If you're interested in learning more about the Jewish faith, here are eight interesting facts you can add to your memory:
- Many churches require their followers to remain active in order to call themselves a member of that religion. But that's not the case with Judaism. If someone is born to a Jewish mother, they will always be considered a part of Judaism. Even if that person doesn't believe in God, the most Orthodox movements will still acknowledge that person's Jewish heritage. This inclusiveness is why it's often said that Judaism is more comparable to a nationality than it is to other religions, and being Jewish is like having citizenship. And just like it's possible to get citizenship in a country where you weren't born, those with enough dedication can go through the formal process of converting to Judaism.
- Because they've been referenced in so many different places, even people who don't practice any form of Judaism or Christianity are usually at least aware of the existence of the 10 Commandments. While simply following those ten can be a challenge at times, it's nothing compared to what Orthodox Jews have to do. They follow an amazing 613 commandments that are outlined in the Torah. The commandments on that list range from "not to take revenge" to "not to anoint a stranger with the anointing oil."
- While a core part of Judaism is that death isn't the end of the existence of humans, it's fairly common for people within the Jewish faith to have their own opinions on exactly what means. Some feel that the souls of people who live a good life go to a place like Christianity's heaven, while others believe that souls are continually reincarnated through multiple lifetimes.
- The reason that Jewish men wear a yamaka is because the Talmud states "Cover your head in order that the fear of heaven may be upon you." Some halachic authorities believe this command needs to be followed at all times, while many others think it only applies to religious events. That's why certain types of orthodox Jews may wear a yamaka at all times, while plenty of other men who practice Judaism only wear it when they're in a synagogue or participating in a religious ceremony.
- If you've ever wondered "why don't women wear yamakas," you're not alone. Plenty of people are under the impression that only men wear this piece of ritual clothing. While you shouldn't feel bad about not knowing, there actually are women who wear yamakas. It's most common for women who are part of a Conservative or Reform synagogue to do so. And even though all forms of ritual clothing are only worn by men in Orthodox communities, the women who make up those communities commonly keep their hair covered with a scarf or hat.
- Judaism follows a very specific set of rules for circumcising newborn boys. At the core of these rules is the Brit Milah, which is the ceremony that's held on the eighth day of a newborn boy's life. During this ceremony, the boy is placed in Elijah's Chair. The reason this gesture is part of the Brit Milah is because Elijah is the guardian of all children. It's also interesting to note that even though the ceremony generally lasts for just a couple of hours, the chair is left in the same position for a full three days.
- Passover is a celebration of the Jewish people's liberation from slavery in ancient Egypt. Each year, the world's largest Passover seder takes place in Nepal. Their most recent celebration attracted a full 2,000 people. Another interesting fact about Passover is even though Coke is considered kosher during most of the year, because Passover's laws prohibit high-fructose corn syrup, Coca-Cola does a limited edition run each year of Coke with real sugar in it. Those bottles can be identified by their yellow cap.
- Although the dreidel is now thought of as a fun toy for children, it originally served a very important purpose. Because Jewish students could only study the Torah in secret, if any Greek soldiers came around, students would start playing with a dreidel so the soldiers wouldn't know they were actually reading something that was prohibited.
Don Schlossberg is an orthodox jewish rabbi, avid writer and published poet. In his spare time he can be found spending time in the great outdoors with his family and living a kosher lifestyle.