Tag Archives: Christianity

A further update on Mr. Christian, and other updates

Apparently he doesn’t hear very well. Yesterday, once again, he was back to his old ways of relating everything in the class to his religious views.

Husband and I are considering what to do. We’ll probably be writing a letter to the rabbi.

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Our Seder and Matzah plates arrived! So did our four boxes of Manischewitz gluten-free matzah – but every single one was broken. I’ve been told that there’s a GF grocery that sells them (hopefully NOT broken).

We’re going to be holding a small Seder for a few friends from the Bay Area who can’t get back home for their own Seder this spring due to work schedules. It’ll be the first one I’ve ever tried to run. My best friend is going to help with prep and setup, but I need to get a Haggadah that works for me. I haven’t found a good one yet.

Other news as I have time; this is going into the busy season for me with my work.

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An Epistle to the Christians on Quora

Someone on Quora posted a question:

Religion: Jews: What are your top requests to non-Jews everywhere?
Please be respectful in your answer.

Here’s my answer.

Specifically to Christians, please stop assuming the following things:

1. That Judaism looks like Christianity, but without Jesus. It doesn’t. It’s so far removed from it that the two religions have almost nothing in common. The term “Judeo-Christian,” which has been used by your evangelical and fundamentalist branches to claim a deep connection between our two religions, is a fabrication. Please stop using that term. Saul of Tarsus took pretty much all of the Jewish roots of Christianity and severed them when he started trying to get Gentiles into the tent. Judaism may be, in some ways, Christianity’s ancestor, but Christianity has changed so much from its original Semitic roots that it is a disservice to both faiths to conflate them that closely. To put it another way: Judaism may be a parent of Christianity, but children are not clones of their parents, and Christianity is very, very different from Judaism.

2. That we believe in your version of what a Moshiach (Messiah) is supposed to be. We don’t. The Moshiach is a political and military leader, not a spiritual leader. All that stuff about him being a spiritual leader who’s going to come back from the dead and achieve a bunch of stuff? Not Biblical. Not Scriptural. Not based in any Jewish scriptures.

At the time when Yeshua ben Yosef (that guy you call “Jesus”) was alive, there were some small Jewish sects that wanted the Moshiach to be a spiritual leader too, but they were small and not supported. Saul of Tarsus took their ideas and ran with them. Essentially, he made it all up.

Also, in Judaism, we rarely talk about the coming of the Moshiach. We are predominantly more intensely concerned with this world and our duties to it and to each other in the here and now. Yes, the Moshiach will come someday, but we’re really not that concerned about when. We know it won’t be anytime soon because the world is such a mess. We have our own work to do, right here and now. That’s our responsibility.

3. That we agree with your view of what “sin” means. We don’t. In Judaism, the word for “sin” (“cheyt”) means “missing the mark.” What mark? The mark, as set down by the Law in Torah and Talmud, that we’re supposed to aim for (think archery). It does not mean you’re a horrible, evil, bad person if you sin. It means you need to do better next time.

You also can’t get away from your sins by praying and asking God for forgiveness in Judaism. You have to actually go to the people you hurt or harmed, ask them for forgiveness, and make amends as best you can. As a Jewish friend of mine said once, “If I go to HaShem (God) and say ‘I hurt Moishe ben Avraham and I want forgiveness for it,’ I’d expect HaShem to say ‘Nu, why are you coming to me? Why haven’t you gone to Moishe to work this out?'”

Your sins are your responsibility, in Judaism. Nobody else can take the punishment for them. That is not a Jewish teaching. (Many of us find the idea of Yeshua/Jesus being sacrificed for the sins of the whole world somewhere between laughable and horrifying. It is categorically NOT a Jewish view of sin.)

By the way, we don’t believe in “original sin,” either, and the Adam and Eve story is pretty minor for us.

4. That being religious is about what you believe and that what you believe needs to be the same as what everyone else believes. It’s not that way for us. It’s about how you behave. When Jews ask each other if they’re being observant, we tend to say things like “Have you given tzedakah this week? Are you observing Shabbat? Did you go to Yom Kippur services? Did you fast? Have you been to a Seder during Pesach (Passover)?”, not “Do you believe that God is X, Y and Z?” In Judaism, a person’s beliefs about God and anything else are their own business, although we’re more than happy to share them, argue about them, and disagree about them.

5. That when we tell you that you’re assuming something that isn’t true about Judaism, we’re actually right and you’re actually assuming, even if you don’t think you are. The number of times that someone non-Jewish, right here on Quora, has insisted that they know more about my religion than I do would fill an egg carton, at least. (No, Jews do not believe in heaven and hell. That’s the most recent one thrown at me. We also don’t have a devil. That’s a Christian thing. The thing Christians label as “the devil” in Jewish texts is a metaphor, not literal.)

6. That Judaism is conducted in a funnel-teaching, memorizing, by-rote manner. Like memorizing Bible verses, for example. By this I mean, Jews do not learn how to be Jewish by being told what we are supposed to believe (see #4). We are told about the history of the Hebrews, and about the moral lessons we learn from the Torah and the Tanakh and the Talmud, and then we argue, discuss, and debate those lessons and what they might mean or did mean or could mean. The idea “God said it, I believe it, that settles it” is not just nowhere to be found in Judaism; it’s actually considered quite ridiculous.

Most of this response is going to annoy Christians no matter how respectful I am about it, because in my experience, Christians are very touchy about the idea that the way their religion works isn’t the way other people’s religions work, but I hope that maybe, just maybe, people will become more aware of just how not-Christian and different from Christianity Judaism is.

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Six Things Christians and Atheists Just Don’t Seem to Get About Judaism

In the last few months, between writing on Quora and going to my Intro to Judaism class, I’ve been struck repeatedly by people’s beliefs about what Judaism is, and how incorrect those beliefs really are. Most Christians assume that “religion” looks like what they do, and can’t imagine any other way. Most atheists I bump into on this topic either never had a religion, or they came from a Christian background and rejected it, but almost all of them are Americans, raised in the American tradition, which is steeped heavily in Christian motifs, beliefs, and ways of experiencing and explaining the world. So the atheists also tend to assume that Christianity is what all religions look like.

Many of these misconceptions stem from an equally incorrect misconception: that all Christians are fundamentalist/evangelical Christians – and so all religious people are just like them, because that’s what religion looks like. Both Christians and atheists seem to believe this, and the misconceptions that grow in this fertile ground are kind of like kudzu.

Here’s a few specific misconceptions.

1. Jews are just Christians without Jesus/a Messiah. No. Sorry.

To be honest, I’m not even sure what that means, but I’ve found plenty of assumptions stemming from the idea that Christianity is what religion “looks like,” so the main difference in Judaism must be that it doesn’t have Jesus, but in most other ways it’s the same.

Certainly, Jews look for the Moshiach and the Messianic Age, but Yeshua ben Yosef (aka Jesus) isn’t him (or her), and this isn’t it. We aren’t counting on (or living for) an afterlife, and we aren’t really all that interested in making people believe the same way we do.

In Judaism, “Moshiach” is a title given to every secular political king we’ve ever had. It is NOT the title of a spiritual leader. There are a number of reasons why Yeshua ben Yosef is not the Messiah: the Temple has not been rebuilt, we do not have world peace, and the Jewish nation is not all located in Israel – among others.

2. Jews think that their religion is the only correct one and that all other religions should be eliminated/people forced to convert to the One True Religion.

Nothing could be further from the truth. I know that for most people, this is what “religion” means, but it’s hard to become a Jew, and we discourage conversion without a lot of thought and consideration. Compare that to the Christian conversion where you say “yes” and (possibly) jump in the ocean to get baptized, and you’re in.

Judaism isn’t about being better than other people, it’s about having more responsibilities than other people (that’s what “Chosen People” means, you know – not that we’re special but that we’re extra burdened). And as long as non-Jews keep the seven Noahide laws (look it up on Google), they have a place in the World to Come.

3. Jews reject science and proof in favor of blind faith and belief in a vicious, mean, petty God.

If you believe this, you don’t know any Jews. Jews are often scientists. We recognize that science is about “how” and religion is about “why.” Einstein (himself a Jewish scientist) said: “Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind.” Einstein also said about God: “I believe in Spinoza’s God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with the fates and actions of human beings.

You don’t even have to believe in God to be a Jew. So assuming that all Jews believe in a vicious, mean, petty God is kind of stupid.

4. Judaism is about belief that has no support in the real world or through science.

Nope, sorry. Judaism isn’t about belief; it’s about behavior. How are you treating people? How are you behaving? That’s more important to us than what you believe. Look at the variety of beliefs across the spectrum of Jews; no two of us experience God the same way and no two of us have exactly the same belief system. The important thing is that we treat each other ethically and respectfully.

5. All Jews believe that their religious texts are literal, 100% infallible, and 100% correct as written for all times, places, and contexts. 

A few Jews do, just like a few Christians do. That doesn’t mean all of us do. For me, the Torah is largely a set of metaphors and fables about how to deal with life, and deal with other people fairly and ethically. This includes the fables where the lesson about being ethical comes out of the story showing you what is unethical. It’s also the stories of fallible human beings doing the best they could in the contexts of their times.

6. Christianity has Jewish roots because Jesus was a Jew, so Christians believe the same things Jews do.

No. Sorry. Here’s a few things that Christians believe that Jews categorically do not:

a. A human god
b. Heaven
c. Hell
d. A need for personal salvation or a “savior”
e. Human sacrifice (sorry, but the crucifixion of Yeshua ben Yosef counts!)
f. The Messiah as a spiritual leader, rather than a political leader
g. “Original sin”
h. “Personal revelation” of truth

And yet I’ve had atheists throw many of those at me as if I believe them. Why? Because I’m a Jew, and Judaism is a religion, and all religions are just like Christianity, right?

Many of the stories that Christians think are definitive and important from the Torah are actually minor blips for Jews. Adam and Eve in the Garden? Relatively minor. For Christians, this is a Huge Big Deal. The Abraham and Isaac story? Important for Jews. For Christians? They’re not sure what to make of that.

If someone’s going to dislike me because I’m a Jew, I’d appreciate it if they’d at least get their facts straight.

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Filed under Conversion Process, Day-to-Day, Judaism