This book, written by Lauren F. Winner, in 1995, shares so much every Christian should know about basic down to earth Jewish cultural life that we would do well to incorporate into our own. The book is an eye opener and it challenges our way of living our everyday lives.
Catholics have some grasp about having community through the sacraments, but for the most part contemporary Evangelicals in their desire to be "Protestant" have disengaged themselves from living the Christian life in community. Not that we don't pray, but we do not pray enough nor in a cohesive fashion. Not that we don't grieve, and culturally we do, but not as clearly and orderly as we should. Not that we do not rest, no we hardly rest to tell the truth. In fact our society is filled with people who can not sleep and our stores are open everyday of the week, with no respect for the Sabbath commercially, either on Saturday or Sunday.
It was refreshing to see how in the Jewish culture and religion, there is not only a prescribed way to rest (The Shabbat) but also to marry, to mourn, and to age, just to mention a few that were noted in the book. I know I have to go back and reread. Her chapter on mourning alone, was monumental to me having suffered the death of a dearly beloved brother, the untimely death of a friend of the family by suicide, and knowing more will come. Who is exempt of any of the topics that are discussed here?
If I could incorporate some of the things spoken about in her book, and actually I had already started before reading her book, is honoring the Sabbath, placing a mezuzah, and grieving honorably. We can all do this. Setting aside time to honor God, doing his will on either Saturday or Sunday or both, and resting. Though as Christians we should be doing that everyday as we live in faith. The difference is that doing it specifically sets us apart. It would do us well to be set apart, I think. I am going to put a mezuzot (mezuzah is the singular) on my doorposts and we can all do this. A mezuzah is scripture written on parchment which says, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart... You shall write them on your doorposts of your house and on your gates"*
Another thing I learned from the book is the Jewish way of mourning. Long ago in my own Puerto Rican culture, people grieved respectfully. You also respected those who were mourning. You wore black at least for a month when someone died. People were quiet and solemn at funerals. Those who were Catholic prayed the rosary for weeks in a person's home. There was the recognition that the loss was felt, those suffering were worthy of consideration, and that God was involved in our eternal destiny. The absence of a strong valuable tradition has left a void and people feel it. It would do us all good to adapt and/or adopt many of these Jewish traditions which only enhance and speak of our faith in our everyday lives; after all they all point to our Jewish Messiah, Yeshua/Jesus.
Thank you Lauren for having written this book. Your writing style was exemplary and the message needed. I look forward to reading more. God bless.
*quoted from pp 131-132, Originally from Deuteronomy chapters 6 and 11.