Judaism Essay, Research Paper
Judaism, Christianity, Islam and the Baha’i faith all originated with a divine covenant between the God of the ancient Israelites and Abraham around 2000 BCE. The next leader of the Israelites, Moses, led his people out of captivity in Egypt and received the Law from God. Joshua later led them into the Promised Land where Samuel established the Israelite kingdom with Saul as its first king. King David established Jerusalem and King Solomon built the first temple there. In 70 CE the temple was destroyed and the Jews were scattered throughout the world until 1948 when the state of Israel was formed.
Jews believe in one creator who alone is to be worshipped as absolute ruler of the universe. He monitors people’s activities and rewards good deeds and punishes evil. The Torah was revealed to Moses by God and can not be changed though God does communicate with the Jewish people through prophets. Jews believe in the inherent goodness of the world and its inhabitants as creations of God and do not require a savior to save them from original sin. They believe they are God’s chosen people and that the Messiah will arrive in the future, gather them into Israel, there will be a general resurrection of the dead, and the Jerusalem Temple destroyed in 70 CE will be rebuilt.
Judaism is the complex expression of a religious and ethnic community, a way of life as well as a set of basic beliefs and values, which is discerned in patterns of action, social order, and culture as well as in religious statements and concepts. The ideal is to remember God in everything one does, through prayer and keeping the commandments. There are many spiritual practices that the Jewish follows as a remainder of their faith and as a way to engage all the senses in awareness of God. Some of these scared practices include: circumcision, Sabbath, eating kosher foods, and Bar Mitzvah.
Of all of the commandments in Judaism, the brit milah (literally, Covenant of Circumcision) is probably the one most universally observed. It is commonly referred to as a bris. Even the most seculars of Jews, who observe no other part of Judaism, almost always observe these laws. Boys are ritually circumcised when they are eight days old, to honor the seal of God’s commandment to Abraham. A person who is uncircumcised suffers the penalty of kareit, spiritual excision; in other words, regardless of how good a Jew he is in all other ways, a man has no place in the world to come if he is uncircumcised.
Sabbath is the most important ritual observance in Judaism. It is primarily a day of rest and spiritual enrichment. The Jewish Sabbath runs from sunset Friday night to sunset Saturday night. Observant Jewish families begin the Sabbath eve with a special Friday night dinner. The woman of the house lights candles to bring in the Sabbath light; the man of the house recites a blessing over the wine. Special braided bread, challah, is shared as a symbol of the double portions of manna in the desert. The rituals help to set a different tone for the day of rest, as do commandments against working, handling money, traveling except by foot, lighting a fire, cooking and the like.
The next morning Shabbat services begin around 9AM and continue until about noon. After services, the family says kiddush again and has another leisurely, festive meal. The family studies Torah for a while, talks, takes an afternoon walk, plays some checkers, or engages in other leisure activities. A short afternoon nap is not uncommon. It is traditional to have a third meal before Shabbat is over. This is usually a light meal in the late afternoon.
Shabbat ends at nightfall, when three stars are visible, approximately 40 minutes after sunset. At the conclusion of Shabbat, the family performs a concluding ritual called Havdalah (separation, division). Blessings are recited over wine, spices and candles. Then a blessing is recited regarding the division between the sacred and the secular, between Shabbat and the working days.
Another ritual practice among the Jewish people is following Kashrut. Kashrut is the body of Jewish law dealing with foods that can be eaten and cannot be eaten and how these foods must be prepared and eaten. Although the details of kashrut are extensive, the laws all derive from a few fairly simple, straightforward rules:
1. Certain animals may not be eaten at all. This restriction includes the flesh, organs, eggs and milk of the forbidden animals.
2. Of the animals that may be eaten, the birds and mammals must be killed in accordance with Jewish law.
3. All blood must be drained from the meat or broiled out of it before it is eaten.
4. Certain parts of permitted animals may not be eaten.
5. Meat (the flesh of birds and mammals) cannot be eaten with dairy. Fish, eggs, fruits, vegetables and grains can be eaten with either meat or dairy. (According to some views, fish may not be eaten with meat).
6. Utensils that have come into contact with meat may not be used with dairy, and vice versa. Utensils that have come into contact with non-kosher food may not be used with kosher food. This applies only where the contact occurred while the food was hot.
7. Grape products made by non-Jews may not be eaten.
Another common ritual observed among the Jewish people is Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah.
It is an important life cycle event for a young Jewish boy or girl. A boy is Bar Mitzvah when he reaches his thirteenth birthday, while girls are Bat Mitzvah when they are twelve.
Historically Bar Mitzvah and later Bat Mitzvah is the ceremonial occasion that marks the time when a young person is recognized as an adult in the Jewish community and is responsible for performing mitzvot. For example before children are Bar/Bat Mitzvah, they do not need to fast on Yom Kippur. However after bar/bat mitzvah, they are required to fulfill this mitzvah. At bar/bat mitzvah they are also counted in the minyan, a quorum of ten required to conduct a service.
The bar/bat mitzvah ceremony consists of the young person chanting the blessings, and his/her Torah portion which is the Torah portion of the week. There are many traditions that accompany the Bar/Bat Mitzvah experience. While the actual day is important and memorable, the years of preparation before are just as enlightening and vital.
Over time the Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebration party has evolved. The custom is to serve a special meal to commemorate the mitzvah taking place. Moreover with extended families spread out over the country, the Bar/Bat Mitzvah is also an opportunity for families to reunite and spend time together.