Answers from an Orthodox Jew


On a side note, I have both books in the series (unless more have since been released) and they’re a great resource for Jews or Christians who want to learn more about Judaism. The second book is simply titled, “The Second Jewish Book of Why.” I’m discovering how much more true to Judaism is the Catholic church compared to protestant churches I’ve attended (except the Messianic Jewish church, of course.)


I don’t think I’ve ever heard of kneeling on its own as a form of worship. Prostration used to be a common mode of Jewish worship. It was always used in the Holy Temple instead of bowing, as we do today. Nowadays, at least in Ashkenazi synagogues, prostration is only done on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, and then only for a brief moment at certain parts of the service. This involves going on your knees first, of course, and then bowing your head to the ground, similar to what Muslims do. Otherwise, during the rest of the year, the most serious prayers are said standing, and bowing at certain places.
I’m fuzzy on why prostration went out of style, so to speak, but it may perhaps have something to do with not appearing to imitate Christian forms of worship. That explanation doesn’t make a lot of sense to me but I haven’t looked into it further.

Incidentally, when we prostrate, we must place some kind of divider (usually a rug mat) between our bodies and the floor, because the practice of idol worshippers in ancient times was to prostrate on a bare stone floor.


In Eastern Orthodox church we can also stand while praying and sometimes it is prefered as a bigger self-sacrifice (when the Scripture is read the priest says “straight, let us take notice”). We have to stand in church during the liturgy (even if today seating is permeated but traditionally we have to stand) and during special prayers dedicated to standing (“akathist” meaning literally to stand). Like I said standing is considered a reverence and a self-sacrifice.
When we beg for mercy we have to kneel with both feet and touch the ground with our head.


Lol I don’t think I ever answered this. I last watched FotR probably 15 years ago and don’t remember too much. It gets some things right and some things wrong about traditional shtetl life. The least realistic part is Tevye reconciling himself with his daughter marrying a Gentile.

I just remembered the funny line the rabbi said: “God bless and keep the Czar… far away from us!” That’s authentic Jewish humor!

I don’t listen to much popular music in general and I’m not especially familiar with Neil Diamond, but I do like the song America very much.


Interesting, thanks.


If someone is a transgendered individual, is this recognized by Judaism? If they are Jewish, and they are going from F to M, are they required to have a bris? And if so, how long after their gender reassignment?


I’m not sure there is a definitive answer to your question, but I really hope someone tries to answer it. It is an interesting question. Certainly, not the Orthodox Jews, but maybe in some reformed synagogues they’ve discussed it…


I don’t think the transition would be recognized in Orthodox Jewish law. For example, a woman is exempt from certain commandments. Could a man nullify certain of his obligations merely by having surgery done? This also doesn’t take into account the prohibition of castration. Afraid I don’t really know almost anything about this topic so I can’t speak intelligently about it.


The Mishnah and Talmud refer to as many as six (some say eight) gender variations. How this is interpreted according to Jewish law is a matter of discussion and controversy. Of course it is: we are talking about Judaism, after all! The writings of Rabbi Elliot Kukla, the first openly ordained transgender Reform rabbi, are a good source of discussion on the topic.


Where is the line between freedom of religion and where secular government should not allow religious practice? In New York 2017, a Mohel was called out for giving infants herpies for oral circumcision. Is this still a common practice within the jewish tradition? Should we outlaw this practice?

Should we outlaw all religious branding on infants and children; only allow religious body augmentation for people 18 years and older?


Here we go boys…


Any and all medical procedures carry with them certain levels of risk, but we don’t necessarily outlaw them. Circumcision for Jews (and Muslims) is more than a medical procedure; it is a sacred religious ceremony. I do not think it should be outlawed. It is in the vast majority of cases perfectly safe, both physically and psychologically. If male circumcision is banned in the US, perhaps we should also ban the Eucharistic religious ritual of drinking wine from the chalice since this practice may spread disease if the chalice is not thoroughly cleaned after each participant. This is just as ridiculous a notion, in my view, and, more important, a violation of religious freedom. As an atheist, you should appreciate religious liberty because if there is no freedom for believers, there is also no freedom for non-believers.


So you don’t see a difference between physical augmentation (aka religious branding) and drinking a drink?
You don’t see an issue with forcing another person to have their body augmented, without their consent, as long as it is done medically safely?
You seem to be confusing the issue between elective body augmentation and a medically necessary procedure. Circumcision is not a medically necessary procedure, but it is commonly done by medical professionals. When the procedure is done by a Mohel, and then the skin is sucked off orally, is the Mohel a medical doctor in a medical facility, following medically prescribed practices, with a medically justified reason?

I’m fine with religious branding for adults only. Adults can augment their body all they want. Not children though. Do you not see why I draw a line here?


No, I do not see. The procedure is performed on infants as a sanctified religious ceremony of great importance to Jews, even those who are not particularly religious. It is an integral part of Jewish law and tradition. It has been going on for centuries and AFAIK with very rare ill effects. It is not a barbaric or monstrous procedure, but rather one of great joy and holiness. Most of the babies who grow up having been circumcised are perfectly fine in every way: physically, sexually, spiritually, emotionally. Any ban of the procedure is, in my view, an indication of insensitivity, at best, to the practice of Judaism.


What do you mean as opposed? Christians stand up to worship and also prostrate.


You must be joking… :roll_eyes:


Freedom of religion ends where the right to genital integrity and bodily autonomy begins.


Why do you think I am joking? I have many Jewish friends and none of them remembers being circumcised, and neither do I. It has had no negative effect on our lives whatsoever.


Are there any rites for girls that make them part of the Jewish people?


None in particular comes to mind although the Bat Mitzvah does exist. In general, women are excused from the so-called positive commandments but must pay attention to the negative commandments (things they should NOT do). It has been said that women are excused from many positive commandments because they have more faith than men to begin with. In the home, however, it is the woman who lights the Sabbath candles and ushers in the Sabbath, and the woman who prepares the Sabbath meal, keeps a kosher home, and prepares for holy days.

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