Wednesday, November 30, 2011

One-Word Summaries

A Catholic friend of ours here attended a several-sessions-long seminar on Judaism. In the last session, the Rabbi asked people how they would summarize, in one word, what it meant to be a Jew. The rabbi's answer: "Covenant." Jews, he explained, are the People of the Covenant. They have this contract with God that nobody else has, in other words, I suppose he meant.

He summarized Islam in the word, "Obedience", which I suppose is fair, as the very word "Islam" means, "submission". I might have said, "Koran".

And then, asked to summarize Christianity, the rabbi said, "Sin".



John Martin said...

I think “Incarnation” is a better one-word summary.

Chris Jones said...

The one-word summary has to be Jesus.

It's too bad the Rabbi didn't ask for two words. The phrase Jesus Christ (name and title) contains our whole faith. You can spend your whole life learning more and more deeply what it means to confess that Jesus is the Messiah.

James the Thickheaded said...

Fascinating. I'd wonder that the "covenant" or "obedience" doesn't result in a contractual relationship.

Long ago in college, an Islamic fellow summed up the Gospels simply as "Love: a love story".

Sarah in Indiana said...

! indeed. What a sad commentary on how Christianity is perceived by non-Christians. It shows what poor Evangelists we are, since either love or hope immediately struck me as a good choice to confer the message of Christianity. Though I agree with Chris that Jesus is the really the only choice since both of these words is embodied in Him.

Unknown said...

Since I am a Christian, many may be offended by this, but to me, tzedakah/justice is what embodies Jews and Judaism. It is a biblical and rabbinic concept that carries the idea that Jews are obligated to pursue social and economic justice. Even as St. Paul yearned for the salvation of his people, I yearn for Christians to be as concerned about justice and righteousness as my Jewish brothers and sisters are. Moreover, they are not driven by having to “witness to their faith”, but simply by the need to alleviate people’s misery. I have no illusion about the Jewish people being perfect, but I know no people who, in spite of having been persecuted savagely more than any people who have ever lived, can always be found on the side of justice for the deprived, the poor, and the unjustly persecuted.

Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

I was thinking my one-word summary would be "Christ", but "Jesus" would also fill the bill. "Incarnation" is good and has Jesus' own backing as the bedrock of His Church. But still, the very fact that this has His authority shows that He Himself is our religion.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Dear George,

ISTM there's much truth in what you say, and I can't imagine anyone being offended by it. I see many Jews who do fit your description.

But -- well, tell that to Isaiah, or Ezekiel, or other Prophets. There is the flip side.

And in today's world, I'm thinking Ruper Murdoch, Bernie Madoff, Abramoff, Paul Volcker, Alan Greenspan, Ben Bernanke, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers. I'm thinking Wolfowitz and Perle and Douglas Faith...

And the founders of the modern State of Isral who, drawing exactly the wrong lesson from the Holocaust, felt it necessary to stoop to terrorism. Look at the way the Palestinians are treated, under the cloak, ironically, of anti-terrorism. Okay, putting aside the Palestinians as controversial, you, as a Christian, would find much not to like in the way you were treated if you lived in Israel today.

So it's a mixed picture, as with all of us. I think the rabbi was right; from my observation as an outsider not knowing anyone's heart, it does appear that most Jews, observant or not, are imbued with this feeling of being one of The Chosen People.