Sometimes one has to go abroad and watch other cultures in order to notice the values deeply embedded into our Jewish origin.
Let's see - we believe in a single god, that is unhuman, uncomprehendable, unbeatable, infinite and eternal. We also believe that he (they) is alive, i.e. that by addressing him we can try to change his (their) decisions.
That implies we consider no one else to be divine, including paraohs, kings, lords, generals and experts. All are equal in front of his seat, all are humanly narrow minded, arrogant and stupid. No one knows the truth but him, we're all a herd of rednecks, easily pissed off by nothing, never willing to listen to the other, never trying to understand the motives to the behaviour of one another, never intelligent enough to understand the concequences of our own actions, always late, always reacting too slowly and without the right proportions, always reluctant to admit that.
This is what Jews try to remind themselves (one to another, to be exact) every second day or so. We're also obliged to listen carefully to the torah and also read from it ourselves. Which implies that we must know how to read and write in Hebrew, keeping strictly the same signs and panctuation as the ones the bible was written in.
All this is absolutely non trivial. In Catholic Christianity the holy texts are all in Latin, which is a dead language. Only the priests learn it, only they understand what they read, and there's no new creation of words in Latin except for new terms in Medicine and some other fields of science.
In Protestant Christianity the holy books are translated again every generation in order for Protestants to keep following them. However every Protestant has a slightly different text, and they are all based on old Greek translations of the bible. One should strive to behave like the church says Jesus has behaved like, and Jesus was the son of god and not exactly an ordinary layman. So its morals are not human, and it requires you to abandon your own morals and be willing to accept misery in order to bring love to the world. Or something, I never really understood Christianity.
Then there's Islam which believes in accepting the fate from Alla with no doubt or argument. And there's greek mythology where fate is determined and there's nothing you can do to change the oraccle's prophecy. There's Indian Budhism where your soul is eternal but your social status in your present life is a reward for your previous lifestyle, nothing you argue about. Correct me if I'm wrong, because I'm very bad at Eastern religions. There's shintu that believes in spirits of the forces of nature, mediated by the spirits of our ancestors, which shall be appeased by material sacrifices.
Then there's Humanism that puts the individual in the center of the universe; Reformist Judaism that omits the primitive parts of the Jewish texts such as zionism, urge to build the temple and how it should be done; and Conservative Judaism that attempts to turn Judaism into something every German or American can live with and visit on his free Saturdays to enjoy songs in Hebrew accompanied by an organ. As I said the orthodox and the conservative jews in Stockholm stay in good relations with eachother, which led me to visit the conservative synagogue in Yom Kipur, during the break between Musaf and Mincha. Fortunately they started a while before their orthodox brothers, so I could quietly sit on of their benches and try to see how they read the torah and haftarah. Well, the priest read the torah in a monotone, quiet voice that was hard to follow. The textbooks they gave us had no te'amim, so no one could see whether he reads correctly. The haftarah was read facing the audience, just like a priest giving a sermon. Behind me sat a couple of adult American Jews who didn't stop talking. I gave them a freezing look, just like secular Israelies get in a synagogue when the kid is having bar mitzvah and they don't know where to read in the siddur so they start chatting or making candy artilerry discussions. They gazed back anxiously and stopped talking for about half a minute. Then I walked out for a minute to see if the security men are interrogating my (Christian) Swedish friend already. But there was no sign for her, so I walked back to see the priest keep reading the haftarah quietly and monotonically as if he's reading a Latin text. No one understood him, no one cared, they were mostly day dreaming or chatting. I asked the two fellows on the back 'excuse me, I'm not from this community, is it common here to talk while reading Torah'
then one of them shot back like an anxious yankee protecting his baseball addiction:
'well sometimes we do'
so I answered 'well, it's your tradition' and asked for the time
It was quarter to five, I went out and start striding back slowly to the orthodox synagogue. I landed unsuccessfully on my right foot when I made a conceptual picture of me jumping off an 80cm high bench in front of the Riechstagg, so I'm still walking slowly and painfully. I arrived in time to conclude the political discussion the Israeli immigrants in Stockholm have held outside the hall. We were Swedes, Spharadim, Russians, Marrocans, Iraqis, Israelies, Americans and even one Yemenite all praying together. We sang loud and clear like a herd of scared lambs, it was beautiful. We beat our chests together, whining and embarassedly laughing. The chazann made nigunim and the shamash added his comments in Swedish and English every once in a while to keep us focused. The synagogue was swarming with people crying for forgiveness together while the sun slowly set. Then the shofar... And we're all happy and greeting each other. Then a quick but highly motivated Ma'ariv, slowly finding our way down the stairs to grab a cookey and some juice. Then scattering to the underground and home, so the security men could quickly lock the school and walk home themselves. No valuables to protect in the hidden syangogue, only some old papers and benches. No reason to keep a guard up all night, no reason to call the police or break the bones of some stupid Nazi. Such a beautiful routine. I realize I'm satisfied with my origin and status, it might not be perfect but it's as good as it gets.
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