Judaism

The Torah

The first five books of the Old Testament. Is regarded as the holiest part of the Tenakh.

Members of the congrgation can be called to read from the Torah, which is an honour. There is a reader that can do it for them if they don't know Hebrew well enough. A Torah extract is read each week, so the whole Torah is read over 1 year (or 3 in Reform Judaism). During the service the ark is opened and the Torah is carried through the congregation. As it passes them, people will bow to, kiss or touch the Torah with their tallit. 

1 of 20

Orthodox Judaism

Orthodox Jews believe the Torah is of divine origin. They believe it should be followed to the letter and the teachings should not be changed to adapt for modern life. They strictly observe mitzvot, especially Shabbat and dietary laws. Orthodox Jews believe that the physical body will be resurrected. Because of this the body should be kept intact after death, so autopsies are frowned upon and cremation is forbidden. The Bimah is usually in the centre of the synagogue. Orthodox synagogues hold services three times a day (shacharit-morning, minchah-afternoon, ma'ariv-evening). the minyan must be all men. Men and women are separated in synagogues. Ot=rthodox Jews pray at their own pace. The hazzan prays in the same direction as the congregation. Services are in Hebrew, except the sermon. Orthodox Jews sway during prayer to help them concentrate. Orthodox men wear the kippah all day. Keep kashrut (food laws). Most girls don't have a bat mitzvah ceremony as they don't have the same responsibilities toward worship as men. Instead, Orthodox Jews have a bat hayil (daughter of valour) ceremony, where all the girls who have turned twelve in the previous year give a reading in front of friends and family.

2 of 20

Reform Judaism

Reform Jews believe that the Torah is people's interpretations if God's word. They see Judaism as a developing religion, so they adapt the sacred texts for modern life. They tend to follow the mitzvot about morality. However, they believe the ritual commandments, such as dietary laws can be adapted or abandonded in reponse to changes in society. In Reform Judaism, men and women are equal. Reform Jews believe that the body is simply a vessel for the soul, which will carry on without the body. They therefore reject the idea of physical resurrection and accept cremation and organ donation. The Bimah is often close to the ark in the synagogue. Reform synagogues tend not to have weekday services. The minyan can be male or female. If the synagogue has a hazzan, they face the congregation. They pray in unison. The services are partially in the local language. They may have instruments or choirs to accompany singing. Tend to only wear the kippah if praying or if at the synagogue. Leave it up to the individual if they want to keep kashrut. Some only observe some food laws, others only keep kashrut at home and eat non-kosher food elsewhere. 

3 of 20

God's Characteristics

Judaism is a monotheistic religion so Jews only believe in one God. They believe that God is eternal and is the creator of everything in the universe, as shown in Genesis. God is omnipotent, omnibenevolent, omniscient nad omnipresent. God is also transcendent. They also believe that God is law-giver and that they should obey God's laws as part of the covenant. They believe that God will judge their behaviour during their life once they die. He will be just and merciful and he will save people from sin and suffering. 

4 of 20

Shekhinah

The place where God's presence rests and can be felt. 

The term is used to describe God's presence in the tabernacle (a portable place of worship used by Moses) and the Temple in Jerusalem. Many Jews pray at the remaining part of the temple (the Western Wall) as they believe Shekhinah is still there. Some Jews believe Shekhinah is present when they pray together. It is often seen as the feminine characteristics of God, such as being caring. The concept helps Jews understand suffering as God is with them. 

5 of 20

Covenants

A promise of agreement between two parties. Covenants were made between God with Noah, Abraham and Moses. 

The first covenant was made between God and Abraham. Abraham was the first of the founders of Judaism and is referred to as 'our father Abraham'. God told Abraham to leave to Canaan (the Promised Land) and in turn promised Abraham a child and to protect him and his descendants as his chosen people. God asked for the Israelites to obey God and lead by example. He asked for male descendants to be circumcised as a mark of the covenant (brit milah). 

Moses was also a founder of Judaism. He led Jews from slavery in Egypt to freedom in Canaan. God made a covenant with moses on Mount Sinai, where he gave Moses the Torah. This included the mitvot- including the Ten Commandments. He was also given an explanation of the Torah called the Oral Torah. The Israelites promised to "do everything the Lord has said." 

6 of 20

Mitzvot

The term has a mix of meanings. It is often used to refer to duties (such as the 613 in the Torah) and good deeds.

There are 613 mitvot rules including the Ten Commandments, found in the Torah. They cover a variety of issues, including food, how to worship and how to help the poor. Some are positive, telling Jews what they should do, while others are negative telling Jews what they shouldn't do. Ritual mitzvot are between a person and God. Moral mitvot are between one person and another. Jews believe in free-will so they're responsible for following the mitvot. This means they can be judged by God. Some mitvot cannot be followed as they refer to the Temple. Following the mitvot unite Jews and give them an identity as God's people. 

7 of 20

Afterlife

The Torah focuses more on life on Earth. Jews are encouraged to lead good lives for the sake of life on Earth, rather than the hope of what's to come.

Many Jews believe life after death is spent in Paradise. Some believe it is a place of banquets and sunshine, while others have a more spiritual view that it is a closeness to God. They believe if you have lived a blameless life you go straight to Gan Eden, Howver most souls go to Gehinnom before. This is a place of torment where people are punished. Some believe this is purication where people are shown the wrong they have done. The truly wicked don't move on, some think they are tormented forever while others believe their souls are destroyed. 

God's judgement gives some Jews motivation for good behaviour while others argue that they should do good things for the fact that they are good. Some Reform Jews don't believe in the afterlife as it isn't explicitly mentioned in the Torah. Others believe we live on in how we have influenced others during our lives. 

Many Jews believe that they will be physically resurected, this belief is very important in Judaism. 

8 of 20

Messiah

The annointed one who will bring in a new era or age for humankind. This will include rebuilding the Temple and bringing in an age of universal peace. 

It is believed that the Messiah will be an inspirational leader who will being an era of perfect peace and prosperity, called the Messianic Age. He'll estabblish God's kingdom on earth. He will be human and a male descendant of King David. He will spread God's laws, reunite the Jewish people in Israel and rebuild the Temple. It is believed that the prophet Elijah will appear just before the Messiah comes. It is believed that people will be judged by God and the Messiah. Some Jews believe that everyone will be ressurrected so they can be judged, while others believe only the righteous will be resurrected to share in the Messianic Age. Not all Jews believe the Messiah will come. Many reform Jews believe that people themselves can bring about a peaceful and prosperous age through their own good actions. 

9 of 20

Synagogue

House of assembly. Building for Jewish public prayer, study and assembly.

The layout of the main hall commemorates ascpects of the Temple in Jerusalem. They have an ark, which is a large cupboard or alcove with doors, on the wall facing Jerusalem. It is the centrepiece of the synagogue. It holds the Torah and symbolises the ark that held the tablets God gave to Moses. A copy of the Ten Commandments often hangs above the ark. A parchment scroll of the Torah is kept inside the ark. It must be handwritten by a scribe and is usually covered by a mantle or sometimes a case which is ornately decorated. The ner Tamid is a light above the ark that never goes out. It represents the menorah, which was always alight in the Temple. The Bimah is a raised platform with a reading desk. It represents the altar in the Temple.

10 of 20

Worship

The Tenakh shows it it important to worship God together. Attending synagogues can remind Jews of the importance of their faith and their closeness to God. The siddur is used during each service. It sets out the order of daily prayers. Ten people (known as the minyan) must be present for certain prayers to be said and for the Torah to be read. Services are often led by rabbibut any adult with enough religious knowledge can do so. A hazzan (cantor singer) leads the prayers, which are often sung or chanted. They may also lead the service.                                            

Prayer is a central part of Jews' relationship with God, they believe God listens to their prayers. Jews face Jerusalem during prayer. There are times in prayer (e.g. during the Amidah) when Jews bend their knees and bow to show respect to God. Many pray three times a day even if they don't attend synagogue. They say the same prayers as in service but in a reduced form. This includes the Shema and Amidah. Women should say the Amidah at minumum twice a day. They often pray at home. Full concentration on prayers is vital. Jews can pray spontaneously on top of set prayers. Jweish men often wear special clothing for prayer and worship. Tefflin are two boxes containing Torah passages, worn during morning services (except on Shabbat and festivals). One is strapped to the upper arm and the other to the head, showing that they should serve God with head and heart. A tallit is also worn which has tzittzits to remind them of the mitzvot. 

11 of 20

Shabbat

Day of spiritual renewal and rest. Beginning at sunset on Friday and closing at nightfall on Saturday. 

Shabbat is a day of rest to commemorate the seventh day of creation where God rested. It is a time of reflection and worship, away from the stresses of daily life. It is a chance for the community to get together. On the Friday service Shabbat is welcomed with hymns, prayers and psalms. The Saturday moring service is the main service of the week. There are Torah readings, hymns and prayers about the importance of the Torah. The Saturday afternoon service includes a reading from the Torah as well as prayers.                                                                                The house is cleaned and tidied and any food to be eaten is prepared before Shabbat. This is because work is forbidden on Shabbat. A family member lights two candles to mark the start of Shabbat. They say a blessing while covering their eyes, they may pass their hands over the candles to welcome Shabbat. At the start of the meal, kiddush is said to set Shabbat apart as holy. This includes reciting Genesis and blessing wine. After, they wash their hands. Challot are eaten. A blessing is said over them before they are dipped in salt. Parents often bless their children. Shabbat is a key way they learn about Judaism. The havdalah ceremony marks the end of Shabbat, separating it from the week ahead. Blessings are said over sweet-smelling spices, a cup of wine and a plaited candle with several wicks. 

12 of 20

Pikuach Nefesh

Pikuach nefesh is the saving of a life and is more important than any mitzvot, other than idoltery, adultery and incest. It follows the belief in the sanctity of life. For example, a doctor can break Sabbath to save someone's life. The person doesn't have to be in immediate danger of death, pretentative action can be taken against the mitvot. Ther is debate about whether it applies to animals. Kashrut can be broken if necessary for medical reasons. 

13 of 20

Food Laws

Foods that are permitted to be eaten according to Leviticus. It also refers to the purity of ritual objects such as the Torah scrolls. 

The set of food laws written in the Torah are known as kashrut. Permitted food is called kosher. To be kosher, mammals must have both cloven (split) hooves and chew cud. Sea creatures with both fins and scales are kosher but no other seafood is.  All poultry is kosher, but some birds aren't. Animals must be killed by a specially trained person and humanely. Blood cannot be eaten so the meat must be drained of bloos. Meat and dairy products cannot be eaten together. Keeping kashrut shows self-control  and obedience to God- iyt's a religious ritual and part of the mitzvot.

14 of 20

Rituals- After Birth

Brit milah is the circumcision of boys at eight days old. It is a sign that they belong to Jewish faith as it is a part of the covenant between God and Abraham. The mohel (Jewish person trained in the procedure) and the father say a blessing before it begins. The brit milah is followed by the kidduch being said and giving the boy his Hebrew name. Then there is a celebratory meal. 

Simchat bat, aslo known as brit bat, is the naming ceremony to welcome the birth of a girl. The ceremonies vary a lot, but they often involve songs of thanks, blessings, a ritual to welcome the girl into the covenant (e.g. lighting candles), an explanation of the choice of names and the kiddush. Orthodox Jews are less likely to do this. Instead the girl is given her Hebrew namew during a synagogue service. her father will give a Torah reading. 

15 of 20

Rituals- Coming of Age

At 13 a Jewish boy becomes bar mitzvah (son of the commandments) and at 12 a girl becomes a bat mitzvah (daughter of the commandments). It means they have a responsiblity to fulfil the mitzvot and living in a religious way. There is often a ceremony to celebrate, which is also known as the bar or bat mitzvah. The ceremony forms part of the synagogue service (often on Shabbat) The young person may lead some prayers, read from the Tenakh, give a speech or read some blessings. If they give a reading, it is prepared ubt advance by studying the relevant portion and learning to read in Hebrew. 

16 of 20

Rituals- Marriage

Marriage is important in Judaism because much of Judaism is focused on family and the home. Marriage ceremonies have two parts, the kiddushin (the betrothal) and the nisuin (the wedding). The wedding usually happens at the synagogue. It takes place under the huppah, which represents the home the couple will build together.                                                                Firstly, blessings are said over a cup of wine, which the couple drinks, symbolising the life they will share. The groom gives the bride a ring and says the wedding vow. This completes the kiddushin. At Reform Jewish weddings, both the bride and groom exchange rings and say the wedding vow. The ketubah (marriage contract) is read out. The traditional ketubah states the bride's right to be cared for and her entitlements in case of death or divorvce, but Reform Jews have updated the ketubah so that it is a mutual statement of love and commitment.                The nisuin starts with seven blessings said over wine, in which God is praised for creation and for the gift of children, as well as Israel and Jerusalem. Finally a glass is broken by stepping on it. It is thought to symbolise the destruction of the Temple or to emphasise that love needs to be protected. 

17 of 20

Rituals- Death

Mourning family members perform kriah, where they make a tear in clothing or a ribbon to symbolise grief. The funeral service often includes prayers, psalms and a euology. The Kaddish (a prayer praising God) is said so people focus on God at a time when they may feel far from him. The seven days following the burial are known as shiva. Close family mourn during this time. Orthodox Jews (and some Reform Jews) don't leave the house, attend synagogue or work during shiva. Other mourners visit the house to comfort them and form a minyan for the Kaddish. The loss of a parent is particularly significant in Judaism. The person who has lost a parent will remain in mourning for a whole year, during which they will not go to parties and say the Kaddish everyday for 11 months. For other relatives, mouring lasts for a month after the funeral. The Kaddish is also said on each Yahrzeit. On the eve of which may light a candle for 24 hours. It is a day of remeberance, during which some people fast. 

18 of 20

Judgement and Atonement

Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year. It falls in September or October. It is a time to consider any wrongdoings of the previous year and how they will do better next year. During the last month, a shofar is blown, which is a call for repentance. No work is done and most of the day is spent in the synagogue. Prayers describing God's judgement are said. The Torah is read. Bread and apples dipped in honey are eaten, to symbolise the hope of a sweet year to come. The tashlich ceremony takes place, a prayer is said to ask God to remove the sins of his people. The ceremony is carried out next to water.

Yom Kipput is a day of atonement and is the most important day of the year. No work is done durin it and it gives Jews the chance to ask for the forgiveness of sins from the past year. It involves fasting for 25 hours to let Jews focus on spiritual rather than physical matters. Washing, bathing, using cosmetics, wearing leather shoes and having sex are forbidden on Yom Kippur. Worship in synagogues are important as its a mitzvah to attend them. Chances are given for repentance before the shofar is blown to end Yom Kippur. 

19 of 20

Pesach

Pesach commemorates the events leading up to the Israelites' escape from slavery in Egypt. Pasach means 'to spare' or 'to pass over', referring to the night where the angel of death killed the Egyptian's first born sons but 'passed over' the Israelites without harming them. It lasts seven or eight days. On the first nights, it is celebrated with sedar, a service and meal. Each food symboliseds a part of the Exodus story.

Karpas- a vegetable dipped in salt to remind Jews of the pain and tears caused by slavery.

Matzah (unleavened bread)- bread made from flour, water and no yeast, which Jews made for the Exodus. Anything made from grain and water that has risen is forbidden during Pesach.

Maror (bitter herbs)- a bitter vegetable is eaten to remind Jews of the bitterness of slavery.

Baytsah (egg)- the egg is hard boiled and roasted. It symbolises sacrifices made at the Temple.

Z'roah (lamb bone)- this isn't eaten (neither is the egg) but it symbolises the lamb sacrificed on the night of the Exodus. 

20 of 20

Comments

No comments have yet been made

Similar Religious Studies resources:

See all Religious Studies resources »See all Judaism resources »