I’m not a rabbi, I just play one on the internet.

November 27, 2006


Before the whole Mom drama happened, I was participating quite successfully in NaBloPoMo and asked you nice folks to suggest topics you wanted to hear about. Poor (no blog) Mindy must have thought I forgot about her.

I didn’t forget, Mindy, I just needed more than 2 brain cells to answer your emailed question. Well, I don’t have two brain cells, but I have two minutes to myself, so I thought I’d give it a shot.

Mindy wanted to know more about Judaism. Hmmm. Well… um… here goes…

I guess the easy answer to comparing Judaism and Christianity is the whole Old Testament / New Testament thing. You guys have a new one, and we don’t. See? Piece of cake!

But that, of course, is too simple.

I found an explanation in a book several years ago that really crystallizes it nicely. Stay with me here.

“There is a commonality to the motivation of Jews and Christians to love and obey G-d: salvation. There are differences in the perspective of how and what the salvation entails. Both Jews and Christians see G-d as “Savior”. For Jews, that saving grace is our survival in spite of external oppression and enemies. For Christians, that saving grace is Christ’s sacrifice to save each Christian’s soul from its own inner tendency toward sin. In the Christian view, the world is redeemed as each individual’s soul is saved through Jesus Christ. In the Jewish view, we are redeeming the world by our own efforts.”

(Which is why for the life of me I don’t understand why the majority of Jews vote democrat. But that’s another post altogether.)

There is also a difference in how we view “The Big Plan” – or the difference between Pre-Destined and Pre-Determined. Christians are largely taught that G-d has a plan and whatever His will is, will be. Jews are taught that there is, indeed, a plan that G-d has for people and that, if you lead a life based on the Ten Commandments and the teachings of Torah (the five books of Moses – our holiest writings), your life will follow that great plan.

But, G-d has only laid out the world. It is up to us to lead our lives and make decisions. In this sense, our life only follows “His plan” if we make the right decisions. His hand in our life is different than in the Christian faith. G-d created a wonderous world and gave us the rules and path for the best life possible. But it’s up to us to make it happen. It is our responsibility and accountability. I cannot hand over my decisions or their consequences to G-d. He is more parent than pilot in that way.

It is very hard to be Jewish. This religion asks a lot. It is very clear on when to forgive, how to repent, how to judge – in fact we are commanded to judge for the sake of the community – something the Christian faiths wrestle with and often teach is a bad thing. But it is also a very rewarding way to live. We feel a great responsibility for the world – possibly because throughout history there have been so many that wanted us gone. And some took one hell of a stab at it.

I believe that Jews and Christians can live in a world and do good things together. I believe we share many common beliefs. But, as mentioned above, the way we view the world and how we live in it are very different. This is why I don’t understand interfaith marriages and the decision to “raise the kids with both faiths”. It is, quite frankly, impossible. And it is, unfortunately, diluting both religions and doing a disservice to the children in generations to come.

And so, there you have it. Cliff Notes Judaism from the mind and perspective of Pammer. As with any religion, there are varying degrees of observance, but that is a topic for another post. I hope this helps, Mindy. And thanks for making me think a little. Even if it didn’t help this no-sleep induced headache.

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6 Responses to “I’m not a rabbi, I just play one on the internet.”

  1. dee Says:

    Thanks for writing that post. I was raised Christian (as my dad is a Methodist Minister), but my boss and most of the other bosses in my office are Jewish. I’ve learned a lot from them over the years, but this was a great comparison of the differences between the two religions.

  2. Mindy Says:

    Thank you. You did a great job comparing the two. I told you before that I am a Christian but I don’t really know much about my own religion, but I have always been interested in Judaism. (Not that I am not interested in Christianity too) I appreciate you taking the time to fill me in. You rock!!! (I will let you know if I have more questions too!)

  3. kerrianne Says:

    It’s funny, my fiance and I were just talking about this exact topic earlier tonight. Wikipedia also has a good bit of information and Judaism. (I’m a huge Wikipedia geek.) : )

  4. Em Says:

    Well written. It’s the faith that makes a Christian, well, a Christian. The rules of whose plan you are living is debated even between Christians. I am one that believes much like you: He set forth the world and it’s my responsibility to live within the rules and such. I think it’s a lot of added stress to give God if we expect him to not only provide the world and our needs, but then to push us all along the way.
    And I can’t wait to read your explanation for the whole Jews voting Democrat topic! 🙂

  5. Sylvia Says:

    According to your explanation, I might actually be Jewish!
    All kidding aside, I was raised Catholic. By my own admission, I’m not the best at being Catholic. I would be what the media describes as a “Cafeteria Catholic” in that there are statements made by the Church that I wholeheartedly disagree with. But in reading the way you describe Judiasm, I found myself nodding in agreement with the outlook on G-d and life and the world. It’s a good way to live.
    Thank you for posting this.

  6. John Says:

    Very nicely written. That is the best explaination I have ever read. Thank you