General Question

pallen123's avatar

Jewish view on rosaries, totems?

Asked by pallen123 (1514points) September 7th, 2008

I’m Jewish and I know we’re not supposed to idolize anything, but what does Judaism say, if anything, about things like totems that help you remember those that have died, or say gifting a small memento from Israel to someone that is ill, so they can hold it for emotional courage?

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7 Answers

AstroChuck's avatar

I’m not Jewish but i have a friend who is Seventh Day Adventist. They view jewelry and charms as false idols. I’ve never understood the connection. Are you worshipping these items? No? Then how does that violate the rules that are dictated in the ten commandments?

augustlan's avatar

I’m not sure on the specific things you’ve mentioned, but to mourn the dead Jews sit “shiva”: sitting on hard surfaces, covering all mirrors…the whole idea is discomfort. To remember the dead, special candles are lit on Jewish holidays (and possibly other times) that are allowed to burn for 24 hours, and are not be blown out…they burn themselves out.

susanc's avatar

Rituals are different from fetish items. They take place in time and so at a point in time
(when the candles burn down on their own, for example) they’ve done their work and we
move on. A fetish item gives a (false?) sense of power to the holder. It can go forward in time indefinitely in your pocket. It’s not situationally bounded. If anything, a good strong fetish item can gain power until it outpowers the holder. This doesn’t keep the holder in touch with the great spirit, perhaps – maybe it makes the holder feel that s/he IS the great spirit. Not good. On the other hand, a little sand from the Holy Land could also just be a
kind of reminder, like the separated dishes in a kosher kitchen. A signal.

The ban against fetish objects in the 10 Commandments
was designed to steer people away from the famed Golden Calf, and help people to focus on ideas rather than objects.

A rosary is an aid to prayer. No one worships a rosary. It’s a tool. Like Chuck said.

susanc's avatar

Oops I’m not Jewish either. Sorry. Waiting for better info now.

omfgTALIjustIMDu's avatar

I’m Jewish, and I’d say that anything more than a tombstone for someone who has died is bordering on idolatry. I would view a shrine, or anything of the sort, as idolatry. In terms of bringing back something from Israel for someone who is ill, well let’s just say I do it every time I go to Israel. I don’t think bringing back a piece of our homeland to someone who can’t physically be there is anywhere near idolatry, because the point would be so that the ill person would be able to be closer to God through something from the land God gave to us.

srmorgan's avatar

Look, when you bring home something from Israel, it’s a souvenir, not a religious totem. We don’t have such things.

We post a mezzuzah on our door(s), my cousins wear Tzitzit (I don’t), we lay Tefiliin. Each of these OBJECTS are used in religious ritual and have a religious connotation, but with the exception of the insert in the mezuzzah, perhaps.

A kippot or a talis has no intrinsic religious value, it is only an object used in the performance of rituals or of obeying the commandments.

When my father died last year, I received in the mail certificates that someone had paid to plant a tree in Israel in his memory. It’s not a religious object, it’s a tree. The gesture is symbolic, the object is ordinary.


drhat77's avatar

biblically, judaism prohibits the extent of death rites that the ancient egyptians went to. Jewish death rituals focus on comforting the living, not worshiping the deceased. as long as that distinction is kept, then i think it is okay.
also, with amulets (like mezzuzahs) it’s important to remember in judaism that the amulet itself is not a source of protection or courage or healing whathaveyou. sometimes people need to hold security items to make them feel better, and that’s okay, as long as the distinction is made that it’s not the item itself which does anything.

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