Tag Archives: orthodox jewish life

Guest Letter from Jackie: A Christian at an Orthodox Jewish Prayer Service

A Christian at an Orthodox prayer service, Josep? Whoever heard of such a thing? 😉

Well, unlike you, today’s guest lives in a country where they don’t need armed guards interrogating people at the door. Jacquelyn Lofstad is a 19-year-old college student from Minnesota, United States, who was raised in a Baptist family. She’s a reader who stumbled across the blog through Google, and her submission of this letter was the first contact she made with me (which is a first–all previous guest letters have been by people I know from other contexts and/or who I cajoled asked to write one!). She also writes a blog of her own about the Old Testament and how it relates to Jesus and the gospels, partially inspired by a trip she took to Israel not long ago.

She decided to share with us about an experience she had recently: observing the Shabbat morning prayer service in an Orthodox synagogue. (For those of you who need more info on what Shabbat is, click here.) I think this is a beautiful counterpoint to our previous guest letter, which was about a Jew’s positive experiences in churches!

Here’s Jackie:


Dear Josep,

Recently, I had the privilege of celebrating Sabbath at an Orthodox Synagogue. The Jewish people are beautiful, dedicated, and tenacious in their faith. I was extremely blessed to be able to observe a Shabbat (sabbath) service.

I am a 19-year-old college senior from Minnesota, United States, studying music education and history.  I was raised in a Baptist family but do not swear complete allegiance to any particular denomination.  I just believe the Bible, want to honor God and love people in the process.  After visiting Israel over spring break for a Bible study trip, I gained so much respect for the Jewish people’s tenacity and dedication to their faith.  Also, I love the Old Testament and am frustrated that the church does not talk about it enough.  Researching Judaism seemed like the obvious answer. Wanting to learn more, I contacted a local rabbi and asked to observe a synagogue service.

I entered the room during prayers and was handed a prayer book with English translations – praise God! My lack of education was clearly shown when I forgot that the Hebrew language and therefore the prayer books, read right to left!

One thing that struck me about the Hebrew prayers was how focused they were on God and God alone. So often I will only pray to ask for things. Their prayers focused on the glory, majesty, power, and love of Hashem (Hebrew name for God, literally translated as “the name”).

After the prayers, the Torah was brought out. The cantor and the congregation sang and chanted with joy as the Torah was lifted out of the arc in the front of the room and brought to the center of the congregation. The blessing of having the word of God IS something that we should rejoice over. The Torah in the center reminded me how God is a God for all people. He comes down, right into the middle of our lives. The word of God speaks right into the middle of our messy situations. The Torah reading for this day the “snake being lifted” in Numbers. They also read from the prophets on a yearly rotation – this week the men read from 1st Samuel.

The rabbi then spoke about a former rabbi who died at the hands of communist Russia because he refused to be transported on the sabbath. While he could have easily justified breaking sabbath to save his life, he decided not to because of the people that looked up to him. While I do not have the same sabbath convictions as the Jewish people, I also have people looking up to me. I need to take my actions seriously, because as a teacher, I will have people looking at my life as they make decisions.

After the service, which was over two hours (they are dedicated people), I was invited to the Kiddush lunch afterwards. The stew was cooked the night before and left on the stove because no cooking is done on the sabbath.

One lady told me about how she read a book about how a Christian converted to Judaism because she felt like Yom Kippur offered more room for grace than Christianity. This saddened me because we clearly are not showing/sharing the love and grace of God that well then!

I had a long conversation with another woman about Israel, Judaism, and many other things (Israel actually opened many doors for conversations so praise God!). She shared how it was difficult to get a job without working on Saturdays. I again was struck by how these people’s first priority was their faith. I can learn from this. I was then asked why many Christians don’t like Israel (This question was a bit stressful–19-year-old having to answer for all Christians 😛 ). I responded by saying that many Christians misunderstand both the heart of God and the Jewish people. At the end of our conversation, we thanked each other for sharing our perspectives–it was a really sweet moment.

I learned so much from this visit and hope I represented Christianity well. I am encouraging my friends and colleagues to be willing to experience new things and hear people’s stories. The world needs people who care. Be that person, because Jesus was that person. He heard people’s stories. He saw the beauty in diversity. And he was Jewish too 🙂

Sincerely,
Jackie


Are you a reader who has something interesting to share with Josep and me about religion or culture? Don’t be shy–be like Jackie! Submit a guest letter!

Q & A with Random Strangers on the Internet, Pt. 4!

Yes, my friends! Traffic to LtJ has been increasing steadily, hitting an average of over 2,000 views per month the last two months, so it’s time to celebrate with yet another Search Term Q & A!

If you’re just tuning in, this is where I respond to various questions and phrases that people have typed into search engines, which then led them to this blog. You can find links to previous Search Term Q & A’s at the bottom of this post.

And now, without further ado:

“orthodox jews is creepy”

Creepy?!

Look how cute we are!!!

Your face is creepy!

(That is a really stupid comeback that Eitan and I constantly say to each other and for some reason, after almost 9 years of marriage, still find hilarious.)

“psalm 23, jewish commentary”

Ahh, yes! I see you found my relevant post on the topic.

“jews living in munich”

I do indeed have a guest letter from a Jew living in Munich! And I would love more guest letters from people of all sorts from all kinds of places! Hint hint!

“what do ultra orthodox jews do for fun”

I love this question!!!

Okay–first off–I’m not ultra-Orthodox, so this isn’t firsthand. Modern Orthodox Jews like myself are somewhere between secular people and ultra-Orthodox in terms of acceptable forms of recreation. I’ll elaborate on the differences as I answer the question.

So the thing to understand about how ultra-Orthodox Jews spend their time is that the #1 most important thing in their lives is the Torah: either learning it or practicing its teachings (a.k.a. keeping the commandments). Everything they do is supposed to be oriented towards this ultimate goal. Doing anything that is not oriented towards this goal is considered a waste of time. There’s even a term for it: “bittul Torah”–wasting time that should be spent on Torah.

That doesn’t mean that they never have fun!

The fact is that joy and pleasure are built into Torah life. Every week we have these festive dinner/lunch parties (a.k.a. Shabbat meals) with friends and family. In the ultra-Orthodox community there are always lifecycle events to attend, like weddings, bar/bat mitzvahs, etc., where it is a mitzvah to dance and sing and feast! Hassidic communities have huge events with their rebbes on Shabbatot, too. There are Torah classes or concert/prayer/learning gatherings to attend… and, of course, there are holidays every 3 seconds, and we’re happy with any excuse for more feasting, dancing, and singing!

As for more “everyday” forms of entertainment: ultra-Orthodox Jews generally do not watch movies (unless they were produced by other ultra-Orthodox Jews–a very small but growing industry), surf the Internet, attend secular concerts, or go to bars or nightclubs. They do hang out in parks and resorts, have picnics, go on hikes, and–as long as men and women are strictly separated– even go swimming. Many teenagers are involved in charity and volunteer projects to keep them off the streets. Better than video games and Snapchat for sure!

Modern Orthodox Jews do watch movies and surf the Internet and may attend secular concerts, but we don’t dance or swim in mixed company either. Swimming pools and beaches in areas with a lot of observant Jews have separate swimming hours for men and women.

“what symbol was used by agagites?”

Um… that… would be impossible to know, as the only source we have on them is the Bible, and it doesn’t mention anything about a symbol. Agagites are descendants of Agag, who was an Amalekite, and the only Agagite mentioned is Haman, from the book of Esther.

“alternative origins for haman the agagite”

What am I, the expert on Agagites now?!

Again–the only source we have for Haman the Agagite is the book of Esther. So the academic argument is not so much about his origins as about whether he existed at all.

“www.danniella levy sex.de”

Oy, do you have the wrong number, my friend. Unlike the British porn star who apparently shares my name, I offer the Internet my intellect, wit, knowledge, love, insight, empathy, and skill with words. I think those are far more valuable assets. But, you know. To each his own.

“what is the headgear that jews wear?”

Good of you to ask! I see you found my post on that subject exactly: A Blessing on Your Head: Jewish Headgear. In a nutshell: religious Jewish men wear kippot (skullcaps) and/or hats of various sorts, and married religious Jewish women wear scarves, hats, or wigs.

“apologize letter because you are impostor”

To Whom It May Concern,

It has come to my attention, thanks to the advice from a Random Stranger on the Internet, that I am an impostor. I am not entirely sure how or when I began to impersonate myself, but rest assured that it was never my intention to do so. I am shocked and deeply regretful to learn that this is the case.

Please accept my sincerest apologies for any inconvenience this may have caused you.

With respect,

Daniella Levy

“just checking in letter”

To Whom It May Concern,

I am just checking in, as per your request.

Many blessings,

Daniella Levy

“yes wear your head gear 651”

Um. Okay. I… will do that. Not sure what 651 means.

images of a christian girl apply local henna in ethiopia”

Huh. Well, no, that I don’t have, but I do have an image of my friends Hadar & Yossi, the latter of whom is of Ethiopian descent, at their henna party:

But they are Jewish, and in Israel, and he’s a guy. So… sorry.

“the craziest judaism belives”/”weird judaism beliefs”

Okay look, I’ll be the first to admit that we Jews do some pretty crazy things… but in the weird belief department, I think we’re actually pretty boring.

I think it’s because we’re “mother religion” to both Christianity and Islam. So many of our beliefs overlap with theirs–ones that are fairly universally accepted and palatable. Plus, we’ve been accused of being overly logical when it comes to belief, and I think our penchant for thinking things through very, very, very carefully means that we don’t tend to hold on to the really “out there” stuff.

We do have a mystic tradition, the Zohar/Kabbalah, which has some pretty weird stuff in it, but precisely because it takes a lot of maturity to place it in the proper context, we’re not even allowed to study it properly until the age of 40.

“www.oldest bable qur’an holybooks.mede only skin.com”

That’s… a diverse range of interests, Random Stranger.

“jew sick religion”

I’m going to go ahead and assume that you’re using the word “sick” in its inverted slang usage, i.e., to mean “awesome”. Because I learned from my totally awesome Jewish religion that I should judge everyone favorably! You can learn more about judging favorably here!

 

Any other questions?! Do feel free to ask!


Want to see previous Search Term Q & A’s? Here they are:

Search Term Q & A, Pt. 1

Search Term Q & A, Pt. 2

Search Term Q & A, Pt. 3