Besides commandments and ethical laws of living, Judaism has a series of observances and practices called the Halakha that do a considerable part of their practice. For this reason, since Judaism does not make great distinctions between religious and non-religious rules and laws, many of these practices have a religious and an ethical meaning (Edelheit & Edelheit, 2000). Moreover, given the great Diaspora, Judaism has suffered in the last millennium, these rules serve as a corpus of laws regarding what it is to be a Jew and the rules and attribution it has. In this essay, we shall speak about two of these laws: the religious dietary rules known as Kosher in English and Kashrut in Hebrew; and the observance of the Sabbath.
Regarding the rules of Kashrut, there is much speculation regarding why the Jews decided to maintain such strict dietary laws since the Torah just warns them to abstain from certain foods, but does not provide a rationale in that respect (Leviticus: 11:3-36, 1958). However, besides the restrictions the Law imposed over Jews, many scholars have argued that the rules of the Kashrut might be rooted in precepts such as the hygiene of the preparations and that without proper care during the slaughter the animals can become contaminated, rendering them unable to be consumed. On the other hand, kosher laws seem to have a more anthropological rationale since these laws help to separate Jews from non-Jews, forbidding them from marrying other people as a way to maintain the Jewish community as a closed one, a community that keeps a distinct existence and does not mingle in the business of the others.
Regarding the observance of the Sabbath, the Torah states that Jews have to remember Sabbath and keep it holy (Exodus: 20:8, 1958). But apart from those biblical teachings of keeping the last day of the week holy to commemorate God’s rest after the seventh day of creation, the Talmud provides a series of restrictions on things that cannot be done on Sabbath. For instance, prohibitions from moving too far, using vehicles or lighting fires can be found in the Talmud (Talmud: III,1982). However, Sabbath is not as regarded by contemporary Jews as it was in the ancient times and only a small percentage of them observe Sabbath’s laws and prohibitions. Likewise, it is possible that Sabbath laws are rooted in ethical observances such as giving workers, beasts and slaves a day of resting so they can recover their strength and keep working accordingly.
On the other hand, Catholic religion is by far much more symbolic in its rituals than it is the Judaism. Consequently, Catholic initiation rituals can be seen as alien to a person not acquainted with the religion. The Roman Catholic Church considers the sacraments as rituals that correspond to signs of the presence of God in the church and to properly receive the divine grace; Catholics must partake such rituals. The Catholic Church divides said rituals into three categories: initiation, healing, and service (Vatican, n.d.). In this essay, we shall speak about the first two, the baptism and the Eucharist
Regarding the initiation rituals of the Catholic Church, Baptism is one of the most known as it means the admission of the individual, in most cases an infant, into the religion. The practice of the baptism is rooted in the Bible, particularly in the Gospel of John where the baptism is seen as a moment where the water acts as a binding principle that anoints the person with the Holy Spirit. (John: 3:5, 1982). However, while baptism means the admission of the individual into the faith, it does not mean that person’s salvation. On the other hand, without baptism. It is impossible to be saved by the grace of Jesus. Likewise, the practice of baptism is rooted in the belief that thanks to the original sin, humans are born marked by sin and only by baptizing them; the sin will wash away, beginning a life as Catholics free of the sin their forefathers committed.
Hence, Eucharist as the communion of the humans with God, cannot exist without the prerequisite of the baptism. The Catholic belief in the Eucharist or the Holy Communion is rooted in the scriptures, specifically in the Gospel of John. According to John, during the last supper, Jesus called his disciples and told them that the bread they were eating and the wine they were drinking were not food, but his flesh and blood so they could have the Holy Spirit within them. (John: 6:51-54, 1982). This miracle, known as the Transubstantiation relates to the figure of the allegoric change between actual food to the figured flesh and blood of the savior. Hence, every time a Catholic goes to the mass, it has the possibility to reestablish its bond with Christ through the miracle of transubstantiation.
Ultimately, both religions’ rituals differ broadly and cannot be compared since the Kashrut, and the Sabbath are not rituals but observances that pious Jews might decide not to take. Conversely, the Catholic sacraments are a vital part of the religion and cannot be overlooked if the person wants to be a full-fledged Catholic. For that reason, the observance of Judaism can be seen as more related to ethical principles while the Catholicism is closer to the faith and the belief in something greater.
Catechism of the Catholic Church – IntraText. (n.d.). Retrieved December 19, 2015, from http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P3E.HTMEdelheit, H., & Edelheit, A. (2000). History of Zionism: A handbook and dictionary. Boulder: Westview.
Exodus. (1962). In M. Hyamson (Trans.), Mishneh Torah. Jersualem: Ḳiryah neʼemanah.
Leviticus. (1962). In M. Maimonides (Comp.) & M. Hyamson (Trans.),Mishneh Torah. Jersualem: Ḳiryah neʼemanah.
Chapter III. (1982). In J. Neusner (Trans.), The Talmud of the land of Israel: A preliminary translation and explanation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Gospel of John. (1961). In The New English Bible; New Testament. New York: Oxford University Press.