click here to jump to start of article
Join Our Newsletter

Join 400,000 Aish subscribers
Get Email Updates




4 Misconceptions Jews Have About Judaism

4 Misconceptions Jews Have About Judaism

Exploring Judaism can mean un-learning mistaken ideas, as much as it means learning new ones.

by

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

Published: January 22, 2000


Give Tzedakah! Help Aish.com create inspiring
articles, videos and blogs featuring timeless Jewish wisdom.

Visitor Comments: 74

(67) Stanley Veksler, January 6, 2012 6:21 PM

Light into the nation

I do agree that jewdaism is a way of life and is a road for learning. Only i don't understand how that can play together. Statement "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." and separating yourself in volunterally "getto" with complete disconnection with theworld in dispora as well as Israel? A lot of hate come from luck of knowledge and unknown is always scarry.

(66) Jay, January 4, 2012 12:32 PM

Judaism is more than just a religion...

Sure, Judaism is a religion - and as with all religions there is a basis with which one can argue its legitimacy. However, as individuals we have the ability to decide how faithful we ought to be [if at all] - and as with most choices in life, a proper decision in this regard can only be made through an educated understanding [which, I must contend is very much open to perspective]. BLIND faith or the BLIND rejection of faith is just another way of being ignorant. That said, I was born Jewish but had little exposure to religious practices growing up. I did not have a bar-mitzvah, nor did I attend synagogue aside from a few random occasions. I studied political philosophy in college, and that only strengthened my separation from Judaism and religion in general. I am now 31 and exploring the opportunity to connect to the Jewish community. My experiences have brought me to this point, and as I continue to educate myself about Judaism I realize how its more than just a connection jews, as a group, have to G-d. Judaism is just as much about the connection we have to one another. This is something no Jewish person should forget... To answer another poster's question: knowing or believing in a higher power [in this case a god or THE G-d] isn't an easy thing. This article illustrates that Judaism isn't an all-or-nothing proposition - something with which I'm in agreement. Going on that, being an atheist and following The Commandments while not believing in G-d isn't a bad thing - especially given what the 1st Commandment says about knowing versus believing in G-d. It's a pretty strong statement, but one worth thinking about...

Wassim, January 7, 2012 5:21 AM

It depends on your conception/misconception of God

Given how difficult it is to ascertain "what is God", there is a huge number of potential candidate definitions or conceptions of "what God may be" in the individual mind of the religious person. If you consciously choose your candidate conception and then later conclude that "God doesn't exist" then you need to consider that your conception is what doesn't exist. Don't assume you've correctly conceptualised "God" and found that "God doesn't exist". More likely than not, you have failed to "grasp God" like almost everyone before you. Luckily for you, your benefit from religious study and observance isn't limited because you think "God doesn't exist". Actually, your "belief" that "God doesn't exist" only limits your ability to re-examine and therefore learn more. By reaching the unsubstantiated conclusion that "God doesn't exist', all you've done is decided to cut your losses, not realising that you gain more from that gap in your knowledge remaining intact (as a gap) rather than being filled with an unsubstantiated conclusion. There is 1 conception of God that will hold the test, but it requires tremendous flexibility of thought that will push you to the limits of your mental capacity. Rest assured, "God" exists, but does your "conception of God" exist? I don't know. This issue is at the heart of how we learn from religious scripture when the literal words don't seem to correlate well with present day conditions and accepted scientific knowledge. Is the Torah meant to teach us how to live, or are we supposed to use its words to find holes in our own conceptualisations? Do you teach a student better by providing them with a text that challenges them or with a text full of facts and figures that ought to be memmorised and literally translated? This is key to inter-sect and inter-faith discussions.

Anonymous, April 18, 2012 9:00 AM

Wassim- I found your comment mind opening and inspiring. As a product of a liberal university with many 'intellectual truths' pushed on me, whether overtly or otherwise, I think you are correct. At one point I stopped asking 'what is' and 'how is' and instead i asked 'is it' and 'what isn't'. May we all merit the wisdom to ask the right questions in the right way.

(65) Wolf, February 15, 2011 5:40 PM

@Jerome - Is what you say true?

I agree there are many fights that may seem to come from religion, when in reality they originate from people that aren't respectful to others, I'm a Catholic, I've met a lot of Jews who are very observant, yet respectful of my beliefs and are friends to me, I've also met many Jews who look down on me, for I'm not part of "the chosen people"...that only creates conflicts (it's also the other way around with Catholics and Muslims being too narrow-minded to accept others) I honestly believe that you cannot abide by some rules (say the 10 Commandments) if you don't believe the originator of those rules and the end to which they whey created...you may seem to behave properly in "human" terms, but unless you pursue a bigger end (as G-d), then in my opinion you're there only to not cause trouble, not to change this world and lives, remember it's not only not doing wrong, it's doing greater good for a fair reason. And war by all means is not a fair pretext to which separate from religious beliefs, maybe you can separate from the creators of war -MEN, and show them differently with your actions, but if gain fame yourself instead of being a means for G-d to act, then it's futile my friend.

See All Comments

Submit Your Comment:

  • Display my name?

  • Your email address is kept private. Our editor needs it in case we have a question about your comment.


  • * required field 2000
Submit Comment
stub
Sign up today!