A billion Chinese can't be wrong

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Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

How do the Chinese translate the word "Judaism?" This is how they write it in Chinese: 挑筋教. The translation reads: "Religion of the removed sinew." Interesting, instead of calling us "the people of the book" or "the nation that left Egypt," the Chinese define us otherwise.

The origin of this designation is found in this week's Torah portion. Yaakov Avinu wrestles at night with a mysterious figure who gives him the name of Yisrael. This adversary injures the thigh of Yaakov, who becomes lame. Therefore, as it is spelled out in the Torah (Genesis 32:32), from then until today we do not eat this portion, known as the hip sinew. In other words, a nighttime wrestling match between good and evil, an historical event in which Yaakov receives the name of Yisrael, influences the laws of kashrut and is ultimately associated with the steaks we eat.

Instead of holding a ceremony memorializing Yaakov's struggle with the angel, we endow it with a practical application to our diet.

The Chinese definition reminds us of something very deep: Judaism survives not only because of beliefs, ideas, or philosophy, but rather because of what we do, including what we eat.

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