Blessings to You, WIN Community:
We have decided to invite guests from the WIN community to provide Sunday messages from time to time. This week, we are blessed to have a message from Rabbi Larry Moldo, Religious Leader at Mount Sinai Synagogue and Congregation
in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Rabbi Moldo is also the Chair of the Board of WIN. I have asked Rabbi Moldo to share with us some information about Judaism. Thank you, Rabbi Moldo. We are blessed to learn from your generous sharing. Here is Rabbi Moldo’s message:
I find that I think best in terms of answering questions, so here are some I think most people may have. I would be happy to answer other questions in the future after they have been submitted, in case I missed one of your pressing ones.
What is Judaism?
Judaism is the way of life that the Jewish family has taken upon itself from the time of Abraham in an effort to be more effective as individuals partnering with God in helping the world become a better place. The details of what Judaism looks like for the individual Jew have often appeared different over the centuries around the world.
Please note that as Judaism has been around for about 4000 years and has extended nearly worldwide, there are many potential answers to each question I ask. Nearly all of those potential answers are probably correct – and that is ok.
Is there a consistent core to Judaism?
There are indeed some threads that help form the tapestry of Judaism:
1) Since the time of Abraham, there has been a connection with the land of the Middle-East. At its smallest, the promise covered the area now known as Israel as well as the disputed territories there. At its most grandiose, the area covers the territory which also includes portions of Jordan, Syria, Iraq and Turkey. There is no indication that the grandiose vision was ever reflected in real borders.
2) The text upon which all else is based is the Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, or in actual translation of how Jews refer to them “In a beginning of” “Names” “He called” “In the Wilderness” and “Words/Things”). Commentary upon the text is vast. Secondary supporting sources include the rest of the TaNaKH (Torah, Prophets and Writings). Included in the Prophets are Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the Twelve Minor Prophets. Included in the Writings are Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah and Chronicles.
3) Hatred of Jews or Jewish manifestations (like Israel, or Shabbat).
4) A focus on choosing life and protecting those who have no protectors.
What happened to things like keeping kosher and circumcision, Shabbat and holidays, or God?
Nothing actually happened to them. Circumcision, Shabbat, Kashrut, God, Holy days, and many more aspects of life are all derived from the Torah. All of them are indicative of Judaism and none of them are present to the same degree in the same fashion in every single Jew. There are times, for example, when it is a mandatory to not circumcise a child, and to consider that lack of circumcision to be the equivalent of having been circumcised.
You cannot judge a person’s membership in the Jewish people by how they act liturgically or ritually. You can judge them as a good or bad person by how they treat others – whether their focus is on choosing life or protecting those who lack protection. The Jewish family does include those who act in inappropriate ways. Official organizations will often revoke their membership and return their donations, but they still remain Jews – just as they still remain breathing people.
One of my duties as Rabbi is to help people know what the various rules are for Shabbat, Kashrut, etc., and when something that a person might have thought to be an impediment to their observance of Shabbat or Kashrut can be considered part of how that commandment can be fulfilled.
If you have questions for Rabbi Moldo, please let us know!
With Gratitude and Peace … and Resolve to Make a Difference,