People often have many of the same curiosities and concerns. In my travels, I've frequently been asked many of the same questions. Here is a brief list of some of the most common:
Do you have to be a Jew to be a good person?
The Talmud (the record of rabbinic teachings) says that pious people from any nation have a place in the World to Come. You don’t have to be Jewish to be good. That is why Judaism does not believe that only Jews are “saved.”
Can you be a good Jew and a bad person?
Absolutely not. The Torah contains laws that apply between human beings and those that relate to God. To be a good Jew one has to try one’s best to keep both. No one is perfect. But a Jew who consistently disregards the laws relating to other humans is the same as one who disregards the laws relating to God.
Does being “chosen” mean one is automatically better?
The Bible talks about Jews having been picked to fulfill a specific mission of living an intense spiritual and good life. A “Nation of Priests,” a nation selected to live a particular way of life. Being chosen for a specific task. If we fail, we suffer the consequences - as we often have. There are no silver bullets. Being better depends entirely on how we behave.
Do Jews want to rule the world?
Not at all. We respect all ethical nations. We only want to be allowed to live the way of life we choose and to have the option of ruling ourselves. We want the word to be an ethical better place and nations to stop fighting each other.
Why do Jews not accept Jesus as the Messiah?
The Jewish concept of the Messiah is of the creation of a better life on earth without oppression and violence. It hasn’t yet happened.
If there really is a God, who controls the universe, why does he allow atrocities to occur?
The universe functions according to the way it was designed. It has evolved with natural phenomena like earthquakes or tsunamis which are not, in themselves, bad except for those humans who are unfortunate enough to be in the way. The world requires bacteria to function - which do things we like and need - but can also cause diseases. We are designed to die. And we humans have decision making faculties that often make very wrong decisions (as well as good ones). Some of us kill, rape and torture while others give, care and protect. Some argue it's the genes within us that produce psychopaths or saints. Do we really expect God to intervene every time for every one of the billions of humans on earth? We cannot know the mind of God. We can only accept and do our best.
So if we cannot change God’s mind why do we pray?
Prayer is a way of expressing our needs, our pain and our joy. And God is usually the object of our prayer as our symbolic parent. This does not mean we always expect God to do as we ask. God has a perspective which is not the same as ours. It is similar to expressing our love, appreciation and anxieties to our parents because we feel they love us and care for us even if we know we will not always get what we ask for. It is rather childish to think of God as Superman, always intervening to save us! Even if we believe God does intervene in human affairs, we can never know how or when in advance. It is natural to ask and to pray for things we want. It is unnatural to expect one will always be answered.
Does Judaism accept homosexuality?
The Torah considers the ideal of sexual relations as being within a heterosexual marriage. Homosexuality is non-normative. The Torah considers lots of acts, sexual and otherwise, to be non-normative. These include actions like theft, deception, gossip and offending people. To pick on homosexuals, when there is every reason to think it is genetic, is immoral. After all, the Talmud recognized different kinds of genetic variations. I believe one needs to be sensitive, welcoming and supportive to all kinds of people who make choices others may not always agree with or find comfortable. That is the essence of a caring society and love between human beings and God.