Here are 4 common misconceptions many Jews have about Judaism.
1) "JUDAISM IS EITHER ALL OR NOTHING"
All those commandments to keep? You've got to be kidding.
Many people think that if they can't take on the whole Jewish kit'n'kaboodle, then there's no point in getting started.
But is that really true? Is traditional Judaism an all-or-nothing proposition?
Imagine stumbling across a gold mine. Would you turn down the gold because you know you won't find ALL the gold mines in the world? That one mine alone will make you rich for life!
Every mitzvah is a gold mine. Even if we do just part of a mitzvah, our lives are enriched forever.
Judaism is a process, a journey, where every step counts.
It's NOT all or nothing.
Whatever we're able to do right now is great!
Just Jew it. One step at a time.
2) "SOME JEWS ARE BETTER THAN OTHERS"
Ever meet a Jew who looks down at everyone less religious than him? He can be condescending, judgmental, and turn others off to Judaism.
But, according to the Torah, can we know who is a "good Jew"?
If a terrorist would order the greatest rabbi on earth to kill a thief or else be killed, the rabbi is forbidden to murder, even in order to save his life. Why? Isn't the rabbi's life more precious in God's eyes than the life of some criminal?
The Talmud says: "Nobody knows whose blood is redder." No one can judge the worth of another person because no one knows where another person is situated on the ladder of life ― where he began and how many rungs he has climbed. Perhaps the thief, given his life's circumstances, is making greater, more difficult life choices than the finest rabbi.
The best policy is for all of us to stop judging each other and respect each other instead.
3) "RELIGION TAKES THE FUN OUT OF LIFE"
Judaism refers to God as our Father in Heaven.
Just like our parents want us to have everything that is good, the Almighty wants the same for us ― to get as much pleasure as we possibly can!
The word "Torah" means "instruction" because it contains the instructions for life. Computers come with big, fat instruction manuals, and without them we'd be lost. Life's a lot more complicated and if we want to make the most of it, a set of instructions can surely make a difference.
God doesn't ask us to pray because He needs an ego stroke.
God doesn't ask us to pray because He needs an ego stroke. Or to skip the bacon because it makes Him nauseous. For over three thousand years the Torah has been teaching us how to build a life of meaning and maximize pleasure.
Don't just settle for the banana splits. Make sure you get the premium ― the kind of fulfillment that lasts.
That's what Judaism is here to teach us.
4) "BEING RELIGIOUS IS AN ESCAPE"
"It's a crutch."
"Once you're religious, you stop thinking."
"Being religious requires a leap of faith."
Far from being an escape, Judaism teaches that we're responsible for the entire world. The Talmud says each person should feel that "the world was personally created for me and it's up to me to take care of it."
Our heroes are the righteous and the scholars because for thousands of years Jews have been having a love affair with learning about life and striving to grow. The Torah is a guide and standard for ethical conduct, but then comes the hard part ― applying those moral principles and living up to them in the nitty-gritty of daily life.
And that leap of faith? It's not Jewish. The first of the Ten Commandments is to know there's a God as opposed to blind acceptance. Be an honest intellectual, not a product of your society. Hear the evidence and start building a rational foundation for your beliefs, whatever they may be.
Clearing the air on some of these misconceptions is a good start in discovering what Judaism is really about. You can continue your journey with the related articles.
based on a class by Rabbi Noah Weinberg