One of my oldest, dearest and closest friends discovered she was Jewish on her mother’s side. This was a family secret that had been one since her mother was a child in Germany, born just before Hitler’s rise to power began. Her family converted and changed their name, which is what many Jewish families did during the late 1930s and early 1940s to protect themselves.
If you prefer to watch a video, click on this link: Watch the video.
Having a desire to know her Jewish roots better, she recently told me she is going to attend services at a local synagogue, which she explained to me is a Secular Jewish synagogue.
When she told me that I thought I heard her incorrectly, but she confirmed that this synagogue follows a humanistic theology.
Huh? Jews that aren’t centered on God but on humanism? That can’t be. But…it is.
Here is what I found on Wikipedia about Secular Judaism:
According to historian Shmuel Feiner, the onset of modernism in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries witness the appearance in Europe of Jewish communities who rejected the religious norms and discipline demanded by the rabbinical elite and whose identities as Jews were increasingly separate from beliefs and practices from the Torah or the commandments.
As far as I know, the Reconstructionist sect of Judaism is close to this description, although they do have some deist factions. Here is the Wikipedia definition of their theology:
Most “classical” Reconstructionist Jews (those agreeing with Kaplan) reject traditional forms of theism, though this is by no means universal. Many Reconstructionist Jews are deists, but the movement also includes Jews who hold Kabbalistic, pantheistic (or panentheistic) views of God, and some Jews who believe in the concept of a personal God.
To settle this confusion, one could simply identify what being a Jew means, or to rephrase my statement, we could ask, “What is a Jew?” This is a question that seemingly has no one answer. Some say it is by birth, some by spiritual attachment to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Some say it is those who live a Jewish lifestyle, but that opens up an entirely new can of worms, for what is a Jewish lifestyle? Is it being Torah observant? Is it celebrating all the holidays that are identified as “Jewish”, or just the ones God specified in the Bible? Is it wanting your son to grow up to be a lawyer or a doctor?
Frankly, there are as many opinions as to what a “Jew” is as there are people answering the question, but there is one thing that I do not believe any can argue against, which is that the Bible has told us God chose the Jewish people, meaning the direct descendants of Jacob (later called Israel) to be his nation of priests to the world (Exodus 19:6) and gave them the Torah to learn, then teach to the rest of the world.
Yes- the Torah is for everyone because when you are a priest to the world that means you teach the world how to worship God.
So to be “Jewish” according to the Bible is to worship God as he said he should be worshiped, and to live our lives in accordance with the instructions he gave us in the Torah. Not that anyone can do that perfectly, but if we want to- if we try our best to live as God says to in the Torah- then we are, by definition, “Jewish.”
This means there is no way to separate Judaism from God, or vice-versa: God is the very foundation of Judaism, the roots of the Tree of Life, the rock upon which the house of David (Messiah) is built. According to the Bible, you cannot reject God or his Torah and still be Jewish.
You can reject much, if not all, of the Talmudic regulations, called Halacha (the Way to Walk) because they are man-made traditions and rules, but to reject God and his rules? No way, Jose!!
Judaism has been identified as a religion for thousands of years, but when God told Moses how we are to worship him and treat each other, it wasn’t a religion -it was how you were to live your life. The Torah is more than just a set of laws; it is a marriage certificate between a people and their God, it is the Constitution for a nation outlining the organization of the government, creating a justice system, establishing a penal code, and defining societal standards of behavior.
The idea of secular Judaism is an oxymoron. For me, you can’t be Jewish when you reject God as the way he presents himself in the Bible.
We will never know exactly what a “Jew” is, and that doesn’t really matter. What matters is how we feel towards God, other people, and how hard we try to live according to the instructions God gave to all human beings (through the Israelites) in the Torah.
Jews, the Torah, and God are inseparable.
Thank you for being here, and please share me out, subscribe, like my Facebook page and buy my books. I appreciate your comments and welcome them (just be nice, okay?)
Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!