Judaism

Religions, Cults & Worldviews: Valuable Answers for Valid Questions.

Definition and Overview of Judaism

Founder(s) of Judaism

Abraham

Founder of the Hebraic bloodline appx 2000 B.C.

            1. Noah’s son Shem settled in a region that became known as “Ur” in the Chaldean Kingdom (modern day Iraq). Shem’s descendants became known as “Shemites” of which there was a man named Abram who was distinct in that he did not adhere to the polytheism of the popular culture and instead maintained a simple faith in the God of heaven and earth – Creator of all things.

            2. The term “Shemite” has been carried down to our modern day reference of “Semite” or Semitic – this usually refers to those of a Jewish nationality but can also be used to reference Arabs and others of this specific geographic region

            3. Abraham, referred to as the “Father of Faith” in the Bible, was greatly multiplied and his sons greatly multiplied all of which adhered to a “Hebrew” faith of monotheistic faith in One God and no other (revolutionary for the time).

            4. Abraham’s grandson Jacob had 12 sons which each were to be multiplied into their own tribe forming a common bond of Hebraic people.

            5. This people was multiplied as ‘outsiders’ in the land of Egypt and were enslaved for 400 years until God Almighty delivered them through a man named “Moses”.

Moses

Founder of the Biblical Jewish faith 1455 B.C.

            1. Hellenistic and Rabbinical Judaism are distinctly different from the Biblical-historical form of Judaism. 
            2. Moses was a Hebrew abandoned at birth to spare his life from Egyptian abortion. He was adopted by an Egyptian princess (Pharaoh’s daughter) and was raised in the Egyptian courts so would have reading and writing skills above the vast majority of Hebrews (and Egyptians!).
            3. He acted as spokesman, ruler, and spiritual leader to the Hebrews and led them out of Egyptian captivity.
            4. He codified the oral traditions passed down from Abraham (possibly even Noah) and wrote what is called the “Torah” to Jews (or the “Pentateuch” to Christians) the first 5 books of the Bible for both faiths.
            5. Hellenistic Jews (Pharisees and Sadducees) would add hundreds of rules and laws to the law of Moses.
            6. Rabbinical Jews would take these Hellenistic laws and the laws of Moses and add interpretations to them according to the disposition of whichever Rabbi was interpreting and would render completely new or “updated” meanings to them.

Authoritative Jewish Writings:

The Law, The Prophets, and The Writings

Torah: “The Law” written by Moses (possibly finished by Joshua and later edited by Ezra the great Biblical author and scribe of post-exilic Judaism). Comprises the first 5 books of the Old Testament Canon: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. The most famous passage of the Torah might be the decalogue or “10 Commandments” which can be summed up in the following:

  1. Love the Lord your God with all your might, mind and strength (commandments 1-4)
  2. Love your neighbour as yourself (commandments 6-10).

Talmud: Not considered on the same level of authority as “scripture” by the Jewish sects but still a VERY highly regarded Jewish library of oral law and tradition established by influential Rabbis over the centuries. The Talmud consists of the:

  1. Mishnah (oral law in general to be distinguished from scripture) Jewish practice, customs and traditions.
  2. Gemara – Rabbinic commentary on the Mishnah.

Midrash: like the Talmud in terms of a lesser authority than the Scriptures, the Midrash is a commentary on the Torah and the rest of the Jewish scriptures by Rabbis over the last several centuries and it is from this modern adherence to the Talmud and Midrash that the term “Rabbinical Judaism” is derived.

 

Jewish Practices and Observances:

Hellenistic Judaism reflected by temple worship and sacrifice gave way to Diaspora Rabbinic Judaism which bases most of its emphasis on the teachings and commentaries of Rabbis.

The Sabbath

Jewish people observe a holy day of rest in commemoration of God’s completed work of creation and later liberation of the Israelites from Egypt. It is observed from dusk to dusk starting Friday evening and ending Saturday evening each week.

Synagogue

The small “meeting places” for Jewish people where prayers, teaching, worship (singing of songs), and “breaking of bread” occur – traces back to the Maccabean time (2nd century B.C.) and continues up to this day. Can sometimes be referred to as “Temple”.

Holy Days

  1. Passover (festival of spring)
  2. Shabuot (feast of weeks)
  3. Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year)
  4. Yom Kippur (day of atonement) :
    1. Even liberal or non-practicing Jews consider Yom Kippur a holy day. c.f. Christian ‘Chreasters’
  5. Sukkoth (booths)
  6. Hanukkah (Maccabes revolt)

Sects of Judaism

Hellenistic Judaism reflected by temple worship and sacrifice gave way to Diaspora Rabbinic Judaism which bases most of its emphasis on the teachings and commentaries of Rabbis.

Orthodox Judaism

  1. Orthodox are traditionalist Jews who are united in their upholding of the authority of the Torah (The Law) and in their belief in the revelation of God to Moses at Sinai as an historical event and not a mythological story to teach morality and virtue (c.f. liberal Judaism).
  • Orthodox Jews adhere to the inspiration of the Law, Prophets and Writings (the Old Testament to Christians) but values the Torah (1st 5 books) above all others.
  • This sect puts a great emphasis on the intellect as opposed to the spiritual
  • Orthodox are a strongly Rabbinical sect which believes in a coming Messiah, and of Israel having a homeland, and of a world to come.
    • These beliefs are not necessarily based on Scripture alone but rather, through a Talmudic understanding – despite such Rabbinic commentaries which might disagree or contradict the Prophets and Writings.
  • Orthodox Jews also believe in a type of “heaven” and “hell” although these beliefs differ according to various Rabbinic interpretations.
  • Perhaps the most famous orthodox Jewish man in the world today is political pundit Ben Shapiro who, speaking on behalf of the position of Jewish orthodoxy stated that he believes Jesus of Nazareth to be a political zealot insurgent who was put to death by Rome for his crimes.
    • Editor’s note: This demonstrates a complete lack of recorded Christian history whereby Jesus condemned violence against those that arrested Him in the Garden at Gethsemene and his famous words, “He that lives by the sword dies by the sword” as a condemnation of violence against authority.

2. Hassidic – Hassidic Jews are a subsect of Orthodox Jews and were founded by Rabbi Yisroel ben Eliezer, known as the Baal Shem Tov (“master of the good name,”). The movement began in the 18th century, in Eastern Europe and places a greater emphasis on the spiritual as opposed to the intellectual. traditional Orthodoxy, in which greater emphasis is placed on the intellectual. 

Conservative Judaism

  • Conservative Judaism was started in response to the “enlightenment” period. Called “conservative” because it sought to ‘conserve’ Jewish tradition and not due to any political position.
  • Conservative Judaism teaches that Jewish law is always in ‘development’ based on the current culture and practices “textual criticism” of the Jewish scriptures. (c.f. textual criticism of liberal “so-called” Christians). This belief and practice stands in stark contrast to Orthodox Judaism.
  • This sect is considered by some to be a ‘happy medium’ between Orthodox and Reformed Judaism, founded in the 19th century. The Conservative Jews attempt to bridge a gap between secularism and Judaism with compromise that reduces Judaism to little more than traditional observance rather than religious discipline. Conservative Judaism, like the Reformed Jews, does not believe in a Jewish “homeland”.

Reformed Judaism

  • Reformed Jews are a very liberal wing of Judaism that all but denies any supernatural whatsoever.

  • They tend to focus on race and culture issues of Judaism, neglecting or avoiding Jewish religious issues.

  • Also started as a result of the “enlightenment” period and supposed necessity to meet the needs of those that reject Divine revelation.

Key Questions About Judaism

Who or what is God to the Jewish person?

Who or what is God to the Jewish person?
The true God, Yahweh of the Old Testament, the God of Christianity, is the God of historic Judaism. However, modern Jewish belief has departed drastically from the Biblical historic view of God and has instead embraced a Rabbinical/Talmudic view that God is largely an idea of good and not necessarily a supernatural being.
Statement of Faith - Moses Maimonides 12th cent. A.D. Jewish Rabbi
The following statements from Maimonedes form a good overall look at the foundational beliefs of the Jewish people, however, much of what is listed below is rejected by the vast majority of Jewish people today.
Maimonedes: Statement of Faith (cont.)
  1. The Creator and guide of everything created. He alone has, done, will make all things.
  2. He is One, and there is no unity in any manner like unto His, and that He alone is our god, who was, and is, and will be.
  3. He is not a body He is free from all the properties of matter. He has not any form whatever.
Maimonedes: Statement of Faith (cont.)
  1. He is the first and last.
  2. To Him alone, it is right to pray and not to any being besides Him.
  3. All the words of the prophets are true.
  4. The prophecy of Moses, our teacher, was true, and that he was the chief of the prophets, both of those who preceded and of those who followed him.
Maimonedes: Statement of Faith (cont.)
  1. The whole Torah, now in our possession, is the same that was given to Moses, our teacher.
  2. This Torah will not be changed. There will never be any other Law from the Creator.
  3. He knows every deed of the children of men, their thoughts, as it is said and it is He that fashioned the hearts of them all, that gives heed to all their works.
Maimonedes: Statement of Faith (cont.)
  1. He rewards those that keep his commandments and punishes those that transgress them.
  2. Coming of the Messiah, and, though he tarry, I will wait daily for his coming.
  3. There will be a revival of the dead at the time when it shall please the Creator.
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Who or what is mankind according to Judaism?

Orthodox
Mankind is a created being placed higher than all other creation, save angels. There is not a sense of mankind being totally depraved or unworthy.
Conservative Judaism
Mankind is a created yet evolving being and basically good.
Reformed Judaism
Mankind/Womankind is the center of his/her/their own universe (c.f. Eastern philosophy).
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How does Judaism attempt to solve the problem of evil?

Orthodox
Admits existence of sin and necessity of atonement via sacrifices, penitence, good deeds, and a bit of God’s grace to an extent. Does not adhere to the concept of original sin. As such, there really is no "problem" only problematic people requiring greater works and attention to the commandments of a Creator God.
Conservative Judaism
No real reference to a “problem of evil” and in keeping with the secularist view - educating evil away is the answer. However this poses a problem in that evil is still carried out by those who would otherwise claim to be fully educated in “progressive” globalism. e.g. scandals carried out by liberal secularists etc.
Reformed Judaism
Adhere to an identical position as Conservative Judaism and believe mankind to be basically good and a proper level of evolutionary/progressive education should remedy the evil that is seen in the world.
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See a final analysis of the Jewish view of the afterlife below…

Judaic View of the Afterlife

According to Jewish teachings, the good people of all faiths and walks of life go to a “heaven” of sorts referred to as Gan Eden, or the Garden of Eden and the wicked go to hell or "Geihinnom"(Gehinnom; Shab. 152b–153a; Tanh. Va-Yikra 8). Again, what standard is used to determine "good" is not really expounded upon.

Achieving Right Standing with God

Atonement is achieved by works of righteousness, repentance, prayer, and good deeds. There is no need of a Savior. Orthodox and some Conservative Jews believe in a coming Messiah, and of Israel having a homeland, and the ushering in of a world to come.

The way to determine one's 'righteousness' is unclear, possibly based on devotion to family, good works, temple/synagogue etc. There is no definite gauge by which one can recognize if their righteousness is enough to warrant the 'bosom of Abraham' when they die.

Orthodox and some Conservative:
Many Orthodox and some Conservative Jews embrace a form of resurrection of the dead for both the righteous and the wicked as is conveyed in the Prophets: "Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to reproaches and everlasting abhorrence" (Daniel 12:2; Isaiah 26:19; Ezekiel 37:1)
Orthodox and some Conservative: (cont.)
When an argument arose in Hellenistic Judaism between the Saducees and Pharisees regarding a belief in the resurrection, Jesus responded by saying that YHWH has always referred to Himself as the G-d of the 'living' and not of the 'dead' He also vividly described the afterlife as it was referred to in Jewish writings as the "Bosom of Abraham".
Conservative and some Reformed:
Among the Jewish line of thinking, there is a belief that this present life is all there is and that one's present accomplishments and 'legacy' are what makes that person immortal (some Reformed and Conservative Jews). This is place of 'paradise' for the righteous and 'Sheol' is a place of suffering for the unrighteous.
Reformed Jews:
For Reformed Jews, an agnostic approach is taken towards the afterlife whereby they surmise that since it "can't be known scientifically" it isn't something for a Jewish person to think about. In the Talmud and Midrash mentioned above on this page, there is a distinct teaching that when a man dies, his soul leaves his body but for 12 months it retains a temporary relationship to it, coming and going until the body has disintegrated which is justified by the appearance of Samuel the prophet to King Saul after Samuel had died. I Samuel 28:8.
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What Happens When We Die?

If I am Jewish:
1. I go into nothingness when I die, which renders this life quite meaningless OR
2. If I get lucky, I can accumulate enough 'righteousness' in this life and hope that it was enough and I'll know if I go to paradise (Abraham's bosom) or hell (sheol) when I get there. In the Talmud and Midrash, when a man dies his soul leaves his body, but for the first 12 months it retains a temporary relationship to it, coming and going until the body has disintegrated.

A Final Analysis of the Jewish Afterlife

1. The current Rabbinical Jewish idea of the afterlife offers no real hope as it offers no real assurance to the dying Jewish person 2. Nor does it take into consideration the awesome holiness and righteousness of the God of Moses who does not "wink" at the sin of the dying Jew and the dying Gentile.
3. That sin (our sin as mankind) must be washed away PRIOR to death and that can only be done by faith in the Jewish Messiah "Yeshua Hamashiach" (Jesus the Messiah) who being the very Son of the Most High God, offered Himself as the eternal payment for the sin of mankind. 4. Of all the Jews that have ever lived NO Jew has ever been a greater light to the Gentiles than this Jesus of tribe of Judah.

References

            1. Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved;
            1. Joseph Telushkin. Jewish Literacy. NY: William Morrow and Co., 1991.
            1. Mcdowell, Josh & Don Stewart Handbook of Today’s Religions 1983
            1. Geisler, Norman Christian Apologetics 1983
            1. Smith, Huston The Religions of Man 1958 as reprinted in Handbook of Today’s Religions
            1. Offner, Clark B. The World’s Religions 1976 as reprinted in Handbook of Today’s Religions
            1. Noss, John B. Man’s Religions 1969 as reprinted in Handbook of Today’s Religions
            1. Hume, Robert E. The World’s Living Religions 1959 as reprinted in Handbook of Today’s Religions
            1. Wordsworth, Encyclopedia of World Religions 1999
            1. Smith, Huston Great Religions of the World, National Geographic Society 1971
          1. www.adherents.com: created circa January 2000. Last modified 28 August 2005.