There’s a disconnect between Jews and Judaism. As a rabbi it’s frustrating because I know, for a fact, that the disconnect is based in part of some common misunderstandings that Jews have about Judaism.
Here are a few…
1. Judaism encourages questioning. Forget Jews and Judaism, a lot of people reject religion in general because they are dissatisfied with religion’s answers to life’s big questions. What Jews get wrong about Judaism is that Judaism encourages questioning. Questions, not answers, are the essence of Judaism. Rather than a collection of answers, Judaism helps Jews ask the right questions. Asking the right questions isn’t as easy as it sounds. Judaism can help us do this.
2. Judaism is all about opportunities. A lot of Jews view Judaism as a series of restrictions– things we can’t eat, people we aren’t supposed to marry, days we can’t go to work and so on. But digging a little deeper, these restrictions and Judaism more generally (which is about so much more than restricting our activities), and the fact that Judaism is all about opportunities is abundantly clear. Kosher laws– an opportunity for mindful eating. Shabbat– an opportunity to rest and step away from the all encompassing world of work. Judaism is about opportunities to fill our lives with meaning and invitations to tap into something larger than ourselves.
3. Judaism is a civilization. A lot of Jews struggle to find the meaning in Jewish religious practice. They don’t like services, think synagogue is boring, and don’t really buy into what they consider to be Jewish teachings about God. But they’re so focused on what they don’t like about Judaism that they often fail to see that Judaism is so much more. Judaism is a civilization. Judaism is about music, art, film, dance, food, language, culture, community, politics, and much more. There’s a lot of throwing the baby out with the bathwater when it comes to rejecting Judaism as a whole.
There are plenty more things that too many Jewish people are getting wrong about Judaism (and plenty that the organized Jewish community are getting wrong about Jews), so consider this an opening foray into this important topic.