koshersalaami

koshersalaami
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Male, Jewish, in my extremely early sixties, married with kids (well, at this point I guess that should be "kid"). Thanks to Lezlie for avatar artwork - sort of a translation of my screen name. "Salaam" is peace in Arabic, hence the peace sign. (No, my name doesn't mean "hunk of meat" and yes, the pun is intentional.)

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Salon.com
NOVEMBER 18, 2011 2:04AM

Judaism in an Oversized Nutshell

Rate: 33 Flag

This is not comprehensive, nor is it meant to be. I can do another or add things later if asked.

I am not trying to convert you.

We don’t do that. One of the reasons we have such a tiny population is that we don’t seek converts. Why not?

We don’t believe you have to be Jewish to get into Heaven, so conversion wouldn’t save you from anything.

We want to make sure that anyone who joins us is serious. In fact, if you were to ask a rabbi to handle your conversion, it would be traditional to refuse you. Three times. If you go for four and the rabbi agrees, the studying starts. This isn’t exactly a matter of baptism and done.

So what’s so involved? In the more observant branches of Judaism, there’s a huge lifestyle change involved with a whole lot of requirements about everything. There are a lot of commandments and traditions that guide your life. But, even in the less observant branches (like my own Reform branch), as of the moment your conversion is complete, someone somewhere would welcome the opportunity to kill you.  Welcome to Judaism!

There are, I suppose, some who think the reason we don’t seek converts is that we don’t have anything worth converting them to. To believe that, you’d essentially have to believe that Jews can’t sell. I’ll let you consider that for a moment…


OK, back to reality.

The disclaimer comes first because I want to make it clear that I am informing, not recruiting.

This isn’t about teaching the vocabulary of Judaism, though I might include some. It’s about teaching the nature of Judaism, particularly in ways that it differs from Christianity, and there are probably more of those ways than you think.

Speaking of nature, let’s tackle the first question first. Are you old enough to remember the Certs commercial? “Certs is a candy mint. Certs is a breath mint. It’s two! (click) two! (click) two mints in one!” So, are Jews a people or a religion?

Nowadays, ethnicity and religion are not the same thing in most cases. When Judaism originated, each people/tribe had its own religion, so the question was initially moot, though it obviously is of current interest. My best answer is that we’re a people who can be joined through our religion. This is strictly my own conclusion.

We're also a people who can be left by converting to another religion. This doesn't cover agnosticism/atheism, this strictly applies to alternative religions.


In any case, we are not now nor have we ever been a “race.”

What to expect from Judaism, random points you might not know:

In Judaism, conduct is more important than anything. Including faith. (To a lot of Christians, this is a complete non-sequitur, like eliminating the sun and expecting there to be heat and light left over.)

Judaism is more about what you’re supposed to do than about what you’re supposed to believe. (There is no Jewish equivalent to the Apostles’ Creed.)

Two points about the Chosen People thing:
1. We were chosen for the privilege of the work. There are no perks past that.
2. We were chosen when the competition was all pagan. Now the competition is mostly God worshippers. Christians and Muslims weren’t rejected; neither of them existed yet.

Don’t tell us we’re arrogant because we believe that we’re right and that everyone else is wrong to the extent that they disagree with us. Every religion is like that. The only way to believe anything is to believe that people are wrong to the extent that they disagree with you. If you have a religion, it is like that. We do not have a monopoly on arrogance, but we often have a monopoly on being criticized for it.

Judaism mainly ignores the afterlife. Life is the main event. Life is absolutely not Death Prep.

To us, Satan is a minor figure, much more of a devil’s advocate than an actual devil. Believing in a counter-entity to God with powers that He would find threatening comes dangerously close to bi-theism, and we are strict monotheists. Also, blaming Satan for anything is a great way to avoid responsibility and Judaism is, first and foremost, about responsibility. See Flip Wilson’s Geraldine. (“The Devil made me buy this dress!”)

Judaism has no original sin.

In Judaism, God does not take the authority to forgive you for what you do to other people. That you square on your own. No “God has forgiven me for what I did to you.”

Though Jewish scripture is mostly what Christians call the Old Testament and we call Tanakh, don’t assume that Christianity and Judaism are all that alike because of that. There are at least a few critical differences:
·        I’ll start with the obvious: we don’t follow the New Testament.
·        Judaism has oral law, called the Mishnah, to go along with written law. It was eventually written down when the Romans controlled Israel because we were in danger of losing it altogether. Christianity doesn’t have this law.
·        There are, from what I understand, some minor text differences, but there are also translation differences. Jewish biblical scholarship is all based on Hebrew sources, which in itself gets complicated. Hebrew words are based on three-letter roots, which have their own translations and implications. Biblical Hebrew was written without vowels, so a few written words could be more than one spoken word and all have to be taken into account. In annotated Hebrew Bibles, the text can literally be smaller than the footnotes. Christian biblical scholarship can be based on Greek translations or the King James Version. The KJV is a good translation (from its sources), but into English that’s roughly 400 years old. The meanings of some English words have shifted in that period, so we literally have the issue of English to English translation.
·        We each read scripture through our own lens. This difference is critical. The Christian lens often looks at the Old Testament as preamble for the New, so Daniel and Jeremiah, fairly minor to Jews, are huge to Christians because of being viewed as pointing toward Jesus. If you look at the Binding of Isaac story, one lesson that Jews derive is that God will never require human sacrifice, while Christians view it as a foreshadowing of a later sacrifice of a Son by a Father. I’ll elaborate on the Jewish side of this separately:

The best way to describe Judaism from a doctrine standpoint is scripture through a rabbinic lens. The lens is critical; I may be going out on a limb here, but there are times I think the lens may differentiate Judaism more than scripture does. The influence of that lens is enormous in Judaism, both from a religious standpoint and from a cultural standpoint.
The main thing the lens focuses on is the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament/Tanakh. The Torah is a guide to living. As such, literal truth is less of an issue than moral truth is. The main question about any given biblical event is not whether it took place but what moral lesson we can learn from it.

The lens is extremely thorough. Rabbis have, for millennia, gone through the Torah, Mishnah, and each other’s opinions in fine-toothed-comb detail. Word by word. Mishnah plus rabbinic commentary is what makes up the Talmud.

Torah study was, for an extremely long time, the most prestigious activity in which a Jew could engage. So, it became male dominated and the center of our world. (Less central now, except for the Orthodox, or most observant Jews.) That led to high literacy rates, a lot of people with good reasoning skills, and a love of learning in general. There are a lot of Jewish lawyers and judges, partially because legal analysis is pretty close to Torah analysis.

The lens itself is mostly devoted to getting it right, interpreting as justly as possible, and interpreting as humanely as possible. A lot of interpretation is taking the ethics of Torah and seeing to it that those ethics are applied through the law even when it’s not obvious how at the outset. Some of the rabbinical solutions feel like they’re contradicting the letter of the law. For example, the law says that violating the Sabbath is a capital crime. The rabbis say that not only doesn’t this apply when you have the opportunity to save a life, but in that case you are obligated to violate Sabbath. There are other capital crimes but, in biblical period practice, a death sentence was extremely, extremely rare, which is not the impression you’d get from scriptural text, and the lens is why.

Jews as a people have a tendency to be justice-obsessed. That’s one reason more of us are Leftist than Rightist (I’m not taking a shot here) and one reason we have very heavy rates of political activism. (We are represented beyond our numbers in Congress and the Supreme Court to a serious extent.) This concern with justice is drummed into us from a religious standpoint.

The truth is that our obsession with justice may have as much to do with our circumstances as our scripture. My own take is that you value the scarce commodity. In our case, that’s usually justice. In other cases, like American Blacks and a whole lot of the population of the Middle East, it’s respect. (That’s why “dissing” in the wrong neighborhood can get you killed.)

I’ll end with a list. Some characteristics

·        Strict monotheism
·        No images of God
·        Descent from Abraham
·        Jerusalem a holy city
·        Male circumcision
·        Ceremonial adulthood at thirteen
·        Obligatory charitable giving
·        Dietary law that forbids the eating of pork
·        Veneration of Moses
·        Name of God is physically sacred in print or written
·        Day of rest

of Islam.

Judaism, too.

 

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I thought being a good Jew meant eating gefilte fish and not fucking your fat wife while she's menstruating and breaking your balls to buy her more jewellery...wink...check out my OWS analysis post...rib tickle
very cool. Thanks for this
JP,
Leave the comedy to the pros.

Julie,
Glad you liked it.
Comedy? What komedy?...dubble wink
Seer,
A TON of it! In Israel, it's even involved arrests at one point.

In the US, there are
Reform (biggest at the moment, I think)
Reconstructionist
Conservative
Orthodox - subdivided a whole lot

The Orthodox attempt to obey all the commandments that are currently possible (total of 613, but a lot of those involve the Temple, sacrifices and such, so are not currently possible), though what constitutes obedience is subject to an enormous amount of debate.

Lots of rules, the most obvious of which are diet and what constitutes no work on Sabbath. Those are both way more involved questions than you can imagine.

The more observant sects/movements/categories often don't accept conversions of less observant as legitimate. Because of the enormous amount of intermarriage in Judaism, this is a very big deal. Also, the Reform movement recognizes patrilineal descent but in all the other movements (except maybe the Reconstructionist - I don't know), only matrilineal counts.
NOTE: POST EDITED AT THIS POINT.
Lines added about how Jewish people can be left by converting out.
Kosh, I seem often to find myself reading your posts at hours of the night I ought to get off the computer and go to bed. [But I seem to be a sort of female minor variant on Diogenes, looking not so much for "an honest man" as an intelligent, well-informed and not snarky one. The Internet may not be the best place to be searching but it's kind of "any port in a storm" for me at this hour of the night.]

Question: I don't understand the last line from you I find here. Will you be continuing this thread later (I hope)?

R
Thanks, Seer! Looking forward to the continuation, Kosh.
Small addition to the kosher concept: animals that are eligible to be made into kosher meat (via kosher slaughter methods) must both chew their cud and have cloven hoofs. Animals that do one but not the other can't be made kosher.

The forbidden list:
mammals: carnivores; animals that either do not chew the cud or do not have cloven hooves (i.e., the camel, the hyrax, the hare and the pig)
birds:birds of prey; scavengers
reptiles: all reptiles are unclean (includes amphibians)
water animals: those that do not have both fins and scales
insects all, except the locust

additionally, acceptable animals must be killed in a humane manner, usually by a single cut that severs major arteries and veins and as much blood must be removed as possible.

Animals that are sick, have medical anomalies or injuries or hereditary problems cannot be kosher

Milk and dairy products must not be consumed at the same meal' in fact, most orthodox observers have separate sets of dishes.
"In Judaism, God does not take the authority to forgive you for what you do to other people. That you square on your own. No “God has forgiven me for what I did to you.”"

To emphasize this. There is no forgiveness for doing bad things (anyone who is married knows this intuitively); one has to atone for it - the ritual day for the atoning each year in Yom Kippur.

Although Mizvahs are the complete set of rules (620 of them) - both positive and negative, given in the Torah, in casual usage, a mitzvah is a good deed. And these are important.
we are strict monotheists.

Strict monotheism



I’ve got lots to discuss with you about this, Kosh, mostly because I think Jews have one thing in particular to offer the non-Jewish world that would be an enrichment for non-Jewish humanity beyond measure. (It is the Bar Mitzvah, but more about that at some future point.)

Several times in this piece you mentioned monotheism…and you lead off your summary with “strict monotheism.”

I cannot help but question that.

Monotheism is defined as the belief in one, and only, one god.

That doesn’t seem to be the “belief” of the god of the Torah…who asks the Hebrews to hold him above all other gods. In several passages there is reference by the god of other gods…and the thrust seems to be that there are many gods, but the Hebrews are to honor only the god Jahweh.

Would you address this for me?
This is one of the few OS posts I've bookmarked. Enlightening. Many thanks.
((smiling)) I've been to school this morning and I'm loving it. I will be re-reading this post until I have it down pat, because it answers questions I didn't even know I had. It explains so much about friends I've known for decades. Thank you for your obvious effort to be crystal clear, as brief as possible and non-judgmental.

Lezlie
Thank you Kosher,I thouroughly enjoyed reading this post and I am looking forward to more expertise input.
I consider your statement about race as definitely correct,all people walking on earth today have their roots in Abraham,don't they.
I am not firm in history to be able to make a statement on religious belief and when it changed from one to the other due to circumstances.What matters to me is that there seems to be a high amount of liberal attitudes what makes Judaism sympathetic to me.
The only thing I relly object to isthat the women are not allowed into the temple.Is this ancient law and could be changed today?

Frank Apisa,I am glad to see you here with your challenging questions.

Kosh:I am looking forward to your next post.

Rated
@ Frank When Torah speaks of "other gods" it refers to what Torah considers false gods, generally idols, 'gods' Hebrew clans were instructed to reject. "Torah", in Hebrew, means "Instruction", btw. There's no contradiction whatever.
Apropos converting:
The philosopher KF Dürckheim has been in Japan for many years andbrought the Zen Buddhism to the West.While still in Japan, he had asked the Zen master about conversion.On his departure,he was given a little package which he was to open on his return.
When he finally opened the package,a small bible came out.
The message was:Stay to the religion in which you were brought up.
To me,there is a lot of wisdom in this one sentence.
It is much more important to develop tolerance toward any belief or ethnic identity,as we all are the result of a whole mix up of different genes.
'The only thing I relly object to isthat the women are not allowed into the temple'

not so.
In Orthodox temples, there is a segregation of sexes but the other branches have no such restrictions.
KS very concise and to the point. A good point of reference my Sunday school teacher, if we may borrow?
r
This post is a mitzvah. Thank you. Shalom.
My father's father was Jewish, though he later converted out to find a religion which "answered more questions." This helps fill in some gaps regarding the culture in which he was raised - he never spoke of Judiaism, but culturally, it practically came out of his pores.
Thank you all for responding. I'll answer some comments individually.

Poppi, you have permission. There's no better use for a post.

Lezlie, that was exactly the point and why I address assumptions rather than questions. It's the questions you don't know you have that create the biggest problems.

Traveler,
Thanks for the synopsis of kashrut. There's a ton of information I obviously didn't include in that I'm not trying to be Wikipedia. My primary purpose is to talk about things that people won't find elsewhere, certainly not synopsized. For example, the statement about conduct trumping faith, even held by the Chasidim, is something I had to piece together - I've never seen it baldly stated by anyone else.

Frank,
I hope Jonathan has answered your question. Judaism came into existence surrounded by religions that featured multiple gods. Though I assume that the gods weren't real (being Jewish), the priesthoods sure were. My guess as to God's reasoning is that the competition featured all sorts of inhumane practices such as human sacrifice - it was the ethics competition that posed the real problem. Otherwise, the commandment about not having other gods before Me would be the equivalent of saying "Thou shalt not believe in the Tooth Fairy" which somehow doesn't have the gravity to end up in the Ten Commandments. The ethical imperative, on the other hand, absolutely does.

Heidi,
The status of women in Judaism varies from movement to movement. There are now female rabbis in the Reform, Reconstructionist, and Conservative movements. In Orthodoxy, it really varies because Orthodoxy comes in lots of flavors. Of course women are allowed in synagogue, though there is separation between the sexes. There are some male roles, some female roles, and some respects in which there's a sort of "separate but equal" doctrine on some functions - which is about as equal as that doctrine was in the civil rights movement. There are a lot of controversies around Orthodoxy about sex roles at the moment because there's a lot of confusion between actual law and tradition, the differences are hard to tease out sometimes, and there are people who would rather not tease them out.

Regarding the ancient Temple, I'm not well-informed enough to know. However, it's been nearly two millenia since that was an issue. When we talk about temple now, we mean Reform movement synagogue, and there are no limitations on women there.

Rwnutjob,
God isn't Tinkerbell. We don't need to clap for Him for Him to survive. (From an agnostic viewpoint: He either exists or He doesn't; clapping might indicate whether we believe in Him but it can't actually give Him existence.) What He seems to want from us, given what we've heard from a whole bunch of religions, is for us to treat each other well. Faith is useful because it in theory provides an incentive for exactly that. There is nothing remotely Satanic about that, not that Satan is an issue for us to begin with - see above. To address the good vs. evil question: There are two models of opposite: the bipolar (positive and negative charge, for example) and the continuum (light/dark, hot/cold, decided by the relative presence or absence of a commodity such as light or heat). We operate more on the continuum model, using Satan operates more on the bipolar model.
Excellent synopsis. Thank you.
Kosh You're a far better fella than I am.
I wouldn't give bigots such as Rum the time of day.
Thanks, Keri and Toritto.

Toritto,
One of the things I've noticed about Judaism is that it has proven to churn out activist humanists very efficiently. That's a quality that should make sense to atheists. In that respect there is, unexpectedly, a rationality to supporting faith.
Jonathan,
It's a teachable moment, so I'll take it.

Now that I think about it, I'll give you a precedent you'll appreciate:

"Rabbi, teach me the Torah while I stand on one foot."

I can do this the Shammai way and drive the guy from my room, perhaps even deleting comments, but I am not an admirer of Shammai's approach.

Or I can do this the Hillel way, a man whose approach I admire immensely, perhaps the man who is singlehandedly most responsible for the sheer amount of humanism in Talmud.

It is perhaps my favorite quote in the world:

"That which is hateful to you, do not do to another. The rest is commentary. Now go study."
If he's teachable I'm J Lo. But good luck. :)
There has been the inauguration of a new synagoge in Speyer,and I made a point of watching it.Although some women were sitting beside their husbands,I noticed a separate place where most women sat.The custom of segregation is still in use in villages,but I would not like to sit in some chamber while the men,among them my husband, would celebrate the sacred hour of worship.
“as of the moment your conversion is complete, someone somewhere would welcome the opportunity to kill you”

I nearly fell off my chair laughing when I read that. I am not going to really comment on this piece because you and I have had this discussion before and I don’t have that kind of time today. To me Judaism provides the well from which the water is drawn of those that are chosen to actually know God. More than half of what I have posted on OS is about that and I am going to leave at that in more ways than one. Enjoy the Sabbath.
Right,it is Sabbath.Enjoy your Sabbath,you you on sunday at dawn.
Gee, Jack, and I thought I'd get a bigger laugh out of the Jews not being able to sell bit. Maybe I oversold it. Have a good weekend.

Jonathan,
He doesn't have to be teachable, any more than the primary audience for Hillel turned out to be the guy he answered.

Heidi,
Two things:
1. Women's seating, when separate, is not in another room, it's in the sanctuary. Of course women worship. The point is supposed to be trying to keep the distraction of attraction out of the service, not to keep women from participating. (In Orthodox services, there are a number of functions that women don't fill, unless the service is all-female. However, strange as it may seem, within Orthodox Judaism that is a completely separate issue from separate seating.)
2. That's one reason I wouldn't consider becoming Orthodox. I am egalitarian, as is the movement I belong to.
Heidi, thanks, I'm not Shomer Shabbes, in other words I don't really restrict activity on Sabbath. I do go to services.

Shabbat (the word for Sabbath in the Hebrew dialect - Sephardic - in use in Israel, accent on the second syllable) or Shabbes ("Sha-bis", accent on the first syllable, the term in Eastern European Hebrew dialect - Ashkenaz - and also in Yiddish) is celebrated from sundown Friday until sundown Saturday.

Have a good weekend. Shabbes is where weekends originated.
Owl and Natsuki,
Thank you. I missed your comments on one reading.
Kosh and Jonathan…thank you for your response to my question.

I am not entirely convinced by the explanations given, but I do want to pursue the question for reasons that matter to me. I hope you both will indulge me.

Let me mention at the outset that I see no real superiority of monotheism over polytheism—just as I see no particular superiority of theism over atheism. It appears none of us know for sure if there is a GOD involved in the Reality of existence…and all we can do is to make guesses about it. A person who guesses there is a single GOD…one who guesses there are many gods…or one who guesses there are no gods—really are equal. Each is simply making a guess about the unknown. One may be correct, but even that is not a sure thing. The Reality of existence may be so complex it simply does not allow for “There is a GOD”, “There are gods”, or “There are no gods.”

I am an agnostic. I acknowledge that I do not know the true nature of the Reality of existence…and that I do not have enough unambiguous evidence upon which to base a meaningful guess about the issue. I cannot rule in or out anything about the existence of a GOD or gods…nor do I see any reason to suppose a GOD or gods cannot exist.

In any case, back to the question at hand. Somehow, it seems unrealistic and unlikely that the ancient Hebrews truly thought there was ONLY one god. Rather, it seems more likely they thought there were many…but that their god, because of a pact the god made with them, was the only one they could worship. The notion that there were other gods seems to permeate the Torah.

Since you both seem to be of the opinion that they were convinced there was only one god…and that the others were simply false gods, rather than that there were many gods but that they were required by covenant to worship but one of them…could you cite something written on the matter that I could investigate.

And if I may, do either of you suppose that even if the ancient Hebrews supposed there was but one god, that they had to be correct? Are you of the opinion that they had special knowledge not currently independently available?
To tell you the truth, I still can't figure out how the trinity isn't polytheism, but that's just me. Pre-Catholic christians didnt believe in the trinity for this reason.

Very instructive and interesting.

Are there English translations for most/all Jewish religious texts, even the legal texts, like Talmud? I would very much like to study an introduction to Jewish law, just to see the epistemological approach that is taken and to compare/contrast it to Roman Law and Continental Law.
Frank,
The truth is that it doesn't matter. My contention is that Judaism is strictly monotheistic, which is true, not that it was strictly monotheistic by our definition 3300 years ago, which I don't know.

Special knowledge? I don't know. Depends on how much you believe which individual sources.

The best answers to your question appear in the post. They are:
1. That conduct is more important than faith, and
2. That the importance of Torah is more about moral truth than literal truth, even though there are certainly Jews who believe it is literal truth.

So my real answer is: Ultimately beside the point.

Rw,
My rabbi actually addressed this. There is a text called Zohar, which is a part of Kabbalah, in which various angels are referred to as aspects of God, such as one angel being identified as the Strength of God, etc. There is an extent to which the Trinity is kind of like that - three faces of one entity, though that doesn't explain why addressing only the wrong face could keep you out of Heaven. My rabbi says the bigger issue concerning Christian polytheism isn't the Trinity at all, it's Satan, and in that respect Christianity is sort of bi-theistic: the God we worship and the god we don't, both of whom we acknowledge.

Yes, the texts are available in English. Expect there to be enough footnotes to choke two horses, and that's per page.
Sal: yes. Christian interpretations of Satan seem to draw heavily on Near Eastern bi-deistic Manicheanism.

If the Book of Job is any indication, Satan is merely God's prosecutor, with God being the Judge in the courtroom. Satan tries to prove that Job is not devoted to God, through various tests, but he is always empowered by God and God permits him to act in certain ways. He can never overpower or defeat God. He is not the polar opposite of God.

In the Book of Genesis, the Serpent, if it is seen as Satan, and I'm not sure it is (its debatable) it is still acting more as God's Agent Provacateur, so to speak.

Interesting stuff.

I shall have to study Jewish/Talmudic law. Will go on Amazon.com and search for some introductory texts for non-Rabbinic academics just looking for a cursory overview. I'd be interested in the concept of negligence and liability and how it is addressed. I understand Jewish law has a well-developed body of civil liability that has been developed over the ages.
@ Rum Of course, on occasion, I delete comments.
Kosh may, of course, host any comment he likes to host.
I will not, at my site, host any comment that bashes wholesale another's religion and that's what your satan comment does. If it were said at my blog, it'd be gone.
And I'm pleased it tells you what you need to know abt me.
It is not my job, ever, to host bigotry or to excuse it.

I trust you will not come to my blog. I don't want you there.
@ RW I admire your desire to understand Jewish Law (Halacha). I also know that Talmud is never the place to start bc its understanding on even the most basic levels require a knowledge of Torah first, and from a rabbinical perpective. I am betting your local shuld offer Intro to Torah classes (open to all).
Thank you for your response, Kosh.

I guess if the matters that concern me are "besides the point"...the matters I might mention that you listed FIRST in your list of important characteristics, I really have nothing to learn here.

Too bad that.

The essay looked promising at first blush.
@ Frank I really think my explanation to you, above, was concise/clear.
Frank,
I don't think anyone reading my responses to your questions can accuse me of not taking them seriously and not attempting to answer them. Incidentally, monotheism showed up first in a list of shared characteristics between Judaism and Islam, not at the beginning of my description of Judaism. You're acting like I blew you off. That is nothing short of ridiculous.
To answer rwnutjob and Jonathan:

The contention that salvation is only through faith and not works is essentially Christian sermonizing and has no place here. This wasn't expressed as "this is what we think," it was expressed as fact. It was rude. However, I don't typically delete comments, really for two reasons:

1. I don't want to leave the impression that I'm afraid to face any comment or its consequences. I am no intellectual coward, including when I'm wrong. Others are more concerned with civility. I am concerned with civility, which should be obvious given how I conduct myself here, but leaving the impression that I'm afraid to face a comment is more abhorrent to me. If someone were deliberately clogging up my post (as in spam or just maliciousness), I might delete under those circumstances. Rwnutjob's comment doesn't meet these criteria. Rude, yes; Malicious, no.

2. I want a record of what people say to continue to be available. You say it, I keep it. (This doesn't apply to private communications.) There may come a day when I want to direct someone to an old comment.
Jonathan, you wrote:

@ Frank I really think my explanation to you, above, was concise/clear.

Not sure what you mean here, Jonathan. The “explanation” you gave was merely an assertion that when the god says “other gods”, it doesn’t really mean “other gods”, but something else. Christians give me “explanations” like that all the time when trying to “explain” stuff for which they truly have no adequate explanation.

Any reasonable reading of the material indicates that the people who originally brought this god to the attention of all the other Hebrew people…thought there were MANY gods. (I suspect one of the reasons for the god coming into existence was that the ancient Hebrews wanted to invent a barbaric, murderous, vengeful, vindictive, dictatorial god to protect themselves from the barbaric, murderous, vengeful, vindictive, dictatorial gods of their many enemies.) The material indicates that the Hebrews were to refrain from devotion or worship (not only of idols) but of any of the other gods. The very foundation of Judaism has polytheism at its core…or at least, the question is certainly worth exploring.

In any case, the number one item on Kosh’s list of characteristics of Judaism was “monotheism.” I wanted to question it…mostly to see how it would be handled. I do this often with Christians who want to discuss various items. If the initial explanations are handled reasonably, I continue with the discussion. If I see pride and an unwillingness to give meaningful consideration to reasonable questions…I just drop the subject. Nothing to be learned when people do that!

So, like I said…!
Aside from the theological fantasies involved in all religions which, by their very nature, makes them incompatible with the observed universe and leads inquiring minds into the maze of utterly weird nonsenses, the social envelope of religions upon which the strictures of daily behavior have their foundations are important for the actual results they have in the world.

What strikes me as vital is the proposition that Judaism has, as one of its prime directives, a basic sense of justice for all humans. What might be accepted as justice varies among different cultures and since Judaism is a rather ancient theology it retains within its strictures at least a few obviously nonsensical demands such as the most peculiar food prohibitions which have very little if anything to do with nourishment or the the dangers of enjoying many of the foods now commonly available and delightful to consume. That these strictures are accepted by modern intelligent Jews is merely an indication that there seems to be a limit to reason even within intelligent minds.

But it is the concern with justice that I find fascinating. The Jews have been mindlessly and horribly persecuted for centuries and it is sensible that their feeling for justice has been honed to a very sharp edge. The performance during the 1960's of many Jews in defending the rights of black citizens and the murders of two Jews, Goodman and Schwerner in Mississippi ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mississippi_civil_rights_workers_murders) exemplify the finest exhibition of the sense of basic decency that many Jews exhibit out of personal and traditional motivations.

But if justice is accepted as one of the Jewish essentials, what is to be made of the performance of Israel which in the name of the Holocaust and the demand for compensation for the centuries of frightful behaviors towards Jews takes on all the characteristics of its former persecutors and inflict, what is obvious to a neutral observer, the most horrifying injustice on the local people of the Middle East wherein now exists the state of Israel? If justice were really a central tenet of Jewish belief and not easily disposable in the name of current exigencies (http://www.counterpunch.org/2011/11/18/weimar-revisited/) then could it be concluded that Israel is no longer Jewish? It's an interesting thought.
I have a little prayer I say each morning: Thank you, God, for not making me Jewish. Like, it's so much work and what do you get for it? - other people want to kill you. And not even a heaven to compensate!

(Also, in the case of some adherents, you gotta wear funny clothes that were the height of fashion in Russia a couple centuries ago...)
I do think that's a very good description, if I also think when you mix that with Safe, also a good post of yours, it explains a certain pattern in history, which is there in the beginning Exodus and a certain fear, which maybe has in some cases had an element of self-fulfilling prophecy, at least a little bit in some places:
"Now Joseph and all his brothers and all that generation died, 7 but the Israelites were exceedingly fruitful; they multiplied greatly, increased in numbers and became so numerous that the land was filled with them.
8 Then a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt. 9 “Look,” he said to his people, “the Israelites have become far too numerous for us. 10 Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country.” And then the happy story isn't so happy, which creates a fear that "I've seen this movie before..." Not the whole story, but something of it I think too, as to your post Safe.
Frank,
Regardless of Jonathan's response, I did what I could to answer you. Is there a particular reason you're ignoring my responses? I could elaborate, but that would entail repeating myself and I'm not sure I see the point. If you have a more specific question, ask it.

I don't know exactly what they were thinking 3300 years ago. I don't know if there are linguistic issues involved, being as we're talking about language that's thousands of years old. For example, one of the primary names of God in Hebrew is in a plural form. I'm not the best person to ask why that might be the case.

Your question remains ambiguous in one respect: Are you saying that Judaism was once polytheistic in a sense or that it is now? Any Jew can tell you that it isn't at the moment. If you think that somehow it must be from a reading of translated text without either archeological/historical expertise or Torah commentary, I'll tell you two things: 1. that you need to do some serious research and 2. that you're in no position to tell us what we currently believe. The fact that there are some plurals in the original text doesn't mean that that's how Jews currently view the text which is, after all, the issue.

Jan,
About Israel, there are a few respects in which I agree with you and a lot in which I don't. Ultra-Orthodoxy has gotten pretty strange as of late, seemingly obsessing with technicalities at the expense of compassion, which is fundamentally, well, not Jewish. I don't like the current government. That being said, the opposition is so, so far from being innocent that I can't assign responsibility in the ways that you do.

Myriad, you almost have a point. By the way, it's not that we don't have a Heaven, we do, it's just that we don't pay much attention to it. We'll get there when we get there and getting there isn't what motivates us.

Rich,
Thank you. Not so self-fulfilling. We don't want it, it just keeps happening, for a variety of reasons that I discussed in a post last year. The link to it is above somewhere in an answer to Margaret Feike.
This is a beautifully concise expository piece and I thank you for clearing up some of my questions, especially: "Are Jews a people or a religion."

I'd also like to thank you for nearly causing me to choke to death on an ice cube as I read this:

"There are, I suppose, some who think the reason we don’t seek converts is that we don’t have anything worth converting them to. To believe that, you’d essentially have to believe that Jews can’t sell."
Thank you, Margaret. You're the first person to comment on the selling remark. Also, I noticed you've at least gone to check out the old Antisemitism post.
I am grateful for the reasonable emotional quality of your response. And I concur that the opposition is, to put it mildly, far from acceptably decent in many ways. History, unfortunately, bears a heavy burden of responsibility for forging current attitudes which have emerged as of weapons quality for both sides. But the problem, as it appears to me, is somewhat off the direct governmental target and that is what I find most disturbing. If I am a Jew out of ancestry rather than religious conviction I am eager to claim lineage in the long traditions of intellectual accomplishments and fundamental decency for all of humanity. This, in some ways, is as idiotic as being delighted at having been a New Yorker because of Joe DiMaggio and Woody Allen. But it is not just the government that I find disturbing. It is, I imagine, one of the worthwhile characteristics of religion, that it bundles a group of personal attitudes securely within a person to behave with proper decency and humanity and empathy towards, not only fellow humans of all variation but of life itself which, as NASA has discovered, an extremely rare element in an extremely frightening and hostile universe. Of course, religion is not necessary for this and it appears to me that all religions, not just Judaism, wraps also, with these personal wonders of marvelously admiral qualities, the goddamndest mess of scraps of idiotic nonsense the human mind could conceive in its most psychopathic explorations. And they all are treated with an equanimity that boggles a rational mind, even by otherwise totally reasonable people otherwise.
The government of Israel has within its members people of the caliber not much different from the Republicans vying for candidacy of the USA presidential election and these human dregs would only be improved if they could reach the level of average lunacy. As amusing as these clowns may be the possibility that they may reach a level of control in the USA scares the living daylights out of me. The Israeli government is in power and it seems a very large number of Israelis are enthusiastic over their agenda. The excuse that they are frightened and therefor justified in setting the stage for Armageddon does not, somehow, calm me. The concept that there are people in the world grimly intent on murdering Jews merely because they are Jews is no more an excuse that that there are people in the world equally murderous towards me merely because I am an American. The world is full of all sorts of kooks and all sorts of really bright decent people and one must take one's chances and strive for the best. I do not see the Israelis, neglecting the thugs now in power, as striving for the best.
That, Jan, is in many ways a fair assessment. There is an opposition in Israel like there is one in America and, yes, there are aspects in which some of Israel's leadership bears a striking resemblance to the Republican Presidential candidates. Lieberman comes to mind.

Israel has a very strange relationship with religious Judaism. There is a small but growing Reform Jewish presence in Israel but, mostly, Israel is divided between Orthodox and secular Jews. This is not a good idea. There are a lot of elements of Orthodoxy, particularly the fastest growing Orthodox populations, that seem to be approaching a Taliban-like intolerance while overemphasizing enforcement of laws that tilt more toward the technical than toward the obviously moral. On the opposite end is a secular population losing touch with the roots of what made them Jewish in the first place and, while they're at it, abdicating responsibility for religion-based decisions that are being left to the Orthodox while learning to steer clear of religion because of their impatience with the Orthodox.

What agnostics and atheists don't always get about Judaism is that Judaism may be the most efficient producer of activist humanists the world has ever seen. Contrary to what a lot of people will tell you, this has happened ultimately because of the religion, not in spite of it. The problem with Israel is that it is losing its capacity to do that from both ends at once - on the religious end because of a shift from Hillel-based compassion to Shammai-based vigilance (is this a reference you understand?) and on the secular end because of a lack of understanding of the role of Judaism as a religion in producing their values and priorities. The growth of the Reform movement would help a lot and there is hope because many secular Israelis didn't understand that there was an alternative to All or Nothing. That growth is slowed because the government subsidizes religion heavily but, so far, pretty much only Orthodoxy.

Religious Judaism doesn't have to be dominated by its least rational aspects. That has a lot to do with where the less observant movements are now.

I don't think I'll do it but this answer could actually be the basis for a post. Perhaps.
By the way, Jan, that is one of the best comments I've read from you in a long time.
As a former New Yorker I have been drenched in many aspect of a wonderful Jewish culture as I grew up and Jews, like any other group of humans, have within themselves both delightful creative and wonderful human warmth and of course much that is to be avoided. As is true of Catholics, Muslims, Mormons and people who assure me there are fairies at the bottom of my garden.

I was a member of Hobonim as a seventeen year old back in 1943 and wandered the streets of Upper Broadway shaking a coin box requesting coin contributions for the JNF and not having the slightest concept of what it was all about. But even then I was very disturbed that the Jews would seek safety by making themselves an easy target in a small country but could get no sensible response from the other kids in the group. Unfortunately something of what I feard has come about.
I see Israel as a very sad tragedy that whatever the Jewish people and its traditions have to contribute to the wealth and knowledge of humanity has been terribly twisted both by some Jewish misconceptions and by the frequently unshakeable prejudices against all Jews. That the aborted possibilities were not only never reached but not even attempted tears at me. So much lost!
Kosh, you wrote:

Your question remains ambiguous in one respect…


Kosh, my question was, and remains, “ambiguous” because I intended it to be so. Part of the original post I made had to do with seeing how you reacted to it (the post)…whether you would treat it defensively or use it to further true sharing of ideas and notions that might bring people together.

One of my reasons for this is the fear of entering a conversation with Jews about Judaism…something I very much enjoy doing. But I, like most non-Jews, have to be careful, because (understandably) defensiveness intrudes and charges of anti-Semitism; anti-Israel; anti-Jew come up quickly, often, AND INAPPROPRIATELY.

I was taking a look at where you were on the issue…and quite honestly, I question whether I should go further with you, because of your reaction.

I suggest this: Re-read my first post. Re-read it keeping in mind that ALL of the discussion with you and Jonathan thus far has been about my questions about whether or not the original Hebrews were truly monotheistic. Actually, if you read it clearly, I am not truly asking about the “original Hebrews”…but about the god (I am guessing) they appear to have invented. But ALL of the discussion treats that particular part of the post.

We have not touched upon ANY OTHER SUBJECT I raised in that post. Neither you nor Jonathan have asked one question about anything else I mentioned.

Re-read it and see if you can figure why I am reluctant to go further in this discussion.
@Frank Apisa

I don't mean to defend KS nor JW, they don't need my help, but from the outside it certainly seems that you are setting up a strawman - that they are being defensive and getting ready to cry anti-semitism - for some not obvious reason.

You original question or statement was

"That doesn’t seem to be the “belief” of the god of the Torah…who asks the Hebrews to hold him above all other gods. In several passages there is reference by the god of other gods…and the thrust seems to be that there are many gods, but the Hebrews are to honor only the god Jahweh.
Would you address this for me?"

And JW answered that succinctly in saying that the God of the Hebrews said that the other gods were false gods and didn't exist as he did.

This is an acceptable answer among modern Jews, whether we believe in the existence of God or not. For any of us to try and intuit what a character in a play written 3000 years ago actually thought implies that we are psychologists of the occult. It seems to me that for you to imply that an unwillingness to enter into that speculation is either 'blowing you off' or 'being defensive' is a startling leap of thinking on your part.
Frank,
Let's start with a question. Are you asking about anything outside this paragraph?

"That doesn’t seem to be the “belief” of the god of the Torah…who asks the Hebrews to hold him above all other gods. In several passages there is reference by the god of other gods…and the thrust seems to be that there are many gods, but the Hebrews are to honor only the god Jahweh."

If yes, what? If no, I'll start from the top because whatever else I've said seems to have been unacceptable to you, I don't know why.

Let's try it this way:

There are a lot of passages in Torah modern Jews don't get. At that point we ask a rabbi to explain it because there is just about guaranteed to be commentary on it somewhere. I can speculate, but all it will be is speculation, because I don't know this answer. It could be that Torah was written to be understandable to those reading it 3300 year ago and that they couldn't handle literal monotheism in one step. It could be a linguistic issue involving how they used plurals - as I said before, one of the main names for God we use now in Hebrew is actually in grammatically plural form, though we neither translate nor conceive of God in terms of plural. Plural could be, for example, for the summation of attributes.

By the way, I'm not fluent in Hebrew. If I were, I might take a stab at this. I've learned from experience that I don't dare try this kind of thing just from translation because translation involves too many choices and leaves too much out. As I said in the post, Hebrew words have roots which have their own meanings and implications; translating everything simultaneously can get hairy.

It's possible there's an explanation in Midrash. Do you know what Midrash is? This is a strange part of commentary where, if there seems to be something that doesn't add up, the rabbis speculate on what might be left out of the text that would make it add up. As I said initially: the lens is everything.

It could be that the reference to other gods meant that other gods were part of the daily conversation because of interaction with neighbors and that they were acknowledged in the text because the priesthoods were all real and that what was really being acknowledged was the priesthoods and pagan religious structures and not the actual deities at all.

Whatever the answer is, the one thing any Jew can tell you is that modern Judaism is definitively monotheistic, regardless of how the Torah reads.

If there is an argument to be made against this, it would not come from the passages you reference but from Zohar, and Zohar uses a fair amount of poetic license. (So, incidentally, does Haftorah, which is Tanakh/Old Testament after the first five books. This has caused all sorts of problems particularly in Isaiah, which is very flowery/poetic but has been interpreted by Christians as literal.)

Am I any closer?
Traveler, thank you for your comment. You wrote:

You original question or statement was

"That doesn’t seem to be the “belief” of the god of the Torah…who asks the Hebrews to hold him above all other gods. In several passages there is reference by the god of other gods…and the thrust seems to be that there are many gods, but the Hebrews are to honor only the god Jahweh.
Would you address this for me?"


Actually, Traveler, my original statement was:

I’ve got lots to discuss with you about this, Kosh, mostly because I think Jews have one thing in particular to offer the non-Jewish world that would be an enrichment for non-Jewish humanity beyond measure. (It is the Bar Mitzvah, but more about that at some future point.)

Several times in this piece you mentioned monotheism…and you lead off your summary with “strict monotheism.”

I cannot help but question that.

Monotheism is defined as the belief in one, and only, one god.

That doesn’t seem to be the “belief” of the god of the Torah…who asks the Hebrews to hold him above all other gods. In several passages there is reference by the god of other gods…and the thrust seems to be that there are many gods, but the Hebrews are to honor only the god Jahweh.

Would you address this for me?


While everyone is completely free to respond in whatever way that person deems appropriate, I much would have preferred a variation on:

“Be glad to address it.

The Torah and other books of the Bible are complicated and I honestly do not know what the writers had in mind. In any case, I think we can both agree that Judaism today considers itself to be monotheistic…and most of the world community acknowledge that Judaism (whether originally intended or not) has lead the world into monotheism.

I am very interested in your comment about Bar Mitzvah, however…and how you see it as possibly being of value in being shared with the non-Jewish people of the world. Would you be willing to put that other stuff on the back burner for now and address that point…which seems to have much more positive value in a world currently filled with negativity.

Instead, Jonathan essentially said that the god (or the people putting words in the god’s mouth) really did not mean what the words said…but meant something else. (Which may be accurate, but which is something neither of us really knows for sure.) Kosh, offered that Jonathan had offered an acceptable answer.

Neither bothered with the positive part…and both were being defensive about something of no consequences whatever. I went out of my way to indicate that I do not see monotheism as being superior to polytheism or atheism…and I fail to see why any does. To defend the monotheism aspect, which I threw in there to see where the thrust of the comments would come, is absurd considering the fact that both had the other comment to work with.

because I think Jews have one thing in particular to offer the non-Jewish world that would be an enrichment for non-Jewish humanity beyond measure. (It is the Bar Mitzvah, but more about that at some future point.)

Who truly gives a rat’s ass whether Judaism or any other religion is monotheistic or polytheistic. Guessing blindly that there is one GOD or there are many gods…or that there are no gods is worth the value of grass clippings.

This will be my final comment in this thread. Obviously my point is not taken. I’ll accept responsibility for not being able to explain myself more clearly.
Frank,
You didn't ask a question about b'nai mitzvot (plural for Bar/Bat Mitzvah). You asked a question about monotheism and then said "Would you address this for me?" "This" and not "these", with the contiguous point being monotheism. In terms of "who gives a rat's ass?" I'd think that my saying that it was beside the point is exactly along the lines of what you just said.

The Bar Mitzvah is a coming of age, a religious coming of age. There are Christian denominations that do Confirmation, which is sort of along the same lines but to a lesser extent. The coming of age has ceremonial ramifications in that for ceremonial/religious legal purposes it marks the passing into adulthood - you can now, among other things, be considered part of a prayer quorum.

There are places, my own congregation among them, where the Bar/Bat Mitzvah includes something called a Mitzvah Project, which means some sort of public service project. (Mitzvah means sort of a cross between Commandment and Good Deed.) That might be what you're referring to, but I don't think it's universally practiced. I didn't have one, though that's a long time ago. (Mitzvah project, I mean - I had a Bar Mitzvah.)

I don't know what would be of enormous value about a coming of age ceremony. Perhaps the aspect of accepted responsibility.

What you got in mind?
Frank,
If there were a question of mine that hadn't been addressed, I'd have been straight and asked it. This looked like some sort of a test. If you really want to play games, do so on your own time.
Very interesting, Kosh.

Speaking as an "American Black", my orientation has always been justice also. The respect thing is not nearly as important. In my view, respect isa residue of justice, self generated like dignity, and conferred from without like civility.

It is also fascinating to me how this draws a distinction between the static determinism of doctrine, and the existential dynamism of contemplation and moral action. You can see the rise of Roman commercialism which has shaped one of the lenses that you speak of through which Westerners see the world today. We are an off the shelf culture today because we don't make a distinction between physical courage and moral courage. We tend to value physical courage while we give no thought to moral courage, until there is a major demonstration of lack, like the Penn State fiasco.

Fascinating stuff.
Sorry, Bill,
I made too broad a generalization. I also didn't go into the issue of being shorted multiple commodities.
No, I think you are right. I speak as a Black American, but not for them. I should have been more clear. I grew up thinking that justice was the keystone to civilization. I think your analysis is correct though. Many, if not most value respect more. I think this is something that I have misunderstood all of my life.
@ Frank I've been explaining, not defending. I know the philosophical underpinnings of Judaism rather well (Chriatianity, too...I teach courses on the philosophical split betw Judaism and Christianity in the 1st Century at Jerusalem.)

As for what you or anyone follows or believes, I don't give a darn if you or anyone believes God is an idol made of tin or if God is a Sheep in Sheboygan or if The Goddess is Contunually Preg and looks great in sheer stockings despite being pregnant.

What I do care abt, here, is the correct representation of what my heritage is based on. Kosh has done well by it here.
Bill, if I led you to that conclusion, proud to do it.

Jonathan, thank you.
When someone identifies as a "cultural Jew", what does that mean? You mention that Jewish people are not a race, but are joined by religion. Yet I have met those that say they are Jewish, but not religious.
Thank you for these posts; they are wonderful!
r./
I feel a little more knowledgeable. Thank you!
Sweetfeet,
Glad to be of service.

Onislandtime,
As I said in the post, we are a people who can be joined through our religion and left by converting to another religion, but being agnostic or atheist doesn't constitute converting out because it isn't to another religion. So, they're a part of the people but they aren't practicing the religion.

Does that answer your question?
Finally something clear to sink ones teeth into....Enjoyed this and LOL too.
Thanks, Algis. I did this because I haven't seen anyone else compile a list like this. (For that matter, I haven't seen anyone else figure out a list like this. The point about conduct being more important than faith is a point I had to derive over time; when I test-drove it, I discovered it worked, but I've never seen it stated elsewhere explicitly.)
Thanks for replying, kosher. I wondered if that expression applied even if someone converted. That's where the idea of a racial identify seems to come to play. I suppose there are not a lot of say, Episcopalian Jews out there, lol. That expression has been used by people who do not practice religion... Thanks for your patience!
Kosher

Thanks for writing this

I find that in my interpretation of Christ, his main teaching was that one must follow the Holy Spirit within ones self. The Law is a guide, but it is never, by definition, true Justice. Do you judge with your Mind ( By Law) or with your Heart?

I know many true Christians who hide within a given denomination, who simply don't try to explain their beliefs to the others in the congregation who might not understand. But we know each other. and we recognize each other even if we profess a different religion . The most "Christian" blogger I am aware of on OS is a Sufi Muslim.

In all respect, and meaning no contention, to me the best expression of Judaism ( and I know I am an outsider) is the Hillel quote you posted- That that which is hateful to you, do not to another.

The highest expression of how to be a good Christian is, to me, "Love God, and do as you will" expressing the primacy of atonement (At One Ment) with the holy spirit.

Both of these have "problems" and can be perverted. The law of Hillel by claiming "Well, it doesn't bother ME", the rule of St Augustine by deciding that you ARE god.

Both religions need to bear in mind that Actions are not wrong because they are contrary to the Law, they are contrary to the Law because they are wrong.

What is the reason that both religions believe as they do? - because we are ONE in god
Onislandtime,
Anytime.

Thanks, Token, for this comment. In both religions, there are infinite paths to the perversion of original messages. I've seen it in my own religion where some ultraorthodox get too wrapped up in technicalities and not wrapped up enough in the compassion stuff. In terms of Christianity, that would take a while; suffice it to say that I love most of Jesus' teachings, for one thing because they are Jewish, like he was. He never intended to found Christianity, all of which happened after the crucifixion; he intended to reform Judaism. "Let ye who is without sin cast the first stone" is one of my favorite quotes from anywhere. I don't steer clear of Christianity because of his teachings and, truth be told, it's not the prospect of his being Messiah that I have a problem with. The main problems I have are with the lamb of God/human sacrifice aspect and, to a lesser extent, with the "only through me" attitude which probably originated way later and he probably never said it. Also with emphasis - valuing conduct over belief makes sense to me, but I don't think that valuing faith first is necessarily inherent in all branches of Christianity.

Who's the Sufi? In terms of good Christians on OS, do you know tea tom?
Informative post, thanks kosh.

Searching 'Judaism, afterlife', came upon this:
"... ... According to Judaism, what happens in the next world? As noted, on this subject there is little material. Some of the suggestions about afterlife in Jewish writings and folklore are even humorous. In heaven, one story teaches, Moses sits and teaches Torah all day long. For the righteous people (the tzaddikim), this is heaven; for the evil people, it is hell. Another folktale teaches that in both heaven and hell, human beings cannot bend their elbows. In hell people are perpetually starved; in heaven each person feeds his neighbor.

All attempts to describe heaven and hell are, of course, speculative. Because Judaism believes that God is good, it believes that God rewards good people; it does not believe that Adolf Hitler and his victims share the same fate. Beyond that, it is hard to assume much more. We are asked to leave afterlife in God's hands." www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/afterlife.htm
"Judaism mainly ignores the afterlife. Life is the main event. Life is absolutely not Death Prep." ---koshersalaami

Informative post, thanks kosh.

Searching 'Judaism, afterlife', i came upon this:
"... ... According to Judaism, what happens in the next world? As noted, on this subject there is little material. Some of the suggestions about afterlife in Jewish writings and folklore are even humorous. In heaven, one story teaches, Moses sits and teaches Torah all day long. For the righteous people (the tzaddikim), this is heaven; for the evil people, it is hell. Another folktale teaches that in both heaven and hell, human beings cannot bend their elbows. In hell people are perpetually starved; in heaven each person feeds his neighbor.

All attempts to describe heaven and hell are, of course, speculative. Because Judaism believes that God is good, it believes that God rewards good people; it does not believe that Adolf Hitler and his victims share the same fate. Beyond that, it is hard to assume much more. We are asked to leave afterlife in God's hands." www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/afterlife.htm

Previously, you have no doubt discussed Judaism as it relates to Herzl's Zionist ideology in contrast to today's Israel-in-Palestine militant Zionism, but to not have mentioned Judaism as concerns any form of Zionism seems to have left your thoughts on Judaism contained in just a conveniently sized nutshell, rather than an oversized one.
my apologies for above multi-posting
anti-terrorUSt$,
I've done plenty of posts on Israel. This one is about the significant and central aspects of Judaism as a religion that most non-Jews (and a lot of Jews) aren't aware of. The nutshell could have gotten huge, but Israel was not what this post is about.

The best Jewish afterlife story I've ever heard is as follows:

A man dies and goes to Heaven. His guide takes him into a room where a whole lot of people are studying Torah. The newly deceased is puzzled and says "these men are in Heaven?"

His guide replies: "You new guys always get it backward. Heaven is in these men."
Kosh,this has been an exquisite excursion into Judaism,and I am grateful for it as there were a lot of comments...and your replies...that turned this post into an important and highly qualified lecture.Please feel encouraged to continue on this project.
I love the last sentence of the joke you were telling.
To me,this is basic wisdom which can probably be found in any religion.
People seek new religions or turn to those which are the oldest like Judaism and the Maya cultthus the ones with the longest tradition.
Buddhism and the Sufi tradition seem to have attracted people too.
Kosher

The Blogger is Suresh Emre: http://open.salon.com/blog/suresh_emre

Since I tend to view this life as an extended "day at the video arcade", I guess i would sum up my take on Judaism's message of "works" vs Christianity's message of "Faith/Belief" as:

Judaism is the "mother" saying "You kids have a good time but don't forget you are family and all of you play nice together"

Christianity's is more like the father who says "Play nice, but don't get so involved in fantasy that you forget where you live and miss supper and starve to death"
This is fascinating. I thought you couldn't spell God, even if you would capitalize His name and His Pronouns?? Well done, Kosher
Possibly the best explanation of Judaism I've ever read. Are you sure you're not a theologian?
Pierre,
Glad to be of service.

Brazen Princess,
That depends on how observant you are.

ONL,
Extremely glad to hear that. Not a theologian.

How I got to this point is a little odd:
I grew up with a father who'd grown up in an orthodox immigrant household and a mother who was completely unobservant, but educated in Conservative movement Hebrew School, which meant that there was a pretty heavy disconnect between my religious education and my home life. Dad's connection with Judaism has been primarily tribal. I was sort of ethnically chauvinistic.

I married a gentile girl who'd reasoned herself out of Christianity. I couldn't handle raising Christian kids so I wanted a Jewish household. My wife looked at Judaism (and converted way, way after we got married) and told me: "I can never be ethnically Jewish. If we're going to do this, we have to do it from a religious standpoint, and we have to be involved in a congregation if you want to raise the kids in one because I will not get involved in this "for the kids;" either we all are or we all aren't. Given my own upbringing, I was thrilled with this. But it meant I had to actually look at my religion. It surprised me - it was a lot cooler than I thought.

I then spent several years with Jonathan Wolfman on AOL Jewish chat (which is how we know each other and how I ended up here on OS). Aside from getting a lot of viewpoints, I also got exposed to a lot of Christians trying to convert us. Partially from those conversations and partially from a very knowledgable fundamentalist Christian in my wife's family (married to my wife's cousin and also a musician - a lot of common interests), I became very familiar with Judaism's Christian border. As such, I learned from experience about the assumptions that undermine understanding. That's where I got the background for this post and why I know enough to address the assumptions rather than just duplicating what Wikipedia or someone would do.

Happy Thanksgiving
God isn't Tinkerbell. We don't need to clap for Him for Him to survive. Oh my. That took my breath away.

"Rabbi, teach me the Torah while I stand on one foot."
.....
"That which is hateful to you, do not do to another. The rest is commentary. Now go study."


And that always has.

In Catholic school, in the 1950s, I was taught: To be a good Christian, first you have to be a good Jew. Seriously, I was. Now, obviously it's not true, not according to most of the HRC across both time and space, but there was at least one nun (or possibly priest, not sure any more who said it) who was that enthusiastic and open-minded. We were always taught, back then, by those progressive Dominicans, that works were paramount.

This is beautifully done, I'm glad I found it. I hope the woman who SWORE to me she had visited a kosher ham production facility sees it.
Thank you, and I'm glad they told you you had to be a good Jew, though I'm not 100% sure they knew what that meant.
I think that nun - one of them anyway - told stories about her best childhood friend who lived in a kosher home so she knew something and exposed us to some concepts. (They were putting fudge in the refrigerator to cool, child Sr. Marie Annette spilled some on a meat package, her friend got very upset, they had to clean it up quickly before the friend's grandmother saw is the story I remember most.)

I think the general idea they wanted to impart was that Jesus was largely teaching Judaism and opposed the Pharisees because, in that time, they were a force that focused on the letter of the law in preference to the spirit of the law. (There are comparisons to be made in modern American Christian practice, as there were many years ago when I was in school.) We touched on Leviticus but certainly not all 612 (or 613 or 620?) laws. We had a seder of sorts in religion class one time, using soda crackers for matzoh but be kind, it was Minneapolis in the 1950s - the real thing wasn't readily available in my neighborhood. We definitely were taught specifically that it was the Romans who killed Jesus, not the Jews so don't be thinking you can use that for hating.
Jesus was absolutely teaching Judaism and was speaking exclusively to Jews. He was trying to reform Judaism, not create a new religion. Christianity didn't come about until Jews refused to believe the resurrection.

The whole bit about Christ-killing doesn't work on several levels. Even if Jewish involvement in Jesus' death were credible from either a Jewish or Roman standpoint (it really isn't from either), Jesus' death is theologically necessary in Christianity because the sacrifice is necessary for the salvation of the people. Hating a people who bring about Christian salvation is at best hypocritical. I don't see anyone who blames Jews for Jesus' death refusing the fruits of what were, in this scenario, Jewish labors.
very informative without sacrificing pace. really enjoyed this. I have lots of respect for Judaism. I've only ever been to one bar mitzvah - as opposed to the parties which i have been to a few of - and I will never forget that bar mitzvah for how much it moved me. If every single 13 year old had such a ceremony, and prepare for it with a year of study and/or good deeds, they'd be ready to be recognized by their community as progressing from "receiving blessings to giving blessings". And our world will be made better for it.
Maria,
That's the idea, particularly in the Reform movement (and possibly in the Conservative these days). It used to be mainly ceremonial but, in our movement, it's also about social responsibility.