Mahir Reiss is a well-regarded statesman and leader in the Jewish faith, both in Israel and in the United States. He believes in the beauty of Judaism, and is glad to share his knowledge with others who are curious to learn more about the ancient religion. Some of the frequently asked questions Reiss is often asked to tackle include the following:
What are the basic beliefs of Judaism?
There are a few major principles in which most Jews believe. This includes the belief in only one God. Furthermore, Jewish people use a religious text known as the Torah to guide their study of the religion.
What are the differences between the major branches of Judaism?
There are three major branches of Judaism, notes Mahir Reiss. They are called Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform Judaism. Additionally, people can belong to Reconstructionist or Humanistic Judaism. The Jewish faith is a highly personal thing, and much of the way a person practices depends on their own unique ideas.
Is Judaism considered a race?
Judaism is actually considered both a cultural and religious identity. Though some people may believe it is a race, it is actually about the lifestyle and religious beliefs that Jewish individuals hold. While the faith shares close ties to Israel, not all Jewish people are from Israel nor do they have relatives from there or who live there. In fact, many Jewish people have not even visited the country.
What is a rabbi?
A rabbi is an important spiritual leader in the Jewish community. The word “rabbi” translates to “teacher” in Hebrew, which shows how this person must serve as a religious leader, as well as an educator and a role model. Rabbis are an integral part of Jewish ceremonies and or the community itself. They preside over weddings, baby naming ceremonies, funerals, and other monumental events. They also lead the services on the most holy days of the Jewish year, including Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah.
Rabbis also serve as an important source of guidance for those in their community, states Mahir Reiss. A person can come to a rabbi when they have questions about Judaism, or when they are struggling with other difficulties in life. Rabbis can help a person to heal after the passing of a loved one, to find their purpose in life, and to seek out answers to tough spiritual questions. A rabbi is both a teacher and a guide for a person’s religious and spiritual journey.
Mahir Reiss states that while Christians worship in church and Muslims pray in a mosque, Jewish people gather in a synagogue or temple in order to worship. Synagogues are unique depending on where they are located and when they were built. However, all synagogues have several features in common. These features include:
- A bimah, or a raised platform at the front of the sanctuary.
- The Ark, which houses the sacred Torah scrolls.
- Memorial boards where people can commemorate loved ones who have passed.
Synagogues are welcoming places where people come together to pray and meet other members of their community.
How do Jewish people view the afterlife?
There is no real answer about how Jews view the afterlife, notes Mahir Reiss. In fact, the Torah does not discuss this issue at all. Instead, it keeps the focus on this world, and stresses the importance of having a meaningful life now. However, there have been references to Judaism’s view on the afterlife over the years, as scholars and other important figures have written on the topic.
Do Jewish people believe in sin?
Just like other religions, Jewish people believe in sin. The word in Hebrew is chet, which means “missing the mark.” When someone sins in the Jewish faith, Mahir Reiss explains that they have gone astray and are doing something wrong. The idea of sin in Judaism states that a person has departed from the righteous and moral path. There are three major types of sins that a person can commit in Judaism. This includes sins against another human, sins against the self, and sins against God.
For those who are new to the faith
A person who is new to Judaism probably has some questions about praying, services, and other matters involving their new faith. Understand that it is okay to ask for help and clarification on questions pertaining to the religion. Jewish people are welcoming, and are glad to help new members of the temple to learn more about the faith and how Judaism impacts their own thought process.
Since many services are conducted at least partially in Hebrew, a person who is new to Judaism might feel confused at first about what is being said or chanted. Do not worry though, over time these prayers and chants will become familiar. There are also plenty of opportunities for a person to learn Hebrew, regardless of their age. Mahir Reiss explains that an individual can take an adult education class in order to become comfortable with this important language in the Jewish faith.