Sabbath lamp Jews believe that: 1) God is creator and absolute ruler of the universe, and there is only one all powerful god. 2) Man has fee will, he is not inherently sinful, and he has the ability to choose between good and evil, and even choose to rebel against God. 3) The Jewish people have a special relationship with God because he revealed the Torah to them at Mt. Sinai. By obeying God's law they will be a special witness of God's mercy.
4) God communicates with humanity through revelation and humanity speaks to God through prayer. 5) The laws of God are written in the Torah. 6) The creation of God's kingdom on earth will be heralded the coming the Messiah. 7) There will be a physical resurrection of the dead and immortality. 8) The worship of God is something that arises out of love not fear. 9) The belief that early patriarchs were considered the fathers of Jews. 10) All men are equal in the sight of God.
11) Jews have no special views on the afterlife. 12) The believe in living a good life in this world and performing good deeds that will help in the here and now not the hereafter. 13) Jews have no concept of original sin and salvation. 14) The concept of righteousness is important. A good Jew, or righteous Jew, is one who fulfills his duties with a full heart and incorporates Jewish laws, ethics and morality into his or her everyday life.
“Without the Temple there is no way to fulfill many of the religious obligations such as ritual sacrifices, that the Torah requires. In Orthodox theology, that means that all Jews are stuck in a state of impurity, and are therefore unable to be in the presence of God."
Websites and Resources: Judaism101 jewfaq.org ; Judaism and Jewish Resources shamash.org/trb/judaism ; Aish.com aish.com ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; torah’org torah.org ; Chabad,org chabad.org/library/bible ; Religious Tolerance religioustolerance.org/judaism ; Judaism.com judaism.com ; ; Jewish History: Jewish History Timeline jewishhistory.org.il/history ; Wikipedia article on Wikipedia ; Jewish History Resource Center dinur.org ; Origin of Judaism adath-shalom.ca ;Center for Jewish History cjh.org ; Jewish Culture and History Resources ddickerson.igc.org/judaica ;
Books: A Short History of Judaism by I. And D. Cohn-Sherlok (1994); The Gift of the Jews by Thomas Cahill; Ancient Biblical History Books: Egypt, Canaan and Israel in Ancient Times by Donald Redford; Oxford Companion to the Bible ; Palestine Bible as History by Werner Keller; The Bible Unearthed by I. Finkelstein & N. Asher Silberman ; Historical Atlas of the Holy Lands by K. Farrington
Jewish Covenant, the Chosen People and the Rabbanite Tradition
Cain and Able The Jews believe that they have a special covenant (promise with God) and are his Chosen People. The title of Chosen People does not connote a position of superiority rather it means they have the responsibility of passing on their knowledge about the one true God to other peoples of the world.
The vast majority of Jews are Rabbanites. the alternative, the Karaites are a very small minority (See Karaites). The Rabbinites trace their origins back to the Pharisees of Judea, during the Maccabeean and Roman periods. The Pharisees and their successors developed a tradition of interpretations of the laws of Moses which became codices in the Talmudic literature.
Many features of contemporary Judaism—including the substitution of fines and payments of compensation for body mutilations to enforce lex taliois , lighting of candles to begin the Sabbath and holidays, the Seder ceremony to mark Passover, the Hebrew prayer book and Talmudic study and argumentation—stem from the Rabbanite tradition.
Monotheism and Contradictions
Judaism is a monotheistic (one god religion). “According to high Jewish doctrine, Jews are in the world to be witnesses to the claim that there is one God with whom humans can have contact: God has chosen them to act as messengers, whose task it is to pass on these details to the rest of the world.
Israelite monotheism is interesting in that God was seen as universal but that the demand to worship was not. Only the Jews were expected to serve him. They believed God takes a special interest in mankind and demands that they listen and obey him in a way that serves god’s interest. In turn God selected a small group of people in Ur then in Egypt to form a covenant with. In some passages Israel is described as God’ spouse.
God is viewed by Kabbalists as having different aspects but ultimately is regarded as one. Angels sometimes appear in the liturgy as messengers to God but ths view is controversial.
The Old Testament is full of contradictory messages as are the New Testament and the Koran and other religious text. In Deuteronomy worshippers of Yahweh are told: “You shall annihilate them—the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebsuites—just as the Lord your God has commanded.” While in the book of Judges, an Israelite military leader proposes more tolerance towards the Ammonites: “Should you not possess what your god Chemosh gives you to possess? And should we not be the ones who possess everything that our god Yahweh has conquered for our benefit.”
The Koran arguablt is filled with ven more contraditions. In one part of the Koran, Muslims are told to “kill the polytheistic wherever you find them.” But in a another passage they are told: “To you be your religion; to me my religion.”
Thirteen Articles of Faith
Maimonides The Thirteen Articles of Faith of Maimonides are regarded as the basic dogma of Judaism. They are: 1) The existence of God, the Creator of All Things; 2) His absolute unity; 3) His incorporeality; 4) His eternity; 5) The obligation to serve and worship him alone; 6) The existence of prophecy; 7) The superiority of the Prophecy of Moses above all others; 8) The Torah is God’s revelation to Moses; 9) The Torah is immutable; 10) God’s omniscience and foreknowledge; 11) Rewards and punishments according to one’s deeds; 12) The coming of the Messiah; 13) The resurrection of the dead.
The Unity of God and the Obligation to worship him alone are core beliefs in monotheism. The incorporeality and eternity of God are reference to undescribable and unfathomable aspects of God and his existence beyond time and space. Prophecy is regarded as concrete manifestation of the Jewish religion and according to some Jewish thinkers a fate that Jews alone have.
The idea that the Torah is immutable addresses claims by other religions, particularly Christianity that it goes a step further than Judaism. Inherent in the belief of God’s Omniscience is a belief that God knows everything including our innermost thoughts and righteousness is not necessarily based on displays and actions.
Jewish Laws and Doctrines
Kosher Gummi Bears The primary responsibility of a Jew has traditionally been to unquestioningly follow Jewish laws. Jews were expected to rejoice in following these laws and constantly be looking for new ways to apply them in their everyday life, with rabbis acting as lawyers.
Jews place great importance on abiding by the laws and rules set forth in the Torah and regard it as a religious duty to follow them. Jewish Law is called the Halakah , which literally means “that by which one walks.” It is comprised of the laws laid out in the Torah and Talmud and interpretations of these laws. Torah she-bi-khtav is the written law.
Judaism was originally a theocratic religion like Islam in which there was a set of religious laws for a Jewish kingdom. After the diaspora, laws and rules were established that became a way of defining and uniting Jewish communities.
Almost every aspect of a Jew’s life and every act of everyday living—from eating to dressing to working—has some religious aspect attached to it. Almost all aspect of life are governed by strict religious practices and rules. Jews regard it as a duty to observe the Sabbath and Jewish holidays, eat certain foods, performing specific rituals like the lighting of candles, and attending the synagogue. The are special blessing that are uttered when an Jew eats, smells a flower or puts on clothes in the morning.
See Justice System
Jewish Ideas About Salivation and End of the World
Kabbalah Tree of Life For Jews the equivalent of salvation is t’shwa , turning towards God. For Christians salvation combines redemption and the revelation of God. For Jews the are two distinct things: the emphasis has traditionally been placed on redeeming oneself in this life with revelation coming in the end. Man’s duty is to listen and follow God. Speculating about the hereafter are regarded as a distraction that keep one from one’s duties.
The Talmudic scholar Jacob Neusner told Newsweek, “The Torah teaches that the kingdom that matters is not in heaven, but the one we find ourselves in now: sustaining life, sanctifying life, in the here and the now of home and family, community and society.”
Jews, Christians and Muslims all have end of the world scenarios foretold by natural disasters and other calamities and feature the accession to heaven by the faithful or something similar. Hindus and Buddhist read life as cyclical and they have no end of the world scenarios.
Jewish end of the world scenarios are closely tied with the coming of the Messiah, who according to the medieval philosopher Maimodnides, will be a great leader who will preside over Israel for a thousand years. Mystics view the period as time when "flesh will no longer exist and there will be pure spiritual reality."
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons, Schnorr von Carolsfeld Bible in Bildern, 1860
Text Sources: World Religions edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); Encyclopedia of the World’s Religions edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); Encyclopedia of the World Cultures edited by David Levinson (G.K. Hall & Company, New York, 1994); National Geographic, the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, Times of London, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
© 2009 Jeffrey Hays
Last updated March 2011