The ESP of the
Jewish Way of Life
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The ESP of the Jewish Way of Life
Dear BeingJewish.org visitor:
Many have told me that the 3 ESP circles helped them understand
Judaism so much better. Here's a short explanation, based
on a question someone once email to me plus an amazing real life
IS JUDAISM A RELIGION OR A RACE?
I have a very simple question, is Judaism a religion or a race?
I know it may be a dumb question but I have asked a few Jews I
know and they all give me different answers. I am not
Jewish I'm African American, but my great-grandfather is
supposedly Jewish. I just want to know if it is possible
to have "Jew" in you, like it's possible to have
Italian or Indian.
Your question is not dumb at all! A lot of people
including many Jewish people have a hard time answering as you
have already discovered. There is much to say on this
subject of WHAT IS JUDAISM ANYWAY? In fact, it is one of
the first chapters of my book. But here, I will try to
give you a brief answer:
Here is my answer: Judaism is much more than a religion and is
NOT a race. I define Judaism as: A way of life.
The Jewish way of life consist of 3 things that I call E.S.P.
E stands for Ethics, S stands for Spirituality and P stands for
Peoplehood. I draw them like overlapping Olympic rings as
you can see in this graphic.
| The ESP of
Jewish Way of Life
In Judaism, each of these circles is considered sacred.
The interesting (and confusing thing for many) is that a Jew can
live in any one of these circles and never enter the other
circles. Plus you can enter the other 2 circles from any
one circle. In addition, the circles overlap so you can
simultaneously live Jewishly in 2 or all 3 circles.
This can be a confusing, but really it is kind of simple.
For example, when I say that Judaism is much more than a
religion, I mean that even if you do not believe in God you're
not disqualified from being a Jew. For example, Hitler
sure did not define Jews by their Spirituality! He cared
about Peoplehood. In addition, Jews are supposed to behave
Ethically whether they enter the Spirituality circle -- that is,
whether they believe in God or not!
Here I want to say a word about the Peoplehood circle: according
to Jewish law, to be considered Jewish by birth at least one of
your parents must be Jewish. (Many Jews say you must be
born from a Jewish mother -- but I won't get into that here.)
HOWEVER! Judaism is NOT a race -- though our enemies love
to call us a race. Any person of any race is welcome to
convert to Judaism...if Judaism were a race, you could not
convert to become a Jew. Nobody can convert to become
another race -- but anyone can convert to become Jewish.
There are Jews of all races and colors -- for proof, just look
at a city street in Israel. I want to make an important
point here: Many people (including Jews) think the emphasis on
Jews marrying other Jews is repulsive racist thinking. I
would be repulsed too...if Judaism were a race...but it is not.
Again, Judaism is a way of life.
The ESP of the Jewish "way of life" is all
encompassing. There is no aspect of life that is not
included in either Ethics, Spirituality, Peoplehood or all
three. There is much more that can be said about the ESP
circles of Judaism...in fact, you could write a whole book on
the subject. I did! Hope this brief summary helps!
An Amazing and True Story!
To reiterate, the reason I think so many people have a difficult
time defining Judaism is because a Jew can live Jewishly in any
one of the three circles and never touch the other circles.
Plus a Jew can move from circle to circle during their life --
or even during a day. At any given moment, a Jew can live
in one circle or another or live in a place where the circles
Here is a story that illustrates what I mean. I was giving
a presentation about Jewish Spirituality near Norfolk Virginia,
home of the largest US naval base in the world. A fellow
raised his hand and said, "I'd like to share an example of
how Jewish Peoplehood and Spirituality happened to me in a most
He explained that he was an Army combat helicopter pilot for 12
years and he fought in Operation Desert Storm -- the Persian
Gulf War of 1991. While he was in Saudi Arabia, he was
prohibited by military order from outwardly showing that he was
Jewish. That meant, he could not wear a Star of David, a
mezuzah or a Chai pendant. He was even advised to remove
the word Jewish from his dog tags!
The reason? To protect the Jewish soldiers should they be
captured by the Iraqis and also because the Saudis were
sensitive that non-Muslim soldiers were on Saudi soil defending
the holiest sites in Islam: Mecca and Medina.
December rolled around and this soldier received an envelope
marked TOP SECRET! The big secret? There was going
to be a Chanukah party! The Jewish soldiers in his
division and the neighboring division were invited. He
described how he gathered in the middle of the Saudi desert
about 300 kilometers from anywhere with about a dozen other
Jewish soldiers to celebrate Chanukah. Then he hastened to
add "I'm not an observant Jew, I'm not a religious guy, I'm
not even sure I could say the blessings over the candles.
But when a Jewish chaplain arrived after driving across an empty
desert to be with us, lit the menorah candles with us, said the
blessing and then served us potato latkes and gefilte fish, it
was one of the most powerful spiritual Jewish experience of my
life...in part because I was there in Saudi Arabia with my
This is a dramatic example of how Jewish Peoplehood and
Spirituality can overlap and happen simultaneously. In my
experience, most Jews live most of the time very aware of the
Peoplehood circle... a feeling that there are differences
between them and their non-Jewish neighbors and that they share
things in common with other Jews. Even the most
non-practicing, disconnected Jew feels the Peoplehood circle if
an anti-Semite gets on the media and attacks Jews. The
response from them or almost any Jews is "Hey! You
are talking about me and my people and I don't like what you are
saying!" Awareness of, feeling or accessing the other
two circles, Spirituality and Ethics is not as obvious for most
Regardless of where on the diagram Jews find themselves living,
the ultimate goal of Judaism would be for all three of these
circles to overlap one on top of each other all of the time.
When they do, a Jew feels a connection to the Jewish Ethics,
Jewish Spirituality and Jewish Peoplehood at the same time.
hope through this website we can show you relevant ways to
access each of the ESP circles and where they overlap, so that
in your modern life, you can more fully enjoy the wisdom and
beauty of Being Jewish!
Please feel free to email me
with your comments.
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