A Time to Every Purpose: Letters to a Young Jew by Jonathan D Sarna

By Jonathan D Sarna

At the flip of the twenty-first century, the imperative query confronting Jewish leaders in the United States is easy:

Why be Jewish?

Jonathan D. Sarna, acclaimed student of yank Judaism, believes that “Why be Jewish?” is the inaccurate query. Judaism, he believes, isn't really lots a “why” as a way—a lifestyle, a manner of marking time, a manner of with regards to the surroundings, to people, to relatives, and to God. Judaism is skilled via doing—doing issues Jewish, doing issues for fellow Jews in desire, doing issues as a Jew to enhance the nation of the realm. The extra Judaism one does, the extra one involves get pleasure from what Judaism is.

Using the Jewish calendar as his start line, Sarna displays at the significant issues of Jewish lifestyles as expressed in an entire yr of holidays—from Passover within the spring to Purim 11 months later. Passover, for example, yields a dialogue of freedom; Shavuot, a dialogue of Torah; Yom Kippur, the function of the person in the Jewish group; Chanukah, problems with assimilation and anti-assimilation.

An crucial short introduction—or reintroduction—to the most important practices of Jewish existence in addition to the various complexities of the yankee Jewish event, this publication can be crucial analyzing for American Jews and the proper present for the vacation season.

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But for many Jews, this idea is controversial and uncomfortable. Notions of racial and genetic superiority have caused untold misery over the past century. Prayers like the one in our holiday liturgy that reads “thou has chosen us from among all other peoples, loved us, valued us, and exalted us above all nations,” sound haughty, even arrogant, especially when read out of context. As a result, some Jews have abandoned the idea of chosenness, replacing uncomfortable prayers that make Jews sound superior and different with more politically correct universal prayers that offend no one.

In 1951, Israel’s very first Knesset (its parliament) established that date. qxd 28 | 6/17/08 10:48 AM Page 28 a time to every purpose Independence Day, so that it coincides with the midpoint of the monthlong Warsaw Ghetto uprising but does not conflict with other holidays. The date also serves as an annual reminder that the slaughter of six million Jews immediately preceded the State of Israel’s birth. Some Jewish leaders opposed having a special day to commemorate the Holocaust. The Jewish calendar hardly lacks for the remembrance of tragedies, they pointed out.

In Russia, which Germany attacked in 1941, special German task forces known as Einsatzgruppen targeted Jews, mowing them down with machine guns until they all lay dead. Sometimes they used gas vans to annihilate their victims. Sabba, as you know, had a photograph of the gas vans used to murder the Jews of his father’s hometown. Many times, Nazi troops and sympathizers gathered entire populations, had them dig their own graves, and shot them dead on the spot. qxd 6/17/08 10:48 AM Page 35 remembering the holocaust | 35 lined up by a ravine, and shot so they would fall into it.

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