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Judaism

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Judaism

Shawn Titen

January 8th, 2012

HUM/130

Daniel Davis Judaism is one of the oldest and longest lasting religions. It claims its roots from Abraham. Judaism is the religion of the Jews. Jews have lived through many hardships because of the beliefs, which include non-violence. Judaism was originally known as “Children of Israel”, and now include a country called Israel. Practicing Jews live in many different countries. They can be found all over the world. They have been persecuted throughout history. Yet they have been able to flourish beyond these persecutions. Judaism has spanned a history of three thousand years. King David built Jerusalem and the Holy Temple of Jerusalem. However, Jerusalem became a contested territory amongst many religions. Romans took over Jerusalem and destroyed the temple, and dispersed the Jews. Since then they have become nomadic. They found commonality in the teachings of their religion. The Bible contains many stories of the Jews (aka Israelites, and Hebrews). Jews date back to Abraham, whom they believe is the first patriarch of the Judaism religion. This is the same Abraham that Islam claims as the father of the Islamic religion. Since then they have had many other famous Biblical leaders, Moses, King David, King Solomon, and others. These leaders are focus for many of the teachings of the Judaism religion. The teachings are gathered in the Torah. The Torah, or teachings, have been collected and assembled into the Bible known to Hebrews as The Tanakh. The religion of Judaism is based on a belief of a covenant between God and the Israelites. God, and others, refer to the Israelites as the People of God. This covenant is similar to a contract between to parties. Both are held responsible for their end of the contract. The Judaism religion is to worship no other gods. God, in his turn, is to be the protector of the Israelites. This covenant between God and the Jews has lasted through time, and many hardships. This type of religion is known as monotheism, as there is only one deity that is worshipped. As an example of the covenant, we can look at the story of the Israelites that were enslaved to the Egyptians. They were forced to endure hard labor, mistreatment, and malnutrition. Eventually, God appointed one Israelite, Moses, to lead His people out of Egypt. Egypt was given a choice to either let the Jews go freely, or suffer twelve plagues. As the story goes, Egypt refused, and after several miracles, some were mild and some were violent. The Egyptian Pharaoh finally allowed the Israelites to leave. The Israelites promptly moved into the wilderness/desert to worship their God. At this point the Israelites began learning about what would be required of their worship, i.e. the Ten Commandments. These included directions for living with other people and what not to do. Moses brought these from God to the Israelites during this time of wandering. The Israelites had a setback when Moses was gone communing with God, and had gone back to worshiping false idols. Moses got angry and in his haste destroyed the first set of Ten Commandments and had to get Gods help to make another set. After this second return from God, Moses found that the Israelites were more appropriately worshiping God. Finally the tribes had a leader and had after many years of wandering, made their way to Canaan. Here they began their lives as a unified nation, albeit still tribal to a large degree. Because of this tribal mindset, the kingdom of Israel began to have problems. Through several Kings of Israel, the Kingdom began to get corrupted. The tribes were eventually taken over by Assyria. Assyria dispersed the members of the tribe in order to prevent them rising as a nation again. This begins the loss of Israel identity. Eventually Jerusalem was taken and destroyed by another country, the Babylonians. The Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and the Holy Temple. From this time forward, the Israelites lived mostly under the rule of other countries. Eventually, after World War II and the holocaust of that war, Israel again found itself with a home country and no ruling power over them. They have fought hard to become a nation. All Jews view Jerusalem, and Israel as the homeland, even if they have never seen it. Jews now live all over the world and in many countries. In contrast, Judaism and Islam have been in constant disagreement on who should be in control of the Jerusalem area. They have been at odds for generations. The amazing part about the two religions is that they are not far apart in their beliefs. Both believe in God as the single holy figure. Moses is revered as a prophet and leader of both Judaism and Islam. Moses’ name appears more often in the Quran, than any other name. Judaism, older than Islamic religion by 2000 years, has had major influence on the Islam. Both religions believe they are descendants of the sons of Noah. Both religions share many beliefs and practices. Both religions believe in the unity of God. To this end, Muslims and Jews pray several times a day. Both religions believe they are descendants of Moses’ sons, and that Abraham is the father of each religion. While Islam is the younger religion, they still believe that Abraham and Jesus were prophets for the Islamic religion. Neither religion view Jesus as more than a prophet, not the son of God. Islam, as well as Jews, do not believe in the Christian belief that Jesus is God. Idolatry is not accepted in the either religion. Some other commonalities include fasting and circumcision. There still remain some differences between the two religions. Jews have a strict Kosher diet they must follow. Muslims have a similar diet they call Halal. These two diets are considered the lawful food that each respective religion can consume. Due to this diet, both religions abstain from consumption of pork. However, the diets can be different. Some Kosher food is not on the Halal list and some Halal food is not on the Kosher list. The main difference in the two religions is the discovery of the religion itself. The Jewish people had a revelation that was felt by the entire people. The Islam religion was created by the prophecies of one man, Mohammed. Rabbi George Gittleman is the leader of the local synagogue. He leads a synagogue that is progressive and inclusive of anyone that wants to follow the Jewish religion. Rabbi Gittleman was traditionally trained in Jerusalem, and moved here in 1996 to lead this synagogue. He explains that Jews today are more progressive, and yet still hold to the old traditions. This synagogue is involved in the community, socially conscious, fellowship and play together. Rabbi Gittleman has had many publications in Jewish periodicals. He has commented on current state of world affairs. He has led pilgrimages to Jerusalem, and held congregation with other synagogues in the local area. In an interview with Rabbi Gittleman, lhe was very friendly and open. He explained many things about the Jewish faith. Rabbi Gittleman explained that the beliefs of the Jewish faith are there is only one God, and through Him they reach salvation. The Jewish religion respects other religions, practices, and preaches peace and non-violence. According to the Rabbi, God and the Jewish people have a covenant, where they promise to obey and pray to him, and he promises to protect them. He further explains that Judaism is different from other religions in that there is only one God. This is counter to the Christian faith, who believe that God is one-third of a Holy Trinity. However, he did comment that Islamic religion is fairly similar to the Jewish religion. Both believe in the one God, and have similar dietary restrictions. Though he joked that the diet restrictions are not quite the same, and that in modern day, there are some that don’t follow the dietary restrictions to the letter. Some do like non-Kosher food, and no longer see it as against the teachings. According to the Rabbi, and other research, the Judaism religion doesn’t encourage conversion to Judaism. Rather than convert, Judaism encourages others to follow “Seven Laws of Noah.” These are basic instructions on how to live with faith. Therefore, there are not many converts to Judaism. Some that do convert usually remain Jews for the rest of their lives. There have been conversions from Judaism, many of which were before modern times, and often were forced conversions. There is no requirement to being a Jew, other than to follow their tenets, and follow the teachings of the Torah. Rabbi George Gittleman (personal communication, January 4, 2012) Rabbi Gittleman described the usual practices of the Judaism religion. Each day the average Jew is required to praise God with prayer at least three times a day. Other religions require many more times a day, and still others do not require daily praising. All Jews are required to attend synagogue each Saturday, and the elders have Torah Study. There is another service on Saturday, also known as Sabbath, where the adults have a second service. There are many other gatherings and fellowships during the week. They vary during the week, and may be different from week to week. These are not required, but everyone is expected to attend a number of them each month. Jews observe different holidays than other religions. Some of the holidays observed are similar to other religions. For example, Yom Kippur, or “Day of Atonement” is similar to the Ramadan that is followed by the Islamic religion. It is a day of fasting from sunrise to sundown. During Yom Kippur, each Jew reflects and repents on the happenings of the year. Another famous holiday is Hannukah. This is a yearly tradition to remember the rededication of the Holy Temple of Jerusalem. It follows the Jewish calendar year, and falls sometime in late November, or late December. Hannukah lasts eight days and nights. Surprisingly, according to the Rabbi, Hannukah is one of the lesser holidays. It is common belief that the holiday has become more popular because it often occurs so close to the Christian holiday of Christmas. Rabbi Gittleman has indicated that the roles in the Jewish community are quickly becoming more equal each year. His synagogue currently has an assistant Rabbi who is a woman. While a hundred years ago, this would be unheard of, it is now fairly commonplace for a woman to be a Rabbi. Rabbi Gittleman has expressed pleasure at having a woman Rabbi at his synagogue. He sees it as an example of his synagogues progressive status. In addition to the assistant Rabbi, there are also the elders who help lead the different study groups, fellowships, and sometimes the sermons. Rabbi George Gittleman (personal communication, January 4, 2012) The Jewish religion does not proselytize, and therefore they do not try to convert others to the Jewish religion. This being said, they do practice non-violent efforts towards peace. They do try to help others to move towards peaceful solutions. Jews also promote religion and encourage others to follow a religion, whatever faith a person will follow. Jews seek fellowship, community, and study of the Torah. Many Jews often practice many of the traditions at home as well at synagogue, however, the traditions are slowly being replaced by newer traditions as time passes. Most of the major traditions still hold but a lot of the smaller traditions are being replaced or lost. Judaism is a tough religion. There are more requirements on the followers than in other religions. The religion requires that each follower be involved with the faith. While a tough religion, its rules are not hard. Judaism is a peaceful and supportive religion, which promotes fellowship and study. Members are often part of the larger local community. Judaism is one of the oldest and strongest religions. As a religion they have seen many trials for the religion. These trials have caused many to wonder about the strength of the religion. They have survived, whether it was through the Holocaust or rediscovering their own nation, in the midst of several enemies. The strongest point that can be made of the 3,400 year old Judaism religion is that it survives. It will continue to be one of the oldest and strongest religions long into the next millennium.

Resources:
Fisher, M. P. (2005). Living religions (6th ed.). New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.

Holzman, G. (2006). Truth, Tradition and Religion. The Association between Judaism and Islam and the Relation between Religion and Philosophy in Medieval Jewish Thought. Al-Masaq: Islam & The Medieval Mediterranean, 18(2), 191-200. doi:10.1080/09503110600838676

Spengler. (2007). Christian, Muslim, Jew. First Things: A Monthly Journal Of Religion & Public Life, (176), 29-33.

Judaism. (2011). Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th Edition, 1

Kimelman, R. (2009). Abraham Joshua Heschel's Theology of Judaism and the Rewriting of Jewish Intellectual History. Journal Of Jewish Thought & Philosophy (Brill Academic Publishers), 17(2), 207-238. doi:10.1163/105369909X12506863090512.

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