Saturday, April 7, 2012

Being a good Jew and what is the Christian thing to do

This weekend we are at the nexus of Christianity’s Easter and Judaism’s Passover, which isn’t too surprising considering the Last Supper was actually a Seder; I did lean something on my tour of Jerusalem.  This weekend Christians observe the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus while Jews celebrate the Moses led exodus from Egypt to the Promised Land, meaning this weekend we can expect Ben Hur, The Ten Commandments, The Robe, The Greatest Story Ever Told, and many other films to be broadcast. 

So on this weekend where the Judeo-Christian faiths observe very important holidays, I ask: What is a good Jew?  What is the Christian thing to do?  These are not flippant or frivolous questions.  Do people practice what they preach?  Does going to a place of worship make you a better person?  Is Deepak Chopra correct when he says “All religions are cults with many followers.”?

Full disclosure, I was raised Jewish, was Bat Mitzvah’d at 13, attended Friday night or Saturday morning Services, went to Hebrew school, and was always present with my family at the High Holiday services of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.  We conducted Seder dinners every Passover, we took part in building a sukkah, participated in Purim carnivals, and purchased trees for Israel.  Does that make me a good Jew?  Today, I do not attend services at a Synagogue.  I do fast on Yom Kippur, I light the candles and say the prayers at Hanukkah, I make hamantaschen for Purim, and I will keep Kosher for Pesach (actually starting tonight).  Does that make me a good Jew?

Next to the United States, there is no country I want to see thrive and flourish than Israel.  The Jewishness connection is strong, but is it a question of faith or history?  Does it matter.  Hoping the small democratic state to stay true to its roots and for its citizens to live in peace with its neighbors is something I take very seriously.  Does that make me a good Jew?

Orthodox Jews don’t recognize conservative or reform denominations of Judaism.  Orthodox and nationalistic Jews in the Netanyahu government told Israeli Jews not to visit America and break bread with their Jewish American family.  Many rabbis refuse to perform interfaith marriages in fear of diluting or endangering the future of the faith.  Does that make them good Jews?

What is the Christian thing to do? 

Helping those that cannot help themselves.  Defending those when no one else will speak for them. Embrace and include others.  Promote the notion that unalienable rights that are endowed by a creator apply to everybody.  Is that the Christian thing to do?

Going to church every Sunday.  Reciting bible verses.  Opposing the members of another faith’s desire and dream to build a congregation.  Denying the unalienable rights based on race, creed, color, faith, gender, and sexual orientation.  Is that a Christian thing to do?

I have no issue with those that want to defend their faith or even promote their faith.  That is a legal right in this country.  However, I will take issue with those that deny others the same aforementioned rights and worse attempt to deny the basic rights to practice their religion.  I also have no issue with those that want to keep government from intruding on their religious beliefs.  This nation was founded on the principle of not establishing a national religion at the expense of other faiths or denominations.  Regardless of what revisionists will promote, this is not a ‘Christian’ country.  This is an open country that was established to prevent the very concept that Christianity is our national faith. 

Don’t get me wrong. I believe it is imperative for organized religion and churches to be established in our national fabric and landscape to promote a sense of belonging and community.  Churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, and other places of worship and their constituent congregations play vital roles in our communities via charitable functions and services.  But make no mistake about it, there is a difference between a church and its hierarchy.  Hierarchies create policy often to support and enforce the hierarchy itself, not the teachings of the church or its founders.  Was covering up sexual abuse the Christian thing to do?

Perhaps I am asking the wrong questions.  Perhaps, the right questions are: Is he a good person? and What is the right thing to do?  A good person accepts others, does not discriminate, treats others with respect, does not judge, and promotes hope and love in favor of fear and hate.  Those are not religious tenants, they are cornerstones of a moral society.  A society that accepts all beliefs secular, religious, or otherwise. 

So during this Judeo-Christian nexus we should challenge ourselves to be better people and reject the calls of hate and fear and embrace love and hope.  If that includes regular attendance at religious services that is great, if it means you never set foot in a church or synagogue that’s great too.  After all, being a good person is not correlated to the number services one attends. 

Today I made matzah ball soup.  Am I a good Jew or am I person who follows the traditions of a holiday.  That’s my observance and it’s my business.


  1. I guess my answer is that it doesn't matter. What makes a "Good Jew" or a "Good Christian"? If you practice the trappings of your faith but act in a way that is contrary to what God teaches then to me, that only makes you a phony.
    I suspect I practice my Christian faith in much the way you practice Judaism. I attend Mass when it suits me..or when my soul needs soothing. I find the traditions comforting.
    There are certain "musts" for me in regard to following religious tradition. Among the most important are the Holy Week services of Maundy Thursday and Easter Vigil.
    Beyond that, I feel that a person's faith is and should be a personal thing. I don't believe I should tell anyone how to live their life or even what to believe.
    Being a good person knows no religious boundary. The world is full of people who do good things..who take care of each other, who love one another. No one is defining those people by religious labels. Likewise there are people who do horrible things in the name of religion. The God I have faith in would not sanction such acts.
    The "religion" I hear talking heads , especially those on the right speak about bears no resemblance to the teachings I hear in the four walls of my Church. That people like Paul Ryan, Newt Gingrich et al can preach about freedom of religion, at the same time that they vilify the poor or deny people the right to love is obscene.
    That you ask the questions you do tells me that you are a good Jew if that is important, but more importantly, that you are a good person.
    Faith is not about absolute belief. For there to be faith, there must also be doubt.

  2. Thanks Cricket for sharing your thoughts.

  3. Hard to put into words. In my opinion, yes, you are a good Jew. But being a good Jew doesn't make you a good person. I know people that are revered in the Synagogue, people think these people are WONDERFUL! They are not! They are mean, cruel, terrible to people they believe are beneath them. But they believe being good Jews make them wonderful people! It does not. You seem like a good person & I believe you are. I remember something in my years of religious training (Jewish, of course!) that we do not believe in a heaven or hell. We were taught to believe that if you live a good life you will have heaven on earth and if you live a bad life it will be hell on earth. I hear Jewish people speak of hell & heaven but I am sure that this is what I was taught, many, many, years ago! I applaud people that keep the holiday as you do. I think it's great but I don't keep it altho we do have seder & Hanukkah, and Yom Kippur (in our own fashion, I do light candeles for my parents but my husband doesn't). But we do not harm anyone, are honest people, love our family, does that make us good people & good Jews, also. Who knows! And does it matter? I guess it does. BTW, your blog is amazing! You write beautifully, as I told you yesterday, and I am reading it and reading it as I printed it out. I am rambling now, and it's impossible to cover everything that I would like to cover and will, eventually. I'm flattered that you follow me, you are exceptionally talented and brilliant. Nice guy, also! I'm glad we are on the same side!!!

  4. Thank you 'grandma' for your comments and praise. I guess when it's all said an done, labels are just that, labels. It's the package inside that matters.