What is Judaism?
is the religion and culture of the
People and the first recorded monotheistic
Judaism believes that God
created the world for the purpose of having people upon
whom to bestow kindness. He gave us commandments in
order that they should deserve the kindness he bestows
and that it not be charity.
He created Adam and Eve and gave them only one
commandment which they transgressed and thus were
deserving of death, however, because they repented,
their death was delayed. As time went on, although there
were always righteous people, the vast majority denied
God's authority. God sent Noah to build an ark so that
the world would see and repent, but when they did not do
so, he brought a flood and destroyed the world, leaving
only Noah and his children whom he gave seven
Although Noah's son Shem and Shem's grandson Ever
remained righteous and maintained a yeshiva for the
purpose of teaching
Torah, the vast majority of the
world began to worship idols. Abraham, although born in
a world of idol worship, determined that there must be a
single power who is in control of the world whereupon
God made himself known to him.
Abraham dedicated his life to denouncing idolatry. This
is why he is called the first Jew; he was the first to
take on the world and proclaim the folly of idolatry. As
a result, God promised he would have children from Isaac
who would carry on his work and inherit the land of
Israel (then called Canaan) after having been exiled and
redeemed. As such, he gave Isaac's son Jacob the title
Israel, and dedicated his children to be his nation.
He sent Jacob and his children to Egypt, and after they
had been enslaved, he sent Moses to redeem them from
slavery, take them to Mount Sinai, give them the
which is comprised of
613 commandments, and take them to the land of
is Passover? -
Jews would sin, he set aside the children of
Aaron to be priests, and gave them a temple where they
could bring offerings to assist in the atonement for
their sins. Until the children of Israel were settled in
their land this was a tent that traveled around with
them. Once they had settled, the tent was planted in the
city of Shiloh for over 300 years during which time God
provided great men, and occasionally women, to rally the
nation after he sent enemies to attack them. As time
went on, the spiritual level of the nation declined to
the point that God allowed the Philistines to capture
the temple in Shiloh.
The people of Israel then told Samuel the prophet that
they had reached the point where they needed a permanent
king like other nations had. God knew this was not best
Jews, but acceded to this request and had Samuel
appoint Saul, a great but very humble man, to be their
king. When the people pressured Saul into going against
a command conveyed to him by Samuel, God told Samuel to
appoint David in his stead.
Once David was established, he told the prophet Nathan
that he would like to build a permanent temple. As a
reward, God promised David that he would allow his son
to build the temple and the throne would never depart
from his children. David's son Solomon built the first
permanent temple according to God's will, in Jerusalem.
After Solomon's death, the kingdom was split into the
two kingdoms of Israel and Judah. Israel had a variety
of kings, but after a few hundred years, because of the
rampant idolatry God allowed Assyria to conquer it exile
its people. The kingdom of Judah, whose capital was
Jerusalem and contained the temple, remained under the
ruler ship of the house of David. However, idolatry
increased to the point that God allowed Babylon to
conquer it, destroy the temple which had stood for 410
years and exile its people to Babylon, with the promise
that they would be redeemed after seventy years.
After seventy years the people were allowed back into
Israel under the leadership of Ezra, and the temple was
rebuilt. This second temple stood for 420 years after
which it was destroyed by the Roman king Titus. This is
the state in which it is to remain until a descendant of
David arises to restore the glory of Israel.
Torah given on Mount Sinai was summarized in the
five books of Moses and together with the books of the
prophets is called the Written
Torah. The details which
are called the Oral Torah were to remain unwritten.
However as the persecutions of the
Jews increased and
the details were in danger of being forgotten, they were
recorded in the Mishna, and the Talmud, as well as other
Principles of faith
Jewish principles of faith
A number of formulations of Jewish principles of faith
have appeared; most of them have much in common, yet
they differ in certain details. A comparison of them
demonstrates a wide array of tolerance for varying
theological perspectives. Below is a summary of Jewish
principles of faith. A more detailed discussion of these
beliefs, along with a discussion of how they developed,
is found in the article on Jewish principles of faith.
- Monotheism - Judaism
is based on strict unitarian monotheism, the belief in
one God. God is conceived of as eternal, the creator
of the universe, and the source of morality.
God is one - The
idea of God as a duality or trinity is heretical for
Jews to hold; it is considered akin to polytheism.
Jews hold that such conceptions
of God are incorrect, they generally are of the
opinion that gentiles that hold such beliefs are not
- God is all powerful
(omnipotent), as well as all knowing (omniscient). The
different names of God are ways to express different
aspects of God's presence in the world. See the entry
on The name of God in Judaism.
- God is non-physical,
non-corporeal, and eternal. All statements in the
Hebrew Bible and in rabbinic literature which use
anthropomorphism are held to be linguistic conceits or
metaphors, as it would otherwise be impossible to talk
- To God alone may one
offer prayer. Any belief that an intermediary between
man and God could be used, whether necessary or even
optional, has traditionally been considered heretical.
- The Hebrew Bible,
and much of the beliefs described in the Mishnah and
Talmud, are held to be the product of divine
Revelation. How Revelation works, and what precisely
one means when one says that a book is "divine", has
always been a matter of some dispute. Different
understandings of this subject exist among
- The words of the
prophets are true.
- Moses was the chief
of all prophets.
books of Moses) is the primary text of Judaism.
Rabbinic Judaism holds that the
Torah is the same one
that was given to Moses by God on Mount Sinai.
Jews believe that the
Torah that we have
today is exactly the same as it was when it was
received from God by Moses with only minor scribal
errors. Due to advances in biblical scholarship, and
archaeological and linguistic research, most
Jews reject this principle. Instead, they
may accept that the core of the Oral and Written
may have come from Moses, but the written
we have today has been edited together from several
- God will reward
those who observe His commandments, and punish those
who violate them.
- God chose the Jewish
people to be in a unique covenant with God; the
description of this covenant is the
Contrary to popular belief, Jewish people do not
simply say that "God chose the
Jews." Jews believe
that they were chosen for a specific mission; to be a
light unto the nations, and to have a covenant with
God as described in the
Torah. This idea is discussed
further in the entry on the chosen people. Reconstructionist Judaism rejects the concept
chosenness as morally defunct.
- The messianic age.
There will be a moshiach (messiah), or perhaps a
- The soul is pure at
birth. People are born with a yetzer ha'tov, a
tendency to do good, and with a
tendency to do bad. Thus, human beings have free will
and can choose the path in life that they will take.
- People can atone for
sins. The liturgy of the Days of Awe (Rosh Hashanah
and Yom Kippur) states that prayer, repentance and
tzedakah (dutiful giving of charity) atone for sin. A
more detailed discussion of the Jewish view of sin is
available in the entry on sin.
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