Friday, January 06, 2006
A Faithful Heritage...
Why Be Jewish?
(Ask The Rabbi at www.aish.com)
Question From: New York City - anonymous(at)yahoo.com - 11/17/2000
I have a question about converts. After witnessing countless acts of anti-Semitism and persecution against the Jews, why would anybody want to be a part of that? While I can see where they'd be sympathetic toward Jews and inspired by their perseverance and survival, I do not see why anyone would willfully say, "Hook me up with this religion so that people might wanna kill me, too!"
Maybe I cannot fully understand the mind of a person turned onto Judaism, but it doesn't seem logical to want to be a part of a religion that is constantly being attacked even in today's "modern" world.
I love being Jewish, but I want to know why people would want to join.
THE AISH RABBI REPLIES:
You have good intuition. The Code of Jewish Law says that when someone approaches a rabbi expressing interest in conversion, the rabbi should initially discourage them with warnings about the threat of anti-Semitism.
Those who do end up converting, however, do so because they believe in the Torah and want to be part of our legacy -- whatever the cost might be.
Over the past 4,000 years, whether during the Inquisition, Crusades, pogroms or Holocaust, Jews have endured the torments of exile, torture and ovens -- yet continued to remain loyal to the Jewish people. Abraham himself was thrown into a fiery furnace. That gave strength to others to follow, and in our generation, Natan Sharansky willingly underwent years of psychological and physical torture for the sake of being Jewish.
I'd like to suggest that you ask yourself the same question: Why is it worth it to identify as a Jew? Of course, a Jew is always a Jew -- regardless of whether they reject their heritage, ignore it, or practice another religion. But theoretically -- why not just change your name and assimilate away?
To the Western ear, "sacrificing your life for a belief" sounds like a drastic action. Is there logic and reason to what our ancestors did? And where did they find the strength to lay down their lives for Jewish beliefs.
The answer is that even stronger than the human will to survive, is the drive for meaning in life, and to make a difference in the world. It is amazing but true. We see that a mother will send her beloved son off to war -- with the very real risk of his getting killed -- because she believes in the justice of the cause.
Rabbi Noah Weinberg says: Everyone should find a cause so meaningful that they'd forfeit their life for it. Because if you don't know what you are willing to die for, then you haven't begun to live. If you don't have meaning in your life, then all the physical enjoyments, the beautiful vacations and even the wonderful spouse and children, can make you feel that something is missing.
This is the secret of Jewish heroism. This is why so many Jews throughout history have sacrificed their lives for what they believe. Because when you go ahead and LIVE for that cause, it is with unparalleled power and pleasure.
So what is the "Jewish cause?"
Values that the civilized world takes for granted -- monotheism, love your neighbor, peace on earth, justice for all, universal education, all men are created equal, the preciousness of life -- are foundations of Judaism. So though we were exiled, oppressed, beaten and gassed, in the process we defined the moral makeup of humanity. This is an enormous impact and we accomplished it under the most adverse conditions.
For the rest of the story: http://www.aish.com/rabbi/ATR_browse.asp?l=a&offset=19
Author's Note: So why is it worth re-identifying for me??? Peace of mind... After three generations of a daughter carrying a middle name that wasn't even Jewish, but secretly marked the lineage... great aunts and a grandmother afraid to remember... and me, I'm afraid to forget.
One of my mother's first cousins--the male son of the oldest aunt--took what was left of mother's and my physical heritage and sold it to a pawn shop... As the fourth generation to carry the middle name, I went on eBay--cause I can't afford the $325ea., 3-tiered brass Sabbath candle holders (C-7 with lions) at the New York Lower East Side Restoration Project--and started searching.... for my daughter who hasn't even been conceived yet. One item I found was a brass 3-tiered shabbat candleholder by an artist named Oppenheim. Another--a sabbath art poster--came all the way from Israel, and a beautiful silver-plated Hanukkiah (menorah) originally sold in New York City.
This time when I celebrated Hanukkah and tonight when I light candles for the Sabbath, I no longer observe under fear of persecution or under fear that some friends might think I've returned to the bondage of Old Testament law (what's that really mean, anyway?), but out of the freedom of faith... in my Creator who asked me to remember,
L'Chaim!!! & Good Shabbos (Shabbat Shalom) ^..^
Author's note is ©2006 by Kat-Renée Kittel. All Rights Reserved. Please be kind and give credits to author and founder of the Laughter Safety Valve Commission™. Thanks.
Got Chutzpah (aka Agape Is A Five Letter Word... For Chutzpah) is inspired by The Chairman of The Laughter Safety Valve Commission™. See Turnabout's Fair Play and kind comment left by Mr. Anonymous. (Dear Richard, Thanks for the hug.)
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(In memory of #26947... a distant cousin.)