I would like to begin from the end of what I have to say and that is… I want you to know the Torah better, the book given to our Jewish people by Moses when he descended from mount Sinai (Except for the part about Moses passing away written by Joshua, his follower).
It consists the first five books of what Christians call 'The Old Testimony' while we, Jewish people, simply call it The Torah, the book of instructions.
Leave religion aside, it simply is a great book we can learn from it both about our purpose as a society and function as individuals, body & mind. While people nowadays hire a personal coach for hundreds of dollars per hour to show them the way, they can use the Torah free of charge! While some of your friends quote legendary characters from 'Game of Thrones' (I am one of those nerdy friends) they have no patience to learn about biblical fascinating characters flesh & blood. It applies whether you are Jewish, Christian or Muslim (Well, Muslims won't like our version of the story, though).
When you dig in the Torah you actually realize it is merely a splendid set of lessons for life spiced up in thrilling stories that could have made a great TV series (go for it HBO), so instead of buying books about self improvement by mainly improving the author's bank account, read the Torah! Instead of travelling to remote places to have some mental therapy because 'checking in' to the church or synagogue on social media will not benefit you as many likes, read the Torah! (Actually, you can do both) It is is here for you, free of charge, and will benefit your life for good.
One of the things I like most about it is that it's not hypocrite or self-righteous. It doesn't glorify our ancestors as super humane beings, but on the contrary, it shows how fragile they are, constantly weighing their choices between good deeds to evil & lust. Darn it, it is so humane that even the Hebrew (Israeli Jewish language) word for masturbation ('Onenut') comes from the Torah after Onan refused to have a child with his sister in law, so he spilled his sperm on the ground cursing him with death and to be forever remembered by Israeli Jews when they play with their little one.
Judaism, and humanity in general, is just another smartphone held by The Nature (God) to be reset if we keep mess it up. In my blogs I will focus on the five books of the Torah: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy.
A little bit about my religious background:
I grew up in a Jewish secular family in Israel without visiting the synagogue or reading the Torah books, except for Bar Mitzvas or school's mandatory Bible lessons. All I knew was Shabbat is a Jewish holy day when you do not disturb your father while he is lying on his bed in his underwear listening to football matches on the radio; BTW 30 years passed and it is still his favorite hobby,
I knew that on Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) there is no channel aired on TV and people fast, so from the mid 80s when Video players were first introduced in Israel, we ran to the video library to carefully choose our favorite movies to survive the one day shut down; I knew that on Rosh Hashanna (Jewish new year) you eat an apple dipped in honey and TV will air the same 'Kind butterfly' (Popular Israeli TV children's show) episode in which late singer Ofra Haza will perform;
I knew that families gather on Passover to read the legend of our people's Exodus from Egypt and cease to do so after dinner is served. Only my mother carried on reading it after the meal was finished to honor the memory of her late parents, so I joined myself to honor her. Most important… I knew that not only God cut me several centimeters short, being Jewish, my parents decided to cut from my prick a few more .
And that's it, there it ended. When I was 11 years old my parents got divorced and family gatherings minimized to a couple, My mother and me I. Then I found out Holidays can also be the most lonely days.
Only when I was 17 years old I learned people do Kiddush on Shabbat dinners (Friday nights), blessing the wine & bread before having the festive meal. It was at my father's place with Suzi, his new wife, along with Meirav & Yuval, her daughter & son in law. It wasn't that religious with the TV airing in the background, yet it had a new sense of tradition into it. It was the first time I've ever seen a man standing to say some blessing over wine before sticking the fork into the Schnitzel dish (I ask the hens for forgiveness for not being Vegetarian back then). Yuval passed away years later and I wish to thank him for those beautiful memories.
After I completed my military service, my mother started working in a hotel in my home city, so I used to join her in the dining room for Shabbat dinners. Now, in every Jewish hotel you will find a Kosher supervisor in charge of making sure all food is Kosher as per the religion rules! This guy named Eli Getter embraced me with such warmth and kindness we became good friends. One Friday dinner I asked him to teach me how to bless the Kiddush myself, not out of Judaism, rather to prove I have a good memory. He gladly did so and it became my habit (These religious guys have some tricks in their sleeve to get you closer).
Doing a kiddush on Israeli-Jordanian border, while I was serving as the post commander:
Years passed and every time I suffered a breakup with some gorgeous Morrocan-Sephardic Jewish lady (My weakness) I took a vow to put the Tefillin (Cubic boxes containing scrolls of parchment we strap to our arms during morning prayer) if God will only help me get her back. Magically it worked until we broke up again and then both the girl and the Tefillin vanished, but not my vow.
It all stepped into a higher level when I landed in Siem Reap, Cambodia being 36 yo. We were only three Israelis living in the city (Actually there was another Israeli guy not keeping in touch as you must have one in any Jewish society). I became good friends with Koby, who owned a small restaurant which became a modest Jewish home on Friday nights. It was more than a friendship, it was Jewish brotherhood. When Koby left the city he kept the restaurant open and asked me to keep the tradition going, so to keep my promise and my friend happy I went on the streets to find Jewish people inviting them to Jewish dinners. Those were miraculous days with 10-20 people from all over the world sitting around the table waiting for me to complete the prayers. I took it so seriously I sang the long version including the parts in Aramic, an ancient language, which none understand. Without planning, I became the chief rabbi of the city (Though God works in mysterious ways). One day I was surprised to receive a call from Rabbi Bentzion from Phnom Penh, the kingdom's capital, congratulating me for the fine work I am practicing.
And as the idiom says "Comes easy won't last". Well it didn't come easy but it sure as hell disappeared fast when Koby closed the restaurant. I was left in the city alone (The other Israeli friend wanted nothing to do with tradition) and slowly by integrating into the local Cambodian community I distanced myself from my tradition until I didn't want anything to do with religion at all.
When I came to live in India some years later, I didn't want it to happen again so as soon as I arrived I went to Chabad house in Mumbai, a Jewish home away from home. I recalled the house was brutally attacked in 2008 when a group of terrorists targeted strategic places in the city, including Chabad house, murdering the Rabbi & Rebbetzin Gavriel & Rivka Holzberg with four of their guests. I have rarely visited Chabad houses before (Once in Phnom Penh to say hello to Rabbi Bentzion and second time in Prague when I took my mother for her birthday and wanted her to enjoy the Shabbat dinner). Chabad houses are all over the world doing splendid work reaching a warm hand to Jewish travelers, yet I felt it has nothing to do with me being so secular.
It wasn't easy to reach it as I lived far away. I had to take a rickshaw, change to the local train packed like a sardine with dozens of local people crashing me, take a ride in a black 50 years old taxi and wandering on foot asking people if they know the place. Eventually I reached all sweaty and smelly to find out the Rabbi is not there. I was disappointed and didn't wish to go back empty handed (& hearted), so I asked one of the young assistants to call him as I'm not a random Jewish traveler but a new Jewish expat in town looking for spiritual company. It worked and to my surprise the assistant asked me to follow him to the rabbi's residence. We walked a distance through alleys packed with goats, hens & local Indians buying & selling all sort of merchandise till we reached a building, climbed up the stairs, the assistant pointed at the door and quickly ran back down and vanished. I was thinking this rabbi must be some strict old man having his assistant slipping away so fast like that, yet to my surprise the door was opened by the most wide smile this city could offer of Rabbi Israel Kozlovsky. When I told him I moved living in the city he immediately replied :"Are you nuts? What on earth have you lost here?" Then I knew me & Chabad are going to become very good friends. (I told you these religious Jews have tricks).
In short… All I want to tell you is that as one who grew up being distant from religion I slowly became a mini traditional Chabad person in the last two years, blessing over Chapatis (Indian bread), putting Tefillin every morning with love without expecting some gorgeous Moroccan Jewish lady's love in return. Therefore I choose now to gift the world back with writing all of the Torah from my secular perspective, explaining it in simple words for anyone to understand. Maybe one day aliens will read my version on Shabbat in their spaceships somewhere in space.