Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Orthodoxy and Orthodoxy

I just read a fantastic book. And the interesting thing is that the author so happens to be my aunt now. She's my husband's mother's brother's wife (...'s cousin's great-aunt's former roommate ...), Maria Poggi Johnson. She lives midst an Orthodox Jewish community in Scranton, PA. Her book on what she's learned is Strangers and Neighbors. Unfortunately, I haven't yet been able to meet this new aunt of mine and her family, but I'm sure they would have story upon story.

I for one misunderstood the world of Orthodox Judaism. My husband and I are Orthodox Christians, and I still understood it to be an entirely different approach to faith. Granted, there are large differences between Judaism and Christianity (oh hey there, Jesus), but Maria laid out how much we can learn from them. I still believe that Orthodox Judaism and Orthodox Christianity are pretty dissimilar, but the hearts we have behind our disciplines are closer than I thought. These Jews actually make me feel pretty lazy. While we have disciplines, such as prayer and fasting, and we each honor the Sabbath in our own way, Orthodox Jews take the law literally and to heart in observing its specific rules and regulations. But, like those in the Orthodox Church, the benefits are meaningful. They bring us closer to God and understanding His very nature. They bring us closer to ourselves and what we were made to be.

My favorite chapter in Maria's book is the 4th one. She discusses the holiness, the set-apartness of the Orthodox Jewish people. Even as adults, we all try to fit in, conform to what it is that people are doing. I think we have an underlying fear of exposure. Blending in is easier. The Orthodox understand they are different, but that is not their curse; it's their calling. They are meant to stand out, to be God's people and to be known as such. What an amazing call to receive with fervency and with so much joy.

I highly recommend this book, for each chapter is just as good. And there's a lot we all can learn, no matter what our faith.

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