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Dena

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PostSubject: What does it mean to be religious?   Thu Jun 28, 2012 3:27 am

I think "religious" in the Jewish world can be somewhat difficult to define. If I tell one person I keep kosher, don't cook or spend money on Shabbat, attend services on Saturday mornings, say a few blessings during the day and study Hebrew they think I'm super religious. The next person thinks I'm totally secular. Today I was reading something on a forum where a parent said..

However, even though I'm Jewish, raising the kids Jewish, we belong to a synagogue and celebrate Shabbat and holidays, etc. -- I don't think of myself as a religious person.

Now, I know people who won't step foot into a synagogue and haven't so much as attended a seder in years. They would probably view the above as at least slightly religious. So what do you think? What does it mean to you to be religious?
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Sarit

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PostSubject: Re: What does it mean to be religious?   Thu Jun 28, 2012 1:24 pm

Ah, this is a great question! Just yesterday I was having a conversation with my partner, and the whole conversation was exactly pointing towards this question.


Well, basically, he was interested in, as he sees it, the question of how I am exactly being religious if I keep kosher, keep Shabbat, if I learn Hebrew or study Judaism in general. Basically, he sees all of these categories as "outer" manifestations of the institution of religion, as rituals and customs which marks the cultural identity, and thus, as he sees it, not the factor of believing/being religious.

(background: he is a non-denominational Christian somewhat affiliated to the Orthodox church, though he doesn't put much meaning in the church or clergy seeing them exactly as symbols/markers of institution, not of the "inner" faith, which makes them highly irrelevant for him in this sense)

In the other words, he divides "inner" faith (if I caught his mind properly; I will surely bring out this question again!), which is, somehow, more important, and "outer" manifestation of the institution of religion - rituals, customs etc, which are just culturally and institutionally introduced side effect of faith, like the things you do because of the community [to be seen as someone-who-believes-and-behaves-as-expected], not because you really believe. However, that doesn't mean that you don't believe, but that those "outer" manifestations are completely unnecessary and irrelevant in the means of faith. As he says, if you believe - you believe. So why then you do all these stuff?

(disclaimer: he is very, very supportive with my willing to convert, but he just likes to tease with these tricky questions wanting to learn more about Judaism, to learn more about me and my approaches - basically, living with me every day, it's his journey, too!)


From my point of view, the things are not so simply divided between the "inner" and "outer" aspects of faith/believing/being religious. I don't deny that all these things are part of the great body of an institution (here: Judaism), a great body of knowledge, a great body of searching for answers, interpreting, and the potential and capacity of reinterpreting and discussing things, thoughts, words and topics, which I see as one of the most important thing in Judaism for me. So I don't see this institution/tradition as negative or suffocatingly binding, but I see it as a fascinating source of inspiration, explanation, as a magnificent world of meaning in which my way of thinking just fits in, which just feels right, uplifting, and so inspirational to me. And also, delving in all that brings me joy and connects me to G-d and also to Jewish people, which is both very important and practically indivisible one from another. So "being religious" is therefore deeply personal as also a cultural thing, but basically it is a communicational thing - between me and G-d, me and Jewish people, me and the world around me etc. Being religious is all that.

So when I keep kosher or don't do certain things on Shabbat or do anything that seems to be "just" a custom/ritual, I am turning the simple things of my day into a wonderful, meaningful moments of being connected - to G-d, to Judaism, to Jewish people around the world.

I hope this made sense - I'm struggling with my mind and with my English at the same time - it can be tough. Very Happy
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tamar

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PostSubject: Re: What does it mean to be religious?   Thu Jun 28, 2012 1:55 pm

I see myself as religious not by keeping all the mitzvot but by being active in my community and by helping my children to understand how to be Jewish and what it means to be Jewish by sending them to Hebrew school.

We celebrate the holidays and our home is a Jewish home.

I think that being Jewish is a lifelong journey and we change in how we are religious over time and practice our Judaism in a way that works for us.

I would be seen as secular by some and I am seen as religious by others.

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Mychal

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PostSubject: Re: What does it mean to be religious?   Fri Jun 29, 2012 5:31 pm

That's an easy question: everyone who does more than me is religious, everyone who does less is secular/not very religious. Razz
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maculated

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PostSubject: Re: What does it mean to be religious?   Mon Jul 02, 2012 2:37 pm

LOL!!!

In the Orthodox world, a "religious Jew" is a frum Jew. I have no idea what everyone else is.
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usuario



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PostSubject: Re: What does it mean to be religious?   Mon Jul 02, 2012 3:54 pm

I think it's very Protestant Christian to say that religiosity is solely based on internal faith and that actions and behavior don't matter. Other denominations of Christianity, as well as Islam and Judaism, would disagree and say that you need to SHOW your religion outwardly to be religious.

In Israel, "religious" (dati) is synonymous with observant to Orthodox standards, or the Ashkenazi term "frum". If you're traditional (accept Orthodox authority but aren't fully observant), then you're not religious. If you're Conservative or Reform, you're not religious, even if you are a rabbi. This is very unfortunate as speaks to the lack of pluralism in Judaism in Israel.
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Dena

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PostSubject: Re: What does it mean to be religious?   Mon Jul 02, 2012 5:31 pm

maculated wrote:
LOL!!!

In the Orthodox world, a "religious Jew" is a frum Jew. I have no idea what everyone else is.

Do you consider yourself religious?
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mikedoyleblogger

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PostSubject: Re: What does it mean to be religious?   Wed Aug 22, 2012 6:16 pm

I think Usuario hit it on the head: Christianity emphasizes faith; Judaism emphasizes action. That action includes ritual activity that demonstrates faith and/or affiliation and brings both into daily life, hence keeping kosher, lighting candles, saying brachot, etc. It's really an apples/oranges debate. Though, frankly, for anyone's partner to label their religious practice as irreligious is kind of insulting and closed-minded.

In terms of what defines "religious" in a Jewish sense, I think it depends on the denomination and the individual. It's both relative and personal. For example, I consider myself a religious, observant Jew. I say brachot throughout my day before eating, lay tefillin regularly and try to daven three times a day, wear a full-time kippah and (on and off) a tallit katan with my strings out, attend Erev Shabbat and Shabbat Shacharit services regularly, and refrain from writing lists, shopping, or (usually) watching TV on Shabbos. Yet I don't keep a kosher kitchen, will use electricity on Shabbos, and don't refrain from eating treyf.

But how religious (let's use the term "observant" here) would specific communities consider me to be?

In an MO community, I wouldn't be considered very observant. In a Conservative community, my observance level would probably be par. In my own community, which is Reform, all of this actually makes me extraordinarily observant. So it's really a moving target.
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Dena

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PostSubject: Re: What does it mean to be religious?   Wed Aug 22, 2012 8:14 pm

I consider myself religious but not observant, if that makes any sense at all. Very Happy
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Sarit

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PostSubject: Re: What does it mean to be religious?   Sun Aug 26, 2012 9:47 am

mikedoyleblogger wrote:
Though, frankly, for anyone's partner to label their religious practice as irreligious is kind of insulting and closed-minded.

Mikedoyleblogger, you are so right.

I'm thinking about it for days now - I suppose you were referring to what you could read from my post.

Sometimes it's hard to involve that kind of interpretation when it's in your house.

I'll be keeping thinking of it, thank you.
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maculated

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PostSubject: Re: What does it mean to be religious?   Thu Aug 30, 2012 1:54 pm

Slow on the uptake.

Honestly, the term "religious" blisters me for some reason. I consider myself "observant" but not full Orthodox definition. I guess, to me, "religious" has some connotations I don't like - blind faith, etc. Mike's post hit it on the head, maybe. I observe, but maybe I don't get this fervent joy or compulsion from doing so, which I associate with the "religious."
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Dena

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PostSubject: Re: What does it mean to be religious?   Thu Aug 30, 2012 7:02 pm

I lack in the belief department but I am not nearly as observant as I could be, so I hesitate to use the term "observant". I drive and watch TV on shabbat, I sometimes cook and lately I've been eating a particular non-kosher gluten free food. Because of these things I do not feel I can call myself "observant" so I settle for "religious". It is of course, not religious in the sense that other groups (ie Christians, Muslims, etc) use the term.
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maculated

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PostSubject: Re: What does it mean to be religious?   Thu Aug 30, 2012 7:15 pm

Having tried to go the ultra-frum path for a bit, I've come to the conclusion that ultimately, you need to educate yourself and find a way to make what you believe relevant. For me, sitting around the house bored (there's only so many walks you can take before that gets old) in a non-religious community doesn't do a thing for us. We took some steps back from that and now seek true relaxation/rejuvenation and don't let driving or cooking be a hang up for us.

I guess my path has led me to believe that I don't need to conform to be a part of a community bringing light to the world. I can take the teachings and work within them as much as I can, but there's a reason why there are so many ex-religious Jewish comedians - the oppression can be stifling if you're not wired or set up to follow it. I don't think you can be happy and fully observant in a non-religious community, and, well, if my husband's experience is any example, the worst time in his life was his year in Monsey, NY, so I still go back to it can't be a cross to bear or it's not "rest."
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maculated

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PostSubject: Re: What does it mean to be religious?   Thu Aug 30, 2012 7:16 pm

Ha ha ha! Talk about mixing metaphors with that last line! Aww, English idioms, you get me every time.
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Dena

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PostSubject: Re: What does it mean to be religious?   Thu Aug 30, 2012 10:16 pm

maculated wrote:
Ha ha ha! Talk about mixing metaphors with that last line! Aww, English idioms, you get me every time.

Razz
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Dena

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PostSubject: Re: What does it mean to be religious?   Thu Aug 30, 2012 10:26 pm

I'm living in a Catholic neighborhood with an atheist husband. The fact I keep kosher at all, have separate dishes, buy kosher meat and attempt not to cook or spend money on Shabbat is probably pretty good for my particular circumstances. I could do a little bit better if I gave it more effort. The no cooking on Shabbat thing does not come naturally to me. I'm used to being the person who cooks in the house and I've yet to learn how to plan ahead accordingly.

Sitting at home all day every Shabbat would not work for us. It would only serve to make my husband angry, my family alienated and me miserable. Hence why I don't do it. Except very often in the winter when it's super cold or snowing because I loath leaving the house anyway. I think it would be great to have family/friends within walking distance. I may change my mind on that it it were a reality. Wink and Smile
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Salvia



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PostSubject: Re: What does it mean to be religious?   Sat Dec 29, 2012 8:07 pm

So, being religious, in judaism, is first and formost acting religious. I get that. Z
And I like it, because I do believe we are living in THIS world, and not another, higher or more spiritual one (like 'heaven') for a good reason, and have to produce ourselves and build our spiritual lives in the here and now, rather than focus on afterlife as much of christianity does.

I am cutting porc and dairy/meat combi's from my diet for exactly this reason, actually. I haven't studied enough of judaism to know WHY exactly is forbidden, but the Torah has it it is so, so I believe that in following this ruling I am approaching myself to the Divine, in showing my goodwill to coopoerate with it and at least trying to keep Its rules.
Religious acts, in my understanding, are things that one does, not (only) because there is a rational reason one does so, but because it serves to strengthen the bond with the Divine. So being religious is consciously working on the personal bond with the Divine?
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Salvia



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PostSubject: Re: What does it mean to be religious?   Tue Mar 19, 2013 3:10 pm

My take on being religious/religiosity as I live it:
Actually my own religiosity isn't just all practice. Of course doing good deeds is important. The Divine is omnipresent and thus present in all what lives, therefore one has to respect all living being and be good to others. "Don't do to other what you don't want to be done to you" is the universal rule all religions subscribe, I believe.

But there is more. To me, being religious is in the first place a deep-rooted FAITH that everything will come out allright. That everything happens for a reason. G-d is omnipresent and ever-watching so we can have faith... Of course, if we take needless risks these are for our own account (yes, I thought the idea needed a disclaimer Razz ).

I'm thinking much about my future these days and try to be receptive' to 'signs' of which step I should take next. I believe the Universe/G-d DOES give us hints to gently push us in the right direction, if we care to listen. And I believe that if you honestly try to follow your destiny, to fulfill your own personal task in life, you can count on divine protection. G-d is with those that try to fulfill their mission, and even if everything goes wrong, in the end things will come out allright.

My faith is a very abstract one and my G-d is a very abstract G-d. That doesn't mean my faith isn't the fundament of my life. It is.
Marley over Murphy: "everything's gonna be allright" over "all that can go wrong, will go wrong".
I think that Murphy's law apllies a lot to my life, but I trust in Bob Marley's rule to count more;)
Because I trust in G-d and Him wanting to fulfill the mission I have to fulfill in life.

Superstition? Maybe. But whatever course my life takes and whether I'll ever become Jewish or not, my faith in the goodness of Life, of G-d is fundamental. Even when all goes wrong. Which it seems to do right now. I just wait for the hints for the next step to take: I keep my spiritual ears wide open.

Link with the topic: this is my personal answer on what it means for ME to be religious. I wonder whether it fits in Judaism....

Psalm 91 says it all, those that call on G-d won't bedisappointed:
1 He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almight
2. I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.
3 Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.
4 He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler
. 5 Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day;
6 Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.
7 A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.
8 Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.
9 Because thou hast made the LORD, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation;
10 There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.
11 For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. 12 They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.
13 Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.
14 Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name.
15 He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him.
16 With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation.

It is a psalm I read a lot these days - even more than usual. It is my favourite, the psalm of adventurers in life and those that are in need of Divine protection..basically everybody?
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geekima



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PostSubject: Re: What does it mean to be religious?   Wed Mar 20, 2013 6:32 pm

From a practical standpoint, most communities I've lived in would probably define the terms "religious" and "spiritual" as two different things, with the word religious being applied more to one's observances and practices and spiritual referring to something less tangible and observable, such as emunah.

In Israel as well, I saw the term "religious" being used to define someone who was observant or a neighborhood in which the families were all observant. This had everything to do with the practices of those living there or the person and was not meant as a measurement of their faith or relationship with G-d.

Like a lot of things, I think I've taken on the definitions of these terms as they've been used around me. I have met people who were "religious," but not terribly "spiritual" and I've met people who were incredibly spiritual without being religious.
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Salvia



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PostSubject: Re: What does it mean to be religious?   Wed Mar 20, 2013 6:45 pm

emunah...that's a word I love a lot. It is the essence of religion to me.
Practice is the other side - I try to practice within my limited means, but I can't be called religious on account of that, I think. Still, if people'd say I am NOT religous I'd take offence because I believe...

argghh semantics... Razz
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geekima



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PostSubject: Re: What does it mean to be religious?   Wed Mar 20, 2013 6:53 pm

It also is a matter of degrees, too. As a friend was always fond of saying, "Anyone less observant than you is a slacker and anyone more observant than you is shtark." Essentially this means that we tend to view others in terms of our own observance, something that it's important and difficult to let go of.

The way I like to think of it, is that we are all on paths made uniquely for us. While from my path it might look like someone is closer or further from their destination than I think I am, since all these paths wind and turn, it's impossible to really know. That person who seems less observant might be further along in G-d's eyes than I am and the person who seems to be further along than I am may have a much longer way to go. We aren't measured against each other, but against our own potential. As long as you are doing what you need to be doing, it doesn't matter how you might measure yourself against what anyone else is doing.
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Salvia



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PostSubject: Re: What does it mean to be religious?   Sat Apr 27, 2013 6:45 pm

I just found this blogpost about emunah, and was reminded of the conversation we had here...
I share because I stumbled on this blog today and I really like it :)
http://www.jewinthecity.com/2013/04/you-gotta-have-faith-faith-faith/
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