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"See entry: Religion" • Chapter 7 • Judaism (1)

Is the Jewish religion different from other religions?

The Jewish religion differs in details, values, form of worship, etc., from other religions. How is it different in the three levels discussed in the last chapters (the psychological value, the socio-sociological value and the truth value)?

In the previous chapters we discussed the concept of "religion" in general. We also tried to make a sort of inventory of the benefits and harms of religion in these three levels. The resulting picture is not very flattering for any religion whatsoever.

From the point of view of these three levels, is the Jewish religion different?

Comparisons between religions are always problematic, because it is not always clear which current represents them. Is, for example, Islam represented by the militant Muslim Brotherhood or by the peace-seeking Ahmadis? I will nevertheless try to make such a comparison, while being aware of its problematic nature.

The sociological value

Judaism and Christianity have a set of values ​​that is more compatible with social life reformed according to what is commonly called "Western values" than Islam. This is not particularly surprising, since the values ​​of the West developed from Christianity, which developed from Judaism. For those who internalized western values, living according to the values ​​of Islam and Sharia cannot be acceptable.

In any case, the number of Jewish believers is negligible. Therefore, the global sociological damage that the Jewish religion can produce is negligible. He cannot come close to the damage done by Christianity in the past and the damage done by contemporary Islam. The social harms, as well as the social benefits of the Jewish religion are limited to the Jewish people.

The psychological value

All religions fulfill exactly the same psychological need. From this point of view it is difficult to identify a significant difference between Judaism and other religions.

the value of truth

The discussion we had about the value of truth was not related to a specific religion. All religions have the same truth value, which can be defined, very carefully, as "very improbable".

And yet, the Jewish religion and the Jewish people are important to us as Jews. The discussion from here on, we will devote to the topic of the Jewish people and the place of religion in their story.

How did the Jews survive?

In his book "The Jews - 7 Frequently Asked Questions", Shmuel Rosner lists several reasons for the secret of the survival of the Jewish people.

Below are these factors in non-binding order:

internal factors

  • Belief in a "chosen people"
  • Life according to Jewish law (religion)
  • Conceptual flexibility and adaptation, following a culture of debate and controversy
  • Emphasis on literacy
  • cultural autonomy

External Factors

  • The contribution of the Jews to the general society caused the general society to protect them even if they did not love them.
  • The Jewish geographical dispersion - a disaster in one place could not wipe out the entire diaspora.
  • Anti-Semitism, on any issue, served as a significant trapping factor, the importance of which is hard to overstate.

Sigmund Freud in an interview, 1926:

my language is german My culture, my achievements are German.
I considered myself intellectually German, until I noticed the growth of anti-Semitic prejudice in Germany and German-Austria.
Since then I no longer consider myself German. I prefer to call myself a Jew.

There is no doubt that the Jewish religion was one of the significant factors in the survival of the Jewish people, but it was not the only factor. In addition to religion and anti-Semitism, there was an important role for conceptual flexibility, which enabled the evolution of religion. Without such flexibility, for example, Judaism would not have survived the destruction of the Second Temple.

Almost all of these factors still exist today, with the following exceptions:

What is left of all this today?

  • Conspicuously absent today is the belief in a "chosen people" and living according to Jewish law, which is not adopted by the secular Jews.
  • The geographical dispersion has been greatly reduced.
  • Anti-Semitism - until recently, it seemed that this factor was fading away. Today it dawned on us that he is still with us, and in a big way.
  • Conceptual flexibility has completely disappeared from institutionalized religion. It is interesting to note that there are fundamentalist religious elements today within Israel, who wish to return us to the ritual offerings of the Temple sacrifices. These parties do not even understand the evolution that modern Judaism has undergone since the days of the Temple.

As we have seen, the strengthening of rational thinking leads to great difficulty in believing and choosing a religious life. As a result, some of the barriers that once prevented assimilation are disappearing. Along with them, some of the factors that helped the Jewish people to survive for so long also disappear.

Today there are mainly two options for maintaining a distinct Jewish identity:

Maintaining a religious lifestyle

Contenting yourself with maintaining a religious lifestyle, and in particular an orthodox religious one, is a conservative solution suitable for a certain group. This is a very significant group, but it is not a suitable solution for all those who consider themselves Jews these days, and not even for the majority of this public. This is also not a long-term solution. This is a recipe for progress towards narrow sects and division.

This solution has no ability to sway the non-Orthodox Jewish public (not to mention the non-believing public), and make it preserve its Jewish affiliation. This problem is particularly serious in Jewish communities in the Diaspora. Today, the almost only way for a Jew in the Diaspora to preserve his Jewish identity is to stick in one way or another to the local religious institutions and synagogues even without faith. It works less and less, and many give up their Jewish identity. It is very doubtful whether this way will stand the test of generations.

Life in Israel

In Israel, unlike the Diaspora, you do not have to be religious in order not to question your Jewishness. However, living in Israel in itself does not provide over time a sufficient infrastructure to connect with the ethos of a Jewish people.

How not to lose the connection to our Jewish roots, without falling into the black pit of orthodox Judaism, which cannot contain atheism? In order to do this, we must make use of the survival factor of Judaism, which is the most relevant to our time - "conceptual flexibility and adaptation".

Institutionalized Orthodox Judaism has worked hard to brand itself as a corrupt body, and to alienate itself from the majority of the Jewish public in the country. It certainly cannot contain such flexibility.

One of the symptoms of this condition: Secular couples, in increasing numbers, are choosing to have civil marriages abroad, if only to avoid the institutionalized rabbinate, which has become a monopoly in their eyes. It is interesting that for some of these couples it is actually important to marry as Jews, and they also conduct a Jewish ceremony, but they make sure to do so without a rabbi Familiar.

The conclusion: There is a clear and immediate need for a discussion on an updated definition of Judaism and "who is a Jew". Israel provides us with an opportunity, which did not exist before, to build an updated Jewish ethos, which can also influence the Diaspora.

If this sounds like a revolutionary idea to someone, he is invited to research the history of Judaism, and to argue how it was able to update and adapt in the past in order to survive.

Contact Chai here: At watsapBy email

Yoram Katz
Yoram Katz
Graduate of the Israeli hi-tech industry, journalist, writer and blogger. Link to my website and to purchase the books Born in Haifa (1954), studied at Geulah School and Harieli School. Graduated in philosophy and psychology (Hebrew University) and computer engineering (Technion). Books: • "Lethal Scripture" (English) – a historical suspense novel • “Days of Redemption” – childhood stories from the neighborhood of "Redemption"

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6 תגובות

  1. I have no doubt that the author worked hard to get to the section:
    "Instituted Orthodox Judaism has worked hard to brand itself as a corrupt body, and to alienate itself from the majority of the Jewish public in the country..."

    • Not really hard, unless you do live in limbo and not in reality.
      Two examples:
      * The rabbinate and the rabbinical courts have become a job clearing house for the ultra-orthodox parties. Only recently did our sages pay attention to the addition of hundreds of unnecessary neighborhood rabbis to be chosen by the businessmen of the orthodox parties.
      * The chief rabbi recently published his mishna on the issue of recruitment, and announced that if yeshiva members are recruited they should leave the country.

      In other words, the one who works hard to become irrelevant is precisely this institutionalized "Judaism".
      A symptom of this irrelevance:
      At the weekend I talked with a young couple who are planning to get married soon. Both, by the way, are atheists, and it is actually important for both of them to get married in an institutionalized Jewish wedding. Definitely worthy of appreciation.
      But they told me about many of their friends who stay away from "rabbinical" marriages like the plague.
      Unfortunately, this has become a trend.
      You are welcome to check the strength of the "Rabbana" brand in the survey. The results will be very dismal.

  2. There should be an open discussion on the subject that includes both religious and secular people, since the biggest problem at the moment, which I see, is the lack of alternatives, after all, there are many currents in Judaism, and in my opinion this was created as a result of the adaptation of Jews in different countries to the conditions they lived in in exile. But today the whole issue of religion on a political level is held by one current that dictates to others what a Jew is, which at the end of the day results in a situation where a significant portion of the Jews in Israel are considered non-Jews. The absurdity of this, that the state that is supposed to protect Jews, abandons them... We need a broad discourse at all levels in order to change this thing, and to bring alternatives that are more adapted to the State of Israel today and not just a Jewish state from the time of the Temple... After all, the fact that young couples travel to get married abroad is not So much out of choice, but visited out of manpower to deal with the demands of the religious establishment which states that some of them are not Jews, even though they were born in Israel to Jewish parents...therefore there should be a broad audience discussion on the concept of who is Jewish on a political level (marriage, children, a social context) And on the religious level (religious people will say what is important to them)... just as an example: there are traditional Jews, who do not light fires and do not travel on Shabbat, at the same time in the 21st century and in their technological age they can use public transportation without harming its traditional status... does that make them Not Jews? In my opinion, absolutely not, but who cures it? The orthodox rabbis or the Jewish community?

  3. How stupid 🤦🏼
    Conclusions that in my opinion arise from ignorance.
    In the next step, will you also change the laws of veganism, vegetarianism, etc.?

    • You can disagree and reason. It's OK.
      If you accuse ignorance, you should indicate what information you have that the author of the article does not know. That's fine too.
      Otherwise, the intelligent definition "swans of mind" is more appropriate for your response.
      My claim, which I will elaborate on later, is that Judaism is not just a religion, and certainly not just Orthodox Judaism.

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