Judaism Concepts

The religion Judaism is basically followed by the Jewish people. Their basic principles are personified in the Bible. Jewish believe that Judaism began after the covenant between God and Abraham. Judaism is one of the oldest religions that are practiced today. Religions like Christianity, Islam, Samaritanism and Baha-i-faith are some examples that are influenced by Judaism.

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Judaism has been in monolithic practice, it is a monotheistic religion. It followers have a strong belief that God has the superpower, He is Omnipotent (one who is the most powerful and is the dominant over the world), omniscient (the one who knows everything) and omnipresent (the one who is watching us all the time, is present everywhere). The most traditional common believe among the Jewish is that, God who has the control over the entire universe, created a covenant with the Israelites and revealed his blessings to Moses in the form of Torah. Torah is the book that means “teaching”. The book contains the 10 commandments of God and laws that are still followed by Jews. Jews learn from Torah how to act, live, react, they learnt how to think and even about life and death. Torah was revealed on Moses on the Mount of Sinai.

There are thirteen basic principles of Judaism that are widely-accepted.

  • God Exists and his existence will always remain. He created the universe by his own and will destroy it whenever he wishes to. He is the guide of everything that he created. He is the creator of everything; he created things, still creates and will always create.
  • God has the divine power; he is the only one and the unique. There is no one like him and their will be no one like him. He is one and there is no unity in this manner.
  • God is intangible; he cannot be touched, nor seen, nor smelled, he can only be felt in human’s heart. He is away from all properties of matter; he has no body, no shape. He will live forever.
  • God is everlasting. He is endless i.e. he will never disappear. He is keeping an eye n every individual and he knows the future. He is the first and will be the last.
  • God deserve prayer and his people should dedicate their time through offering Him prayer. Prayer should be directed only to him. He is the only God and no one else.
  • Whatever the prophets had said was all true. Judaism says that prophets were right and every Jew should follow their guidelines.
  • Judaism also acknowledged that Moses was the greatest prophet, and his guidelines were true. He was truly devoted to God, his love for the religion was pure and every Jew should follow Moses teachings and should treat him as their role model.
  • The Torah was revealed on Moses. Torah was one of the finest books that were revealed by God on Moses on the Mount of Sinai.
  • There is no other book like Torah. Torah was sent to show the people the right path.
  • God is eternal, he is the divine power, he knows what is in his people’s mind and what the deeds of every individual are. He has command over everyone’s thoughts but he tests his people. He knows the future, present and the past.
  • He will be there on the Day of Judgment and will reward everyone on their deeds. He will punish the bad and reward the good.
  • Judaism says that the Messiah will come. Messiah is the one from the family of King David, who is will lead the entire universe to peace and unity
  • On the Day of Judgment the dead will be brought back to life for their results.

These above points are the basic principles that Jews have faith on. These are the strong pillars of Judaism. Over the years, many new beliefs and formulations came into existence which was quite different from the core formulation of belief. The thirteen principles were argued by Hasdai Crescas and Joseph Albo. Many Jewish Communities ignored these thirteen principles for the past few centuries.

The book “Torah” is the core belief of Judaism. The written and oral Torah is a guide to the Jews; however Judaism does not have an authority to preach their beliefs and religious doctrine. One of their festivals “Shabbat” is the prayer service where, public reading of Torah is practiced. Torah is also known as five books of Moses.

Similarities between the Bible and the Qur'an., 2004
Figure 1. Similarities between the Bible and the Qur’an., 2004

The book describes the history, it describes how the universe was created and thrash out the covenant between God and the people of Israel. They believe that the purpose of sending Torah into the world is not to tie a relationship between God and man, but they treat Torah as a document that uncovers generation to generation.

A wide practice of Judaism is seen in countries like United States, United Kingdom, Argentina, Israel, Canada and South Africa. In United States it is divided into four modern groups. A small group of people known as extremist had their origin in the eighteenth century Europe.

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Many Bible scholars claims that some of the versus of Torah mean that some of the ancient Israelites had faith on some other Gods (angles may be) but on the other hand they were also at the same time had faith on their God as a sole creator, they believed that His worship is obligatory. The core of Judaism; the biblical text shows the intolerance of God which is due to people worshiping other gods. A time came when people stopped worshiping their fertility god “baal” it was during the “Hellenic period” when Jews came to belief that their God was the only God, He only has the supreme power and He is the master of all mankind. Then they believed that Torah was the only book which has all the universal truths. This attitude of Jews reflected the world’s major population, many Greeks and Romans considered Judaism as a “philosophical” religion because of its belief in the God, which cannot be virtually defined. It also strengthened the relationship between the Greeks and the Jews. Jews also had an extraordinary interest in the Greek Philosophy, which later established a good understanding of “all the gods are one”.

After the establishment of this theory, Jews started to struggle with their theories of particularism and universalism, where particularism is the obeyance of Torah by Jews only, and universalism mean that Torah had all the universal facts and truths. Jews got concerned about the people who denied Torah; they were concerned about the different set of meaning and practices about ethics, identity, the relationship between God and the man, relationship between man and nature. They were concerned about the differences between Jews and the Non-Jews, their different set of beliefs and practices. They were disturbed about more than one interpretations of one versus which created chaos between people.

They believed that Torah was sent down to Earth for the purpose of mankind. It was sent so that people could follow it and guide themselves to the right path. But due to different set of ideologies and dissimilar perceptions many of the non-Jews encoded some other meanings of some versus and a new sect came into existence.

Karaite Judaism is a modern Jewish movement although it was began as a modern movement. People who followed this movement had a belief that they were some sort of remnants of non rabbinic Jewish sects happened during the second temple period. Whilst others believe that they started this sect somewhere in between 8th or 9th centuries. “Karaites” is a sect who has a firm belief on the Hebrew Bible, which they consider as Peshat: “Plain or simple meaning” and they do not accept any other book infact they consider other books as non-authoritative. Many Karaites in Europe do not consider themselves as Jewish, while there are some areas in Europe where people still believe in Judaism and being a Karaite they also consider themselves a part of Judaism.

There are three basic Jewish holidays. These are the landmark events in Jewish history; they sometimes mark transitions and the change of season in their agricultural cycles. The three festivals are; Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot these holidays are known as “regalim”. On three of these festivals, Israelites offer pilgrimages to Jerusalem and offer sacrifices on their own will in the temple.

  • Passover: it begins on the 14th day of Nisan (the first month of Hebrew calander), it a week-long holiday, it is celebrated for eight days but not in Israel. Few centuries back barley harvest was coincided by it. Some products like leavened products are strictly prohibited during the week, if any house contains such products they have to remove it completely from the house and are asked not consume it throughout the week. People are asked to clean their houses that no breads or breads by-products remain, and a symbolic burning of Leavened (chametz) has to be done but it should only be conducted in the morning of the Seder. Instead of bread people are suppose to Matzo during the entire week.
  • Shavuot: it is the day when Jewish celebrates the day when Torah was revealed on Moses on the mount of Sinai. They believe in celebrating this honorable event with purity, they dress up in white to symbolize purity. They decorate their homes; they eat only dairy products like blintzes, cheesecake are special favorites. They read the book of Ruth. They study all-night known as Tikkun leil Shavuot. This festival is also known as Bikurim, it coincided with the wheat harvest in the biblical times. It is also known as first fruits.
  • Sukkot: it is most joyful occasion of all. Jewish remember the time when their wandering came to an end and they got a promised land. They celebrate it for seven days and nights and eat in sukkot. They construct temporary booths called sukkots, which reminds them of temporary shelters, where they used to live in for forty years. Sukkots marks the ending of the agricultural cycle. Fruit harvest coincided by sukkot. Sukkots ended when Jews started praying for rain and Simchat Torah, they were used to pray in Shemini Atzeret. It is a holiday which starts a new beginning and the reading of Torah ends. It is celebrated with full joy by singing and dancing with the Torah scroll.

Besides the above mentioned three festivals there are two other holidays which are also considered important in the Jewish history.

  • Hanukkah: it is celebrated eight days on the 25th day of Kislev (Hebrew calendar). It is celebrated through kindling people’s homes, all the eight nights. One on he first night, two on the second and so on. That is why this festival is also known as “Festivals of Lights”. Hanukkah means dedication; spiritually it reminds Jews of the “miracles of Oil”. Hanukkah was never mentioned in the book of Torah that was the reason it was never considered as a big holiday or a day of celebration, but in modern times it has been widely accepted may be because it falls around Christmas.
  • Purim: it celebrated annually on every 14th of Adar (Hebrew calendar), which comes around every February and March. Their traditions include drinking wine, dressing up in masks, eating pastries and having parties. Purim is joyous occasion that reminds Jews of the deliverance of Persian Jews, as it is mentioned in the biblical “Book of Esther”. On this occasion the recitation of the Book of Esther takes place, people exchange gifts, give charity to the poor and celebrate meal. Judaism is somehow related to other religions as well. Many religions and even countries are influenced by this religion. Let’s have a look on how Christianity, Islam and many other religions are similar to Judaism. Historically and theologically Judaism has a very close relationship with Christianity. Jesus, the most New Testament’s author, all the member of early Christian churches and the twelve disciples were all Jews. A Jewish bible predicted a Jews figure that Jesus and Jesus’ family was used to follow the Jews customs and traditions. The followers of Jesus considered him as the messiah. Christianity moved out of Judaism and regarded themselves as a sect of Judaism, ignoring the fact that they had a Jewish origin. The conflict arose when Jews denied considering Jesus as their messiah and on the other hand Jews were not happy with Christians for corrupting the concept of one God. Jews were the first who persecute Christians but later, when Christians became a dominant group, they persecuted Jews. Today many theological disagreements exist between the two great religions and efforts are made to resolve these issues. Following is a table that reflects the similarities between Christianity and Judaism.
History & Stats Christianity Judaism
date founded c. 30 AD c. 1300 BC
place founded Palestine Palestine
founders & early leaders Jesus, Peter, Paul Abraham, Moses
original languages Aramaic and Greek Hebrew
major location today Europe, North and South America Europe, Israel, North America
adherents worldwide today 2 billion 14 million
adherents in USA 159 million 5.6 million
adherents in Canada 21 million 350,000
adherents in UK 51 million 320,000
Current size rank largest 12th largest
major branches Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant Orthodox, Conservative, Reform

As of Judaism and Christianity, Judaism and Islam also have many similarities and some related background. Islam is the second largest religion in the world after Christianity. Its faith is originated from the middle-East. Muslims faith and practices are very much similar to Jews. Islam, Judaism and Christianity are the “Abrahamic religions” because they have a common belief that God is One and the covenant that God made with Abraham.

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Islam and Judaism has many things in common such as they both believe in Oneness of God (Muslims call the God as “Allah”, while Jews call their God by “Yahweh or Elohim”; they believe in worshiping one God and He is the one who will always answer their prayer. The two religions believe in angels and demons. They have a common belief on Prophecy, both religions have faith that what ever the prophets has said was all true and Prophets were sent by God to show the people the correct path. The two religions have no faith in original sin (birth sin). Both beliefs that Zuleika was Potiphar’s wife, bothe believe that King Solomon has control over demons (jinns) and he had a command over the language of birds and was able to talk to birds.

Torah and Quran has so many things in similar but they differ in some interpretations. They share many fundamental religious beliefs for example, the two religions believe in the Day of Judgment i.e. they have faith on the Divine Day when every individual will be asked for his/her deeds. Jews and muslims believe that there would be a hell and a heaven, God will reward the good by sending them to heaven and will punish the wicked by sending them to hell. They both believe in life after death. When reciting prayer, a Jew should face Jerusalem while a Muslim is suppose to face Mecca.

The Ethics of Quran are more or less same as the ethics mentioned in Torah. Faithfulness and Honesty are considered to be the top most part of ethics while murder and idolatry are condemned. They believe that God will punish the one who will commit idolatry and murder. They both give a preference to pilgrimage to the holy city. Payer and fasting is considered pivotal. Adultery is strictly prohibited in Judaism and Islam, Jesus has mentioned that “whoever lusts sexually in his heart is guilty of adultery, and whoever hates someone is guilty of murder.” (Similarities between the Bible and the Qur’an. , 2004).

The above were some of the points mentioned related to Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The study made the point clear enough that what ever the route is, the destination of every individual is same. We studied about Judaism’s history, its origin, Judaism customs, traditions and values. We had a look on the concept of Torah and how prophets were sent down to teach people in the light of Torah.

References

  1. Boteach, Rabbi S, (2002). Judaism for Everyone Renewing your life through the Vibrant Lessons of the Jewish Faith. Perseus Books
  2. Dubov, Rabbi N D. (2003). Key Jewish F.A.Q.’s Frequently Asked Questions. Ask Moses
  3. Dubov, Rabbi N D.(n.d.). Key Jewish Facts!. Ask Moses
  4. Milton S, Rabbi. (n.d.) Basic Judaism. William Morrow
  5. Religion, World Religions, Comparative Religion – Just the facts on the world’s religions. (n.d.) Retrieved from www.religionfacts.com
  6. Telushkin, Rabbi J. (19991). Jewish Literacy The Most Important Things to Know About the Jewish Religion, Its People, and Its History. William Morrow
  7. Trepp, Rabbi L.(2001). A History of the Jewish Experience. Behrman House
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