A weird thing about me is that after my break with fundamentalist Christianity at age 15 (a process that began years earlier and finally reached a crescendo at that age), I’ve gone to and through various religions and romanticized them in one form or another.
Currently, I’m in a Judaism phase. I mean, it only makes sense that anyone that’s Christian should make a point to learn as much about the ancient Hebrew religion as well as modern-day Judaism, yet most Christians take for granted that they’re “right” about their religion and that the Jews are just sadly mistaken in some capacity or another.
Many Christians, especially of the Protestant variety, seem to assume that Judaism is just like their Protestant churches except without Jesus. Nothing could be further from the truth- Judaism has its own rituals, traditions, and philosophies.
Judaism, like Christianity, is not monolithic- not all Jews think and believe alike. It’s always strange that people think a living religion is all exactly the same. Life isn’t all exactly the same, and we’re part of Life.
On the other hand, Judaism tends to have a strong intellectual tradition. That’s something I rarely find among Christians- the fundamentalism with which I grew up was rabidly anti-intellectual, and I was mocked on more than one occasion for concerning myself with study and doing well in school.
As an official member of the Episcopal Church who still holds a healthy dose of skepticism as well as “heresy,” I find that there’s an intellectual tradition there as well, though probably not as pronounced as one sees in Judaism on the whole.
I also find that Judaism tends to embrace various kinds of daily rituals and protocols that seem to be absent in Christianity- things that make daily life meaningful, that bring the presence of God into the everyday world. Of course, the idea that God can be in the ordinary world might go against the idea of God being “holy” and the whole concept of being “set apart,” but see, this is exactly the sort of thing I’m talking about- when I was growing up, that kind of question would’ve been shut down. (On one occasion, I was, in fact, told to “shut up” and “not question” what the church taught.)
Instead of taking theology and the Holy Scriptures as starting points, as the point where the conversation with and about God BEGINS, so many literalists and inerrantists and superficial-ists have taken these as the END of the conversation, as the ANSWER, and then they created an idolatrous world in which they depose God as the Source of Knowledge and Wisdom and insert their limitations in place of Its Boundlessness.
Okay. That started getting pretty mystical and spiraling into the realm of Kabbalah, which is great but not quite where I am now.
And hey, I’ve started learning Hebrew, adding now the vowel points to the consonants, so I’m well on my way to being able to read the Torah in Hebrew, not that I know enough Hebrew to actually make sense of it, but it’s all about the baby steps. One day I’ll get around to Greek as well and try to seal the deal.
In the meantime, as I’m finishing up the Book of Exodus, it’s more interesting than Genesis, but it definitely lulls when all the precise measurements for the Tabernacle and the tent and such are given and repeated over and over again. There again, however, is the difference- the Torah is often sung in Hebrew in Jewish congregations, and so the repetition is likely more about how one sings the chorus in a song and less about hollow words spoken out of context.