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Where do I start?

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  • Where do I start?

    Larry asks, "i have always been curious about all the different nuances within judaism, where would a good starting point be for someone who basically knows nothing at all about it?"
    Wow.... That is a very difficult question to answer, especially since I don't know what your religious and educational background is.

    For someone of a "Fringe" or a "New Age" or an "eccumenical" or a "Wiccan" or a "Neo-Pagan" frame of mind and/or background, who IS NOT hostile toward Judaism or dismissive of its value as a belief system, then I'd recommend:

    "First Steps to a New Jewish Spirit: Reb Zalman's Guide to Recapturing the Intimacy and Ecstasy in your Relationship with God" by Rabbi Zalman M. Schachter-Shalomi

    It's only $11.86 and 107 pages of light reading, but it touches upon Jewish observances and begins with Reb Zalman praying with a Native American Shaman at an eccumenical conference, where both men start to share the meaning and purpose of their respective prayer accoutrements.

    I've quoted his chapter on God-birthing here.

    For a more basic and methodical approach to understanding Judaism, then I'd recommend the 155 pages of:

    "Step by Step in the Jewish Religion" by Isadore Epstein

    It has an outstanding chapter on the meaning of the "Kingdom of Heaven," which every Christian ought to read.

    For people of any and every flavor of Christianity, whether they've left the Church or not, I'd say that the following ought to be mandatory reading and, as a used book, it starts a low as $2.98, which is well worth the 336 pages of reading:

    "What Christians Should Know about Jews and Judaism" by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein

    Why? Because it shows the value of Judaism and addresses many of the misconceptions the Church continues to propagate about Judaism and demonstrates that Judaism respects and regards Christianity as a valid monotheistic faith, despite Trinitarianism, etc.

    For a meatier read that gets into some key concepts of Judaism and explains more about Jewish observances and rituals, then I'd suggest the 188 pages of:

    "Teshuvah: A Guide for the Newly Observant Jew" by Adin Steinsaltz

    This books was designed to be a "where do I start" book for Secular Jews who are looking to touch base with their Jewish roots and become Torah-observant again. What I loved most about this book was the chapter about the concept of "teshuvah" (i.e., repentance), because it breaks down what is means to "turn again toward the Divine."

    I don't think too many non-Jews would find Jewish observances appealing and Judaism doesn't seek converts, because they understand that they don't have a universal monopoly on access to the Divine. In short, Judaism teaches that "righteousness" has more to do with simple ethical behavior and acts of loving-kindness than it does with being born within a specific culture or following a set of mnemonic rituals, etc. The righteous of the Nations will have a share in the World to Come and are viewed by Jews as being co-working partners with the Divine in the Creation, which is our Patrimony.

    It just depends on what you're looking for. So, what are you looking for? Help me narrow it down for you, okay?

    My first introduction to the world of modern Judaism was the movie THE CHOSEN, which lead me to read Chaim Potok's book upon which the film was based.

    Of course, the book was much better than the movie. Still, I cried like a baby at the end when Danny's father, Reb Saunders, the leader of their Hasidic community, told his son why he'd been raised "in silence" and why he was going to allow Danny to leave the fold of Orthodox Judaism to study psychology at Columbia University.

    Another thing that I found interesting about this movie is that it demonstrates that the Orthodox community was against Secular Zionism and the creation of the Zionist State, even after the Holocaust. It is this stance which creates the conflict that for a time divides the two main characters of this story. Many Orthodox Jews are still very much against Zionism. (Cf. and "THE ROLE OF ZIONISM IN THE HOLOCAUST" an article by Rabbi Gedalya Liebermann).

    I know that stance offends many Jews. I also know that such a stance offends many Christians and Messianics who support the Zionist State, because they're just begging for WWIII and Armageddon to begin, which I think is a ... totally misguided. Why? Because most believe they're going to catch a ride on the Rapture Train and escape the so-called Tribulation Period. I've never understood this desire to see other people suffer just so "you and yours" can have a slice of "Pie-In-The-Sky."

    Instead, we should focus on improving ourselves and the Patrimony we've been appointed stewards over, no? Did it ever occur to anyone that we might be the victims of some very clever social engineering, which is seeking to bring about a pseudo-End Times? Y'all might just find yourself being chipped with the so-called "Mark of the Beast" and be stuck here on planet Earth with the Rapture Train no where in sight.
    "What is mine is yours and what is yours is yours."

  • #2
    The one book that should have immediately come to my mind and didn't is the following:

    "Nine Questions People Ask About Judaism" by Dennis Prager and Joseph Telushkin

    Here's a link to the Table of Contents. 224 pages for only $11.20? That's well worth the price, IMO.
    "What is mine is yours and what is yours is yours."


    • #3
      Why? KalEl who is Superman says Jesus saves. Judaism will starve you with works. Accept Jesus and there is no other. Otherwise you will be lost in the wilderness.


      • #4
        Originally posted by KalEl
        Why? KalEl who is Superman says Jesus saves. Judaism will starve you with works. Accept Jesus and there is no other. Otherwise you will be lost in the wilderness.
        Whatever. To each his own.
        "What is mine is yours and what is yours is yours."