Unit 10: Judaism - Practices (Key Concepts)


Uses of the Synagogue

In Judaism, the Synagogue is not just used for prayer; it forms the central part of the Jewish community. Prayer services are held there, the community gathers there, study takes place there (particularly in preparation for rites of passage such as Bar / Bat Mitzvah), and people are educated there. There are social gathering areas within the Synagogue and a lot of community work (charitable work etc.) runs from the Synagogue. 

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Rites of Passage

Family life is seen as very important in Judaism, as such there are certain points of a family member's life that should be celebrated. The main 'Rites of Passage' are: birth, coming of age, marriage and death. These are each celebrated and observed in a special way, often with ceremonies and services in the home and / or synagogue. 

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Written & Oral Laws

In Judaism, the Written Law is found in the Torah, the first 5 books of the Jewish bible. These are laws that God has given his people to follow. The Oral Laws are teachings that have been passed on through the Rabbis who have instructed the Jewish people on how to follow Jewish scripture - many of these Oral Laws have been written down in the Talmud. 

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Reform vs Orthodox Judaism

Orthodox Jews are Jews who emphasise the importance of following the laws and guidance found in the Torah as strictly as possible. Reform Jews do still follow the laws of the Torah, but less strictly - they tend to be more relaxed. Examples of differences between the two groups in terms of religious practices can be seen in the way in which they worship and in their observance of laws such as the food laws - whereas Reform Jews see the laws as being more open to interpretation. 

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