Judaism

Judaism

‘Just as the soul fills the body, so God fills the world. Just as the soul bears the body,
so God endures the world. Just as the soul sees but is not seen, so God sees but is not
seen.’
The Talmud

Introduction

There are approximately 12 million Jews in the world today.
Judaism began in the Middle East over 3500 years ago. Jews believe that there is only one G-d and that they
have been chosen to be His people. Judaism was the faith that gave rise to both Christianity and Islam.
There are approximately 300,000 Jews in Britain today, with about 7000 living in Scotland.

History

The word Judaism comes from the Hebrew word Yehudah (or Judah). Yehudah was the largest of the Twelve
Tribes of Israel that originally made up the Jewish people, and from whom most Jews today are thought to be
descended.
The Torah (first five books of the Bible) states that Jews are descended from Abraham, who lived around 2000
BCE In Mesopotamia. He broke away from the idolatry of his parents and became the first monotheist, believing
in only one supreme G-d. His descendents were rescued by G-d from slavery in Egypt and brought to Mt Sinai
where G-d entered into a covenant with them. In return for accepting the laws of the Torah G-d promised to
make the Jews His special people and to give them the Land of Israel as their home. The laws of the Torah cover
everything from social and moral responsibility to ritual and dietary practices. ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’
is one of the important principles found in the Torah.
Later in their history the Jews were exiled from their land and are thus found all over the world. Jews believed
that this exile was a punishment for their misbehaviour and that G-d would eventually return them to their
land. In 1948, with the establishment of the State of Israel Jews from all over the world were able to return to
their land, as G-d had promised.
Thus Judaism is made up of the connection between G-d, His people and the Land. In traditional parlance: ‘the
Torah of Israel, the People of Israel and the Land of Israel’.

Traditions/Beliefs

A belief in one G-d who is the creator of all, but himself is eternal and transcendent.
· G-d has made a covenant with the Jewish people to be His witnesses to creation.
· Jews keep the covenant by studying and observing the Torah.
· G-d has given the Land of Israel to the Jews as their homeland.
· All Jews are responsible for each other.
· Though G-d has a special relationship with the Jews, all people that behave morally have a share in Gd’s kingdom.
In modern times Judaism has been grouped in various movements or denominations. In Scotland these are:
Orthodoxy, which sees itself as carrying on the traditional form of Jewish life. Orthodox Jews believe in
submission to the dictates of Jewish Law as defined by the Torah and Rabbinical interpretation throughout the
ages. Orthodox Jews will accept innovation, only in so much as it can be harmonised with Jewish legal tradition.
Reform Judaism, which started about 200 years ago, believes in the primacy of the individual in interpreting
correct behaviour. While previous Jewish practice and law are considered an important guideline, they are not
always necessarily considered binding today.
Liberal Judaism, which is a peculiarly British movement, shares its basic ideology with Reform. Liberal Jews will
tend to be more liberal and/or radical on many issues than Reform Jews and more open to far reaching change.
Most Jews in Scotland would identify themselves as Orthodox; in affiliation if not always in practice.

Worship

For Judaism life is a religious ceremony in itself – the emphasis on the detailed code of conduct and the
following of each individual and community of these codes is a form of daily worship. Therefore, all of life is
a liturgy (public worship).
It would be impossible to speak about Judaism without mentioning the Jewish Dietary Laws. The
adherence to these food laws are another form of worship for the Jew. The rules were set out in the Hebrew
Bible. Kosher (that which is in accordance with the established standard of Jewish ritual) food laws are
broadly:
· Kosher meat comes from an animal that chews a cud and has cloven hoofs (sheep and cows for
example). The meat must be killed in accordance to special rules and the meat must be prepared in
such a way that all blood is removed.
· Seafood is Kosher if the animals have scales or fins.
· Poultry is Kosher if it follows the special rules of slaughter and preparation.
· It is prohibited to consume dairy products at the same time or shortly after a meal which included
meat products.
· Separate utensils are required for dairy and non-dairy meals.
Synagogues are the names of the Jewish places of worship. Group prayer is extremely important. The
prayers vary depending on the hour of the day, the day of the month and the branch of Judaism. During
services Jewish males are required to wear yarmulke (small headpieces).
The Jewish holy day is called the Shabbat (repose). The Shabbat begins at sunset on Friday and continues
until nightfall on Saturday. Work is prohibited during the Shabbat. On the Shabbat prayer services are more
detailed for all branches of Judaism – Friday services can be anywhere from half an hour to an hour and a
half; and Saturday morning services can be as long as three hours.

Holy Days and Celebrations

· Rosh Hashanah. The Jewish New Year. Occurs around the middle of September/October. It
celebrates the religious New Year and the creation of the earth.
· Yom Kippur. Occurs shortly after Rosh Hashanah. It is the Day of Atonement. It runs from sunset to
nightfall and believers do not eat or drink during this time. It is a time to repent for actions of the
past year.
· Sukkot. The feast of Booths. It lasts for nine days and occurs around the end of
September/October. It is known as the Harvest celebration.
· Channukah (Hanukkah). Occurs late November to mid December. Known as the Festival of Lights it
celebrates the victory of the Maccabees over the Syrians in the second century B.C.E.
· Purim. Occurs late February to early March. It remembers the deliverance of the Persian Jews from
destruction. The day before Purim is spent fasting, the actual day of Purim is joyous.
· Pesach (Passover). Occurs from late March to early April. It honours the delivery of the Jewish
people from slavery. It lasts 8 days.
· Shavout. Occurs in May/June and lasts for 2 days. It is the spring harvest festival and the celebration
of God’s gift of the Torah.