

    Wow, the ONLY way I would say i have something in common with a fundamentalist Xtian is we both pee standing up. That’s about it. Then again, I’m not a Jew, Muslim nor an Xtian. You do realize the fundament is in reference to the rear end. Put it with mental and there you go which tells me they heave their brains in that place. 😉

  • Neal O

    @ A Fellow Jew
    “Your mother being Jewish makes you a Jew, that’s how it works. End of story. ”
    End of story? Dictatorial crap more like.

  • A Fellow Jew

    Just because 20 years ago some people decided it “wasn’t fair” and they were having trouble keeping enough members in their congregations due to all of the intermarriage, doesn’t make it an acceptable way to determine Jewish lineage. Sorry man.
    You can call it “dictatorial” or whatever floats your boat, but the fact is, that’s not how it works. Your mother has to be Jewish. That’s the way it’s been for thousands of years.
    What gives someone the power to change that? Are these people G-d?

  • Your Name

    “You can call it “dictatorial” or whatever floats your boat, but the fact is, that’s not how it works. Your mother has to be Jewish. That’s the way it’s been for thousands of years.
    What gives someone the power to change that? Are these people G-d?”
    Um, I’m not Jewish but I have read that people did in fact make the change that says the mother must be Jewish. Prior to that it was the father. The change was made to due to all the children conceived by Jewish mothers by rape by the Cosacks. “People” not God made this decision for reasons of practicality and fairness. All religions are made by “people”. I don’t mean this to put down religion at all, it is a wonderful human impulse, at least it can be.

  • A Fellow Jew

    @Your Name
    The reason we follow maternal lineage is not because we decided to change it to be that way. It’s because there are verses in the Torah (5 books of Moses) that say if a man has a child with a non-Jewish woman, their child is not Jewish. There are also verses saying that if the woman is Jewish, but the man is not, then the child IS Jewish.
    This website has a decent explanation of why it’s like this, though I can’t find out who actually wrote the answer.
    The answer also explains how going by paternal lineage also came about and how it’s not really accepted amongst Jews. Paternal lineage only matters in deciding what tribe of Israel you belong to, not deciding if your Jewish or not.
    I don’t just say things without a basis for my argument. This isn’t about fairness and no one changed it. And sorry, religions are not all made by people. I hate to call you wrong, but I am not getting into a debate on a website as to why Judaism and the Torah could not have been written by anyone other than G-d. But that happens to be the case.

  • Your Name

    To Whom it May Concern:
    I feel the idea of Judaism is wonderful. It embraces culture and traditions which should be acknowledged and recognized by all people.
    Jewish people are chosen, just as some of my ancestors were Jewish
    although I, myself am nondenominational.
    I am proud to have Jewish people in my community.
    Cordially Yours,
    Armetta L. White

  • Andrea

    Interesting didn’t know some of these things… Like the comment on Kosher

  • thatguy

    I saw this post on Friendly Atheist which I read daily and thought I would post a question here because I might get a better response.
    Could anyone direct me to evidence proving “once a Jew, always a Jew”? Or some evidence of a common genetic marker between all Jews?
    Much appreciated,

  • A Fellow Jew

    If you read the comments, the statement the author made about Kosher is inaccurate (to say the least).
    That’s a good question and I don’t know of the source off the top of my head. However, it is interesting to note that Jews of certain lineage (called Kohanim, or priests) all actually have a common gene. I believe Levites have them as well. Genetic tests have shown this. So Judaism is more of a race, as I’ve stated before, than a purely religious status. It’s in our DNA. DNA doesn’t change just because you decide to get Baptized or start worshiping the cucumber monster. I wish I could answer you better, but that’s the best I have for you off the cuff. LoL. It’s not really a proof, but more of an interesting thing that’s kinda unique.

  • Your Name

    My study and belief is Jesus wasn’t born on Dec 25th he was concieved.The Shepherds would not have had their flock out in the fields in dead of winter (makes sense)It was the time of their census that is why there was no room in the inns for Mary and Joseph.And Mary’s Aunt was six months pregnant with John the Baptist and when Mary came to tell her and enterd their home the baby John lept inside his mother because he felt the spirit or soul of the conception to Mary that had just taken place.Jesus was born according to the time line Sept 29 or 30th.We have to rightly divide the word of GOD.The time line is very important.WHO,WHAT and WHERE.Who are they talking about where it is taking place and the time period.I believe in studying chapter by chapter and line by line.I use the Companion Bible and the Strongs Concordance to translate from english to the true Hebrew meaning.It also has the GREEK,ARAMAIC meanings the Bible has side columns for futher indepth readings using the appendix.The Srongs is like a dictionary very well put together and very reader friendly understanding.The Jewish people are GOD’S chosen people but we are all his children.GOD is a respecter of no man.

  • Jean

    I did put my name but it didn’t print out sorry don’t know why.

  • matt

    In regards to #1 and #2, how good is good enough?

  • A Fellow Jew

    Non-Jews have to keep the 7 Noachide Laws. If you keep those, that’s good enough.

  • thejazzmonger

    In regards to #1: I think the meaning of “Once a Jew, always a Jew” isn’t meant to be anything like a genetic link. If you think about it, no religious conversion would alter the subject’s genetic code.
    It seems to me that the meaning is more like the parable of the Prodigal Son (found in the New Testament, ironically). The profligate son was welcomed back to the family fold despite his prior rejection of it and the sins committed while rambling.

  • Neal O

    @A Fellow Jew
    You don’t get it – I have no time for your man made god, please bring some reason to the debate. Just because the earth was believed to be flat for thousands of years did not make it flat. Apostacy is not a crime. As I said before dictatorial crap!

  • sante

    Judaism is a monotheistic religion. Jews believe there is one God who created and rules the world. This God is omnipotent (all powerful), omniscient (all knowing) and omnipresent (in all places at all times). God is also just and merciful.

  • Robert

    even the most ancient and traditional understandings of Judaism embrace the notion that all those who live ethical lives, no matter what tradition they follow, will be “close to God” in the world to come.
    Unless you’re gay!!

  • Phillip

    im christian and not a jew

  • Bnka

    man was made in the image of god, what difference does it make if he spends his whole life reaching for what he has inside, trying to connect with god while he losses himself. every human is unique, we are who we are. religion is fine, if it gives someone something to believe in, its great. faith is important, just don’t get extreem.
    nice posts. you learn something new everyday.

  • acaiberry

    wow great this is just what i needed to boost my faith

  • Stephen

    Just and merciful… Hmmm… How can the Elohim of all creation be perfectly just, and yet merciful, when all have sinned and falling short of perfection deserve death? Somewhere, at some time, all of our sins must be paid for if YHWH is to be just.
    If the wages of sin are death, then who of all men might pay and yet live?
    If you make it to the world to come, you will not be gay…
    And how can a Christian be anything but a Jew, since Christ himself was and is still a Jew? He alone kept all the Law, and tells his followers to likewise keep all the Law… not only to keep it, but to love it, and love keping it… How then can one be a Christian, and not keep the Law? Can one keep the Law and not be a Jew?
    Does a Christian who practices Lawlessness, shame the names of Christ and Christianity? Is this what it means to take the Lords name in vain?
    Something to believe in? What about Santa? Can he save you? It was Satan who first said ‘your eyes will be open and you shall be like God’, but that was a lie, and look where believing that got us. Faith in a lie is worth less than nothing. Pray that you may have faith, for faith is a gift from Elohim. Seek truth, for it will not be hidden from those who seek it dilligently.
    Let us make man in our own image… does this mean that YHWH’s image, is a man?

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