What is
"being Jewish?"
This web site is devoted to discussions of that.

     

Being Jewish
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For Jewish women's issues,
visit my wife's page:

Kressel's Korner

Sections on this Site:


  How to Keep Shabbat
  The Basics of Being Jewish
  Learning About Judaism
  Becoming Religious, and Your Family
  The Jewish Cycle of Life
  Frequently Asked Questions
  Who Is a Jew?
  Life, the Afterlife, and the Soul
  The Jewish G-d: What's He Like?
  History of our Traditions
  The Unchanged Tradition of Judaism
  The Commandments of the Torah
  Conversion Issues
  The Jewish Holidays of the Year
  With Hashem's help, more to come!

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How to Keep Shabbat

*    Shabbos: A Personal Contract
Shabbos (Shabbat) as a "sign." The delight of Shabbos. More than just a part of our lives. The value of Shabbos.

*    The Reason For Shabbos
Some of the reasons that Hashem gave us the gift of Shabbos (Shabbat/Sabbath). Spiritual benefits and physical rest.

*    Find a Place to stay and/or eat for Shabbos
Links to websites that can help you find places to eat and/or stay for Shabbos.

*    The Weekly Portion of Torah   
How to study the Weekly Portion of the Torah. Preparing for Shabbos. A Deeper Understanding of Reviewing the Parshah. When to Study the Parshah.

*    Preparing for Shabbos
How the Children of Israel prepared for Shabbos in the Desert, and how we prepare for Shabbos today. Shopping for Shabbos. Cooking and Cleaning. Personal Preparations. Final Preparations.

*    Erev Shabbos (Friday) Check-Off List   
Erev Shabbos To-Do List. Organize your Fridays! Print out and attach to your refrigerator or bulletin board, and check off each item as its done.

*    Lighting Candles
The Procedure and Blessing for Lighting the Sabbath Candles

*    Friday Night Kiddush
Declaring the holiness of Shabbos by honoring it with a cup of wine.

*    Washing for Challah
Beginning the Sabbath Meal. (Challah is the special Shabbos bread.)

*    Benshing (Birchat Hamazon)
The Grace after Meals

*    Sholosh Seudos
The Third Shabbos Meal

*    Havdalah
Remembering Shabbat as it ends

*    After Havdalah
The Blessing after the Wine

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The Basics of Being Jewish

*    What is Being Jewish?
Judaism is not a "quick-fix" religion. It takes total immersion, and it lovingly encompasses all of a person's life.

*    What Does Judaism Believe?
The religion of life. The primary beliefs of Judaism are touched upon here, and some major myths about Judaism, G-d, and life in general are debunked.

*    The Path of Repentance
How to repent. Repenting a bit at a time. What if you sin again? Sinners that go to Heaven.

*    The New Moon, and the Power of Judaism
The importance of the New Moon in Judaism. How it was inaugurated in ancient times, and how it was set for the future. A beautiful Midrash that speaks of the power of Judaism in the spiritual realm. The relationship and difference between Shabbat and the Holidays.

*    Why Did G-d Create the World?
What purpose do we have in life? Why are there two worlds, this one and the next?

*    Does Judaism Believe in Satan?
Is there a guy in a red suit and a trident? Is Satan, if he exists, a rebellious angel? Does Satan bother us? If so, why? This article should be read after the above article, Why Did G-d Create the World?

*    Torah: The Blueprint of Creation
What the Torah means to us and the world. Why study Torah? How to combat the Evil Inclination.

*    What's the Point of Prayer?
"G-d, I don't ask You for much." Is that a compelling prayer? * The most important creation in all the universe. * How is life like a wedding feast? * What does prayer accomplish?

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Learning about Judaism

*    Partners In Torah
Find a personal trainer for your Torah study! Run by Torah Umesorah, this is available all over North America. This is the program with which I am involved.

*    Learn Hebrew
Links to online websites with programs and games for learning Hebrew and other Jewish subjects.

*    Aleph-Bet Chart
Learn to read Hebrew in just a few lessons! It's worth your time.

*    A Beginner's Reading List
Two reading lists for those who wish to learn about Judaism.

*    Your First Visit to a Synagogue
What to expect in a synagogue, what to do there, and how to find one to go to.

Coming soon, Hashem willing:

* Becoming Religious: Where do You begin?
* You were raised Christian, but you just found out your mother is/was Jewish (which means that you are). What now?

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Becoming Religious, and Your Family

*    Sudden Changes: Is Orthodox Judaism Driving Our Family Apart?
Is your child becoming Orthodox? Are you worried that you will lose your child, or that your family will be torn apart? What can you do about this?

*    Sudden Changes: How Do I live With My Parents?
For the Baal Tshuvah Son or Daughter. How do I explain that I don't want to hurt anyone? How to keep a happy family life after Tshuvah.

*    Is Judaism a Cult?
Jewish parents worry, when their children become Orthodox, that perhaps their children are joining a cult. How can we demonstrate that Judaism is not a cult?

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The Jewish Cycle of Life

* Bris Milah: The Covenant of Circumcision
Why that part of the body? How is circumcision a completion of the human male? Why don't women have a comparable Commandment?

* Circumcision and Your Child's Health
Is it safer to have a doctor or a Rabbi circumcise your son? The difference between the two, and which it is better to use.

* An Exchange of Holiness: Redeeming the Firstborn Son
The special status of "firsts." An act of gratitude. Firstborn and priests. Why a Redemption?

*  Pidyan Haben: How to Redeem Your Firstborn Son
Who Gets Redeemed? When is the Redemption Performed? The Amount of the Redemption. Preparing for the Ceremony of the Redemption. The Ceremony of the Redemption.

*  The Bar and Bat Mitzvah
How does a boy become "bar mitzvahed" and a girl "bat mitzvahed?" What ceremony is needed? What does the term mean? What is the history of it? What's the purpose of it? The right and wrong ways to do it.

* The Jewish Wedding
The special status of a bride and groom. What a Jewish wedding really accomplishes. What you should expect to see at a Jewish wedding, and their reasons. The two parts of a Jewish marriage, and the entire procedure.

* How to Dress and Act at a Jewish Occasion
Is it okay to bring a friend? Expected dress, and a little about the reason for this expectation.

* About the Jewish Marital Laws
A beginners guide to Taharas Hamishpachah, the Jewish Marital Laws. The Holiness of the Laws, and some basic instructions on how to keep those Laws, as well as some books for suggested reading on the subject.

* The Shivah Call: Comforting the Mourner
What do I do? What do I say? The importance of visiting a mourner. The Laws to keep at the home of a mourner.

*   Connections Are Never Lost
Can the living help the dead? What can you do for those you have loved who are no longer here?

*   Birchas Hachamah - The Blessing of the Sun
Only Once in 28 Years! The Purpose of the Blessing; About Saying the Blessing; When to Say the Blessing; Who Should Say the Blessing

One of these days, hopefully sooner than later, I hope to have articles about the following subjects as well:

* Bris Milah (Covenant of Circumcision), The ceremony and celebration.
* Kiddush for a girls' birth
* First haircut for a boy
* Anything else I may have forgotten.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Judaism

*    Part One
What does "Torah" mean? And what do "Tanach," "Halachah," "Mitzvah," "Mezuzah," and "Tefillin," mean? Why do some people write G-d" instead of spelling it out in full? How does Kosher work?

*    Part Two
What is Shabbos/Shabbat? Why don't Jews believe in jesus? How does the Jewish Calendar work? Why are Jewish Women allowed to wear wigs?

*   The Chosen People
The history behind it. Is it still true today? Why choose us? Who is included in this?

*    Men and Women in Judaism
Is a Wife the property of her husband, in Jewish Law? Does a Man "Inherit" his Brother's Wife When the Brother Dies? Does Judaism Consider Women Unclean or Disgusting? Why won't Men Touch Women?

*    Good and Evil
Does Judaism believe that the world is in a Conflict Between Good & Evil?

*    What's With Those Kosher Symbols Anyway?
Are those O's and U's really necessary? What are they for? Do Rabbis really bless the food? A lot of hate groups talk about this, without any understanding of the subject. Here's the truth.

*    Halloween and Jews?
Are Judaism and Halloween compatible? Can it fit into Jewish life?

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Who Is a Jew?

*    Who is a Jew, According to the Torah?
Is being Jewish passed along by the father or the mother? Has that ever changed? What made our ancestors Jewish? Where in the Torah does it say what makes a person Jewish? Did the Rabbis change this Law?

*    Was King David Jewish?
Does Halachah (Jewish Law) consider King David a Jew, or has Jewish Law changed since then? What is the Torah's definition of a Jew? Were Abraham and Sarah Jewish? Did Abraham know the Torah? Were there converts in Biblical times? Did Ruth convert? Did Moses marry a Gentile woman?

* Judaism: Race, Religion, or Ethnicity?
Is being Jewish related to being part of a race or a religion? Is it cultural? No matter what position you take in this matter, this is probably not the answer you're expecting.

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Life, the Afterlife, and the Soul

*    The Soul, and What Happens After We Die
The soul is not what you think it is. The multi-faceted nature of the human spiritual essences. What happens to those spiritual essences after death? What goes where, and what comes along with them? Is there such a place as Hell? Is there an Afterlife?

*    The Messianic Era and the World to Come
How long will this world last? What do we mean by the resurrection, and when will it take place? What is the World to Come, and what will it be like? What will the Messianic Era be like, and when will it happen?

* The Afterlife
Is the Purpose of Life to Aspire to the Afterlife? A brief restatement and outline of the timetable of the future. The advantage and purpose of this world and the Next World.

*    Body and Soul
Why does Judaism Forbid Cremation? What is the Relationship Between the Body and the Soul?

*    On the Nature of Free Will
Does Judaism believe that people have free will? What does "free will" really mean, according to Judaism? Where does the Torah mention free will?

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The Jewish G-d: What's He Like?

* G-d: Judge or Teacher?
My response to a letter I received which said: "The traditional Jewish G-d is too vindictive, vain, and controlling." The truth is that Jews and Judaism consider G-d loving and kind. Read his letter and my response.

* Why does G-d Care About the Little Things?
Does G-d really care if we rip toilet paper on the Sabbath? Does G-d watch us to see if we are doing sins? Isn't it enough to have a Jewish heart?

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The History and Transmission of the Jewish Traditions

*    The History of the Exodus and the Receiving of the Torah
What really happened in Egypt and afterwards. This also has a capsule history of the Children of Israel from Noah until The Second Temple.

*    The Jewish History Timeline Chart
A brief chart of the time line of Jewish History, with major events from Creation until the birth of the Bal Shem Tov (1698), with both the Jewish and Gentile dates listed for each. A glance at the names of the eras of Jewish History.

*   How Old is the Torah?
Showing that the Torah is at least 3,313 years old. The Periods of Jewish History (in brief). Tracing the Torah back to Moses. Who are the Samaritans, and how do they help prove our case? The Torah was created by Hashem 2,000 years before Creation.

* Scripture Only, Please: Asking Questions
The relationship between the Written Torah and the Oral Torah. How not to ask a Rabbi questions.

* The Indispensable Oral Law
How to understand the Torah. Why do we have an Oral Torah? Is it necessary?

* Why Did Hashem Create an Oral Torah?
Why did it need to be oral, and not written? Its unique properties. The details it contains. Context and changing idioms. The personal touch.

*    The Oral Law and Our Own Opinions
Is every opinion about the Torah valid? Are there guidelines to interpreting the Torah? Do we need to follow established precedence? What to do in case of doubt. Where did the Oral Law come from?

*    How the Torah was Taught and Transmitted
Part 1: From Moses to Joshua.
How Moses taught the Torah to the Generation in the Sinai Desert. What Hashem taught Moses, and what Moses taught the Children of Israel. The types of sections in the Scrolls of the Written Torah. The system of Elders and Leaders. The Sanhedrin and the Lower Courts. The Mosaic Ordination. Who wrote the Written Torah? Moses hands over the leadership of the Torah Nation to Joshua.

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The Unchanged Tradition of Judaism

*    How Do We Know Our Tradition is Correct?
Should we simply accept the Tradition as true? Who owns the Torah? Who recorded the Torah? How was the Torah taught? How the Rabbis felt about the Tradition. Where is all that information from?

*    Has Judaism Changed?
Has Judaism taken ideas from Gentile cultures? What about styles of clothing? Are the Laws of Judaism still followed?

*    Sacrifices and the Holy Temple
Since Jews live by the Torah, and the Torah commands us to offer sacrifices, why don't we still offer sacrifices today?

*    Rebuild the Temple?
The Holy Temple was built, destroyed, and built again. Then it was destroyed again. The Prophets said it would be rebuilt yet again, for a third and final time. Why don't we rebuild the Holy Temple now?

*  Haven't Rabbis Changed the Laws?
The nature of the Rabbinical debates. Our authority to decide Jewish Law.

*  What Can't Jewish Law be Altered?
Do People Change? How have we Jews differed? Have we ever fit into the dominant societies? Is Judaism Archaic? Judaism is not static.

*   The Platforms of Some of the Jewish Denominations
People keep asking me about the difference between the various movements. Here's the answer in brief.

*  The Origins of the Reform, Conservative and Orthodox Movements
An article by Lawrence Keleman in Jewish Action magazine, Summer 1999.
Please note that I did not write this article. The author, Mr. Lawrence Keleman, was a member of all of these movements at one time or another. None of the claims made in this article are Mr. Keleman's. For every statement he makes about any group he quotes sources from that very group. So when he tells you what the Reform say, he is telling you what Reform leaders have written in their very own books and periodicals.

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The Commandments of the Torah

*    Can We Fulfill All the Commandments?
Did you know that there really is no such thing as the "Ten Commandments?" The "Commandments" mean something else. Is it true that a person cannot fulfill all the Commandments of the Torah? If this is true, what does it mean to each of us? Here's the surprising answer.

*    How the Mitzvos Protect Us From Sin
The Physical versus the Spiritual within us. Why Jewish women are like the Priests in the Holy Temple.

*    Shatnez: Forbidden Mixtures of Clothing
Are all mixtures forbidden? Which are, and which aren't. How prevalent is this problem? Do people still keep this prohibition? How to have your clothing checked for shaatnez.

*    The Mitzvah of Tefillin
What Tefillin are, and a little bit about how they are made. Understanding the Mitzvah. Some of the Laws about wearing Tefillin. How to put on Tefillin, with pictures to help.

*    Tzitzis: What Are Those Strings Jewish Men Wear?
About Tzitzis: four-cornered clothing and Jewish Law. How we have Standards in all our actions. How to remember G-d and the Commandments. The blue thread.

*    Mezuzah: The Jewish Lightning Rod.
What is that little box on the doorposts of Jewish homes? How a Mezuzah is made. What a Mezuzah looks like (includes a gif of a Mezuzah scroll). Who may write a Mezuzah. What sort of door needs a Mezuzah? How to affix a Mezuzah on your door, and the blessing to recite. Where to buy a Mezuzah. The protection a Mezuzah offers.

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Conversion Issues

*    Becoming Jewish.
For non-Jews who want to convert to Judaism. The pros and cons, how to do it, and what you need to know, as well as links and contact information for Rabbis who help with conversions in various parts of North America. Plus a link to a page with Hebrew-language tutor software.

* They Say You Can't Choose Your Family...
What if your spouse doesn't want to convert with you? Must you choose Judaism over your family? What if you feel you won't fit in because you don't have children?

*    Teenage Converts
A Christian teenager wrote me about the problems he has with his parents because he wants to become Jewish. Here is his letter and my answer with my advice on the subject.

*  Non-Orthodox Conversions: Are They Valid?"
Some Fundamentals. What conversions are valid? Other requirements. Isn't sincerity enough?

* How to Find a Rabbi or Synagogue
Websites with lists of or search engines for Rabbis and/or synagogues.

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The Jewish Holidays of the Year

Visit the Jewish Holiday Gateways

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The New Moon


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Rosh Hashanah

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Yom Kippur

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Sukkos

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Chanukah

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Purim

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Passover

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Sefiras Ha'Omer

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Shavuos

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The Three Weeks

More Holiday Gateways under construction. And Hashem willing, we hope to eventually develop a gateway to the joys of keeping Sabbath the Jewish way.

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And don't forget to visit
Kressel's Korner
where you can read about numerous women's issues.

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And of course, my

Jewish Links Page

Online and offline resources for learning more about Judaism.

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