Judaism - Belief and Teachings

  • Created by: TBako
  • Created on: 04-08-20 09:40

The Almighty

What is it?

The Torah (The Jewish scriptures) teaches about the attributes of God and what they reveal about him. It teaches that :

  • God is One - Judaism teaches strict monotheism. The basic teaching of the Torah is the Shema.
  • God is the Creator - As there is only one God, many Orthodox Jews beieve everything in the universe was created by God
  • God is the Law-giver - He gave them the gift of the Torah,and the 613 mitzvot to help them live good lives. Jews belive they are children of God and he is their father. This shows that he loves and cares for his people.
  • God is a Judge - His justice is tempered by his mercy which are equally balanced

Importance: Bring Jews closer to Him, Helps Jews act in the image of God with justice and mercy

SOWA One: The Shema starts off as 'Hear, O Isreal, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one.' - reinforces that God is One

Creator: "Hashem God formed the man of dust from the ground and He blew into his nostrils the soul of life and man became a living being" (Genesis 2:7)

Lawgiver, Judge: "Hashem is our Judge; Hashem is our Lawgiver." (Isaiah 33:22)

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The Shekinah

What is it?

The Shekinah is 'the divine presence of God on Earth'; this presence has been seen:

  • When God's presence guided him through the wilderness to the promise land
  • Shekinah is seen as a cloud of smoke on Mount Sinai when God gave the commandments to the poeple
  • When Moses' face was shiningwhen he came in contact with the divine presence

For Jews, God's divine presence is felt in different, subtle ways: in study, worship, prayer or Tikkum Olam (doing good in the world)

  • In study: Study of the Tenakh can be done by both men and women: all Jews are encouraged to connect with God through study which can take place in a yeshiva (a Jewish school of Talmudic study) being taught by rabbis (a Jewish teacher of religious leader) but Jews can study at any time
  • SOWA - "If two sit together and the words between them are the Torah, the the Tekenah is in their midst" (Rabbi Hananiah ben Teradion)
  • In worship: After God told Moses to tae the people to the Promised Land (Israel), he also instructed them to build the tabernacle/mishkan (a portable temple) which God could dwell in as tey travelled to maintain their connection with him
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The Shekinah (2)

  • SOWA - In the modern synagogue, as God directed a light burns in front of the Ark within the synagogue "to kindle a lamp cpntinually...an eternal decree for their generations, from the children of Israel" (Exodus 27:20-21)
  • In prayer: Jews can prayer in aone or as part of a minyan ( a group of ten men (Orthodox) or adults (Reform) over the age of 13). When Jews pray as a community they believe God is present. Certain prayers, eg Kaddish (prayer of praise blessing God's name) and Barachu (the call to prayer) can only be said as part of a minyan
  • SOWA - "Whenever ten are gathered for prayer, there the Shekinah rests."(Talmud)
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The Messiah

What is it?

The Messiah mmeans 'the anoited one'. Jews believe:

  • The Messiah is the one who will be anoited as the king of Israel in the End of  Days (Messianic Age)
  • The concept of the Messiah is not found in the Torah but is frequently mentioned by Jweish prophets; the Jewish people had been forced into exile and the prophets reassured them that if they obeyed God then a Messiah might come to restore them and improve society

SOWA - "Behold days are oming...a king will reign and prosper and he will administer justice and righeous ness in the land. IN his dayas...Israel will dwell securely." (Jeremiah 23:5-6)

The nature and role of the Messiah, Jews believe he will be:

  • a great political leader ascended from King David (Jeremaih 23:5)
  • a great judge who makes righteous decisons (Jeremiah 33:15)
  • well-versed in Jewish law and observe its commandments (Isaiah 11:2-5)

 How the Messiah is shown in the Nevi'im:

  • he will bring redemption poltically and sppiritually by restoring Israel and Jerusalem
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The Messiah (2)

  • he will estbalish a goernment in Israel which will be the centre of all governents worldwide foR Jews and Gentiles (non-Jews)
  • he will rebuild the Temple and re-establish worship there

SOWA - "I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the Messiah. Hoever long it takes, I will await his coming everyday."

 The Messianic Age (Olam-Ha-Ba) - the time the Messiah will come and rule the world

  • a time of peace with no hatred, intolerance or war
  • the world will recognise the Jewish God as the only true GOd and Judaism will be the only true religion
  • all Jewish people living in exile will return to their home in Israel

Divergent understandings of the Messiah:

  • Some Orthodox believe the Messiah won't come utnil all Jews observe all the Mitzvot fully
  • Ultra Orthodox Jews groups believe they know when the Messiah will arrive
  • Many Orthodox have followed the teaching of Maaimondes that they'll never know when the Messiah is coming
  • Many Reform Jews believe a Messiah isn't coming but it's up to the Jewish people to make the change in the world that many are hoping the Messiah would do - Tikkun Olam
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The covenant at Sinai

A covenant is an agreement beetween two parties which benefits both; both parties need to keep certain conditions or fulfil obligations

  • For Jews, this argreement is between God and the Jewish poeple: an agreement formed in love and creates an importnat relationship sealed with an oath

Brit olam (an everlasting covenant) makes it clear that Jews believe that God will not break his covenant; Jewish people recognise form time to time they fail to fulfil their obligations and break the law

SOWA - "For you are a holy people to Hashem, your God."

What is it?

God appeared to Moses on Mount Sinai around the time he led people out of captivity in Egypt and then spent 40years wandering in the Sinai wilderness preparing for people to enter and possess the promised land.

It was an agreement between God and the Jewish people written on two tablets of stone kept in the Ark of the Covenant stored in the tabernacle and later the Temple; stated that if the people kept the 613 laws given to Moses on Sinai (Mitzvot) they would be God's special people.

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The covenant at Sinai (2)

Importance for Jews

  • The Torah is the most important part of the Tenakh as it contains the laws of the covenant which are a guide to Jewish living
  • Jews believe they are bound to follow the teachings inn the Torah because of the covenant made by Moses - obedience will be blessed and obedience punished
  • Torah scrolls are stored in the Ark; the most important reading is on the Sabbath when seven members of hte congregation are chosen to be called up to the Torah whilst a designated leader will chant the passage on their behalf
  • Study of the Torah is important in Jewish life forming a significant part of Jewish education and children can begin as young as three
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The Ten Commandments (the Decalouge)

What is it?

Although Moses was given the 613 commandments from God, Jews rgard the first ten as special as they are commanments to be kept by all Jews: they are mentioned in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5:4-21

  • You shall not recognise the gods of others in my presence
  • You shall not make yourself a carved image (an idol)
  • You shall not take the name of Hashm, your God, in vain
  • Remember the Sabbath day to sanctify it
  • Honour your father and your mother
  • You shall not kill
  • You shall not commit adultery
  • You shall not steal
  • You shall not bear false witness against your fellow
  • You shall not covet (yearn to possess) your fellow's house...nor anything that belongs to your fellow
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The Ten Commandments (the Decalouge) (2)


  • Jewish people remind themselves that they worship one God only (first commandment) every time they touch the mezuzah and three times a day in the prayers.
  • The second commandment means that Jewish people ban any form of statue from the synagogue and their home and argue about what art is permited in Judaism,
  • Third commandment means Jewish people do not use God's name in any form of swearing and say 'the Almighty' or 'Hashem' rather than speaking the word of God.
  • The fourth commandment means that Jews do not work of Shabbat which begins at sunset on Friday and ends when the stars appear on Saturday
  • The fifth commandment helps Jewish people in their family life and parents in their task of bringing up their children to be good Jews
  • The last five commandments are important when making moral desicions e.g. do not kill
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The Covenant with Abraham

What is it?

God called Abraham to leave his home and family and in reward he said "I will make of you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great and you shall be a blessing." (Genesis 17), "I will ratify My covenant between Me and you and between your offspring after you throughout their generations, as an everlasting covenant, to be a God to you and to your offspring after you." (Genesis 17:7)

God's side of the covenant was that he promised to make Abraham the Father of many great nations and to guve the land of Canaan to Abraham's descendants as an 'everlasting possession.'

Abraham's side of the agreement was for Abraham and every male descendant to be circumcised and for Abraham and his family to worship God alone.


Most baby Jewish boys are circumsised usually at eight days old and enter into the covenant of Abraham (Brit Milah); the Brit Chayim (covenant of life) ceremony for Jewish baby girls among Reform and Liberal Jews welcomes girls into the Jewish faith and claims them as a heir to the Abrahamic Covenant.

SOWA - God said to Abraham in Genesis, 'This land will be an everlasting possession to you and your descendants and I will be their God.'

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The Covenant with Abraham (2)

How the covenat affects Jews today

  • The idea of the covenant is fundamental to all Jews but there are three oarts Jews believe are yet to be fulfilled: the Promised Land (Israel), a great nation and blessing and redeption
  • Jews believe the covenant with God at Sinai gave them laws to live by and that obeying them will fulfil the Abrahamic covenant
  • Jewish men are still circumcised today as a symbol of the covenant
  • SOWA - "You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin and it shall be a sign of the covenant."
  • The birth of Isaac to Abraham and Sarah in their old age shows Jews that Gid kept his promise and intervened when neede; God is in control even in the processes of nature

The Promised Land The Tenakh refers to God's offer of a "Promised Land" many times; it's described as "a land flowing with milk and honey" (Exodus 3:8)

How this affects Jews today

  • Prayers for return to Israel are in daily Sabbath prayers and festivals
  • Living outside of Israel is seen as exile by some Jews
  • The land of Israel is central to Judaism and many laws are tied to the land and can only be implemented there
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The Sanctity of Life

What is it?

Pikuach Nefesh - a principle in Jewish law stating the preservation of life overrides any Jewish law - when a person's life is in danger almost any mitzvah becomes inapplicable. Jews believe human life is the most important concern  because life is given by God and is sacred

SOWA -  "Let us create in our image...so God created Man in his image." (Genesis 1:26), "You shall observe my decrees...by which (man) shal live - I am Hashem." (Leviticus 18:5)

Jews should live by the Torah rather than die because of it. Rabbis have discussed and approved actions int the Talmud that can be done on Sabbath to save a life:

  • rescuing a drowning child
  • breaking a door to prevent it closing on a child
  • moving rubble from a collapsed wall to save a child
  • extinguishing a fire to save a life

Any law can be broken to save a life but exceptions are murder, idolatry, incest and adultery; Judaism not only permits but requires a person to break the commandments to save a human life

SOWA- "You shall not stand aside while your fellow's blood is being shed." (Leviticus 19:16)

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The Sanctity of Life (2)

Pikuach Nefesh today

  • An ill person is not permitted to fast on Yom Kippur
  • Doctors are allowed to answer emergency calls on Shabbat
  • Abortions to save the life of a mother is permitted - an unborn life is not yet considered equal to the mother
  • Jews can't do anything to hasten death, even to prevent suffering; euthanasia, suicide, assissted suicide are strictly forbidden
  • It's sometimes permissible to end artificiallly prolonged lives

SOWA - "Save one life you save the world." (Sanhedrin)

Human life is holy

The Torah teaches that people who break the rules should be held accountable for their actions

SOWA - "if he strikes mortally any human life, he shall be put to death...man who strikes an animal life shall make restituton, a life for a life."

Many Jews believe the Torah isn't saying ther should be materail payment for injury but the perpetrator to beg for forgiveness and do Teshuva (returning to God; repentance) to seek forgiveness from God

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The Sanctity of Life (3)

Divergent understandings of Pikuach Nefesh

  • Judaism doesn't support assissted dying as human life is holy
  • Suicide, is forbidden, but is looked upon with understanding and sympathy
  • Acceptance of abortion for: Orthodox only permit it to save a mother's life, for mental health reasons and certain particular cnoditions; Reform and Libral Jews llow wider circumstances, eg social, medical and age of foetus
  • Acceptance of organ donation: Liberal and Reform jews permit organ donation; Orthodox allow under certain circumstances

Donation of an organ from living person whose health isn't endangered and there is a patient waiting is permitted and encouraged

Donation from a dead body is permitted for the purpose of saving a life

Difficulties arise in defining death because most organs need to be transplated before the heart stops beating which suggests the removal causes death

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Moral Principles and the Mitzvot

Jewish tradition teaches tht thera re 613 mitzvot in the Torah covering aspect of life. The halakhah teaches Jews how to perform or fulfil the mitzvot.

Jews believe the Mitzvot was given by God to Moses within the Torah and it was aprt of the covenant at Sinai that the Jewish people would try to observe them. The consequence of disobedience was to be punished.

SOWA - "I present before you today a blessing and a curse."

Mitzvot and free will

Many exmaples in the Torah show God seemingly predetermined the fate of his people, in Genesis 15, God tells Abraham that his descendants will be ensalved, freed and then return to Canaan. God'srevelation of the future could be interpreted as a sign of omniscience rather than intervention

Mitzvot between humans and the Almighty

  • Some commentators suggests that the Law was a kindly gifted by God rather than a set of autocratic rules, sent to help the Jewish people govern themselves after a long period in salvery being ruld by others
  • Observing the mitzvot is a way that Jews show gratitude for God rescuing them from slavery in Eygpt
  • The mitzvot are acts which show Jews the best way to live thir lives; observing them deepens their relationship with God
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Moral Principles and the Mitzvot (2)

The mitzvot between humans

The list of commandments Jews must follow includes many directions on how they must behave well towards other humans

  • visiting the sick
  • feeding the hungry
  • comforting mourners
  • helping the poor


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Life after death

  • The Torah says that the righteous will be reunited with their loved ones after death, that is there will be an afterlife which will involve meeting with dead family
  • SOWA - describes Jacob as "gather(ing) his people" when he dies (Genesis 49:33)
  • The rest of the Tenakh says that God will end the world, raise the dead and create a new world by rebuilding Jerusalem and the Temple; resurrrection and reincarnation are traditional Jewish belief
  • God will decide what happens to people in the afterlife (Olam-Ha-Ba) on the basis of how they have lived their lives and what they have believed
  • There is temporary punishment after death in Gehinnon but there is no concept of eternal punishment

SOWA - "Thus the dust returns to the ground, as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it."

  • "I believe with perfect faith that there will be a revival of the dead at the time when it shal please the Creator." (Maimonides)
  • The idea of Gan Eden, a heaven, is not defined within Jewish scripture; it's a place where righteous people go after they die SOWA - "The pious of all nations of the world have a portion in the world to come." (Maimonides)
  • The idea of Gehinnon is thought to be a place for unrighteous souls; Rabbis believe those who neglected the Torah would go there to be cleansed them go on to Gan Eden SOWA - "Those who sleep in the dusty earth will awaken: these for everlasting life and these for shame, for everlasting abhorrence" (Daniel 12)
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