Studied Jew 298.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
In a recent column I argued for the need to bring Judaism to the mainstream world. Judaism has nearly always been relegated to a backseat role. This is bizarre, given that every great monotheistic faith derives its core principles and, indeed, its monotheistic raison d'etre from Judaism. In effect, this makes Judaism the light of the world.
Judaism, of course, and not Christianity, is the faith that Jesus Christ staunchly defended and practiced his whole life. And yet the light of Judaism has never been allowed to directly illuminate the earth with its potent radiance.
Jews have forever erred in feeling that Judaism is not for non-Jews. Ironically, the greatest enemy of Judaism throughout the ages has been the Jews themselves who have remained utterly convinced that Judaism has nothing important to say to the wider world.
The results have been tragic. First, relative to the general population, there are barely any Jews in the world because we refuse to spread the light of our faith to those who might adopt it. Second, anti-Semitism could arguably have been mitigated had the demonization our people and our faith been countered by millions of non-Jews who turned to Judaism for wisdom and guidance.
It is time to correct this greatest of all Jewish omissions. The time for Judaism has arrived. The world today faces unprecedented social problems that Judaism is uniquely qualified to address.
Whereas other religions focus on salvation and see the purpose of faith as assisting humans in gaining a place in heaven, Judaism's supreme focus is on mastering life and bettering the earth.
IN DUBLIN last week I saw a group of evangelical Christians promoting their faith on the streets of this, one of the most Catholic countries on earth. As I watched these Christian missionaries publicly argue that their faith had greater application to modern problems than the one being practiced by their listeners, I wondered to myself: Why not Judaism?
To be sure, Jews would never pull someone from a religion to which they were devoted. But the vast majority of people in the Western world today have either rejected religion, or pay only lip service to their faith.
Why not offer them Judaism, a way of life and body of wisdom that has the most profound answers to the simple questions of existence that people most fail at today: How we do keep the love alive in marriage? How do we inspire our children? How do we overcome a life of shallowness and lift up our material endeavors so they acquire transcendent purpose?
What would a universal Judaism look like? I propose the following as the basis for a worldwide campaign that the Jewish community can launch, to illuminate the world with the light of Jewish values, heal the world of many of its social maladies and inspire Jews themselves to recommit to a tradition their non-Jewish counterparts find awe-inspiring and wise.
First, and foremost, there would be a declaration that you don't have to be Jewish to practice Judaism. Rather, it's about bringing the following principles into your life, whatever your identity.
Instill values: A passion for study and the acquisition of knowledge.
Fate does not exist. What we become in our lifetime is dependent entirely on the choices we make. Period. Man possesses freedom of choice at all times. Therefore, choose righteousness.
Charity is the mother of all virtue. Give generously.
Define yourself by personal relationships rather than by professional achievements. Put family first.
Do the right thing even for the wrong reasons. Repairing the world is more important than repairing yourself. World redemption precedes personal salvation.
Hate evil and fight it. Wrestle even with God in the face of seeming divine miscarriages of justice.
Every human being is created in God's image and individuals are thus equal and their lives sacred.
The Sabbath: Every Friday to Saturday night, impose a 24-hour technology cutoff that insulates you from the busy-ness of the world. Do not answer the phone. Do not turn on the TV. Walk instead of drive. Reconnect with family and community.
Marital Law: Have sex in marriage as often as possible. Lovemaking is the glue that keeps a husband and wife intimately connected. But separate sexually for 12 consecutive days each month in order to impose an erotic barrier that both enhances lust and makes your bodies exciting and new. Do not think about anyone but your spouse during sex. The focus should be on the woman's pleasure before the man's. A man must respect his wife more than he respects himself.
Child-rearing: From the earliest age, instill a love of learning in your child. When your children are young, impose borders and rules that they know not to cross. As they grow older, relax the left hand of discipline and begin the right hand of inspiration. Have regular talks with your children about values. And apologize freely to your kids when you have hurt them.
Holidays: The Jewish year revolves around eight holidays evoking eight different meditations and reflections.
On Rosh Hashana, reflect on God's kingship and the subjugation of our lives to His will. On Yom Kippur, reflect on misdeeds and the need to repent of error and better our ways. On Succot, immerse yourself in nature. Reflect on removing artifice and manipulation from your life and reconnect with your most authentic self. Light candles on Hanukka and reflect on the soul's capacity to illuminate the world's darkness, and the power of goodness to triumph over evil. On Purim, celebrate God's guiding hand in history. On Pessah, reflect on human liberty and the spiritual capacity to transcend physical limitation.
On Shavuot, reflect on the centrality of law to human governance and the importance of divinely ordained ritual in communing with God. On Tisha B'Av, mourn for all the human tragedies that have forever consumed the innocent at the hands of the wicked, and pray for the redemption of mankind.
The Bible: Read a chapter of the Hebrew Bible every day. Begin with Genesis and proceed through the end of the Hebrew Prophets. Make the Bible a constant source of discussion at home.
Dietary Laws: Eat only kosher animals, defined as animals that are not themselves predatory and are only vegetarian. They possess split hooves rather than paws, which makes them incapable of preying on the weak. Never mix dairy and meat products, as a symbol of the need to always embrace life (milk) and abhor death (meat).
Obviously, this summation is only a beginning and minds greater than my own should refine the universal Judaism that we can then disseminate. But disseminate it we must.
The writer hosts "Shalom in the Home" on TLC. His upcoming book is The Broken American Male.