A Jew is someone whose mother is Jewish, a fairly sensible precaution as the father could be anyone. This way even children of mixed faiths over the years kept the Jewish nation alive as long as the men played ball.
It is possible to convert to Judaism but it tends to be reserved for Goy (non-Jewish) women who are married to Jews. The religious hurry them through the conversion process so that the kids will be on the right side of the line marking out the Chosen People. Generally, though the religious Jews have no interest whatsoever in the Goys.
If you’re a religious Jew then you’re supposed to follow the 613 commandments, some of which are incredibly specific, detailing how you feed your animals, how you light your candles and whether you make your wife happy in bed or not.
Among the commandments given to Moses are the kosher laws about proper diet. Whilst it may be that items like shellfish are prohibited because the Israelites got diarhea from eating them when the Red Sea parted, there’s also some sensible stuff in there, like not combining heavy proteins like milk and meat – ostensibly because you don’t want to cook the kid in the mother’s milk.
The next big commandment to remember is that, as God rested on the 7th day, so should Jews. The first day of the week is Sunday and the Jewish day starts at sunset, so Friday evening marks the beginning of the Sabbath and families come together to drink wine, eat a lot of food and argue. (note the Christians changed the day of rest to Sunday so as to appear less Jewish and avoid persecution from the Romans)
All Jewish boys are circumcised as babies, following the example of Abraham and at the age of 13 they become a man with the Bar Mitzvah ceremony. For girls, it’ not such a big deal, as usual with the desert religions but they also have a party to celebate their arrival to womanhood with the Bat Mitzvah.
Jews worship in the synagogue where services are led by the local rabbi, a word meaning teacher. The rabbi has traditionally been the community leader, judge, advisor and social worker in the Jewish community.
The Jewish Canon
The Torah is equivalent to the Christian Old Testament but is the original version, rather than the translation of a translation that the Christians occasionally refer to. It’s the base of Jewish studies and every Israeli will learn the stories in school. It contains all the commandments, the stories of the prophets and is the building block of the Jewish cancon.
The Talmud is a commentary of the most learned rabbis discussing the application of biblical law in the Torah. Whilst some of the Talmud goes very deep, other parts are dedicated to discussions like ‘if my uncle’s donkey eats a carrot growing on my side of the fence and then shits in his neighbour’s yard, who is liable to clean it up?’
This is very typical of Judaism as it’s a very intellectual tradition based on the science of argument. Moses argued even with God and modern day Israelis piously observe the sanctity of loud, voracious dispute. ‘Don’t let God trample you underfoot’ was the message from the Torah.
The Jewish canon is absolutely immense and there’s no way one person could study it all in a lifetime. Even to study one page of Torah can take a week as each letter corresponds to a number which can be juggled around until even Dan Brown would call you paranoid.
Most famous these days though, partly thanks to the dabbling of Madonna, is the Kabalah. This is the main mystic book of the Jews but it’s only open to men over 40 who have had 2 children. They don’t want any excitable teenagers getting into the esoteric stuff before their time.
Some now believe that the Kabalah should be open to everyone of all races and ages, that the time for conservation of hidden secrets has come to an end and a new age is come. But Madonna isn’t likely to get an invite to Jerusalem any time soon.