Image: Corncob with kernels and empty spaces. Photo by MarcPascual/Pixabay.
Is Judaism an absence or a presence in your life?
For some people who grow up Jewish, Judaism is mostly about what Jews don’t do:
- Don’t turn on the TV on Shabbes
- Don’t date non-Jewish boys
- Don’t eat pork or shellfish
- Don’t have a Christmas tree
- Don’t sing Christmas carols
- Don’t celebrate Easter
- Don’t go in a church, ever, even to a friend’s wedding
- Don’t, don’t, don’t
It all adds up to “we are different, and not in a happy way.”
Many of us feel a need for connection to a tradition, something larger and older than ourselves. The obvious choice is the tradition of our youth, but when that was all “don’t’s,” or when it was used to make us feel bad about ourselves, it can take a lot of courage to explore it anew.
Judaism is more than “don’t’s.” It is an ancient tradition offering meaning and joy as well as connection to other Jews. It connects us to Jews in the present, but also to those of the past and those yet to come. Jews today “tend the flame” for Jews in the future.
Judaism offers us:
- The joy of Shabbat, every week.
- A year rich with holidays that speak to every human emotion
- A winter festival of light
- A spring festival of new life and hope
- A summer festival of wisdom and plenty
- A fall renewal of the spirit
- Freedom to ask questions
- Ethics without dogma
- A framework for making sense of the world.
If you grew up feeling that Judaism was about deprivation and “don’t’s,” I hope that you will find the courage to ask questions and look deeper. There are many ways to be Jewish, and if the one you learned as a child was unsatisfying, know that it isn’t the only way.