Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Gates of Mitzvah: A Guide to the Jewish Lifecycle

Edited by Simeon J. Maslin

My introduction to Mitzvot.  They don't talk about mitzvot in Christianity.  You have commandments, but they aren't analogous.  Mitzvot are commandments, in that they are guidelines for life that come from a commander, but there's something more than that.  They're associated with blessings, and are meant to be a joy to perform.  Some are rituals tied to major life events, but others are about ethical living.

Events that have mitzvot are: birth of a child, education, marriage, and death/mourning.
The Bar (or Bat) Mitzvah is considered part of a child's religious education.  Keeping kosher is a mitzvah, but it's kind of a gray area.  It's not a lifecycle mitzvah, but it's not really an ethical one, either.

In Reform Judaism, it is more important to observe the ethical mitzvot than the ritualistic mitzvot.  This is in accordance with the idea that God is more concerned with how we live in practice than in how we live in show.  The intention is where the value lies.
There are a couple of essays on how to make mitzvah relevant in modern life.  The Reform movement believes that there is some freedom to choose which mitzvot to observe, because according to Isaiah and Micah, God is not satisfied by mechanical, empty-minded worship.  He wants his people to exercise their free will and choose to worship.  When viewed through this lens, some traditional mitzvot lose their power.

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