Home > Contemplations > Religion of Convenience Doesn’t Count As Being Religious

Religion of Convenience Doesn’t Count As Being Religious


Note: Blogging from my BlackBerry Torch and WordPress for BlackBerry app keeps giving me some error when I try to post pictures so they will be added later. #WordPressForBlackBerryFAIL

See the screenshot below for the error WordPress for BlackBerry was giving me.

The error WordPress for BlackBerry keeps giving me.

Beware: Discussion of religion ahead.

I was brought up in an ostensibly Modern Orthodox Jewish home. But over the years certain things I saw going on in the community where I was raised made me question whether or not the people saying they are practicing Orthodox Jews actually deserve to call themselves “religious”. I’ll be sensationalist and go so far as to say that much of the Orthodox Jewish community in many cities has devolved into nothing more than a cult.

Consider the picture above. A doorpost with an imprint of something that had clearly been hanging there for a while. That something is referred to as a “mezuza”.

***** Skip below if you don’t care what a mezuza is or already know *****

A mezuza is something that Jews put on all door posts in their houses (except bathrooms and closets). They can have many different appearances but really the most important aspect of the mezuza is inside of it. This is where there is a parchment with a couple passages from the Old Testament handwritten and rolled up inside (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21). The point of affixing it is to fulfill a commandment and many stories have been told over the years of people getting sick or having bad luck and once it was realized that a mezuza at their home was not valid or Kosher and once it is fixed everything returns to normal.

***** Regular post continues now *****

Anyway, according to Orthodox Jewish law if one sells their house to another Jew they are required to leave every mezuza in the house where it is for the next occupant. As far as I know there are no ifs, ands, or buts on this rule.

Door post which used to have a mezuza & case for over two decades. Mezuza & case are now removed.

Why am I telling you this? Well, because in clearing out stuff from someone’s house who is moving I noticed that most of the door posts in the house lacked a mezuza. This is a problem because the person selling the house is selling it to a Jewish couple. I called the seller to tell her and she said that the couple “don’t care” about getting the house complete with mezuzas on the door posts and that “it wasn’t in the contract to sell the house with the mezuzas.” As well, the mezuzas I thought were left behind were actually merely the casings, not the scrolls – the part of the mezuza that matters. I wondered to myself about the contract she had “signed” with God when she decided to live the life of an Orthodox Jew…did she have a special clause in her Torah/Book of Jewish Law/contract that no one else in the religion had? I doubt it.

I think about things like this and this kind of attitude and realize it is why I do not practice Orthodox Judaism. It is my experience that the people claiming to be religious and Orthodox Jews live their lives picking and choosing which laws they will follow and which they won’t. They do this while they point fingers at other forms of Judaism such as Conservative and Reform and say how they aren’t practicing “real Judaism”.

Now I have been told before – “don’t judge Judaism by the Jews” because we are all flawed and because we are human. I can agree with that concept and of course know that often times even a person who is completely and truly committed to a religion will act without thinking and make mistakes. However, I don’t think this quite qualifies. This is a coldly, rational decision not arrived upon in a heat of passion.

If you want to call yourself religious you don’t get to pick and choose which part of the religion you want to observe. It’s an all or nothing deal. At the very least, with an attitude where you get to pick which parts of the religion you like and which you don’t and conduct yourself accordingly all while pretending to be fully religious don’t be surprised when your attitude is reflected in your kids only to a greater degree. Don’t be amazed that they don’t give a damn about the religion that you do your utmost to keep up the appearance of following.

I don’t know what it is like in other religions because I have no experience in them. However, I have heard a bunch of similar stories from friends who are from other religious backgrounds.

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  1. Simon
    June 20, 2011 at 11:55 am

    While I’m not religious in any way at all I would like to add my two cents on the mezuza issue. If the people buying the house didn’t want the mezuzas it is as if they have taken the house with them and handed them back thus perhaps not violating any jewish laws.

  2. June 20, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    This is the reason why I decided not to be religious as an early teen, I found people at my church lived double lives and I wasn’t cool with it.

    Have you read “My year of living bibically” by A.J. Jacobs. He deals with this topic and spends a year trying to follow the bible to the letter and mostly the old testimate so the more jewish practices. I recommend it, it has its dry parts but it is mostly informative and humourous

  3. June 20, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    P.S. I love all religous discussions they are the some of the most mentally stimulating topics I feel you can discuss.

    • June 20, 2011 at 1:56 pm

      I have heard of the A.J. Jacobs book but have yet to read it. I will however mention that Judaism as it is today is not based solely on the Old Testament (“Written Law”) but on the “Oral Law” (this includes the Talmud) as well. So A.J. Jacobs’ book wouldn’t be an accurate representation of living a completely “Jewish” lifestyle either.

  4. June 20, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    Thanks for the comment Simon. Agreed that those may be valid reasons but it is not up to a random person to make that decision.

    If they went and asked a rabbi their opinion on the matter & the rabbi told them that that is the ruling then it is, of course, fine to do. However, that was not the reason given. The reason given was this person’s own decision based on what they wanted to do and not based on Jewish law – or at least that is how it was presented to me. (For all I know they may have actually gone to a rabbi but perspective is key and no mention of rabbinical advice was made to me.)

  5. June 20, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    That is why it is only more and not the real jewish experience. But I found it very interesting all the same.

  6. Simon
    June 20, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    I suppose the most irritating part about the orthodox jews I knew in Toronto was their arrogance. Obvious no-one is perfect we all have our flaws but they always seemed way too sure of themselves. Never once questioning if they indeed are following the religion for the right reasons. However i do think one must be careful not to be too sure of themselves when speaking against them either. Judaism has the potential to be a wonderful religion, we just need to get rid of the jews ;).

    • June 20, 2011 at 5:25 pm

      Which is why I don’t advocate for or against Orthodox Judaism in my post – I advocate against the way it is practiced in my limited experience.

  7. moe45673
    June 20, 2011 at 5:20 pm

    Dan, that’s a really unscientific way to take a sample of a population and declare that, statistically, this is what everyone does.

    Here’s a story…..
    A man in the concentration camps during WW2 got hold of a pair of tefillin. He decided he will let his fellow inmates share in the mitzva if they gave him a bit of their soup rations. The inmates would line up everyday to partake. One man was watching this and was disgusted. “Look at that man, only sharing if others give him their precious rations. Is this Judaism?” Another man standing near him said “No. Judaism is the inmate lining up to give over his precious rations to share in the mitzva.”

    It’s called reframing. I know this because I recently learned about it in my Communications course at school 🙂

    • June 20, 2011 at 5:28 pm

      OK, care to reframe this?

      As well, I think it is fair to say that I have been in contact with a large part of the Orthodox Jewish community within Toronto and Thornhill. In any case, this is not an attempt to be scientific nor is it an attempt to indict all of Orthodox Judaism. It is merely my thoughts on a given situation.

  8. moe45673
    June 20, 2011 at 7:12 pm

    Here’s my reframing: This is one person. I’m certainly not a fan of many of the aspects of the Toronto Jewish Orthodox community, but I personally know jews who try to follow all halacha (as in, what the torah actually says and not what some rabbi thinks is best for the jews) and not create shortcuts around them. Here’s a similarly unscientific example: My parents.

    • June 21, 2011 at 11:59 pm

      You didn’t reframe. You gave me a different example of people in Toronto.

  9. June 22, 2011 at 12:24 am

    Great post. This is something I’ve always thought about from the perspective of a Reform Jew growing up in Toronto.

  1. June 21, 2011 at 11:58 pm

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