Judaism (Introduction, Worship Site Review, Interview, Comparison/Contrast with Christianity)
This report explores one of the most important Abrahamic religions, Judaism.
In this report, a detailed introduction of Judaism has been given in the first part. Judaism is one of the oldest religions with distinct and unique holy texts. Despite the less number of followers, it has been divided into several branches. This report also contains a description of its branches; Reform, Orthodox, Conservative and Reconstructionist.
The next section contains the summary of an interview of our community priest. Later, I have included the site review of a famous Jewish temple in Hawaii, Temple Emanu-El.
The last section contains the comparison and contrast of Judaism and Christianity.
Judaism is one of the top 10 most famous religions of the world. It is followed and practiced by Jews scattered all over the world. They are present in several countries as a minority except Israel. According to the facts and figures, "Of the thirteen million Jews in the world 5.69 million (43.6%) are believed to live in the United States and 4.55 million (34.8%) in Israel. No other country approaches anywhere near these figures: the next in rank is France with about half a million Jews" (cited in De Lange, 2000, p. 4).
Judaism is one of the three Abrahamic religions, besides Islam and Christianity. Abrahamic religions are the ones which regard Prophet Abraham as their ancestor and patriarch. Judaism is also a monotheistic religion. Monotheism means that Jews avow their belief in one God. Yahweh and Jehovah are the names given to their God by Jews. They strictly disapprove that there are multiple gods ruling the universe. They believe that only one God has supremacy and authority over the universe. This unique God was, is and will be present at all times.
The history of Judaism and Jews is indivisible. According to the Jewish history, God established an everlasting relationship with the Jews through an agreement. Jews believe that Prophet Abraham and Prophet Moses were the links that connected Jews and God. Abraham was chosen as the father of Jews. They had a firm faith that God has chosen them as His People. Jews believe that God chose them because He wanted them to be a model to the humankind.
Torah is the fundamental and most significant religious document followed by Jews. Torah contains 613 instructions to be followed by the Jews. These instructions are also called Mitzvot. Torah consists of Deuteronomy, Exodus, Genesis, Leviticus and Numbers. Jews also regard these as Moses' Five Books. Nevi'im -- of the prophets are other holy books which are included in the Jewish scriptures.
Types of Judaism
There are different branches of Judaism which are followed by Jews all over the world.
Orthodox Judaism - Jews who follow Orthodox Judaism follow and practice the commandments in Torah in all situations. They believe that the text of Torah is divine. They believe that whatever is contained in Torah is from God and no human can amend or change it. Conservative Judaism -- Jews who follow Conservative Judaism strongly believe and acknowledge that all rules and principles of Torah are obligatory. They adopt more contemporary and suitable behaviors to act upon the instructions contained in Torah. They are concerned for the future of their next generation.
Reform Judaism -- Jews who follow Reform Judaism believe that Judaism needs to be modified and developed time and again. They are committed to new and fresh ideas and heightened novelty. They are of the view that Jews should not stick to the laws and traditions of old times. They believe that Judaism is to be altered to deal with the requirements and tribulations of the modern period. For them, it is necessary to think of solutions and laws which are suitable for the present era. They consider it important that it is not enough to practice just those commandments given in Torah.
Reconstructionist Judaism -- Jews who believe in Reconstructionist Judaism believe that Jews are not the chosen people of God. However, they have immense admiration for both old Jewish traditions and modern-day lifestyle. Reconstructionists believe that every Jew must participate to build the future of the Jews. Reconstructionism puts huge emphasis on the importance of the peoples' values and conduct.
Worship Place Review
As I had to select and visit a worship place of Jews so I decided to visit Temple Emanu-El for the Jews in Hawaii. This temple renders a number of services to satisfy all the requirements of the Jews. The Temple plans various Jewish activities. It lays emphasis on the importance of worshiping and praying. Weekly commentaries on Torah are organized so that the people can study and understand it. The temple helps to spread education of Judaism. They also encourage Jews in Hawaii to involve themselves in good activities like charity etc. The Temple wants to improve the lives of the Jewish people. The Temple Emanu-El has several communities The Board of Temple Emanu-El assigns tasks to these committees in specific areas. The temple's associates are really devoted in carrying out their tasks.
I was really impressed by the simple art and architecture of the Temple Emanu-El. More than that, the services it provides to the Jewish community of Hawaii impressed me a lot. I also visited the gift shop of the temple. The great thing was that earnings from all sales are used for the improvement of two schools located at the Temple Emanu-El. It was an unbelievable and unique experience for me to visit this temple. Being a Catholic, I did not know much about Judaism and synagogues. This visit helped me to learn and understand various aspects of Judaism.
I arranged a meeting with the community priest (Rabbi). I asked him several questions regarding the traditions, holidays, practices and challenges of Judaism. He gave me detailed answers of all my queries. He told me that there are several customs and practices which are fundamental in Judaism. Circumcision of the male babies is a tradition followed in every Jewish family. When the boys are 13 years old, they are considered to be a full member of the community. This whole celebration is known as Barmitzvah. Jews are very strict in following prohibitions in diet. Also, every Jew house has a box containing a copy of the Shema, the most important prayer of Jews. He told me that Yom Kippur (The Days of Awe), Shabbat, Hanukkah (The Festival of Lights), Sukkot (Festival of Booths), Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) and Pesach (Passover) are important Jewish holidays. Sabbath is also a resting day for the followers of Judaism. He informed me that robbery, consumption of holy foods, murder, working on Shabbat etc. are the activities that are forbidden in Judaism. He also told me that the special place where Jews go to worship is known as a synagogue. Judaism practices are not different for children and adults. All Jews have to follow the same set of rules that is provided in Torah.
Regarding the challenges faced by Judaism followers, he said that the Jews have to follow very strict diet laws. There are limitations about animals and birds that can and cannot be eaten. Their foods have to be "kosher" certified. Other big challenge is that of Shabbath. The Jews are not allowed to do anything except reading on this particular day. The Jewish women have to face a big challenge in practicing their religion. They have to strictly follow the rules of "Niddah." It means that during her menstruation cycle, she cannot be involved in a sexual intercourse. Jews have to face an anti-Semitic behavior. Many people discriminate and hate Jews because of their ethnicity, traditions and culture. I asked him about his decision of becoming a priest and teaching Judaism. He said that he regards himself a very lucky human being as he is chosen by God to help people understand Judaism. He said that there are innumerable lessons that can be learnt from Judaism. There is a strong connection between a human and God. Judaism strengthens that connection by injecting faith and wisdom in a person. Judaism shapes a person's life immensely. It enlightens the soul of a human being by God's hidden presence. It is also an important lesson of Judaism that our actions are capable of changing our surroundings. A person shall leave good marks and traces in the world for the others to follow. Judaism asks its followers to remember and stick with God in every phase of their life. Jews have to render services for the good of the community in order to get rewarded in the eternal life. Jews are also commanded to establish good relations with other Jews.
This interview was a very enlightening experience for me. I learnt many things about Judaism which were previously not known to me.
Comparing and Contrasting Judaism with Christianity
Judaism and Christianity are Abrahamic religions. Belonging to the same…