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Some Questions About Judaism

Discussion in 'Judaism DIR' started by Doodlebug02, Feb 13, 2010.

  1. Doodlebug02

    Doodlebug02 Active Member

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    Hi everyone. I have some questions about Judaism that I'd like to get answered as I am considering the possibility of converting to Judaism. I am a Monotheistic Seeker of the Abrahamic religions. Please answer my questions in as brief and easily understandable manner as possible.


    1. What is the process of converting to Judaism?
    2. What rituals must one go through in converting to Judaism?
    3. What books of the Bible do Jews accept as Scripture?
    4. Do Jews believe in reincarnation?
    5. Do Jews believe in an afterlife?
    6. What is the Jewish view on Jesus?
    7. What is the Jewish view on abortion?
    8. What is the Jewish view on birth control?
    9. What is the Jewish view on premarital sex?
    10. What is the Jewish view on homosexuality?
    11. What do Jews believe about angels?
    12. What do Jews believe about demons?
    13. Does the devil exist in Judaism?
    14. If the devil does not exist in Judaism, what is the source of evil?
    Thank you for your time!
     
  2. Zardoz

    Zardoz Wonderful Wizard
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    That's a lot of questions! I'll try to answer some, but a few things first.
    There are different branches of Judaism just like there are different denominations of Christianity, and for any issue the positions may be different for each branch. Then for more variation, there is the rather commonplace blending of branches for many Jews. For example, I consider a member of three distinct (and usually mutually exclusive) branches. At one point, with three paying memberships and on the board of two Temples.

    Also, consider this old saying: 'Two Jews, Three Opinions'

    So, what I present is just one Jew's opinion... take it with a grain of salt, I don't speak for all Jews. Also, please don't use lists again, it was hard to separate them.


    Varies from branch to branch, here's the major steps:
    Find a sponsoring Rabbi
    Present a valid reason, or desire. Only for a marriage is not a valid reason.
    Appear before a Bet Din (3 Judges) and declare this intent. (Be prepared to be discouraged)
    Study. Reform require a Basic Judaism course which takes a few months.
    For men, circumcision, or if already circumcised a drop of blood (Hatafat Dam Brit)
    For all, an immersion at a Mikvah. (These are usually controlled by Orthodox, so the Reform are often forced to use substitutes, such as private pools, lakes, rivers, etc.)
    The same books as what the Protestants call the 'Old Testament'.
    Yes, but it's a special punishment and not common.

    Again, varied opinion, but in general yes.

    Varied. Some see him as just a good Jew misunderstood. Others, well, a lot of suffering has happened to my people in his name. Myself, you'd be better off visiting the separate Messianic Judaism forum to see my opinion.

    It's a medical procedure, not good or evil. If a woman's life is in danger because of a pregnancy, according to Judaism it's not just permitted to perform an abortion, it's a necessity, and required by law. Her actual life is outweighs the fetuses potential life, every time.

    Yes
    Judaism does not believe in a 'heavenly revolt' by angels and 'fallen' angels.
    Ha Satan is our adversary, who's tasked to test us. G-d gave him that task.

    Evil has no one source, like darkness has no source.

    Shalom
     
  3. Levite

    Levite Higher and Higher

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    Although Zardoz gave some fine answers above, I'd like to put in mine just for the sake of variety, or a slightly different outlook.

    For every question you've asked, there is no one correct answer. "What do Jews believe..." types of questions presume that there are one or two accepted dogmas about something, but Judaism tends to be very light on dogma. Judaism is a religion of laws, and a prime precept of Jewish law is "makhloket l'shem shamayim," or "dispute for the sake of Heaven;" that is, that different authorities may have different views of what is proper interpretation, and those differences must be respected. Which is not to say there are not divisions between Jewish communities, but that, in theory, we are to be wary of presuming that there is ever only one correct answer.

    Thus, everything below should be read with "...mostly." at the end of it.


    1. What is the process of converting to Judaism?
    2. What rituals must one go through in converting to Judaism?
    The basic requirements according to Jewish law are circumcision (or hatafat dam brit, as defined above by Zardoz; obviously, women have no need for circumcision or hatafat dam brit); immersion in the mikveh (see above); and the convert must, before a bet din (rabbinical court), renounce all other gods or faiths, and declare their acceptance of the responsibilities of the commandments (kabbalat 'ol mitzvot, "reception of the yoke of the commandments"). These days, any rabbi worth his or her salt will require that the convert also engage in a course of study prior to conversion (generally, to begin learning Hebrew, to begin becoming familiar with Jewish texts, to learn the prayer liturgy, the rules of keeping kosher, and other rituals and rules of living a Jewish life), and will ask the convert for a commitment to continue study after conversion.

    1. What books of the Bible do Jews accept as Scripture?
    Tanakh - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    1. Do Jews believe in reincarnation?
    It depends on who you ask. Also, as Zardoz mentioned, of those who do believe in reincarnation, some believe it's a punishment, but others believe that one may be reincarnated for other reasons, which may have nothing to do with one's behavior.

    1. Do Jews believe in an afterlife?
    Historically, most Jews have believed in some kind of afterlife. There has never been unanimous agreement, though, on what that afterlife might look like, or how it would be. Today, though the majority of Jews will claim some belief in an afterlife, some, if not many, do not hold such a belief at all. For the most part, Judaism does not place a high priority on afterlife, deeming it more important to deal with our responsibilities here in this world.

    1. What is the Jewish view on Jesus?
    Runs the range from loathing and utter rejection of anything associated with him; to a belief that he was really a good person who tried hard to do what he thought God wanted him to do, but whose followers unfortunately erred in deeming him the messiah, and then deifying him; and everything in between.

    1. What is the Jewish view on abortion?
    Depends. Most Orthodox authorities say it is not permitted except in cases where the mother's life is in danger. Conservative authorities are split on the matter: some side along the lines of Orthodoxy, but many say that it is permissible in many different situations, especially early in the pregnancy. Reform authorities caution that abortion should not be taken lightly, but (as is usual with Reform Jews) they say that each Jewish woman must ultimately decide for herself what she feels she is permitted.

    1. What is the Jewish view on birth control?
    Conservative and Reform Jews are nearly unanimous in permitting it. Conservative authorities would add that such permission presumes that one will fulfill the commandment to procreate at least once in one's life . Modern Orthodox authorities explicitly permit some forms of birth control if one already has children, and tacitly permit some other forms of birth control, regardless. Mainstream and Ultra-Orthodoxy do not permit birth control, unless pregnancy would endanger the life of the woman.

    1. What is the Jewish view on premarital sex?
    Orthodoxy does not permit premarital intercourse. That said, many young Modern Orthodox Jews avoid only vaginal intercourse prior to marriage, but secretly practice oral (and sometimes anal) sex when single. If caught, there is some stigma associated with premarital sex in Modern Orthodox circles. Mainstream and Ultra-Orthodox Jews generally remain celibate before marriage, though in those communities, people tend to marry young (18-24). If caught having premarital sex in Ultra-Orthodox circles, there is tremendous stigma, and whole families can be shamed by the scandal. The Conservative movement teaches that Jews ought to enjoy sexual relations in the context of committed, monogamous relationships. They do not say those relationships have to be marriage, although they teach that marriage is the ideal. But there is no real stigma to premarital sex in the Conservative movement. Reform Judaism advocates committed, monogamous relationships, but also does not particularly care about premarital sex.

    1. What is the Jewish view on homosexuality?
    In traditional Mainstream and Ultra-Orthodoxy, homosexuality is not condoned at all, and GLBT Jews in those communities either remain deeply closeted, or they find themselves no longer welcome in the community. Modern Orthodoxy does not officially condone homosexuality, but they recognize that GLBT Jews may not have chosen their sexual orientation, and that this presents a problem that must somehow be solved justly and compassionately. Conservative authorities are divided: some take essentially the Modern Orthodox view; but most accept and welcome GLBT Jews without stigma, and the movement recently began ordaining GLBT rabbis, and approving GLBT commitment ceremonies. Reform Judaism universally and unequivocally accepts and welcomes all GLBT individuals, ordains GLBT rabbis, and performs GLBT weddings.

    1. What do Jews believe about angels?
    Historically, Judaism has taught various traditions about angels. Some say that they are created for only one "use" or "mission," and once finished, they are "uncreated." Some say that angels are "eternal." In general, nearly all who believe in "eternal" angels believe that they are created without free will, which is why they are not superior to humans, who, being made in the image of God, have free will. It is because of their presumed lack of free will that Judaism has never accepted a notion of rebellious "fallen" angels: a being that lacks free will cannot rebel. There are many beliefs about how angels appear, and what they are and are not capable of, and what uses God puts them to. Today, not all Jews believe in literal angels: most Reform Jews, and some Conservative Jews, believe that angels are metaphorical, or mythical.

    1. What do Jews believe about demons?
    There are, again, various beliefs. Nobody can agree on just where they come from, or what they are ultimately capable of, or how much lattitude God permits them in interfering with the affairs of the world. There are stories told in the Talmud about Shedim ("demons"), who we also know are ruled by a king, Ashmodai (sometimes Latinized in non-Jewish texts to Asmodeus): Shedim seem to be quite unpleasant, if not downright wicked, but they acknowledge the rule of God, and can be bound by the use of Holy Names. They are thought to have wings in their natural form, although they are also thought to be shapechangers; they are known to be enthusiastic fornicators, and disregarders of the commandments; and they are said to have feet like chickens. The Talmud also teaches about lesser demons, called Mazikin ("Harmful Ones," but with a sense more like "imps" or "gremlins"), which are not so powerful or intelligent, but are multitudinous, invisible, and addicted to destructive and annoying behavior, like poltergeists. There is also the demoness Lilith, who was said to be the first wife of Adam (she got "written out" of Genesis): she and her brood of daughter demonesses are succubi; Lilith is also said to be a hater and harmer of infants. Needless to say, many if not most Jews today no longer believe in demons. Most-- but not all-- who do are in the Ultra-Orthodox communities.

    1. Does the devil exist in Judaism? If the devil does not exist in Judaism, what is the source of evil?
    No. Jews believe that only humans are created with free will, thus no angel or demon can ultimately rebel against God's authority. Also, if there is only one God-- and all Jews steadfastly believe that-- then that one God must be the ultimate Source of all things, good and evil. And indeed, that is explicitly acknowledged in Isaiah 45:7. There is, however, a belief that was widespread in the tradition but is less prominent today, in ha-Satan, which is not Satan the devil, but is, in fact, a title (The Satan, meaning in Hebrew, "The Anti-advocate," meaning more or less, "The Prosecutor"): this title is given to an angel (not always the same angel), who is designated by God to stand forth and confront and provoke people, in order to test their faith. These days many, if not most Jews outside Orthodoxy do not believe in the Satan.


    Obviously, all of these answers are greatly incomplete and rough. If you like, I can recommend some further reading on topics of your choosing: just let me know.
     
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  4. Ba'al

    Ba'al Active Member

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    I hope you're already circumsized.

    edit. Sorry didn't notice your gender.
     
  5. Zardoz

    Zardoz Wonderful Wizard
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    A much better effort than mine, to be sure. Frubals sir.
     
  6. Jayhawker Soule

    Jayhawker Soule <yawn> ignore </yawn>
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    Actually, I thought yours quite good.
     
  7. Tiapan

    Tiapan Grumpy Old Man

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    If I find a real one, I'll let you know!
    Thank you for a greater insight into Judaism both to Doodlebug02 for the question and Zardoz and Levite for your responses. Having seen the responses, it is confirming to me that of the Abrahamic group Judaism appears more logical and closer to reality than Christianity and Islam which both appear clouded with myth, and circular self promotion.

    Maybe I should become Jewish.

    Oops forgot there is that difference of opinion, I dont believe in a God so I guess that rules me out. :)

    Excellent thread.

    Cheers
     
  8. Jayhawker Soule

    Jayhawker Soule <yawn> ignore </yawn>
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    And yours was wholly inappropriate. Debate and ridicule elsewhere.
     
  9. Tiapan

    Tiapan Grumpy Old Man

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    If I find a real one, I'll let you know!
    Sorry you feel that way. I meant exactly what I said.

    Cheers
     
  10. Dena

    Dena Active Member

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    Doodlebug, I sent you a PM.
     
  11. Dena

    Dena Active Member

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    Doodlebug, I notice in some other posts you mention quite a few religions. You've got from being Catholic to Atheist to considering Judaism in two months? You switch religions often? You must be aware that conversion to Judaism is extrememly serious. It takes a great deal of time, commitment, dedication and seriousness. You absolutely cannot take it lightly and if you are not certain without a doubt that it is what you want and to what you will commit for the rest of you life, it shouldn't be be a consideration at this time. This is not to be taken lightly by any means.
     
  12. Dena

    Dena Active Member

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    and now you are Catholic again. So..nevermind on the PM I guess. Bummer.
     
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