Understanding Judaism is essential to living its tenets


The Torah is read every week and is translated into the vernacular, so everyone can learn the law. Ezra the Scribe began this practice because Judaism is a nomocracy, a government based on the law, which works best when everyone has basic knowledge of those laws. Yet, currently, there are few places where these laws and values are being taught. With improvement in Jewish education and an understanding of some fundamental concepts, we likely could inspire the desire to learn more, to practice more and to want to transmit this heritage to the next generation.

The most widely celebrated holiday among Jews is Passover. This is because we are commanded to commemorate and explain to adults and children the reasons, as well as the history and the fine nuances. Understanding why makes us more comfortable with the ritual.

Every Jew should know that Judaism is more than just a religion. It is a nationality, a culture, a heritage. It is a handbook on morals and ethics fraught with responsibility to ourselves, our loved ones, G-d and to all mankind. It is having the courage to think and act differently, to take a stand against persecution, to know that, at best, anyone has only a limited sovereignty over you. If a ruler orders you to do evil, the king you have to answer to is G-d. You have the obligation to do what is right.

Judaism teaches that the individual is the master of his own destiny. It allows him to discern the truth for himself and then to forge his own future, and in some cases lead the way for others. A Jew thinks, he negotiates, he practices diplomacy. He believes that only through peaceful methods is a contract valid, for violence only begets violence and anything achieved by might can be overturned by the mightier.


The importance of being Jewish is not just in trying to keep alive a religion, nationality or culture, but in bringing the principles of Judaism to society. It has been our destiny to be in galut (exile) so that we might be able to share our gifts with our fellow man. The Jews brought laws, the aleph-bet and the recording of history to the world. We brought morals, ethics and civilization, and we codified them.

The idea that we have mitzvot, or responsibility to do good deeds, is essential to the uplifting of all people.

G-d is the G-d of the universe; and as long as one is righteous, it does not matter what his belief system, he has a place in the World to Come. These facets make up the beauty and the responsibility of being Jewish and show why it is important to continue the lines.

Too often, the Jews of today find it easier to sit back and let the rabbi be the authority. They do not understand that they too can be equal partners in the law. Judaism is unique because it is the learned who are the experts, not the titled. This equality reflects the horizontality of Judaism, as opposed to the gentile model of a vertical hierarchy, where one must look for guidance from one’s superiors.

Because of this horizontality, we stand shoulder to shoulder, we can speak directly to G-d, and we believe all are created equal.

The fact that each Jew’s opinion is equal and that even our judges must be judged are outstanding attributes of our nation.

Furthermore, the exalted status of education is illuminated by the fact that a school is considered more important than a synagogue.

We can be proud that Jews do not believe in the exclusion of others from the World to Come and do not feel that by religion alone anyone will have a place. All of G-d’s children have equal access based on their deeds.

In a world where the bizarre is becoming the norm, where family values have become only a political cry, and morality is becoming obscure, it is more important than ever to take our place. Judaism teaches, “Honor thy father and thy mother,”

“Therefore, choose life,” “Remember and do.” It is a Jew’s duty to make the profane holy. If we follow the tenets of our beliefs, we will act as a beacon to the rest of society and hopefully, once more, take pride in our communities and our country.

Harriet Einziger is a Jewish educator in the Greater Washington Jewish community.

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