Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Inessential to Judaism: Matzah Balls and Black Hats

There is no such thing as Jewish culture.

I realized this lst night during a discussion about "cultural Jewry." I fully believe that people should do whatever they want and observe Judaism however they choose to do so - or not do so - but something about people whose philosophy is that Judiasm is all about Israeli dancing and chicken soup just really bothers me.

Matzah balls are no more essential to Judaism than are black hats (now that I've offended ALL Jews...). Judaism is not a culture. Judaism is a religion, people. That's right. I said it. There is no such thing as Jewish culture. You are not identifying with Judaism when you talk about how you love Israel, if all you love about Israel is the falafel.

Judaism revolves around the Torah, regardless of what you think the Torah means or how you think that affects you. You cannot seperate Judaism and Torah. You cannot be a cultural Jew because Judaism is not at all about culture.

(Disclaimer: I have nothing aginst black hats or matzah balls. I just don't think either one is essential to Judaism. Judaism is about Torah, it's not about excellent cuisine or what you use to cover your head.)


At 7/19/05, 8:16 AM, Anonymous Essie said...

I agree...and what kind of clothing or head covering you do or do not wear does not make you a good or bad person. It's what's inside that count.

At 7/19/05, 9:38 AM, Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

That's ridiculous. There may not be a single, monolithic Jewish culture, but there are many Jewish cultures. Hasidism is very much a culture. So is 60s New York Jewish intellectual. Also, a lot of values exist within the various Jewish cultures -- it's not just clothing and food. Pluralism, scholarship, and intellectualism are part of the mainstream liberal Judaism in America, for example.

At 7/19/05, 11:58 AM, Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

Of course there are cultural aspects to Judaism, or as JA puts it, there are many Jewish cultures. To remove Jews from the possibility of their own culture is to put Judaism on ice and say that it isn't of this world. Get people together and they will form cultures. Jews no less.

At 7/19/05, 3:51 PM, Blogger Karl said...

JA you answed yourself. Judaism is not ABOUT culture, however much / many it may contain.

You gotta love those resturants where they serve "Jewish Style" food!

At 7/19/05, 6:06 PM, Blogger Eli7 said...

My point was not that there exists no Jewish culture, but that Judaism is NOT a culture. So that being a cultural Jew means lacing together lots of the irrelevant parts of the practice of Judaism and identifying yourself by them. And that's ridiculous.

There's nothing wrong with eating matzah ball soup (my favorite!), but there is something wrong with feeling Jewish solely because you eat matzah ball soup.

At 7/20/05, 9:17 AM, Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

Well, Judaism isn't ONLY a culture, but it is ALSO a culture.

So that being a cultural Jew means lacing together lots of the irrelevant parts of the practice of Judaism and identifying yourself by them. And that's ridiculous.

If you're trying to become "Jewish" by copying various "irrelevant" parts, yes. But if you were born and raised inside of a Jewish culture, it's not ridiculous to identify with Judaism even in the absense of religious feeling and practice. Who are you to decide who gets to feel Jewish?

At 7/20/05, 4:59 PM, Blogger Karl said...

You may feel jewish if you eat chicken and love Israel, but that doesnt make you Jewish - you either are or not, wheather you practice or not. Just because you feel culturally Jewish, doesnt mean anything. You do what feels right for you; there is no one who is more Jewish than another, but dont think Judaism is a culture. (Which is what I think Eli7 was saying)

At 7/25/05, 1:40 PM, Blogger TRW said...

What you wear is simply a general statement as to which group you choose others to associate you with. For good or for bad. Ergo, it means something.

At 7/25/05, 2:05 PM, Blogger Eli7 said...

TRW, I agree that wearing a black hat is a statement one makes, and does therefore have some sort of meaning. I just don't think that black hats are essential to Judaism.


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