• Judaism has been described as a religion, a race, a culture, and a nation
• All of these descriptions have some validity
• The Jewish people are best described as an extended family
Torah: In its most limited sense, "Torah" refers to the Five Books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. But the word "torah" can also be used to refer to the entire Jewish bible (the body of scripture known to non-Jews as the Old Testament and to Jews as the Tanakh or Written Torah), or in its broadest sense, to the whole body of Jewish law and teachings.
• Judaism does not have a formal mandatory beliefs
• The most accepted summary of Jewish beliefs is Rambam's 13 principles of faith
• Even these basic principles have been debated
• Judaism focuses on the relationships between the Creator, mankind, and the land of Israel
The closest that anyone has ever come to creating a widely-accepted list of Jewish beliefs is Rambam's thirteen principles of faith. These principles, which Rambam thought were the minimum requirements of Jewish belief, are:
Orthodox: Preserves traditional Judaism: Torah and Talmud word of God: Messiah will restore the Jewish Kingdom; physical resurrection after death; males and females still separate in worship
Reform: Sought to modernize Judaism once Jews freed from ghettos in 19th century, hoped to reduce assimilation. Believe that law is evolving, many views of God accepted; no teaching of a personal afterlife; Messianic Age is fulfillment of human progress; modern worship using English and Hebrew, men and women sit together.
Conservative: Share many Reform ideas, but think Reform led to more not less assimilation. More reverence to scripture and tradition (e.g., dietary laws); more theistic.
Key Holidays: Rosh ha-Shanah (New Year); Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement); Hannukkah (lights); Passover
Rites of Passage: circumcision; Bar (Bat) Mitzvah; wedding; sitting shiva
Other terms: phylacteries (boxes on arms),
mezuzahs (boxes on doorframes),
kippah/yarmulke (head covering)
synagogue/rabbi replaces temple worship;
Talmud (Mishnah + Gemara: commentaries on Torah and commentaries on the commentaries…)
Caballa: Jewish mysticism (demons, charms, numerology, dream interpretation…);
Sephardim: Jewish refugees from Spain to Ottomans
Ashkenazim: Eastern European Jews (Yiddish)
Hasidim: Ultra-Orthodox charismatics: simple faith in reaction to legalism initially
Zionism: return to Israel
1. Share with your group any religious discussions you’ve had with Jewish friends, and/or Jewish services/ceremonies that you have attended.
2. Despite the extensive overlaps with Christianity, where do you see the key divergences?
3. Why do you think anti-Semitism has been so persistent and widespread?