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Weird...I'll try yet again...Judaism 101

post #1 of 36
Thread Starter 
I have been lurking on the Jewish threads and I'm very interested in this religion now. I've studied all kinds of religions, but have been completely ignorant about Judaism. I suppose I figured I knew enough about it since I have a Christian background and I'm beginning to think that's a line the nuns fed me! Jesus was a Jew, so you know all you need to know about it, kind of thing...
Anyway, I was hoping that someone here could lead me in the right direction. I'd like some recommendations for books and/or websites that can give me a better understanding.
The Jewish women on this board are so devout and interesting, I can't wait to learn more about this!!!


edited to add: sorry about the weird, double posts. I don't know what happened!!!!!
post #2 of 36
Hi Marcy!

Here are some past threads that might help you:


Good beginer sites on Torah judism are:




I'm sure the other ladies can add more.

post #3 of 36
Thread Starter 
Thanks, BelovedBird! I've got lots of reading ahead of me. I so appreciate the links. This is exactly the information I'm needing, though some of it has gone over my head, just cause there's so much to know and learn.
I'll come back once I've read through those posts!

post #4 of 36
I would recommend 'To Life', by Harold Kushner. Another great book is 'Jews, God and Histoy', by Max Diamont. Beliefnet.com has some great message boards for all religions.
post #5 of 36
Another great book and specifically about Shabbos (the Sabbath) is the book by that name ("The Sabbath") by Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel.

post #6 of 36
Thread Starter 
Okay, in all that reading I did...thanks so much for the wonderful links...I have one question that wasn't covered.

What happens if a Jewish person "sins." Do you ask for forgiveness from God? Is that just a Christian concept?

I really appreciate your patience and help with this!

post #7 of 36
Re: Asking forgiveness a Jewish concept ...

Absolutely. Every day, three times a day in the "official" prayers, and at any given moment, whenever it occurs to you that it's necessary.

Major distinction between Jewish thought & Christianity is there are no intercessors, and nothing else "absolves" you except your own actions and your own repentence.

Time to go to the mountain, see you later ...

post #8 of 36

Every day, plus...

In addition to the opportunities to confess sin in the daily prayers, there is Yom Kippur, a special yearly fast day holiday of repentance at the Jewish new year. Many Jews who don't pray the set prayers every day will show up for their one day of organized prayer on Yom Kippur.

(Bracing! you miss the whole year of festivals, special foods, enjoyable celebrations but then show up for the breast-beating and collective confession! : )

I like Yom Kippur a lot though. The sins you confess on Yom Kippur are the ones between you and God. Sins you committed against other people you have to square with them. I like how that gives a structure for making up with people. I also like it that YK is spent confessing sins in the first person plural--gives me the feeling that the whole community is responsible for each other.

(Plus, the traditional Hebrew liturgy for Yom Kippur is amazingly eloquent and even witty, which is pretty neat since it's a day all about atoning for sin.)

Some super-pious people also fast at the New Moon each month and perform a mini-YK then.
post #9 of 36
Thread Starter 
Thanks Captain and Amy!
Sounds a bit like Captain and Chanile (sp?)!:LOL

Wow, those responses makes my heart feel all fuzzy! Thanks!

Do you often see Goy visitors, who don't want to take on the full responsibility of converting, at your synagoges? Since they say that if you convert it's much harder to maintain than if you just stick by the 7 rules thing. Sorry, I've got a terrible memory and I live in the Bible Belt so Yiddish is completely foreign to me, so I can't remember all the terms. And I'm understanding that these people will hang out in the afterlife with all the devout Jews anyway. Is there any special reward for following all 613 rules, or does it just make living in this world more tolerable and brings you closer to God?

Does it offend you that I write out the word or would you prefer I say G-d from now on? I want to be sure to not be a crude, ignorant jerk here. And also because of this...do you consider the writing of that word to be blasphemous, therefore a rule that I'd be breaking?

Also want to add...Amy- the story about your hair covering is so touching! I love the idea that G-d keeps track of things we might consider small details.
post #10 of 36
Here is a good article on the differences between Judaism and Christianity: http://www.convert.org/differ.htm
post #11 of 36
Do you have a synagogue near you? Reading is great and will give you a ton of information, but there's nothing like being in schul with everyone.

All synagogues I've been in have no problem at all with non-Jews attending services regularly or once in a while. I know it's hard to worry that you're doing the wrong thing and all, but perhaps check out some different temples in your area and see which one feels the most comfortable.

My Rabbi specifically tells people to feel free to ask questions any time. Plus he does a special "teaching service" every once in awhile. Go and sit Friday nights or Saturday mornings. Follow along, don't worry about not getting everything. It takes time.

Also dont' worry about makign the decision about converting right away. I've really never met a prostheltyzing Jew. We very much enjoy our religion and are not worried about your decisions. Go and be whoever you are and just find a place you feel comfortable.
post #12 of 36
you can definitely go to synagogue to just hang out and soak it up... you'd learn a lot just by doing that. plus you can probably take an intro to judaism class through their adult ed program
post #13 of 36

Synagogues are like snowflakes....

no two are exactly alike.

You should be able to go to your local synagogue. Just be sure that they don't count you toward a minyan (the minimum quorum of 10 Jewish adults needed to say certain prayers.) In Orthodox synagogues you don't count as a woman anyway, but in Conservative synagogues you could.

In the period of late antiquity (Roman period) when Jews were still accepting converts, it used to be usual to see non-Jews who weren't yet ready to convert. They were called Righteous Gentiles. Official repression of Jews resulted in widespread rabbinic bans against proselytizing.

About God vs. G-d: I read a big discussion of this on the H-Judaic list (email list for Jewish studies) that made me change my practice. Apparently there is some disagreement about whether the rule about not writing out God's name applies in languages other than Hebrew. I read a lot of good arguments on both sides and decided that using God was not taking the four-letter Hebrew name of God in vain. But I understand why others have other observances on this issue.

I was never taught about who would and would not share the afterlife. But I grew up in the Reform movement in the 1970s. Still, I've never quite heard or read anything from any Jew about which gentiles are admitted or excluded from "the world to come." I always understood mitzvot (the commandments) as our part in our particular relationship with God. Mitzvot do create a beautiful life but to me even after being exposed to all kinds of mysticism and elevated religious experience--it's still all about ethics in this world.
post #14 of 36

If you are interested in Judaism, this is you for the next few months.

Good Luck!
post #15 of 36
Thread Starter 
Just a quick question....
what do you believe happens to a person who dies without reconciling for bad deeds? Do Orthodox Jews and Reformer Jews have different views on this?
Is there a concept of Hell or is this a Christian thing?

post #16 of 36
Lot of views on this. But my understanding, marcy74, is that we all go "up." Absolutely everybody in the world. Some folks have a longer ladder to climb than others, but we're all heading in the same direction.

And, BTW, we keep coming back and trying over and over again till we get it absolutely right.
post #17 of 36


Originally I wrote a post suggesting that Jews don't really believe in Heaven and Hell. But then while I was nursing the baby before work this morning, I picked up our copy of Simcha Raphael's book, Jewish Views of the Afterlife. I read a few sections and realized that I knew quite well that there are many ideas about the afterlife in Judaism. The rabbis of the Talmud believed in reward and punishment in the afterlife. They speak of "the world to come" or "gan eden" (the garden of eden) and of Gehenna. But as Raphael describes their ideas, he talks about "motifs". Eastern European Jews believed in heaven and hell, they show up in folktales, but I never know how to read those.

There doesn't seem to be a strong doctrine of afterlife to which all Jews should ascribe. This is, I think, why there are so many different views of reward and punishment after death. There are both ideas of the soul going on to heaven and hell, and there are also Jews who believe in reincarnation (gilgul in Hebrew) and the resurrection of the dead. It doesn't seem like all of these beliefs can fit together, but I guess they do because we don't make them the focus of big theological debates.

Jews have used liturgies of confession on their deathbeds. I found an old early-19th century one (a prayer book of only death-bed prayers) when I was cleaning the synagogue library and our friend said they were a common part of Jewish life after the invention of the printing press. There is a description in the diary of Glickl of Hameln (a German Jewish woman in the 1600s-1700s who left a very detailed record of her life) about her husband's death: he had everyone from the family leave the room so some friends from his study group could hear his confession.

There is a lot of documentary evidence of Jews trying to square things with people and with God before they died. Another example is the ethical wills that Jews left for their children and students. Most of them either start or end with a list of debts that the dying person wants his or her children to pay.

Growing up in my diverse Jewish community I never heard people talk about heaven and hell. I always had the sense that Jewish people wanted to be square with human beings and God, but not because of reward and punishment? There is definitely a concept of reward and punishment in Judaism as a whole, but it was never a part of how we talked about death. I have always understood repentance to have value in this world, to mend our relationship with God and our relationships with one another.

(edited to make it more coherent!)
post #18 of 36


Reform Jews (named after the Reform movement, folks, so not Reformer or Reformed, please!) and Conservative Jews (who may be as politically liberal as they want!) may have soft-pedalled the primacy of the afterlife. Since I grew up in the Reform movement, this could have affected the extent to which I was exposed to ideas of heaven and hell in my upbringing.
post #19 of 36
Traditional Judaism firmly believes that death is not the end of human existence. However, because Judaism is primarily focused on life here and now rather than on the afterlife, Judaism does not have much dogma about the afterlife, and leaves a great deal of room for personal opinion.
that from jewfaq

I was always taught that there is a judgement and a reconciling in the next world, but that it we do not know - nor is it particularly important what exactly it consists of. We believe that G-d is just, that Hashem sees all and understands all the circumstances surounding all of our deeds. Everything is taken into acount in judgement.
Some interesting snippets of my/ our belief:

-People who wrong others/ leave debts may be reincarnated unless or until the other party forgives them.

-As we judge others so are we judged. Those who give the benefit of the doubt will get the benefit of the doubt from G-d in the next world.

-It is not the results that are important but the effort put in. Even desire to do positive action is counted as effort.
post #20 of 36

here's a link for the seven noahide laws with lots and lots of information and links etc. http://www.asknoah.org/index.html

hope this is helpful!
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