Judaism is NOT a Religion

Thursday, 28 July, 2022 - 9:37 pm

A few weeks ago, I was invited to sit on a panel at an event for wedding coordinators, caterers, and event planners. They were looking to get insights into various cultural traditions that they should be aware of when planning an event. One of the questions posed to the members of the panel (consisting of representatives of religious faiths and members of the industry), was about the involvement of the clergyperson in the wedding beyond the ceremony.

They were surprised to learn that a Torah observant Rabbi would have input into additional facets of the wedding beyond the ceremony. This led to a lengthy discussion about Kosher catering, and a shorter, but eye-opening (for them) discussion about modesty and how it impacts the dancing and other elements of the wedding.

The truth is that this is part of a broad idea that Judaism is not a religion, but rather a way of life. Religion (as per the dictionary) is a “system of attitudes, beliefs, and practices.” It is entirely conceivable that one’s religion has little say on many aspects of a person’s daily life. Indeed, this is the case for a large number of religious adherents around the world.

Judaism was originally conceived as a way of life. Our doctrine, the Torah, informs every single aspect of a person’s day, from the moment we awaken to the way we go to sleep. There is a Torah way to experience every single element of life, from birth (and even conception) to death and beyond. It addresses what we wear and how we wear it. It addresses what we eat and how we eat it. It addresses what we do for a living and how we do it. It addresses what our family life looks like and how we live that way. And so much more.

In fact, so little of Judaism takes place in the Synagogue, that it could hardly be regarded as the center of Jewish life. At the most, a person might spend a few hours a day at Shul (assuming they attend all three daily services and have a study session or two). So, what is the center of Jewish life? I would argue that the center of Jewish life is wherever one is at any given time. Because at every moment of life, one is engaged in Jewish living. If it had to be pinned down to a location, it would have to be the home, the place one spends a plurality of one’s time.

Stop being religious and embrace Judaism, the treasured way of life with which G-d gifted us at Mount Sinai over three thousand years ago.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

PS: It was brought my attention that last week’s blogpost ( may be perceived as insensitive to people with medical dietary restrictions. It was definitely not my intent to alienate anyone and I apologize that my words came across as so. In fact, I considered this possibility, though apparently not for long enough. I myself have medically related dietary limitations, and close relatives with diabetes and celiac disease. Clearly, I should have been more thoughtful in choosing the phrasing for this message. (Mock shrimp anyone?)

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