The Fundamentals of Judaism
I am a very spiritual person and am always interested in learning about other religions, especially the three monotheistic faiths: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. I feel I have an adequate knowledge of Christianity and Islam, but I do not know much about Judaism. This paper will focus on the questions I have about Judaism. I have always wanted to know the fundamental beliefs of Judaism. I want to know how many Jews there are in the United States and in the world. I often see Orthodox Jewish men wearing yarmulkes and prayer shawls, and I wonder what is the purpose of wearing these. And finally, I wanted to know what is the role of women in Judaism.
As the oldest living monotheistic religion in the Western world, Judaism teaches that there is only one God. Jews follow the laws from God and other prophets as revealed in the Torah, the Hebrew Bible (also known as the Old Testament by Christians.) The Torah includes the "Five Books of Moses" and includes laws on how Jews should conduct their lives in everything from business and agriculture to family and death. Because the Torah can be interpreted in a number of ways, a supplement to the Torah Law came in the form of the Talmud. This is called the "Oral Law" and was developed over several centuries after the Torah and eventually it was put into writing. It was written by Israel's best minds and religious leaders, and it includes different points of view on several issues. The Torah and the Talmud together dictate the manner in which people should behave and how they face the problems they deal with (Shalev, 1999).
There are several branches of Judaism, but the three most common are the Orthodox, the Conservative, and the Reform parties. Regardless of which branch a person belongs to, there are some beliefs that are common to Judaism as outlined by Beth and Kutv Shalev (1999). These include:
Belief in one unique, indefinable and indivisible God.
The belief in free will. Each child is born innocent. God has given people the knowledge of what is right and wrong and the ability to chose which path they want to live. Each person is responsible for his or her own choices and will be rewarded or punished accordingly. A person's actions are much more important than his beliefs as a way to earn God's favor.
Ethics and Justice. The ethical teachings of the Torah and the Talmud, including the Ten Commandments is ingrained into the Jewish way of life, and has become part of the teachings of Christianity and Islam.
The Covenant. The Torah states, "For you are a holy people unto the lord your God: The Lord your God has chosen you to be a special people unto Himself." The Torah has made the Jews a chosen people who must follow a life of great spiritual demands that honor and perpetuate God's Laws.
Salvation and Conversion. You do not have to be a Jew to attain your rewards in the hereafter. Jews are required to fulfill a wide range of commandments (613 in fact)...