Jewish Faith

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  • Topic: Judaism, Halakha, Conservative Judaism
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  • Published : January 14, 2006
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Jewish principles of faith
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Judaism affirms a number of basic principles of faith that one is expected to uphold in order to be said to be in consonance with the Jewish faith. However, unlike most Christian denominations, the Jewish community has never developed any one binding catechism. A number of formulations of Jewish beliefs have appeared, though there is some dispute over how many basic principles there are. Rabbi Joseph Albo, for instance, in Sefer Ha-Ikkarim counts three principles of faith, while Maimonides lists thirteen. While some later rabbis have attempted to reconcile the differences, claiming that Maimonides's principles are covered by Albo's much shorter list, the difference, and alternate lists provided by other medieval rabbinic authorities seem to indicate a broad level of tolerance for varying theological perspectives.

Jewish principles of faith

Judaism is based on strict unitarian monotheism, the belief in one God. The prayer par excellence in terms of defining God is the Shema Yisrael, "Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One", also translated as "Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is unique/alone." God is conceived of as eternal, the creator of the universe, and the source of morality. God has the power to intervene in the world. The term God thus corresponds to an actual ontological reality, and is not merely a projection of the human psyche. Maimonides describes God in this fashion: "There is a Being, perfect in every possible way, who is the ultimate cause of all existence. All existence depends on God and is derived from God." The Hebrew Bible and classical rabbinic literature affirm theism and reject deism. However, in the writings of medieval Jewish philosophers, influenced by neo-Aristotelian philosophy, one finds what can be termed deistic tendencies. These views still exist in Judaism today.

God is One
The idea of God as a duality or trinity is heretical - it is considered akin to polytheism. "[God], the Cause of all, is one. This does not mean one as in one of a pair, nor one like a species (which encompasses many individuals), nor one as in an object that is made up of many elements, nor as a single simple object that is infinitely divisible. Rather, God is a unity unlike any other possible unity. This is referred to in the Torah (Deuteronomy 6:4): "Hear Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one." (Maimonides, 13 principles of faith Second Principle ( Interestingly, while Jews hold that such conceptions of God are incorrect, they generally are of the opinion that gentiles that hold such beliefs are not held culpable. See also Divine simplicity.

God is all-powerful
Most rabbinic works present God as having the properties of omnipotence, omniscience and omnibenevolence (being all good). This is still the primary ways that most Orthodox and many non-Orthodox Jews view God. The issue of theodicy was raised again, especially after the extreme horrors of the Holocaust and several theological responses surfaced. These are discussed in a separate entry on Holocaust theology. The central questions they address are whether and how God is all powerful and all good, given the existence of evil in the world, particularly the Holocaust.

God is personal, and cares about humanity
Harold Kushner, a Conservative rabbi, writes that "God shows His love for us by reaching down to bridge the immense gap between Him and us. God shows His love for us by inviting us to enter...
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