HomeCalendarFAQSearchRegisterLog in

Share | 
 

 Using the Term Observant

View previous topic View next topic Go down 
Go to page : Previous  1, 2
AuthorMessage
Dena

avatar

Posts : 678
Join date : 2011-09-05
Age : 34

PostSubject: Using the Term Observant   Sun Jan 22, 2012 10:38 pm

First topic message reminder :

What does "observance" mean to you? Do you consider or call yourself observant? Why or why not?
Back to top Go down

AuthorMessage
Sarit

avatar

Posts : 128
Join date : 2012-03-14
Age : 34
Location : Belgrade, Serbia

PostSubject: Re: Using the Term Observant   Tue Feb 12, 2013 2:34 am

Take a small steps at a time and read a lot - that should also help and prepare you for some details in Judaism, theoretical as well as practical (in Judaism they are often intertwined).

Everybody has its own way of discovering Judaism, but as for me, I was reading a couple of years before I approached the rabbi, before I went to synagogue or to any class here, and even that did not prepare me for what I experienced in the live contact with the rituals and the tradition. In the other words, I knew it pretty well from the theory, but in practice they were still kind of new for me.

As far as I know, in every synagogue, besides the elements of rituals and order of happenings on Shabbat, for example, you can find some specificities. Our synagogue here is Modern Orthodox and it has a Sephardic traditional service. I was lucky to find some wonderful people there who helped me, shared their siddur with me (there are not enough siddurs here for everyone at the synagogue - it's a small community and it has some problems of this kind) and helped me with the pages through the service. There was no transliteration (only the alephbet and the translation to Serbian language), but I was delighted to realize that, after all, I could manage with the text for I learned enough words to understand and follow the service! :) I was so happy! The service here is mostly in Hebrew, but also in Ladino. You will see what will you find in your synagogue - just be honest with the people, don't be afraid to say if you don't know something and I'm sure someone will be there to help you!

And look at the others - so you'll see what to do!

Of course, it's easier when you actually know what you are doing and why - so that's why I decided to read a lot before even going to the service, and I continue to learn every day! :)

There are a lot of excellent texts online - you can find some recommendations here on the forum!

Good luck and tell us about your experiences! :)


Back to top Go down
Debbie B.

avatar

Posts : 373
Join date : 2011-09-05
Location : Chicagoland

PostSubject: Re: Using the Term Observant   Tue Feb 12, 2013 1:59 pm

John S wrote:
I'm already used to wearing a kufi (a little larger than a kippah) so covering my head isn't a major life change, and, of course a simple thing like the wearing of tzitzit is not a problem either. I'm used to a halal (think kosher lite) diet, so taking the extra step to a more proper kosher diet isn't something completely alien.

At first, looking at the classic "list of the 613" is daunting- but then I look at many of the commandments and realize I'm already doing many of them and some of the others are not inconvenient at all, it's just a matter of *doing* them. When you set aside the ones that don't apply, The List becomes a little less intimidating and more manageable.

But, as for some of the various Islamic practices I'm used to, there's a difference between 'doing it' and 'doing it RIGHT', and for me that's where the lines tend to get really fuzzy with this scholar saying 'this is how you do it' and another saying 'no, THIS is how you do it'... and according to Islam as long as both scholars have the proper Qur'anic and hadith references, you can be *right* in following either one, even though they may have diametrically different conclusions!

From my initial impressions in reading on Jewish practices, though- and correct me if I'm wrong- there is little difference on the actual 'mechanics' on how to do things, and it's more a simple matter of doing it or not doing it. Of course, some things are bound in tradition (black hats and suits for some groups, for instance) but as far as the basic rituals am I right in understanding there's a set way to do it? For example, for the opening of Shabbat, will the actual order and reading the ceremony be the same for Reform as well as Orthodox, and it's just a matter of doing it or not doing it- or am I wrong and there are major differences in the actual performance of the ritual?

I have to admit, the more I read the more I am fascinated by the minutiae of ritual observances and finding the optimum 'how to do it right' formula; I am sure as I read and learn from others, though, that all will eventually be revealed and- just as my former practices did- in time the new ways will become second nature. There's a lot to learn between now and then!
The "613 commandments" are merely the traditional enumeration of the commandments in the Torah (where I am using the narrow meaning of that word, which is the first five books of the Hebrew Bible), but that is only the "Written Law" whereas most of the requirements for a traditional Jewish life are understood from the "Oral Law" (This link gives the section from the "Jewish Literacy" book I recommended.) If you were to try to simply follow the Written Law, you could easily end up observing Shabbat by sitting in the dark eating cold food, which I'm told is what the Karaites do, and is basically the opposite of mainstream (Rabbinic) Jewish observance of Shabbat.

The specific manner in which rituals are done matter a lot in some Jewish communities. As an example, some Orthodox Jews will not eat in the homes of other Orthodox Jews who don't keep kashrut in the same ("correct" in their opinion) way that they do. Some Jewish communities exert strong social pressure for members to conform in the specifics (to the point of shunning and ostracism), even for situations where they would agree that doing things in other ways are not violations of commandments. Other Jewish communities are more tolerant of difference: for example, at services of my congregation, hair covering for married women ranges from none (very intentionally) to kippot (same as worn by men or in a feminine lacy style) to scarves to various kinds of hats. However, the only women of my congregation who have ever worn wigs did so only when they had lost hair due to chemotherapy, even though wigs are basically required for married women in some Orthodox communities. (There is a genetic susceptibility for breast cancer that runs in Ashkenazi Jewish families, so unfortunately my congregation has had many cases of that and have lost some members to it.)

Most Reform Jews do not do most of the everyday rituals that traditional Jews consider to be required. Reform services not only have a lot of English translation, but omit many traditional parts and may change the order of parts. When we attended the bar mitzvah of my son's friend at a Reform synagogue, about half way through, my son gave me a questioning look and said that he was confused because it was all different (from the traditional service that he is used to). However, that synagogue is actually more "traditional" than most Reform synagogues. My friend who was raised in a Conservative home and was a member of that Reform synagogue had told me the synagogue's services did retain many of the key components of a traditional service in the usual order, so I listened with that in mind, and indeed, I found that the last few parts of the service (which were even in Hebrew) were in the usual order ("Ein Keloheinu", "Aleinu", and "Adon Olam")[You can easily find explanations of these prayers in Wikipedia and listen to various versions on YouTube.] But don't take the above as criticism of Reform Judaism. I have many dear friends who are very happy, dedicated Reform Jews. A Reform synagogue can also be the best place for a "newbie" to start because it is less intimidatingly "foreign" and it is likely to have "introduction to Judaism classes" as well as more members who are converts themselves. Important leaders of the Reform movement have even said that they think Reform Jews should actively encourage non-Jews to consider converting.

John, please try to put aside all your preconceptions of what Judaism is. If you insist on understanding Judaism from the viewpoint of a Christian or Muslim, you will not be able to appreciate it for what it is. I know that you are just looking for commonalities to give you a foothold in all the new stuff, but that will lead to misunderstandings. It is better to start with as new a perspective as you can muster.
Back to top Go down
usuario



Posts : 43
Join date : 2012-01-08
Age : 31
Location : Frederick, MD

PostSubject: Re: Using the Term Observant   Tue Feb 12, 2013 2:55 pm

John S wrote:
and according to Islam as long as both scholars have the proper Qur'anic and hadith references, you can be *right* in following either one, even though they may have diametrically different conclusions!

From my initial impressions in reading on Jewish practices, though- and correct me if I'm wrong- there is little difference on the actual 'mechanics' on how to do things, and it's more a simple matter of doing it or not doing it.

Actually the more Orthodox you get, the more the actual mechanics matter. There are right ways to do a ritual and wrong ways, and poskim (~ the Jewish "ulama") have ruled on when you can get away with doing something wrong and when you have to do it over again.

The Orthodox would agree that there is "ijma" in Judaism regarding certain things like electricity on Shabbat and whether certain things are kosher or not, but the non-Orthodox would disagree, often because this consensus was only arrived by religiously conservative scholars in modern times after reactionary pressure from the secular world came about, and before then there was a plethora of acceptable opinions.

The closest thing I can think of to having different madhabs in Judaism is Ashkenazi vs. Sephardic Judaism. There are some things that are forbidden to Sephardic Jews which are permitted to Ashkenazi Jews and vice versa, for example Sephardic halacha (sharia) is stricter on what foods cooked by non-Jews can be eaten, but more lax in terms of what can be eaten during Passover. They also differ in certain customs and even how certain mitzvot are performed. People have to follow the custom (Ashkenazi, Sephardic, or other subgroup) of their father with certain exceptions (like moving to a new community), I'm not sure if this is the same for which school of fiqh one ascribes to or whether one is free to pick.

There is really no way of comparing the various Jewish "denominations" of Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform with anything in Islam, because there is no mainstream branch of Islam anywhere that is not fundamentalist in outlook, and therefore in effect only Orthodox Judaism maps onto Islam. These denominations are made up of mostly Ashkenazi Jews, so in some ways Sephardic Judaism is more similar to Islam in that congregants are made up of all different types of people of varying personal observance levels and beliefs but all respect the opinion that there is only ONE correct theology. You might go out for a steak at the Outback steakhouse but your imam certainly doesn't, whereas it's not too hard to find a non-Orthodox rabbi who will eat meat not slaughtered by shechita (dhabiha).

You could make some vague comparisons of Sufists with Kabbalists, and Karaites with Quranists (those who don't hold by the hadith at all)
Back to top Go down
John S

avatar

Posts : 16
Join date : 2013-02-08
Age : 54
Location : Alabama

PostSubject: Re: Using the Term Observant   Tue Feb 12, 2013 9:28 pm

Debbie B. wrote:

John, please try to put aside all your preconceptions of what Judaism is. If you insist on understanding Judaism from the viewpoint of a Christian or Muslim, you will not be able to appreciate it for what it is. I know that you are just looking for commonalities to give you a foothold in all the new stuff, but that will lead to misunderstandings. It is better to start with as new a perspective as you can muster.

I think you're very correct on this- I was beginning to see the same thing within myself, basing my assumptions on prior experience elsewhere. This truly is new ground for me and there is a lot of work and study for me- and at my age, I've literally got a lifetime of catching up to do just to get started! Thank you for 'keeping it real' study
Back to top Go down
Salvia



Posts : 166
Join date : 2012-12-29
Age : 29
Location : Wales, UK

PostSubject: Re: Using the Term Observant   Wed Feb 13, 2013 7:35 am

Debbie : keeping Sabbath by eating cold food in the dark? I know it's a bit offtopic, but...wow! Isn't a part of the Sabbath commandment that it is a feast day, a day you relax and have a good dinner with your loved ones? A day of appreciating the fruits of your work and leaning back a little?
Eating cold stuff in the dark doesn't sound very much like relaxing to me....

All this talk about fullfilling commandments in the 'right' way surprises me a little, because that is not how I understood mitsvot worked. Well, in a way, yes.
I don't know; I had developed this idea that there are two kinds of mitsvot: those that govern your relationship with other people and the world surrounding you and those that govern your relationship with the Divine ( and those that are important for both, like the commandment to keep Sabbath?)
The first vategory is really practical and often comes down to 'be nice', but the second has some commandments in it that are really strange from an atheist point of view (not eating milk and meat together may be such a thing). I had understood that these commandments are important just BECAUSE they have no practical utility. In performing them you are doing so because you want to align yourself with the divine, and so these mitsvot create a bond between human and divine. Because we do stuff with the pure intention to please G-d, we are connecting ourselves.

So...intention is the keyword. And if intention counts, exact movements count less, I could think; But maybe I have just understood nothing of what mitsvot are and what their sense is. That's why I write this, to be corrected if wrong.

On the other hand one could say that people who spend their days debating how to do things right spend considerable parts of their energy on pelasing the divine and connecting themselves. So in a way...ok I'mm stop rambling.
Back to top Go down
Debbie B.

avatar

Posts : 373
Join date : 2011-09-05
Location : Chicagoland

PostSubject: Re: Using the Term Observant   Wed Feb 13, 2013 3:44 pm

Salvia,

Did you read the link attached to "Karaites" in my post? You should be able to click on the word which should be highlighted, but here it is again separately: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karaite_Judaism

The Karaites are basically a heretical sect that split off from what is now mainstream Judaism ("Rabbinic Judaism") in the 7th-9th centuries CE. They don't accept any of the Oral Law including the Talmud which is why they do a number of things the opposite of most Jews do. I was trying to emphasize the importance of the Oral Law for Judaism because John seemed to have the mistaken belief that Jewish observance was defined only by the Written Law.

Your understanding of the two basic categories of mitzvot is correct. In Hebrew, they are called:
1. "mitzvot ben adam l'chavero": commandments concerning obligations between a person and other people
2. "mitzvot ben adam l'Makom": commandments concerning obligations between a person and God
It is interesting to note that the "Ten Commandments" are grouped: the first five are "ben adam l'Makom" and the last five are "ben adam l'chavero".

However, your understanding of the importance of "intention" is a "liberal" rather than "traditional" view. For example, I wish that I could do needle point on Shabbat because I am working on a needle point Tallit bag for my husband and I find that doing that kind of needle work is very relaxing. I seldom have the time for such activities during the week, but I always have extra time on Shabbat afternoon. But doing needle point certainly involves more than one of the traditional 39 activities that are prohibited on Shabbat including weaving and sewing. A non-traditional Jew might feel that making a religious object and enjoying such a nice, quiet activity on Shabbat is in the "spirit of Shabbat", giving weight to the "intentions" of the activity. But from a traditional perspective, the activity is forbidden on Shabbat. So, I do not do needle point on Shabbat.

I do agree that some Jews are so fixated on the "right" way to do things that the meaning gets lost and IMHO it is sad when that makes observance of mitzvot a burden and not a joy.

There is a general tendency for the more traditional and "right wing" Jews to place more emphasis on specific details of how to do things "properly" by their strict definitions. There is generally more acknowledgment of multiple ways that things can be done in a permissible way and more consideration of "intention" by more "liberal" Jews. But there are exceptions. And the people themselves may see what they do in a different light than how it appears to others.


Last edited by Debbie B. on Thu Feb 14, 2013 12:41 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : corrected typo in Salvia's name)
Back to top Go down
Salvia



Posts : 166
Join date : 2012-12-29
Age : 29
Location : Wales, UK

PostSubject: Re: Using the Term Observant   Wed Feb 13, 2013 4:27 pm

Oh, I hadn't seen the link, sorry...

Thank you for your explanations, Debbie! It's really interesting :)

Yes; I'd think intention is more important to doing things right, in the way that I would suppose that a mitsva performed in a right spirit, from the heart, but maybe with a technical flaw (I read something about shabbath candles going out during the lighting..)is 'better' than one than one performed flawlessly but mechanical, without spirit. Is this liberal? And...is liberal considered 'wrong'?

In that light I'd also consider nice quiet working on a religious object a better way to spend a Shabbat afternoon than being bored and waiting for it to be over. (I am NOT saying you do so, it's just an example).

But once again, I'm just trying to understand the 'Jewish way to see things' and please correct me!!
Back to top Go down
Debbie B.

avatar

Posts : 373
Join date : 2011-09-05
Location : Chicagoland

PostSubject: Re: Using the Term Observant   Wed Feb 13, 2013 5:11 pm

I personally don't think your feelings are "wrong", but I'm not Orthodox despite being more traditional in general observance than most "non-Orthodox" Jews. One way that I do not have an Orthodox Jewish world view is that I'm more likely to look for leniencies or even to not do things strictly "correctly" in some cases due to other considerations. Actually, all Jews make some compromises in observing Jewish Law although the most strictly observant Jews do only those with definite rabbinic approval such as "pikuach nefesh" = saving a life. For example, my Orthodox friend told me that when her son's friend broke his arm while playing on Shabbat, she did not hesitate to drive him to the hospital. It was unlikely that he would literally die if they waited until the end of Shabbat to take him to the hospital, but he was indeed seriously hurt, and most rabbis say that if someone is seriously injured you should not waste time wondering if it is "bad enough" because that might cause someone to delay in the case where it really does matter. (However, I suspect that after the boy was treated that they did not drive home until after Shabbat. My friend's father is a transplant surgeon, and I've heard that he drives to the hospital on Shabbat when he is called in, but that after he has finished his work, he then waits at the hospital until Shabbat is over because there is no life-threatening need for him to drive home.) Another example of violating Shabbat for "pikuach nefesh" is that when we lived in Israel for a summer when my daughter was a baby, she became ill with an extremely high fever (107F=42C as measured at the hospital). I tried to give her a cool bath, but her temperature wouldn't come down. It was Friday night, but we were frightened and didn't know what to do, so we telephoned our Orthodox friends. When their phone rang for many rings at midnight on Friday, they thankfully answered it even though it was Shabbat (so they would not normally use their phone) because they knew it was likely to be an emergency. They told us to call a taxi and take our daughter to the hospital of the town which we did. (As is typical in Israel where people often act like its one big family, on Sunday, the taxi driver looked up my husband's number at the Weizmann and called just to check on whether our baby was alright.)

I do think that the views you have described indicate that you may be better suited to a "liberal" form of Judaism rather than an Orthodox version. From a Google search, it seems that "Progressive Judaism" is the term used for Reform Judaism outside the US.
Here is a useful link: World Union for Progressive Judaism
You can use the "Find a congregation" feature on the above webpage. It shows only six progressive congregations in all of France.
Back to top Go down
Salvia



Posts : 166
Join date : 2012-12-29
Age : 29
Location : Wales, UK

PostSubject: Re: Using the Term Observant   Wed Feb 13, 2013 5:36 pm

Yep - and they're all very, very far away from me. The closest is Paris, about 300 km...

The ironic thing is that in the country where I was born (I'm emigrated) one stumbles over jewish congegrations of all kinds. I should have decided earlier to explore them. My ex came from a, orthodox jewish family (not in the sense that they were orthodox observant (they were agnostic), but that they attended the portuguese synagogue before WWII, which is orthodox), and I could have asked stuff with my inlaws then...

Grrrr.....
Back to top Go down
Debbie B.

avatar

Posts : 373
Join date : 2011-09-05
Location : Chicagoland

PostSubject: Re: Using the Term Observant   Wed Feb 13, 2013 5:59 pm

Without a Jewish community to join, I think your best option is to do a lot of self-study to decide whether it matters enough to you to move to suitable Jewish community to pursue formal conversion and live a more fully Jewish life which cannot be properly done without a community. However, you may be content to simply use Jewish ideas and rituals as a framework for your own personal spiritual life, in which case you do not need formal conversion.

If you feel you need to discuss issues with a rabbi, there are some who will do remote consultations or even remote conversion study, for a fee. (Which is reasonable since they do have to make a living after all, and I don't think any of them getting rich from their fees).

Where are you originally from, Salvia?
Back to top Go down
Salvia



Posts : 166
Join date : 2012-12-29
Age : 29
Location : Wales, UK

PostSubject: Re: Using the Term Observant   Wed Feb 13, 2013 6:07 pm

I'm from the Netherlands (AKA Holland) (which I didn't want to say because I guess I'm quite easily known this way to anyone who knows me and reads this, but well...)

And in the Netherlands there are synagogues all over the place. And they come in all flavours ;)
Back to top Go down
Debbie B.

avatar

Posts : 373
Join date : 2011-09-05
Location : Chicagoland

PostSubject: Re: Using the Term Observant   Wed Feb 13, 2013 6:51 pm

My most recent visit to Amsterdam was a one-day stopover on the way to Africa last winter. That day we visited the Jewish Museum as well as the Rijksmuseum. My family also spent several days in the Netherlands about 10 years ago. I love the country---lots of "Old World" European charm combined with clean, neat, and modern aspects, and such friendly people who all seem to speak fluent English, usually just one of several languages they know.

Perhaps your interest in Judaism will draw you back to your home country...
Back to top Go down
Salvia



Posts : 166
Join date : 2012-12-29
Age : 29
Location : Wales, UK

PostSubject: Re: Using the Term Observant   Wed Feb 13, 2013 7:15 pm

I was about to say 'inch'Allah' but that would be the wrong religion *grins*

Actually, one of the things I miss most about the netherlands is the quarter where I lived as a student; 90% of the inhabitants was muslim there, more nationalities than I can count, the streets were always full of people, and it it was market everyday: many eastern products, as well as fresh veg from all over the world readily available, as well as spices, bread and legumes and maroccon, iranian, turkish food...I def learned to cook there (and I became a foodie), and the openness and friendlyness of the people (you should go there at the end of ramadan, everybody is smiling and making ready to party) got me interested in the cultures of the mediterranean and the near east. And although Judaism is from all over the world, it is strongly linked with these regions. When I saw a short movie about homeshopping in jerusalem it looked very much like my old place. And it made me think of friday night tapas 'n tajines with my ex (it was with him that I learned the custom of foing something special on Friday night :) )
But at my old place, different peoples live at peace...

Sorry, I'm way offtopic now!
Back to top Go down
Sponsored content




PostSubject: Re: Using the Term Observant   

Back to top Go down
 
Using the Term Observant
View previous topic View next topic Back to top 
Page 2 of 2Go to page : Previous  1, 2

Permissions in this forum:You cannot reply to topics in this forum
 :: Jewish Fundamentals :: Jewish Ritual and Mitzvot-
Jump to: