How does one practice 21st Century Judaism?

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Answered by: Uriel, An Expert in the Jewish Living Category
We live in an incredibly fast-paced, on-the-go society today. It seems as though employers, friends and family are expecting us to always be on our phones and in constant communication with almost no break for ourselves. We are constantly bombarded by advertisements for fast food restaurants that are neither healthy nor Kosher. Sometimes it can seem incredibly difficult for us to operate in this 21st Century world while still trying to live our lives with some sort of Jewish framework. I call this phenomenon 21st Century Judaism.

Shabbat, as the holiest day of the week for Jews we are obligated to refrain from work and keep this day Holy. It can seem hard to do when our employers are expecting us to come in to work one Saturday a month or if our children want to be in a soccer league that schedules games primarily on Saturdays. As Jews trying to live within a Jewish framework we must draw a line somewhere. If you are committed to keeping Saturday, or Shabbat Holy, then there will be things you have to do that may not be easy.

You have to tell your boss, "I will never be able to come in on Saturdays, but I can come in on Sundays to take care of any extra work. To a friend who has a birthday party on a Friday night 10 or 15 miles away you can reply, "I would love to come but I can't make it because of Shabbat, I would love to take you out to dinner on Sunday though." When your children want to play in a Soccer league that has games on Saturday, visit the local JCC and see if there are any leagues for children there, they will surely not schedule games on Saturday. You could even explore the option of enrolling your child in a Jewish Day School.

When it comes to eating Kosher there are many ways we can operate within this world of 21st Century Judaism. If an old friend is coming into town and asks you to go out to dinner at a non-Kosher restaurant with him and some other friends you can say "I would love to go but I can't eat there, how about I meet you for drinks after?" If you are at a business dinner and you don't want to be rude you can always order a side of freshly cut fruit which will both keep the others at the table feeling comfortable and allow you to eat a Kosher dish (taking advantage of certain halachic leniences of course) and if you are not comfortable with that approach you can always say, Im sorry but I am not feeling so well, or explain that you are on a very strict diet at this point. If they are polite they will not press you for anymore information.

Living Jewishly and living in this world requires some fancy footwork. One needs to be both flexible and firm when approaching every decision. It is however quite possible to live a rewarding, fun-filled life both as a Jew and a modern 21st century human.

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