Since it’s always good to get to know our brothers and sisters from other religions, races, and walks of life, here are some little-known facts about Judaism that you might want to read up on.
Judaism Is Not A Religion
This may be the trickiest fact to comprehend. If Judaism isn’t a religion, then what is it? Well, it technically still is one, as it is a system of beliefs. However, many Jews do not identify it as such and claim to not believe in religion in general.
As mentioned earlier, it has come to be more than just a religion. Many see it as more of a general guide for living a good and honorable life. It is not a set of a few rules that you have to follow now and again, but it is an overall way of living.
Jewish Is Not A Language
I’ve lost much count of how many people I’ve heard asking, “do you speak Jewish?” This comes off as cringe-worthy as “Jewish” is not a language.
This misconception may stem from the fact that many of our prayers and ceremonies are conducted in a different language: Hebrew. This consists of different characters, is read from right to left and is commonly taught to children from a young age. Despite this, not all of us will be able to communicate in Hebrew.
There Is No Jewish Equivalent Of The Pope
Judaism does not have an equivalent of a pope. In the community, we believe that everybody is equally spiritual, with nobody being “more holy” than another.
However, we used to have priests. Historically, Rome had once sacked and destroyed all our temples, leaving no place for our priests to offer up animal sacrifices. Instead, only the rabbis remained. A rabbi is an expert, or teacher, of the Torah and scriptures. He is the closest thing to a Christian priest.
Bar/Bat Mitzvahs Are Not Just Jewish Sweet 16 Parties
A Bar Mitzvah (for boys) or Bat Mitzvah (for girls) isa coming-of-age party like a sweet 16 or a quinceañera. However, this comes after months of training and studying. This includes learning from the Torah and other scriptures as well as learning to perform relevant services by yourself.
Hanukkah Is Just One Major Holiday
It’s true that this is a major celebration, but there are also two others.
Yom Kippur is known as the Day of Atonement. As the name implies, this is meant to give focus on reparation and repentance. This is typically celebrated with periods of fasting and being in sincere prayer.
Rosh Hashanah is basically our equivalent of New Year’s Day. It is celebrated with a small feast and even ceremoniously throwing bread into a body of water to metaphorically throw away worries and faults from the previous year.
Judaism Has Many Denominations That Have Different Views
Just like Christianity, there are different denominations to Judaism. Although our primary set of beliefs are generally the same, there are a few details that we may disagree on.
For example, some conservative sects may be more strict with their definition of “kosher” when it comes to food. Newer movements have also come to accept and have ordained women as rabbis such as Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism.
Kosher Is Not A Style Of Cooking
This is another common misunderstanding of some Jewish beliefs and traditions. “Kosher” is not the same as French or Italian cuisine. It is not a style of cooking. It also does not mean “blessed by a rabbi.”
The Torah has a guide as to what is “fit for use” or in this case, consumption. These rules typically stem from the idea that food should be appropriately prepared: with respect for all life and gratitude for the meal that we are about to consume.
In the end, getting to know other people’s cultures is an essential step towards being able to coexist peacefully. If there’s anything you want to learn more about Judaism, strike up a respectful conversation with someone. You’ll be surprised as to what you can learn.