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What is Judaism?

by Rabbi Tzvi Shapiro

  

Library » Jewish Identity » Who/What is a Jew? | Subscribe | What is RSS?


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Judaism Is A Religion 

Some may say this is a silly question; why obviously, Judaism is a religion.

I say it is anything but a silly question, and I am sure you agree; that is why you, an intelligent individual, clicked on this link to read this article.

Judaism is more of a mystery than a definition.

Judaism is often called a religion because it calls for a belief in G-d, it contains rules and regulations, has clergy members, holidays and houses of worship. But put Judaism on a chart parallel to the world’s famous religions and you begin to question if Judaism fits the criteria for "religion".

Judaism Is Not A Religion 

Religion/Judaism:1

Religions are belief systems that find common grounds for biologically unrelated people. Judaism is about a biologically related people who can’t (seem to) find common grounds.

Religions create the identity of the person (i.e. one who follows Christianity becomes a Christian). Judaism is created for the already identified person (i.e. if you are Jewish you need to follow Judaism).

Religions have founders and are founded on the accounts of a single individual. Judaism has no founder and was founded on a revelation witnessed by three million people.

Religions are centered in shrines. Judaism is centered in the home.

Religious leaders pardon their people. Judaism's leaders can only teach their people how to fix their own wrongdoings.

Religious clergy marry people. Judaism’s clergy only facilitate2 people as they marry themselves.

Religion's ultimate concern is the afterlife. Judaism's ultimate concern is the here and now.

Religions are focused on getting you to heaven. Judaism is focused on bringing heaven down to earth.

What Is It 

If Judaism is not a religion, what is it?

Judaism is the life of a Jew. It is the lifestyle, and the life-force.

It is about a Kosher diet, but more importantly, it is about a kosher life. It is about observing Holidays, but more importantly it is about making every day holy. It is about going to Synagogue, but more importantly it is about making your home a sanctuary. It is about sacred marital ceremonies, but more importantly it is about sanctifying family life. It is about remembering G-d on Shabbat, but more importantly it is about revealing G-d in every day and in all your work.

Judaism to the Jew is like water to the fish.

It is not practiced for this reason or that; it is actually not practiced at all. It is lived.

It is G-d’s mandate to the Jew to make him/her holy, but more importantly, it is to make him/her alive.

Judaism is the life a Jew should follow, more importantly, Judaism is the life a Jew should lead, but ultimately, Judaism is simply the life a Jew should live.

Footnotes

  • 1. This is not an attempt at comparing the values, benefits, or truths of any religion over another. This is a portrayal of how Judaism is not "another religion", but "another thing"
  • 2. A qualified Rabbi must be present at a Jewish wedding, but the act of betrothal and marriage is accomplisedhed through the bride and groom, and the Rabbi has no power "bestowed" in him.

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RELATED CATEGORIES

Torah

Shabbat
(pl: Shabbatot). Hebrew word meaning "rest." It is a Biblical commandment to sanctify and rest on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. This commemorates the fact that after creating the world in six days, G-d rested on the seventh.
Kosher
Literally means "fit." Commonly used to describe foods which are permitted by Jewish dietary laws, but is also used to describe religious articles (such as a Torah scroll or Sukkah) which meet the requirements of Jewish law.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.