Veneration: The Practicing Jew

 

They live their lives by a sacred code; it isn’t secret, but few people actually know its inner sanctum. Life entails a commitment to consciousness, discipline and faith, and because of the lure of everyday secular life, many fall away, believing they are not up to the task or are unwilling to comply with the demands. Those who remain are deeply committed to living virtuous lives, to raising loving and principled children, and to following the Law.

They are practicing or Orthodox Jews who embrace Torah, love G-d and revere acts of kindness. I have witnessed these three qualities among my practicing Jewish friends, and I venerate them for the life choices they have made.

If you have seen my posts on my Jewish observance, you know that my return to Judaism is still in its nascent stage. I won’t describe my own life, except to say that in terms of the people I am describing, I am quite a distance from achieving their dedication to a Jewish life. So let me tell you why I hold them in such high esteem.

Their Love of G-d is Palpable – they don’t necessarily talk about their love, but their words, actions and deeds reflect their desire to serve G-d, not just because G-d expects their service, but they feel called to serve Him. Every action, whether it is practicing a mitzvah (commandment), keeping kosher, wearing particular clothing, observing the Sabbath—all of these are not just demonstrations of obedience, but are acts of love. It is a love that not only fills each practicing Jew’s life, but affects everyone whose lives he or she touches. Especially beautiful is that (I believe) the more they seek a connection to G-d, the more love they experience with G-d. It is a wonder and blessing to witness.

Lifelong Commitment to Learning—for some practicing Jews, this commitment applies to diving deeply into Torah and its related books. But I admire a number of Jews who demonstrate their thirst for learning and understanding by also exploring many secular topics. (You may be aware that many of our members on Ricochet fit this description.) They want to know more. They are willing to do their homework. They ask serious questions. They contribute to the conversation. And boy, are they smart! And I know that with me in particular, they are patient about answering questions and receiving feedback. That exchange is what lifelong learning is truly about.

Engaging Children—Practicing Jews often have large families. G-d asks the Jews to have children; giving birth to beings that are reflections of G-d’s image is a miracle. Having many children also perpetuates the Jewish people and the teachings. These Jews believe it is a loving obligation to not only have children, but instill in them a love of G-d and Torah.

Following the Mitzvot—people who are not Jewish may feel that following the 613 mitzvot or Jewish laws must be difficult; it can certainly be demanding, depending on one’s circumstances. But a practicing Jew isn’t worried about future punishment, and thus follows the mitzvoth; instead, the conscious observance of mitzvoth is, again, an act of love. (Even as limited as my practice is, I am growing into this understanding.) I know that I am not alone when I express my dismay in “not doing enough”; I’ve been told that many practicing Jews feel much the same way. But G-d does not expect or even want us to be perfect; He simply wants us, at any given time, to be the best we can be, and then move on.

Generosity—I have experienced the generosity of every Jew with whom I’m acquainted, whether they are personal friends or friends on Ricochet. When I first came to Ricochet, the focus of practicing Jews, as I described my own journey, was encouragement, support, graciousness and kindness. Never once has a person told me that I should be doing anything other than what I am doing (although they may have wished to do so), or told me that I’m not doing enough. I’ve learned after posting something regarding Judaism that I’ve made mistakes in the information I share; Jews occasionally have, with kindness, corrected me; at other times, they probably just smile to themselves and see that my learning process is flawed but sincere.

Over time, I’ve learned who some of the Jews are on Ricochet. Since I don’t belong to a Jewish community, I’m deeply grateful for your presence. I also have many friends on Ricochet who are not Jewish, many who are Christian, who have also been supportive and caring, of me, the Jewish people, and Israel. I’m in your debt and so very appreciative. And those practicing Jews who live in Israel, I am so grateful that you are holding down the fort.

I know that the practicing Jews who have read this post, and those of you who know practicing Jews, know they have all the flaws that everyone has: limitations, anger, self-centered attitudes, impatience—all those things that remind us we are human and can try to do better. Still, I honor those of you who have chosen to live as practicing Jews; you are my inspiration, as we all choose to serve G-d.

There are 19 comments.

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  1. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    At what point can one say one is practiced enough to go pro?

    A silly throwaway line, I know, but I’m finding similar things as I delve into Orthodox Christianity too – it’s a lot deeper and richer than anything I’ve encountered elsewhere in the Christian life.  There’s no end to practice, just a constant effort to plumb the deep wells of faith, history, and praxis.  And like Judaism, there is also a long history of loss, of being on the front lines of losing battles, with only occasional victories (Arab conquests and occupations, Mongol conquests and occupations, Turkish overlords, Communists, Nazis, and even other Christians), so one too finds deep ruminations on how one retains the faith in the face of hostility.  

    • #1
  2. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    At what point can one say one is practiced enough to go pro?

    A silly throwaway line, I know, but I’m finding similar things as I delve into Orthodox Christianity too – it’s a lot deeper and richer than anything I’ve encountered elsewhere in the Christian life. There’s no end to practice, just a constant effort to plumb the deep wells of faith, history, and praxis. And like Judaism, there is also a long history of loss, of being on the front lines of losing battles, with only occasional victories (Arab conquests and occupations, Mongol conquests and occupations, Turkish overlords, Communists, Nazis, and even other Christians), so one too finds deep ruminations on how one retains the faith in the face of hostility.

    Lovely thoughts, @skipsul. (Well, not the violence so much!) I use my husband, who isn’t Jewish, as an excuse, although he goes along with a lot that I do. I’m doing a much deeper practice than I was doing a year ago, but there is always the question of what commitments I’m willing to make–and stick with them. I refuse to make other excuses, but I can admire those who seriously practice and say, much is possible. I think what you are doing is wonderful, admirable, and I think in some ways you and I are on a similar journey. As are probably other folks who are not Jewish. Thanks.

    • #2
  3. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    At what point can one say one is practiced enough to go pro?

    A silly throwaway line, I know, but I’m finding similar things as I delve into Orthodox Christianity too – it’s a lot deeper and richer than anything I’ve encountered elsewhere in the Christian life. There’s no end to practice, just a constant effort to plumb the deep wells of faith, history, and praxis. And like Judaism, there is also a long history of loss, of being on the front lines of losing battles, with only occasional victories (Arab conquests and occupations, Mongol conquests and occupations, Turkish overlords, Communists, Nazis, and even other Christians), so one too finds deep ruminations on how one retains the faith in the face of hostility.

    Lovely thoughts, @skipsul. I use my husband as an excuse, although he goes along with a lot that I do. I’m doing a much deeper practice than I was doing a year ago, but there is always the question of what commitments I’m willing to make–and stick with them. I refuse to make other excuses, but I can admire those who seriously practice and say, much is possible. I think what you are doing is wonderful, admirable, and I think in some ways you and I are on a similar journey. As are probably other folks who are not Jewish. Thanks.

    One of my wife’s cousins is likewise on a similar journey – he converted about 2 years ago now from his upbringing as a lapsed Catholic to… 

    Orthodox Judaism.

    • #3
  4. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    One of my wife’s cousins is likewise on a similar journey – he converted about 2 years ago now from his upbringing as a lapsed Catholic to… 

    Orthodox Judaism.

    It’s deeply comforting to think not only of folks who practice deeply, but who are on a similar journey of teshuvah, or returning. BTW, Jews are instructed to treat converts as if they were born Jewish.

    • #4
  5. Vectorman Inactive
    Vectorman
    @Vectorman

    Susan, I was taught that there are 3 main branches of Judaism: Reformed, Conservative, and Orthodox, somewhat corresponding to Left, Middle, and Right. How far apart are Conservative and Orthodox? If a Conservative Temple was close by, would you consider attending?

    • #5
  6. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    One of my wife’s cousins is likewise on a similar journey – he converted about 2 years ago now from his upbringing as a lapsed Catholic to…

    Orthodox Judaism.

    It’s deeply comforting to think not only of folks who practice deeply, but who are on a similar journey of teshuvah, or returning. BTW, Jews are instructed to treat converts as if they were born Jewish.

    That’s nice to know.  Where I had gotten to, I knew I had only 3 places left to go: cross the Tiber, cross the Bosphorus, or turn towards Jersualem.

    • #6
  7. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Vectorman (View Comment):

    Susan, I was taught that there are 3 main branches of Judaism: Reformed, Conservative, and Orthodox, somewhat corresponding to Left, Middle, and Right. How far apart are Conservative and Orthodox? If a Conservative Temple was close by, would you consider attending?

    Great questions, @vectorman . Every congregation is different, so for example you’d find that some Conservative congregations lean toward Reform (don’t wear yarmulkes in the synagogue), others lean toward Orthodox (even keep kosher). So it would be difficult to indicate how far apart they are. There is also a branch that calls itself Reconstructionist which typically is the most liberal, but again, it depends on the community. There is a Conservative community about 45 minutes away, but I wasn’t inspired to attend. Long story.

    Edit: I meant to say that congregations differ from each other, even within branches.

    • #7
  8. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    SkipSul (View Comment):
    That’s nice to know. Where I had gotten to, I knew I had only 3 places left to go: cross the Tiber, cross the Bosphorus, or turn towards Jersualem.

    Have you done a post on Orthodox Christianity or your decision to go there? If so, could you post the link?

    • #8
  9. Podkayne of Israel Member
    Podkayne of Israel
    @PodkayneofIsrael

    Susan, I wish you continued luck and blessings on your journey, and I pray that we remain worthy of the respect of someone like you.

    • #9
  10. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    SkipSul (View Comment):
    That’s nice to know. Where I had gotten to, I knew I had only 3 places left to go: cross the Tiber, cross the Bosphorus, or turn towards Jersualem.

    Have you done a post on Orthodox Christianity or your decision to go there? If so, could you post the link?

    http://ricochet.com/468716/archives/the-reformation-at-500-a-personal-crisis-of-faith/

    I deliberately avoided getting into the specifics, and the comment thread did get a bit… frosty at times.

    But a lot of my posts since then have been explorations of what I’ve been finding in Orthodoxy too.  

    • #10
  11. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    A wonderful post and music video.


    This conversation is part of our Group Writing Series under December’s theme of Veneration. There are plenty of dates still available. Have you had an encounter with a saint, or someone who is truly venerable? Is there a sports figure who you believe is venerated, and what do you think of it? What is venerated in our society today? We have some wonderful photo essays on Ricochet; perhaps you have a story to tell about nature, art, or architecture that points to subjects worth venerating. Have we lost the musical, written, visual language of veneration? The possibilities are endless! Why not start a conversation? Our schedule and sign-up sheet awaits. As a heads-up, our January theme will be Renovation. I’ll post the sign-up sheet mid-month. 

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    • #11
  12. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    Edit: I meant to say that congregations differ from each other, even within branches.

    There is fa more variation within Orthodox Judaism than one can hardly imagine.  While the Law is basically all agreed, the customs and philosophies run a very very wide gamut.

    • #12
  13. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    iWe (View Comment):
    There is fa more variation within Orthodox Judaism than one can hardly imagine. While the Law is basically all agreed, the customs and philosophies run a very very wide gamut.

    I can just imagine! Or maybe not . . . . ;-)

    Seriously, in the short time of my return, that has been my experience, and you would know even better. Thanks, @iwe.

    • #13
  14. DrR Thatcher
    DrR
    @DrR

    Such a lovely and thoughtful post. I would be delighted to share some sources with you and others interested in Jewish learning. Most of my learning comes from Chabad, a lot from Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, Torah Caffe, JLI and some other ones.

     

    • #14
  15. Yehoshua Ben-Eliyahu Inactive
    Yehoshua Ben-Eliyahu
    @YehoshuaBenEliyahu

    Incredible post, Susan.  The Torah shines through you.

    Christians and other non-Jews should not feel excluded from Torah.  They can share in it and in its rewards by complying with the 7 Noahide Laws.

    • #15
  16. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    SkipSul (View Comment):
    That’s nice to know. Where I had gotten to, I knew I had only 3 places left to go: cross the Tiber, cross the Bosphorus, or turn towards Jersualem.

    Have you done a post on Orthodox Christianity or your decision to go there? If so, could you post the link?

    http://ricochet.com/468716/archives/the-reformation-at-500-a-personal-crisis-of-faith/

    I deliberately avoided getting into the specifics, and the comment thread did get a bit… frosty at times.

    But a lot of my posts since then have been explorations of what I’ve been finding in Orthodoxy too.

    Thank you for this link, @skipsul. I knew you were making a move in your faith but haven’t followed it closely. I read a number of the comments, too. I don’t know if the tone shifted later, but I was touched to see so many people sympathizing with your journey. I’ll watch your posts more carefully!

    • #16
  17. Kay of MT Member
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    BTW, Jews are instructed to treat converts as if they were born Jewish.

    Only if they are converted by an Orthodox Rabbi. The Chabad Rabbi in my area, has told me several times I am not a Jew, nor is my Kaylett even tho I converted in 1980 and her father’s family are Jews from Russia in 1895 and Morocco, also in the mid 1800s. My own mother’s brother’s DNA show they are Jews from the Island of Rhodes having been thrown out of Spain in 1492.

    So I decided to study with an Orthodox Rabbi, called to make an appointment to start a study schedule. His wife answered the phone, insisted I wasn’t and could not be a Jew, and hung up.

    Meantime, I had been a member of Congregation B’nai Israel since 1976, until my mother died in 1998. The last couple of years of her life I was unable to get to Temple because of her illness. I hadn’t paid the dues the last years, as I had no money, refused to beg for a charity membership, and had been deleted from their computers,  they claimed to have no record of me, that after a 20 years membership in good standing and many thousands of $$$ donations. My Rabbi had retired, thus I never got past the woman who answered the Temple phone.

    In my area here, we have a woman Rabbi who celebrates “all Jews of all denominations” as being welcome, and also celebrates same sex marriages. One woman contacted me inviting me to join with a liberal group. I stated I was very conservative, she was silent for a moment, and then hung up.

    • #17
  18. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

    I love it when you write about Judaism Susan, and this one is extra special.  Everything you say also applies to devout Christians.  That is how I try to lead my life, though I can’t say I do a great job at it.  This is the way we should all lead our lives.  For some reason I can’t help recall the opening part of Psalm 1:

    1 Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the way of sinners, nor sit in company with scoffers. 2 Rather, the law of the LORD is his joy; and on his law he meditates day and night.  3 He is like a tree planted near streams of water, that yields its fruit in season; Its leaves never wither; whatever he does prospers.

    Of course that’s from a Christian translation, but I would imagine it wouldn’t be much different in whatever translation you read from.

    • #18
  19. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Manny (View Comment):

    I love it when you write about Judaism Susan, and this one is extra special. Everything you say also applies to devout Christians. That is how I try to lead my life, though I can’t say I do a great job at it. This is the way we should all lead our lives. For some reason I can’t help recall the opening part of Psalm 1:

    1 Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the way of sinners, nor sit in company with scoffers. 2 Rather, the law of the LORD is his joy; and on his law he meditates day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted near streams of water, that yields its fruit in season; Its leaves never wither; whatever he does prospers.

    Of course that’s from a Christian translation, but I would imagine it wouldn’t be much different in whatever translation you read from.

    Thanks so much for your very kind words, @manny. I think that no matter our faiths, those of us on the spiritual journey feel we are supported by each other. BTW, my translation is very similar to yours on Psalm 1. And it is apropos to this post.

    • #19

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