The Nature of God

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G-d as a creator and king of the universe.

Genesis 1:3-5

God said let there be light and there was light. God saw that the light was good and god separated the light from the darkness. God called the light the day and the darkness he called the night. And there was evening and there was morning, a first day.

God exists right from the beginning belief in a creator is the start of most religions. Jews believe god is the creator of the universe and they have faith over science and all other theories that God created the universe. They also believe he sustains it and controls everything. They believe he is omnipresent- everywhere, omnipotent- all powerful, and omniscient- all knowing. God seems mysterious and unusual this is because of the transcendence of god that he seems beyond the physical/natural world.

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G-d and Humanity

God and humanity have a special relationship as humanity was formed in the image of god, god gave humanity authority over the whole earth and everything on it, humans could be described as stewards of god.

God instructed humans to populate the earth:

Genesis 1:26-28, 31

And god said ‘let us make man in our image, in our likeness. They shall rule over the fish of the sea the birds of the sky, the cattle, the whole earth and over all the creeping things that creep on earth.’ And god created man in his image, in the image of god he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and god said to them, ‘be fertile and increase, fill the earth and master it; and rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the sky, and over all living things that creep on earth’…… and it was so. And god saw all that he had made and found it very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

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G-d's characteristics

God is believed to:

  • ·         Be Beyond time and space
  • ·         Be Everywhere all the time
  • ·         Be Interested in how people behave
  • ·         Judge each individual
  • ·         Be omnibenevolent –all good and all loving
  • ·         Have revealed himself to humanity
  • ·         To have made laws based on his own characteristics
  • ·         To have inspired profits to speak his words.

Jews therefore obey god. They do this by following the torah and the tenakh and all the Jewish scriptures. Jews are not allowed to make images of god but they have a good idea on his character.

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The Chosen people

Deuteronomy 14:For you are people consecrated to the LORD your god: the lord your god chose you among all other peoples on earth to be his treasured people.

Jews believe they were chosen by G-d to set an example to humanity. Jews say shema several times a day it tells Jews how to live and raise their children. Shema consists of three passages:

Deuteronomy 6:4-9b Hear, Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One. Blessed be the Name of His glorious kingdom forever and ever. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be in your heart. And you shall teach them diligently to your children, and you shall speak of them when you sit at home, and when you walk along the way, and when you lie down and when you rise up. And you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be for frontlets between your eyes. And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Deuteronomy 11:18-21 Therefore impress these my words upon your very heart: bind them as a sign on your hand and serve as a symbol on your forehead, and teach them to your children- reciting them when you stay at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you get up; and inscribe them on the doorposts of your homes and on your gates – to the end that you and your children may endure, the land that the LORD swore to your fathers to assign to them, as long as there is a heaven over the earth.

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The Chosen people cont.

Numbers 15:37-41 The Lord said to Moses as follows: speak the Israelite people and instruct them to leave fringes on the corners of their garments throughout the ages; let them attach a cord of blue to each corner. That shall be your fringe; look at it and recall all the commandments of the Lord and observe them, so that you do not follow your heart and your eyes in your lustful urge. Thus you shall be reminded to observe all of my commandments and to be holy to your god. I the Lord am your god who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your god: I, the Lord your god.

Messiah and the messianic age

Jews believe god is the creator and sustainer of all things, the lord of history and has a plan for history (past present and future) and is the end of all things. Jews believe god shall send a messiah to bring peace on earth. They believe that in this messianic age people shall all follow god’s teachings and values found in the torah and the world will be at peace.

Micah 4:1-3 In the days to come, the mount of the Lords house shall stand firm above the mountains and tower above the hills. The people shall gaze upon it with joy and many nations shall go and shall say ‘Come, Let us go to the mount of the Lord, To the house of the God of Jacob; That he may instruct us in his ways, And that we may walk in his paths’. For instruction shall come from Zion, The word of the Lord from Jerusalem. Thus he will judge among the many peoples, and arbitrate for the multitude of nations, however distant; and they shall beat their swords into plough shares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not take up sword against nation; they shall never again know war.

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The Messianic Age

Messiah – anointed one

1 Samuel 10:1 Samuel took a flask and poured some on Saul’s head and kissed him, and said ‘The Lord herewith anoints you ruler over his own people.’

The ancient practice of anointing with holy oil signifies being chosen for a task. Jews believe the messiah will be born with the authority of God on his shoulders and he shall bring forward peace that shall last forever.

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A covenant is a promise, testament or agreement. There are many covenants between G-d and the Jewish people for example:

The covenant with Adam

Adam was commanded to be obedient to God's commandments, especially refraining from eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
God implied that if he was obedient there would be eternal life and immortality, represented by access to the tree of life. And if he wasn’t obedient god threatened him with death. When Adam and Eve sinned, a whole series of curses were invoked.

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Noah's covenant

God promised Noah after destroying almost all life with a great flood that:

Genesis 9:11b Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.

God then said:

Genesis 9:12-13 This is a sign that I set for a covenant between me and you, and every living creature with you, for all ages to come. I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall serve as a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.

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Noah's covenant

God then issued a set of laws called the Noachide Code they were:

  • ·         Do not worship images or idols
  • ·         Do not commit blasphemy or curse god
  • ·         Do not commit murder
  • ·         Do not steal
  • ·         Do not commit adultery
  • ·         Do not eat a limb of a live animal ( cruelty to animals is prohibited)
  • ·         Set up a legal system and promote justice

Sanhedrin 56a

The Rabbis taught: seven precepts were the sons of Noah commanded: social laws; to refrain from blasphemy; idolatry; adultery; bloodshed; robbery; and eating flesh cut from a living animal.

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Abraham and the Lord- 3 covenants:

Abraham took his family on a journey to a new land, avoiding the deserts. This is because he believed god wanted him to and he had faith in god. It was in Haran god told him the first covenant and so he travelled to the Promised Land.  

  • ·         He will live with his family in the promised land
  • ·         He shall have as many children as the stars in the sky
  • ·         That all male Jews shall be circumcised as part of a covenant to God.

Genesis 12:1-3 The lord said to Abram, ‘Go forth from your native land and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation and I will bless you; and I will make your name great, and you shall be a blessing. I will bless them that bless you and curse them that curses you; and all the families of the earth shall bless themselves by you.

Genesis 15:5 He took him outside and said ‘Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them’ he added, ‘So shall your offspring be.’

Genesis 15:18b To your offspring assign this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river the river Euphrates.

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The covenant with Moses

The Jews were imprisoned in Egypt they were helpless and weak. Moses was a Jew however he had been brought up by the Egyptian court and wasn’t imprisoned he felt god telling him to help the Jews and so he did. He went to the pharaoh and said let my people go and the pharaoh said ‘no’ ten plagues fell on Egypt and eventually the pharaoh freed them. When the slaves reached the red sea after a long journey through the wilderness the pharaoh changed his mind and sent his army to get them back. But Moses freed them, by closing the parting god had made in the red sea. Moses covenant is referred to as the Sinai covenant and was made when the Jews were wandering the desert near Mount Sinai were Moses received the Ten Commandments.

For freeing the Jews god told them to obey his commandments and live as an example to the world. When Moses gave the commandment the Jews replied ‘we hear and we obey!’ the Ten Commandments are together with the shema the basis of Jewish beliefs.

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Covenant with Moses Exodus 20:2-14

Exodus 20:2-14 I, The L-rd, am your G-d who lead you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of *******. You shall have no other gods besides me. You shall not carve for yourself an image, the likeness of anything in the heavens above or the earth below, or in the waters under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them, for I the L-rd your G-d am a demanding G-d, inflicting the sins of the parents upon their children, upon the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing steadfast love to those who love me and keep my commandments. You shall not invoke the name of the L-rd you G-d with malice; for the L-rd does not hold guiltless one who invokes His name with malice. Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. Six days shall you labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of the L-rd you G-d: you shall do no work - you, your son or daughter, your servants, your domestic animals, or the stranger in the community. For in six days the L-rd made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; then He rested on the seventh day. Therefore the L-rd blessed the Sabbath day and called it holy. Honour your father and mother that you may long endure in the land that the L-rd your G-d gives to you. You shall not commit murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour. You shall not covet your neighbour’s house. You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, nor his servants, nor his cattle, nor anything that is your neighbour’s.

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The law of Mitzvot

The Torah contains the five books of Moses – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy – The word ‘Torah’ is usually translated as ‘Law’. The Law of the Torah, both written and oral, is central to Jewish faith and belief. For Jews, the Torah contains the divinely revealed word of G-d, given directly by G-d to Moses on Mount Sinai. It is therefore absolute truth and must be obeyed. The Ten Commandments are central to rules about life, behaviour and worship.

However, rabbis later worked through the text of the Torah and ruled that there were actually 613 commandments that Jews must obey. These are known as the 613 mitzvot. They include the Ten Commandments of the Sinai Covenant.

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The mitzvot

A mitzvah is a commandment or religious duty. There are several different groupings of mitzvot:

  • The 613 mitzvot, which are divided into 248 Mitzvot aseh (positive commandments that say what must be followed) and 365 Mitzvot lo ta’aseh (negative commandments that say what is forbidden)
  • Mitzvot de-oraita: biblical mitzvot
  • Mitzvot de-rabbanan: rabbinical mitzvot
  • Mitzvot kallot: less important commandments
  • Mitzvot hamurot: more important commandments.

Despite these groups all the mitzvot must be obeyed. However, some can only be observed in Israel and some rely on the Temple being in Jerusalem. Therefore, although Jews in Israel are bound by more of the mitzvot than those in the diaspora, there are still some mitzvot that Jews have not been able to observe fully since the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple and cannot observe unless the Temple is rebuilt.Males take on all the mitzvot when they are one day past their 13th birthday. Girls have to take on this responsibility when they are a day past their 12th birthday. This is the reason that coming of age ceremonies such as Bar Mitzvah take place at this time.

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mitzvot and averah

Although women have to observe all the Mitzvot lo ta’aseh, they do not have to carry out all the Mizvot aseh associated with festivals.Women don't have to take part in mitzvot such as those concerning the shofar, the sukkah, the lulav, the tzizit and tefillin. The different rules for men and women are often explained on the basis that women are naturally more spiritual and are therefore closer to G-d so do not need so many rules to be able to live as G-d wants. Also, some of the time-based mitzvot could interfere with their duties and obligations to their families.

The opposite of a mitzvah is an averah – a sin. 

Judaism teaches that people can only really be happy and fulfilled if  they live according to the 613 mitzvot. There is no promise of immediate reward on earth for keeping the mitzvot – they are simply part of a Jew’s duty to G-d. However, Judaism teaches that people can only be truly happy and content when they do keep them. With so many rules and instructions, observing the mitzvot is inevitably a very important part of Jewish daily life, and Jews try to observe these today as they did in the past.

Makkoth 3:16 G-d desired to make Israel worthy, therefore He enlarged the Law and multiplied its mitzvot.

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Beliefs about life after death

Judaism does not have any specific teaching about the relationship between the body and the soul, and this is not considered to be important. Jews believe that G-d breathed the soul into Adam’s body, as stated in Genesis 2:7.

 The rabbis said that the soul leaves the body during sleep and then draws refreshment from heaven. It leaves the body at death but body and soul are eventually reunited at the end of time. The rabbis taught that the body and soul cannot survive without each other.

On Shabbat (the Sabbath ordered in the fourth of the Ten Commandments), tradition says that G-d gives each body an extra soul, but this is taken back at Havdalah (the ceremony marking the conclusion of Shabbat).

At the time when most of the Jewish Scriptures were written, people believed that after death everyone went to Sheol. This is described as a dark place where people went after death and stayed for eternity because Adam and Eve disobeying G-d it is their punishment to be mortel and grow old and die.

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Heaven and Hell

Much later on Jews formed the belief of heaven and hell and Jews went to Sheol when they where dead to wait until the Day of Judgement. Some people said that the righteous would enter Gan Eden (Paradise) while the wicked would go to Gehenna (Gehinnom) after the last judgement. Some rabbis, however, said that the dead would go to these places immediately after death. Gehenna is not the same as Sheol. Sheol was seen as a place of waiting, whereas Gehenna was hell. When someone is judged by G-d, the body and soul will be reunited; the accuser will be the soul, and the body cannot blame the soul for its actions. Jews believe that this judgement will take place after the coming of the Messiah.

Towards the end of the period when the Jewish Scriptures were written, some of them explained that there might be an eternal life with G-d after death. They also believed that eventually G-d would judge people and that those who had not lived according to G-d’s will would go to hell. A development of the ideas of the afterlife is found in the second book of Maccabees where a mother and her seven sons are killed for refusing to deny G-d:

2 Maccabees 7:9 ...the King of the universe will raise us up to an everlasting renewal of life...

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Heaven and hell cont.

So, although Jews believe that they may be punished or rewarded after death for the way in which they have lived their lives, there is no clear teaching about heaven in the Jewish Scriptures.

For Jews the importance of life is the way in which it is lived on earth. Whatever may happen after death is in G-d’s hands and should be left to G-d to arrange. Therefore, Judaism is a religion that puts great stress and importance on the way people live their lives, not on how this may affect their soul. This emphasis is found in a number of Jewish practices. For example, when Jews make a toast over a drink they say ‘L’Chaim’ – ‘to life’, and traditional Jewish birthday cards say ‘May you live to be 120.’ These examples show that Judaism is concerned with life, rather than with what might happen afterwards.

To live a good life, Jews must follow the Ten Commandments and the 613 mitzvot, they must live a halakhic life (walking with G-d) and treat others well. This is the most that anyone can do – it is left to G-d to decide what, if anything, will happen next.

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