Over this duration of this year we have covered various sects of Judaism ranging from the Ultra Orthodox, to Reform. All sects of Judaism and individual Jews choose to practice their faiths a different way, differences can be as mundane as the frequency of prayer or more noticeable such as wearing the shtreimel and black suit. Judaism also helps to enrich the lives of the person practicing the faith by encouraging the individual to act selflessly by doing mitzvot and to uphold a sense of morals. In addition to helping the Jew to uphold there morality Judaism also offers more tangible benefits such as helping to create a sense of community. The one thing that unites all practicing jews is the yearning to get closer to god, and help to better the world.
Judaism functions different ways in people’s lives, for some it’s a tradition for others its a way to cultivate a closer connection to a higher power. For me as a reform Jew its acted as a combination of both. Going to synagogue for shabbat has allowed me to connect with a higher power and explore spiritualism through a combination of guided prayer and self guided exploration of the Torah. Judaism is also a tradition, for me and my family every male has completed a Bar Mitzvah. The process of a Bar Mitzvah has both instilled a sense of duty with regards to Judaism and Israel and has also taught me the importance of studying and hardwork. In my opinion the sense of tradition is one of the most important aspect of Judaism because it helps to create a common thread between both family members but also the broader Jewish community. For example, Jewish holidays and festivals such as Sukkot and Yom Kippur help to bring the community physically together and encourage people to meet and engage with other Jewish folks. This common tradition has lead to Jews from all over the world to be able to form a united community, an example of this is during the 20th century when Jews from both Eastern and Western Europe immigrated to the US, they were able to put many cultural differences aside and help to create a strong community. In Fact the Western European Jews who previously immigrated and assimilated to american culture helped many of the newly immigrated Eastern European Jews to assimilate into the new culture. This happened to my grandparents from my mother’s side, they immigrated to the US in the 1920s from Poland and Hungary, upon their arrival they were helped by the Jewish community and subsequently assimilated into American culture, and they were able to gain decent jobs. Another shared aspect that all jews share is history, many jews especially ashkenazi jews from eastern and western europe tend to share the same recent history especially when it comes to events such as the holocaust, this sense of shared history helps add to a sense of community. Judaism’s role in the lives of Jews goes far beyond the religion and instead it has woven itself in the cultural fabric of many jews and their identity.
Judaism enriches the lives of the people who follow the faith in many different ways. One of the most important ways it benefits the life of a practicing follower is that it provides a solid set of morals and rules. In Judaism, the law is written in the Torah and is often followed by many Jews that are orthodox and it often requires a change in a traditional lifestyle, for example it written in the laws is that you’re not suppose to mix meat and milk, so in order to follow these standards, many orthodox communities have separate dishes and refrigerators to make sure that they are separated and never mix. Jewish law pertaining to being Kosher also has other benefits that are less obvious, because you have to check the labels of food to make sure there Kosher it also helps to point out what other ingredients are in the food you’re consuming, this in turn helps lead to a healthier lifestyle because you’re most conscious about what you eat. Also many of the laws and holidays dictated in the Torah are beneficial to the environment. For example Tu BiShvat is the jewish holiday where many jewish communities around the globe help to raise awareness for the environment and many of them also plant trees. One of the mitzvot in the Torah dictates that you shouldn’t destroy or wastefully consume anything, this has lead to many Jewish communities only consuming what they need, which stops wastefulness. Additionally the ethical framework that many Jews follow is derived from the 10 commandments which provides basic rules and ethics that rule the lives of many Jews. Most Jews even those who aren’t religious or don’t believe in god use the 10 commandments to help guide them in making ethical decisions. Another benefit of practicing Judaism is that it helps to instill discipline. Most Jewish men and women at the age of 13 have a Bar/Bat Mitzvah. During this ceremony many Jews have to study both hebrew and their Torah portion. This thorough study early in life helps to instill a work ethic and self discipline. Many times the traits gained from the Bar/Bat Mitzvah carry over into their day-to-day life and school. During my Bar Mitzvah i studied both with the rabbi and by myself for one year, during this time i practiced hebrew, my assigned torah portion, and the common prayers said during the services. My Bar Mitzvah personally influenced my work ethic and helped me to study harder in school. Judaism offers many tangible and intangible benefits to the lives of its followers, many of these benefits help to create a better world, not just for the Jewish community for for the world as a whole.
Judaism’s benefits while generally good as a whole widely differs based on the sect that its practiced under. For example reform Jews tend to be a lot more liberal both in terms of their worldview and how they practice the faith. Reform Judaism was created in the mid to late 1700s in Germany and was originally designed to adapt to a changing culture and world. Often many reform Jews do not directly follow the Jewish law but still use the idea of a mitzvah to help them do selfless deeds. Reform Jews tend to be very socially liberal and tend to be okay with homosexuality and other related issues. I would consider myself and my family to be reform Jews, usually we’re very lenient about going to shabbat services and following traditional Jewish laws, but we usually go to services during the high holy holidays, in addition to going to services on high holy holidays the males in my family also have a tradition of getting a Bar mitzvah. Reconstructionist Judaism is alot more liberal than reform Judaism and it tends to revolve around the idea that society is constantly evolving and judaism must do the same thing in order to help the progression of society, it tends to be very loose when it comes to following traditional jewish laws and customs but tends to focus on the ideas of education and modernity. Conservative Judaism is similar to reform Judaism but is a bit more strict when it comes to following Jewish law and attempts to retain more of the traditional jewish culture while still being more flexible than Orthodox Judaism. Orthodox Judaism is the most conservative form of judaism, it has a strong focus on preserving Jewish culture and tradition and is very strict with how it interprets the torah and jewish law. For example they believe in the resurrection of the dead when the messiah comes, and they also believe in the eventual rebuilding of the temple in jerusalem.
In summation Judaism betters the lives of its practitioners by advancing many of their moral and ethical beliefs it also helps to instill a good work ethic on younger children who are undergoing traditions such as a Bar/Bat Mitzvah.