By: Madison Butcher
Contrary to popular belief, Judaism is not just a black and white religion with a list of do’s and don’ts. The religion has a wide variety of beliefs and different branches. On one end of the spectrum are Orthodox Jews. On the opposite end are Reformed Jews. Both have a similar foundation, but with the progression of society, the branches have veered in different directions. With that said, this is a very general outline of the Jewish religion as a whole, rather than individual sects.
Jews are monotheistic, meaning they believe in only one God. The nature of God is the creator of all things. He is impossible to describe due to the fact that he doesn’t live in this realm of earth life. The Jewish God is a god of mercy and forgiveness. He communicates with his followers through prayer and many other ways. The Jews also believe in a Messiah, a being that will come to earth to establish God’s kingdom on earth.
Jewish believers use the Hebrew Bible as their source of truth and knowledge. The Torah, meaning “law” or “instruction, is a essentially a compilation of the first five books of Moses, which makes up the Hebrew Bible. Jews also use the Talmud as scripture, a text that entails the laws of Jewish religion.
A large part of Jewish culture and religion revolves around food. According to Jewish law, foods must be kosher. Kosher can be defined differently for various people, but generally it forbids eating pork, shellfish, and birds of prey. It is also important to note that being kosher also entails how meals are prepared. Eating kosher is a sign of the interconnection of God and the food that he gives his people.
The Jewish culture is filled with many different holy days including Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Passover and Hanukkah. On top of these holy days, the Jews have strict laws regarding how to worship on the Sabbath. Saturday is considered the Sabbath day and is generally filled with rest, worship and spending time with family and friends. Worshipping at the synagogue is not limited to Saturday’s only. Throughout the week, most synagogues have different services and activities for their members to participate in.
Judaism is not a proselyting church. The process to be converted into the Jewish religion is an extensive process and can take up to several years of studying and learning. The foundational belief is that the Jewish bloodline comes through the mother to her children. Obviously, this belief is dependent on the particular branch of Judaism.
Overall, Judaism is a fairly complicated religion that roots its beliefs to the beginning of religious time. With the rise of anti-Semitism in our society, the media and world has created an image of the religion that may or may not be true. It is important to study the facts and learn more deeply about the Jewish religion and the culture as well.
Source: “Religions” by Philip Wilkinson