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 primary query confronting Jewish leaders in the USA is straightforward:

Why be Jewish?

Jonathan D. Sarna, acclaimed student of yankee Judaism, believes that “Why be Jewish?” is the inaccurate query. Judaism, he believes, isn't a lot a “why” as a way—a lifestyle, a manner of marking time, a fashion of in terms of the surroundings, to people, to relatives, and to God. Judaism is skilled via doing—doing issues Jewish, doing issues for fellow Jews in want, doing issues as a Jew to enhance the country of the area. The extra Judaism one does, the extra one involves delight in what Judaism is.

Using the Jewish calendar as his place to begin, Sarna displays at the significant issues of Jewish existence as expressed in a whole 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 position of the person in the Jewish group; Chanukah, problems with assimilation and anti-assimilation.

An crucial short introduction—or reintroduction—to the key practices of Jewish existence in addition to the numerous complexities of the yankee Jewish adventure, this booklet can be crucial analyzing for American Jews and the precise reward for the vacation season.

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Sample text

Instead, the point of kosher food, even in ancient times, was to make Jews feel distinctive and special. Lots of world religions, including Islam, Hinduism, and Mormonism, set their members apart through conspicuous food practices. Inevitably, such rules separate insiders from outsiders, those who are faithful from those who are not. Had it not been for their distinctive food rules, a small minority group like the Jews would probably long ago have assimilated out of existence. Keeping kosher is a big decision.

As one would in a revolution. We had no weapons and they would have gunned us down. We were all very weak as well. Despite their weakness, many Jews did try to resist. qxd 36 | 6/17/08 10:48 AM Page 36 a time to every purpose ban. Others fought back by courageously escaping: jumping from moving trains, digging under fences, and then making their way, sometimes over long distances and on foot, in search of freedom. For still others, resistance meant battling to remain alive; adamantly refusing to give up hope; struggling with every ounce of strength and determination against cold, hunger, disease, hard labor, and despair.

Next year in Jerusalem! Perhaps, in the end, this message is the link between the Exodus from Egypt, the end of the American Revolution, and the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, all of which we recall tonight at the seder. It is not just that all three reflect the quest for freedom, however differently defined, but that all exemplify the quest for a better life, a better world, and a better tomorrow. The uplifting message of Passover, one that has sustained Jews through the centuries and will, I trust, sustain you too, comes down finally to hope.

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