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Postby rusmeister » 25 Sep 2008, 09:16

JRosemary wrote:
rusmeister wrote: One more thought - the Orthodox Church (and probably the Catholic Church as well) sees itself as the New Israel - a claim supported in Scripture - so desiring to be a part of the people of Israel is normal - you just need to join the Church!


Actually, that very claim is one of the many reasons I knew I couldn't be a Christian. I never bought it. I'll stick with being part of the people Israel, thanks--I'm not looking for some 'new' Israel. :wink:

I can't much respond to the rest of your post. I mean, in the end, it's nothing to me whether the lady who chains herself to the bishop's porch in protest stays Catholic or not! For myself, I knew years ago that however much I liked the Catholic Church, I didn't belong there. I don't accept many of its fundamental teachings, from the Trinity to the heirarchy and beyond.

But it's not only that--it's something even beyond doctrine, honestly. However much Judaism drives me nuts (as it sometimes does) I do know that I belong there. (Although, for the most part, it's not Jewish teachings that drive me nuts; it's other issues.) For better or for worse, I understand God as the God of Israel. And I interact with Him as part of the people Israel.

(And, by the same token, it may be something deeper than doctrine that keeps the protestors in the Catholic Church.)

Just some thoughts in response - on ladies chaining themselves: I can't sympathize with protesters. If the authority has been sent of God, then the thing one is setting up in protest against it is one's self, for the Christian, the thing that is farthest from God and most in need of transformation. (IOW, the thing that can be least relied upon as a source of Truth.) There is only one question: is this Church of God? If not, leave it. If so, then submit yourself. The character of God, as we see Him throughout the Bible, will surely bless obedience and submission in an effort to please Him, a denial of self, even if it means submitting to potential error in something (the human side of the Church), just as God will surely bless the wife who does submit herself, even to a foolish husband, because that's what He said to do. It mainly means giving up 'what I think' and recognize that rebellion and protesting, in general, is not of God. The only thing we can rebel and protest against is the world, and certainly not the Church.

On the New Israel: obviously you have your own ideas of exactly what "the people of Israel", in the Biblical sense, is. The question really is, on the basis of what authority do you determine that? I find that most tend to make self the authority rather than accept the teaching of an external authority. (From here we can launch into the ability of one's own knowledge and experience to interpret questions that men have given thought to for centuries.)I'd hesitate to say that I had the wisdom to know what God's purposes are in passing the covenant, broadly speaking, from the Jews to the Gentiles, other than that He desires the salvation of all, that none should perish.

On doctrine: You seem to see doctrine (aka 'dogma' aka 'teaching') as something that is merely a part of a faith, rather than the thing that defines the faith. I would compare it roughly to the Constitution of a country (that genuinely abides by its Constitution). It's the rules of the game, so to speak, which determines everything else.

This seems to have considerable bearing on the subject:
Some people do not like the word "dogma." Fortunately they are free, and there is an alternative for them. There are two things, and two things only, for the human mind, a dogma and a prejudice.

Doctrine, therefore, does not cause dissensions; rather a doctrine
alone can cure our dissensions. It is necessary to ask,
however, roughly, what abstract and ideal shape in state or
family would fulfill the human hunger; and this apart from
whether we can completely obtain it or not.

What's Wrong With the World, pt 1, ch 3 (The New Hypocrite) http://www.cse.dmu.ac.uk/~mward/gkc/boo ... wrong.html
(I do recommend reading the whole chapter - roughly 8 paragraphs - better yet, the whole book! :) )

A pity you can't respond to the rest of my post. It seems to me to be quite relevant to much of what you've said. I do understand the feeling of belonging, though.
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Postby JRosemary » 25 Sep 2008, 11:40

On the New Israel: obviously you have your own ideas of exactly what "the people of Israel", in the Biblical sense, is. The question really is, on the basis of what authority do you determine that? I find that most tend to make self the authority rather than accept the teaching of an external authority. (From here we can launch into the ability of one's own knowledge and experience to interpret questions that men have given thought to for centuries.)


Authority is both internal and external. The Torah, the rest of the Tanak and the Talmud are all authorities for me. Maimonides is an authority to me. The Conservative Law Committee is an authority to me on what is and is not halachic (and they, in turn, go back to the Torah, the Talmud, Maimnonides and other commentators, etc.) But I have to use my own brain too--hence internal authority--heck, there's no way to engage in the Scripture, teachings and commentaries of Judaism without using your brain and jumping into the argument. (Remember, Judaism preserves both majority and minority opinions in our commentaries.)

I'd hesitate to say that I had the wisdom to know what God's purposes are in passing the covenant, broadly speaking, from the Jews to the Gentiles, other than that He desires the salvation of all, that none should perish.


You seem to be starting with a mistaken belief: that it's better to be part of the covenant than not to be part of it and that it's better to be part of the people Israel than not to be part of the people Israel. That's not the case.

There's nothing magical or better about being a Jew versus being a gentile. You can live the life God intended you to live as either. If you're Jewish, you just have certain responsibilities that you don't have as a gentile; that's all. Broadly speaking, all humanity has the same moral responsibilities--Jews have additional ritual responsibilities. (It's not quite that tidy, since you can't neatly separate the ritual laws from the moral laws in Judaism, but that's the basic idea. And, of course, your own faith might put ritual demands on you.)

For example, you, as a gentile, don't have to follow the rules of kashrut (the kosher laws.) Well, not unless your own church requires you to follow them--in which case that's between you, your church and God. (Or your church might require you to follow some other dietary law--like back in the day when Catholics didn't eat meat on Fridays. Again, that's between you, your church and God.)

(To make this a little more complicated, lol, Reform Jews will argue that any 'ritual' law is optional even for Jews. That's an argument that I have with Reform Judaism--and, believe it or not, it comes down to a question of authority. In this case, the question is, 'how authoritative is the Talmud?')

At any event, if you want to be part of a 'new covenant' then go ahead and be so. If you want to claim you're a 'new Israel' then go ahead and claim it. But remember that there's nothing wrong with being a gentile. You're not in danger of 'perishing' merely because you're not part of the people Israel. God never said that everyone has to be Jewish.

rusmeister wrote:On doctrine: You seem to see doctrine (aka 'dogma' aka 'teaching') as something that is merely a part of a faith, rather than the thing that defines the faith. I would compare it roughly to the Constitution of a country (that genuinely abides by its Constitution). It's the rules of the game, so to speak, which determines everything else.


Lol--you're speaking only from the Christian experience, Rus! Remember, for a person to be Christian, she has to accept the doctrine of the religion. That's not true in Judaism. As Judaism 101 (a site written from an Orthodox perspective) puts it:

What do Jews believe? This is a far more difficult question than you might expect. Judaism has no dogma, no formal set of beliefs that one must hold to be a Jew. In Judaism, actions are far more important than beliefs, although there is certainly a place for belief within Judaism.


The site goes on to list the 13 principles of Maimonides and then explains that every one of those 13 principles has been argued by some group of Jews at one point or another!

So we're talking at cross purposes here. The Jewish notion of authority is much different than the Christian one. The Jewish notion of 'doctrine'--in so far as Jews have any--is much different than the Christian one.
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Postby rusmeister » 26 Sep 2008, 00:29

JRosemary wrote:You seem to be starting with a mistaken belief: that it's better to be part of the covenant than not to be part of it and that it's better to be part of the people Israel than not to be part of the people Israel. That's not the case.

There's nothing magical or better about being a Jew versus being a gentile. You can live the life God intended you to live as either. If you're Jewish, you just have certain responsibilities that you don't have as a gentile; that's all. Broadly speaking, all humanity has the same moral responsibilities--Jews have additional ritual responsibilities. (It's not quite that tidy, since you can't neatly separate the ritual laws from the moral laws in Judaism, but that's the basic idea. And, of course, your own faith might put ritual demands on you.)

For example, you, as a gentile, don't have to follow the rules of kashrut (the kosher laws.) Well, not unless your own church requires you to follow them--in which case that's between you, your church and God. (Or your church might require you to follow some other dietary law--like back in the day when Catholics didn't eat meat on Fridays. Again, that's between you, your church and God.)

(To make this a little more complicated, lol, Reform Jews will argue that any 'ritual' law is optional even for Jews. That's an argument that I have with Reform Judaism--and, believe it or not, it comes down to a question of authority. In this case, the question is, 'how authoritative is the Talmud?')

At any event, if you want to be part of a 'new covenant' then go ahead and be so. If you want to claim you're a 'new Israel' then go ahead and claim it. But remember that there's nothing wrong with being a gentile. You're not in danger of 'perishing' merely because you're not part of the people Israel. God never said that everyone has to be Jewish.


We simply have different understandings of the same words. To the Christian, 'the covenant' no longer means being a Jew or being a Gentile, so no one (on my end) thinks of it in those terms. The covenant was with Israel but no longer is. So it's not about a desire to be Jewish, but a desire to be God's people (which is no longer the Jewish people). So Jews also need to join themselves to the Church.

JRosemary wrote:
rusmeister wrote:On doctrine: You seem to see doctrine (aka 'dogma' aka 'teaching') as something that is merely a part of a faith, rather than the thing that defines the faith. I would compare it roughly to the Constitution of a country (that genuinely abides by its Constitution). It's the rules of the game, so to speak, which determines everything else.


Lol--you're speaking only from the Christian experience, Rus! Remember, for a person to be Christian, she has to accept the doctrine of the religion. That's not true in Judaism. As Judaism 101 (a site written from an Orthodox perspective) puts it:

What do Jews believe? This is a far more difficult question than you might expect. Judaism has no dogma, no formal set of beliefs that one must hold to be a Jew. In Judaism, actions are far more important than beliefs, although there is certainly a place for belief within Judaism.


The site goes on to list the 13 principles of Maimonides and then explains that every one of those 13 principles has been argued by some group of Jews at one point or another!

So we're talking at cross purposes here. The Jewish notion of authority is much different than the Christian one. The Jewish notion of 'doctrine'--in so far as Jews have any--is much different than the Christian one.


I'd question this understanding on this level - if there are no common beliefs at all among Jews, what is it that enables you to become Jewish? On what basis are they themselves Jewish? Can other Jews dispute this? If so, where is any objective validity determining what the word "Jew" means? (It certainly sounds like there is some doctrinal attitude towards actions, at least.)

Obviously what I mean by the word doctrine is that which is commonly understood and can be used as a measuring stick for a given faith. If the faith has no measuring stick, then anyone can make of it whatever they want. It has no definition and means nothing. The purpose of doctrine is definition.
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Postby JRosemary » 26 Sep 2008, 06:05

The covenant was with Israel but no longer is. So it's not about a desire to be Jewish, but a desire to be God's people (which is no longer the Jewish people). So Jews also need to join themselves to the Church.


Obviously you and I are not in agreement here, Rus--obviously I believe in the continued validity of the Covenant at Sinai (as many Christians also believe--particularly mainline Protestants.) And I don't believe that Jews need to join themselves with a church. That said, I'm content to agree to disagree.

I'd question this understanding on this level - if there are no common beliefs at all among Jews, what is it that enables you to become Jewish? On what basis are they themselves Jewish? Can other Jews dispute this? If so, where is any objective validity determining what the word "Jew" means? (It certainly sounds like there is some doctrinal attitude towards actions, at least.)


There are common beliefs in Judaism--they're just not binding the way Christian beliefs are for Christians. You can say in general that Judaism teaches this or that--as long as you understand Jewish culture well enough to realize that people are always arguing about said teachings!

You don't become a Jew by saying I believe this or I believe that. What makes you Jewish is being a part of the people Israel--either through birth or through conversion.

Now, if you were to take a poll of religious Jews, you'll find lots of common teachings and common beliefs. But you'll also find lots of variety: take the afterlife, for example. Lots of Jews--even religious Jews--don't believe in it. Reconstructionist Jews are especially hostile to the notion; they even removed references to the afterlife from the liturgy.

On the other hand, many Jews do believe in an afterlife. But, either way, it's not much stressed in Judaism. So as a general rule you can say that Judaism doesn't emphasize the afterlife. And neither belief nor disbelief in the afterlife has any effect on whether you're Jewish.

The question of Jewish identity is an intriguing one. Here's what every Jew agrees on: if your mother is a Jew, you're a Jew. It doesn't matter at all what you believe or don't believe. If you're an atheist or something, some Jews might consider you 'a Jew in error'--but you're still a Jew. So my Grandma Maria and my Grandpa--both of whom, as far as I know, never stepped foot in a synagogue--are every bit as Jewish as Abraham and Sarah, by virtue of the fact that they were born to Jewish mothers.

Here's where it gets tricky: conversions and patralineal descent. I converted through a Conservative synagogue. All Conservative/Masorti, Reform/Progressive and Reconstructionist Jews consider me a Jew. A few Orthodox congregations would accept me as Jewish, but others wouldn't.

(I can undergo an Orthodox conversion, in which case I'd be accepted as Jewish by everyone, but I'm reluctant to do that--because it would seem like I was saying there was something invalid about my Conservative conversion. Which, as far as I'm concerned, is not the case. This is an issue that many non-Orthodox converts face at some point or other--whether to also undergo an Orthodox conversion.)

Here's another issue: patralinial descent. Reform congregations often maintain that if your father was Jewish but not your mother, you can be Jewish by declaring yourself so, without needing to convert. (This is the situation that some folks in my family are in.) Reform Jews consider you Jewish, but not Conservative/Masorti, or Orthodox. (I'm not sure what the Reconstructionists think about this.)

So, it comes down to this: different Jewish communities have different ideas about who is and isn't a Jew. My definition of a Jew is this: anyone who is recognized by one of the four major branches of Judaism (Orthodox, Conservative/Masorti, Reform/Progressive or Reconstructionist) as a Jew.

Re doctrinal attitudes toward actions: Actions don't make you a Jew--but you can argue that they determine how good a Jew you are :wink: Religious Jews agree on the necessity of prayers, repentance and deeds of loving-kindness--but beyond that, you'll find lots of disagreements from branch to branch.

Do you have to keep kosher or don't you? What sort of observances are required on Shabbat? These questions are much debated among the different branches, with Orthodox and Conservative/Masorti coming down on the more observant side, while Reform/Progressive and Reconstructionist tend toward the less observant side. However, I'm speaking very broadly here.
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Postby rusmeister » 26 Sep 2008, 07:44

JRosemary wrote:
The covenant was with Israel but no longer is. So it's not about a desire to be Jewish, but a desire to be God's people (which is no longer the Jewish people). So Jews also need to join themselves to the Church.


Obviously you and I are not in agreement here, Rus--obviously I believe in the continued validity of the Covenant at Sinai (as many Christians also believe--particularly mainline Protestants.) And I don't believe that Jews need to join themselves with a church. That said, I'm content to agree to disagree.

I'd question this understanding on this level - if there are no common beliefs at all among Jews, what is it that enables you to become Jewish? On what basis are they themselves Jewish? Can other Jews dispute this? If so, where is any objective validity determining what the word "Jew" means? (It certainly sounds like there is some doctrinal attitude towards actions, at least.)


There are common beliefs in Judaism--they're just not binding the way Christian beliefs are for Christians. You can say in general that Judaism teaches this or that--as long as you understand Jewish culture well enough to realize that people are always arguing about said teachings!

You don't become a Jew by saying I believe this or I believe that. What makes you Jewish is being a part of the people Israel--either through birth or through conversion.

Now, if you were to take a poll of religious Jews, you'll find lots of common teachings and common beliefs. But you'll also find lots of variety: take the afterlife, for example. Lots of Jews--even religious Jews--don't believe in it. Reconstructionist Jews are especially hostile to the notion; they even removed references to the afterlife from the liturgy.

On the other hand, many Jews do believe in an afterlife. But, either way, it's not much stressed in Judaism. So as a general rule you can say that Judaism doesn't emphasize the afterlife. And neither belief nor disbelief in the afterlife has any effect on whether you're Jewish.

The question of Jewish identity is an intriguing one. Here's what every Jew agrees on: if your mother is a Jew, you're a Jew. It doesn't matter at all what you believe or don't believe. If you're an atheist or something, some Jews might consider you 'a Jew in error'--but you're still a Jew. So my Grandma Maria and my Grandpa--both of whom, as far as I know, never stepped foot in a synagogue--are every bit as Jewish as Abraham and Sarah, by virtue of the fact that they were born to Jewish mothers.

Here's where it gets tricky: conversions and patralineal descent. I converted through a Conservative synagogue. All Conservative/Masorti, Reform/Progressive and Reconstructionist Jews consider me a Jew. A few Orthodox congregations would accept me as Jewish, but others wouldn't.

(I can undergo an Orthodox conversion, in which case I'd be accepted as Jewish by everyone, but I'm reluctant to do that--because it would seem like I was saying there was something invalid about my Conservative conversion. Which, as far as I'm concerned, is not the case. This is an issue that many non-Orthodox converts face at some point or other--whether to also undergo an Orthodox conversion.)

Here's another issue: patralinial descent. Reform congregations often maintain that if your father was Jewish but not your mother, you can be Jewish by declaring yourself so, without needing to convert. (This is the situation that some folks in my family are in.) Reform Jews consider you Jewish, but not Conservative/Masorti, or Orthodox. (I'm not sure what the Reconstructionists think about this.)

So, it comes down to this: different Jewish communities have different ideas about who is and isn't a Jew. My definition of a Jew is this: anyone who is recognized by one of the four major branches of Judaism (Orthodox, Conservative/Masorti, Reform/Progressive or Reconstructionist) as a Jew.

Re doctrinal attitudes toward actions: Actions don't make you a Jew--but you can argue that they determine how good a Jew you are :wink: Religious Jews agree on the necessity of prayers, repentance and deeds of loving-kindness--but beyond that, you'll find lots of disagreements from branch to branch.

Do you have to keep kosher or don't you? What sort of observances are required on Shabbat? These questions are much debated among the different branches, with Orthodox and Conservative/Masorti coming down on the more observant side, while Reform/Progressive and Reconstructionist tend toward the less observant side. However, I'm speaking very broadly here.


I believe there is absolute truth that I didn't create, and don't determine - I need authority to tell me what it is. I can discover bits of it on my own, but can not ascertain the truth necessary for my salvation and fulfillment with that authority. This truth will not be in conflict with my life experience, but will rather explain it.

I think the thing where we wouldn't see eye to eye is that even your definitions seem highly personal. Does what you call the Conservative community agree 100% with your definitions regarding converted Jews? (if so, it can be said that they have a dogma regarding it. If not, then not. In general, the situation you describe looks very similar to much of Christianity today, which atheists rightly reject because it defies and avoids definition, because it is largely what you make of it. Hardly something worth dying for.

I don't think there's much we can talk about regarding faith, if your faith really does deny dogmas (which is itself a dogma), that is, it denies any truth that can be universally known. I imagine that there are Jews that do not hold this position and I could find common ground with them, whether Orthodox or not. But not with one that says there is no truth or truth is what you make of it, something determined by the individual, which are all the same thing.

Or perhaps I misunderstood some things...

Thanks for the explanations, though! :smile:
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Postby JRosemary » 26 Sep 2008, 12:28

rusmeister wrote:I think the thing where we wouldn't see eye to eye is that even your definitions seem highly personal. Does what you call the Conservative community agree 100% with your definitions regarding converted Jews? (if so, it can be said that they have a dogma regarding it. If not, then not. In general, the situation you describe looks very similar to much of Christianity today, which atheists rightly reject because it defies and avoids definition, because it is largely what you make of it. Hardly something worth dying for.


I think you're having trouble with the idea that adherence to Jewish teachings doesn't determine someone's Jewishness. Judaism has an enormous body of teachings. But taking the teachings to heart doesn't affect your identity as a Jew.

This is a situation that doesn't exist in Christianity. Because in Christianity (or at least much of Christianity) you have to believe certain things or you can't properly be said to be Christian. But in Judaism, even if a Jew is an atheist he don't stop being Jewish. Many Jews will say that he's in serious error--but the person is still a Jew.

Re Conservative Conversions: the question of whether someone has been 'properly' converted is a halachic issue (which means an issue of law.) The Law Committee of Conservative Judaism--the body that decides on whether something is halachic or not for Conservative synagogues (by consulting the Torah, Tanak, Talmud, previous rulings, etc.)--has traditional standards for a conversion: it has to involve a beit din (a council), a mikvah (ritual bath) and, for a guy, circumcision. (Or symbolic drawing of blood if he's already circumcised.) And that stuff all, generally speaking, comes after a year or so of study.

Orthodox and Conservative/Masorti synagogues provide all that as a matter of course for converts. So, to the Conservative Law Committee, those conversions are always valid, and a person so-converted can join any Conservative shul as a Jew.

Our Law Committee rejects the validity of patralineal descent. So if your father was Jewish but not your mother, and you want to be a Jew, the official ruling in Conservative synagogues is that you have to undergo conversion.

Now, individual Conservative Jews may or may not agree with the Law Committee. For one example: I tend to think that patralineal descent is valid--that Reform Judaism is probably right about that. (And considering that there are patralineal Jews in my family, this belief spares me a number of headaches!) My rabbi and I have debated this. And I understand the arguments against patralineal descent as he explains them. But notice that me supporting patralineal descent doesn't outrage my rabbi--it just leads to a spirited debate between us :rolleyes:

Now I accept my rabbi's teaching (and the response of the Law Committee) on this issue in so far as I wouldn't advise the patralineal Jews in my family to join a Conservative synagogue--because there would be halachic issues about them joining as Jews unless they undergo a formal conversion.

To give another example, every now and then someone at my shul will say to me, "Hey, Rose, there's this really wonderful Orthodox rabbi I'd like you to meet..."

I've found, in general, that means: "Um, Rose, I totally consider you a Jew, but you really should undergo an Orthodox conversion too, because then all Jews will be happy and because it would make your life easier if you ever decided to move to Israel...etc."

They know that according to our Law Committee my conversion is valid--and on some level they accept it as valid--but on the other hand they'd just feel better if I had an Orthodox conversion! They don't have any issues with me accepting honors or serving on committees--but, yeah, they'd really like to see me talk to that Orthodox rabbi.

(On the other hand, there are other members who say, "Why should you have to have an Orthodox conversion?! One beit din and mikvah is enough--why should an Orthodox conversion be better than ours? Etc." )

So there it is--the Law Committee of Conservative Judaism has its response on this issue; for the strict purpose of figuring out who can join our shul as a Jew we adhere to that ruling. But people still have different opinions on the matter.

Now--here's something that might drive you NUTS! :lol: Every now and then, the Law Committee issues multiple responses for the same issue. Usually this is for stuff like whether or not you can drive on Shabbat. However, there are also multiple rulings on the question of egalitarianism and gay marriage. So each individual Conservative synagogue decides which ruling to follow. That's why a few (very few) Conservative synagogues still aren't egalitarian--they don't allow women rabbis and such--and why some Conservative synagogues won't perform a gay marriage.

(Personally, I love the multiple rulings! It's a way of acknowledging the fact that a good argument can be made on either side of certain issues :pleased: )

I don't think there's much we can talk about regarding faith, if your faith really does deny dogmas (which is itself a dogma), that is, it denies any truth that can be universally known. I imagine that there are Jews that do not hold this position and I could find common ground with them, whether Orthodox or not. But not with one that says there is no truth or truth is what you make of it, something determined by the individual, which are all the same thing.


To talk about faith, you'd probably want to ask me (or another Jew), "What's the traditional Jewish teaching on such-and-such? And does the answer vary from branch to branch?" (Just remember that Judaism starts from a different place than Christianity--Judaism doesn't understand 'salvation' the way Christianity does, for example, so it doesn't make sense to ask a Jew how to get saved.)

Again, I think what you're having difficulty with is the fact that adherence to Jewish teachings doesn't determine your Jewishness.

Remember over on the Star Trek thread I was explaining the Jewish teaching of the yetzir hara and the yetzir hatov? The idea that everyone has an evil inclination (except that it's not really evil) and a good inclination--and how that one episode (The Enemy Within) illustrated that teaching so perfectly?

Here we have a traditional, common and widely accepted Jewish teaching. But if a Jew says, "You know what? I don't buy that," she doesn't stop being Jewish! As I said above, even if she becomes an atheist she doesn't stop being Jewish. Again, many religious Jews (not all, but many) will say that her atheism is a serious problem and error--but she's still a Jew.
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Postby rusmeister » 26 Sep 2008, 16:05

Understood. But this is all stuff that I will say is not true. We can't talk to each other, and I can't be fascinated by the diversity of error. Once you've hit what is error to Christian dogma, the Christian can't follow you any further. It's like saying 2+2=5, therefore 4+4=10. Of course, if you accept the first statement, the second follows. But I don't accept the first. Essentially your description of Judaism denies possibility of really knowing any absolute truths. That someone can really be right and the others actually wrong (however close) on certain questions. It's like, 'everybody's right and it's cool - we just 'agree to disagree''. Certainly, that is still how it appears. For example, you see belief as disconnected from action - I do not. Like James said, faith will result in works or it is not faith. So talking about an emphasis on action in Judaism is non-sequitur for a Christian. We already expect that action will follow. The emphasis on action is a built-in part of the doctrine. It's like you're speaking Chinese to me when you talk about believing the right things vs actions. If you believe something, you should act on it. If you don't, you don't really believe it. There is no disconnect. (Just an example)

Just don't want to give unnecessary offense, and hope I haven't. We might debate - I don't think we can agree. The room for common ground is rather small. When Pilate asked Christ "What is truth?", you may remember Christ's reply.

In any event, the first thing we would need to do is find what common ground we DO have. You can't have fruitful discussions until you do that! :smile:
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Postby JRosemary » 26 Sep 2008, 20:15

Hey Rus,

Essentially your description of Judaism denies possibility of really knowing any absolute truths.


Actually, I haven't touched on this question in the last few posts--all I've been doing is attempting to explain how Jewish identity is established. That's a separate issue from whether people can know absolute truths or not.

When you're saying who is and who isn't a Jew, beliefs don't come into the picture; because beliefs aren't what make you a part of the people Israel. They don't make you Jewish. But plenty of Jews will have ideas on whether or not you can know absolute truths or not. Lots will say yes--of course! Others will say no.

Look, a religious Jew might be horrified by a staunchly atheist, secular Jew. She might argue with the atheist and try to convince him of God's existence, etc. But she won't use his beliefs (or lack thereof) as a litmus test for determining whether or not he's a Jew.

Judaism's teachings are very important--it's just that following them or not following them has no bearing on whether or not you're a Jew. Some might say if you don't follow them, then you're not a good Jew. Ok--fair enough. But they won't say that if you don't follow them, you're not a Jew.

You can think of Jews as a big family--some members follow the family religion; others don't. And the members who do follow the family religion argue about just what that entails. Meanwhile, some family members believe in the possibility of knowing absolute truths and others don't.

As to what we have in common, off the top of my head I can think of three things:

1. Belief in the God of Israel.
2. Belief in universal moral standards, ordained by God.
3. Shared Scripture in the form of the Hebrew Bible.

There's probably other things we agree on too--but I'm a bit braindead at the moment. (For example, we both most likely agree that 3-4 hour services are acceptable!)

~Rose

P.S. My computer time will be quite limited between now and the end of the High Holy Days--forgive me if it takes a while to get back to you.
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Postby Karen » 26 Sep 2008, 20:35

JRosemary wrote:(For example, we both most likely agree that 3-4 hour services are acceptable!)


See, you're halfway to being Orthodox Christian! :wink:

And actually, at my husband's Reform synagogue, even High Holy Day services are only about 2 hours long. That's about the maximum anyone there could take. Normal Friday night Shabbat services are an hour, tops.
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Postby JRosemary » 26 Sep 2008, 20:59

Karen wrote:
JRosemary wrote:(For example, we both most likely agree that 3-4 hour services are acceptable!)


See, you're halfway to being Orthodox Christian! :wink:


Lol--either that or Rus is halfway to being a Conservative or Orthodox Jew!

And actually, at my husband's Reform synagogue, even High Holy Day services are only about 2 hours long. That's about the maximum anyone there could take. Normal Friday night Shabbat services are an hour, tops.


My Conservative synagogue--yeesh, I wish we'd switch over to the 'Masorti' label; 'Conservative' sounds too political--is very traditional when it comes to services. Friday night services are only about an hour and 15 minutes--but that's not the main service. Our Saturday morning services go 3-4 hours...and you might be there another hour before hand for Torah study and another hour or two afterwards for Kiddush!

Or you can just cheat, lol, and show up halfway through the Torah service :wink: Or--and this is pretty cool--once a month we have an alternate service (in addition to the regular ones) that's all meditation and yoga. Ok, that one's not traditional at all :lol:

But while our services are very traditional, many members are quite liberal theologically. I think that's a fascinating mixture! I guess that's orthopraxy as opposed to orthodoxy. :thinking:

And ahem--um, you didn't hear this from me, but I have heard Reform Judaism described as 'Judaism light' or 'selections from Judaism.' :rolleyes: Lol, I don't buy into that--Reform Judaism is thoroughly valid as far as I'm concerned--but I thought they were funny lines!

(It's kind of scary how many jokes exist where one branch of Judaism looks down on another...but they're often quite good!)
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Postby Karen » 26 Sep 2008, 21:14

Oh yes, I know all about 'Judaism light', or as I like to call it 'drive-by Judaism' (and my husband agrees completely, BTW, even though he's guilty of it.) The 'drive-by' part is parents who drop their kids off for Hebrew school twice a week for years, but only darken the door of the sanctuary during the High Holidays.

At this synagogue, Saturday mornings are for b'nai mitzvah, which, in the Reform tradition, revolve completely around the kids. I much prefer the Conservative services I've been to, where the bar/bat mitzvah is simply part of the proceedings, and not the focus. It's much less nerve-wracking for everyone, and then members of the community can feel they're just part of a regular service. As it is, no one goes to that service in the Reform synagogue if they're not a family member or guest of the child; there's a smaller service in an auxiliary chapel for those who want a 'regular' service.

But while our services are very traditional, many members are quite liberal theologically.


Sounds just like my Episcopal Church. :smile:
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Postby JRosemary » 26 Sep 2008, 21:25

Karen wrote:Oh yes, I know all about 'Judaism light', or as I like to call it 'drive-by Judaism' (and my husband agrees completely, BTW, even though he's guilty of it.) The 'drive-by' part is parents who drop their kids off for Hebrew school twice a week for years, but only darken the door of the sanctuary during the High Holidays.

At this synagogue, Saturday mornings are for b'nai mitzvah, which, in the Reform tradition, revolve completely around the kids. I much prefer the Conservative services I've been to, where the bar/bat mitzvah is simply part of the proceedings, and not the focus. It's much less nerve-wracking for everyone, and then members of the community can feel they're just part of a regular service. As it is, no one goes to that service in the Reform synagogue if they're not a family member or guest of the child; there's a smaller service in an auxiliary chapel for those who want a 'regular' service.


If it makes you feel better, the nearest Reform synagogue to me doesn't even bother with Saturday morning services unless there's a bar or bat mitzvah :??: And it's not like they added the Torah reading to Friday night services--they just don't read it :confused: That does bother me--I like the synagogue and all, but I could never join a shul like that.

Karen wrote:
JRosemary wrote:But while our services are very traditional, many members are quite liberal theologically.


Sounds just like my Episcopal Church. :smile:


Exactly! I think Conservative/Masorti Judaism is very similar to the Episcopal/Anglican Church in that regard...you often find traditional services and practices mixed with liberal theology and interpretations of Scripture. And, in both cases, you still have the more theologically conservative folks worshipping there too. It's kinda nice that way :pleased:
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Re:

Postby Bulgakov » 18 Jun 2009, 17:31

rusmeister wrote:I wish I could get a hold of it.

I have set myself to reading everything GKC wrote - a considerable task.
One thing I'll say right off the bat is that his "anti-Semitism" is greatly misunderstood, but the knee-jerk view that some have at the sight of his statements in limited context are entirely predictable, given how political correctness works (rhetoric designed to bring about certain reactions without questioning them - example: "discrimination" as something automatically bad, rather than neutral, or "criticism" as being purely negative, or any criticism of what being Jewish in the face of other nationalities means is "anti-Semitism" and therefore bad. (Pavlov's dogs, please pant and drool!")

Not blaming you for it, Karen. Most of us have been conditioned by public schooling and the media. Just remember that you should read for yourself, in full context, what GKC had to say before you say that he was saying something bad. I'll bet dollars to doughnuts GKC's critic in that article did not - at the very least, regarding that question.

His autobiography has the most seemingly "anti-Semitic" statements I have seen thus far (the Marconi scandal, which, among other things, deals with how Jewish brothers in high positions, who should have acted as Englishmen in their positions, acted as brothers instead when the two came into conflict. That sort of thing would only seem anti-Semitic to someone who's not paying attention or who didn't really read the book.

Also, it's pretty odd, then, that this "anti-Semite" condemned Hitler so roundly (for his persecution of Jews, among other things) and supported (for reasons like the one above) a homeland for Jews.

I'm not the most knowledgeable on this topic (yet) - I'm sure Dale Alquist could do better. Why don't you drop him an e-mail? He has responded to me before.


I realize the discussion has moved on from the initial topic (something about what Judaism does or doesn't believe, etc). That's interesting, but a few words on Chesterton's anti-semitism, or alleged anti-semitism.

In today's conversation, what does anti-semitism mean? Usually we think it means those who aspire to be the next Hitler. But often the case, as the ADL is concerned, at the very least it is someone the Jewish establishment doesn't like.

Granted, neo-Nazis are evil but really, how prevalent are they? Exactly.

Therefore, if Chesterton says some things that seem anti-semitic, let's keep a few things in mind:

1. In the late 19th and early 20th century, many Jews were heavily represented in revolutionary and terrorist organizations.
2. Many Jews were involved in the slaying of the Tsar of Russia.
3. People didn't worry about political correctness.
4. The Talmud does speak some harsh things about Christ

Of course, I have nothing against Jewish people, but am simply stating facts. One could no doubt refer to a lot of bad things Christians have done. Perhaps so, but Christians aren't crying foul or "anti-Christianism" whenever someone makes an accusation against them.

As to the other things in the thread, I will try to answer them if and when they reappear in conversation.
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Re: Article on Chesterton

Postby john » 18 Jun 2009, 19:41

Bulgakov wrote:Of course, I have nothing against Jewish people, but am simply stating facts.


I'm sorry, but I'm not about to allow this conversation to continue. Think what you will, but this has nothing to do with political correctness. I simply will not tolerate any discussion that entertains the idea of racism.

Move on.
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Re: Article on Chesterton

Postby Bulgakov » 18 Jun 2009, 23:29

I mean nothing against Jewish people, but the double-standard is annoying. When the Talmud says, Jesus is in hell where His punishment is "boiling in hot semen." (Talmud, Gittin 57a; Exhibit 202) The subject is identified as Jesus in a footnote, also in the Jewish Encyclopedia under "Balaam." (Exhibit 275), how is that not unacceptable.

Again, you didn't rebut any of my facts. But I will respect your wishes and not post on this thread anymore.
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