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The three pillars of the Jewish religion
The Jewish religion rests on three pillars:
- The Jewish religion is an all-encompassing religion that accompanies the believer at every step of life and defines the meaning and content of life – without the possibility of contradiction.
- The Jewish religion is personal, individual, and always close to people and their everyday lives. None of their laws are so complicated that they cannot be fulfilled. This law does not have to be followed if this is the case, and then it is a decree that the majority cannot follow – and is therefore void. It needs to be changed.
- Flexibility is the third secret that guarantees the survival of the Jewish religion. There is a wealth of rules and laws, but you can move freely within them.
These three pillars are manifested in the three essential elements of the Jewish faith: the one God, the Torah, and the law. The belief in one God, monotheism, was at the beginning of religion.
In the Jewish religion, the Sabbath begins Friday at sunset and ends on Saturday evening. The observance of the Sabbath is the highlight of the week. The Sabbath is the seventh day of the week (Sunday is the first day of the week in the Jewish calendar), and the Jews celebrate God’s rest on the seventh day of creation and the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt.
Orthodox Jews are careful to rest and not work on the Sabbath. And all household chores are done beforehand, and no new situation is to be created on the Sabbath by any action. Strictly believing Jews do not drive a car nor turn on a light switch or stove.
The most famous Jewish prayer is the “Shema Yisrael” (Hebrew for “Hear Israel”). At the same time, it is the emphatic declaration of faith in the Jewish religion in One God. It consists of the Torah or Bible passages Deuteronomy 6.4, a verse from the Talmud (Joma 6.2), Deuteronomy 6.5-9, 11.13-21, and Numbers 15.37-41 together. Pious Jews pray three times a day, with men wearing kippahs (caps), tallith (prayer shawls), and tefillin on weekdays.
Tefillin is phylactery made of leather. Male Jews wrap it seven times around the arm and then three times around the hand and the middle finger. Tefillin also includes prayer pods worn near the heart and on the forehead. The capsules contain texts from the Torah.
The Jews believe in one God, worshiped as the world’s creator. The most important writings of Judaism are the Bible, in Hebrew, the Torah or Tanakh (Christians call the “Old Testament”), and the Talmud (these are teachings written by rabbis. Rabbi is the name for Jewish scholars). The Jewish house of worship is called the synagogue. Observance of religious laws is essential for believing Jews. This includes observing religious dietary laws and observing the Shabbat. Judaism has its religious holidays and calendar that begins 3761 years before the Christian calendar (BC).
The emergence of Judaism over 3000 years ago was equivalent to a religious revolution. People no longer believed in many deities for the first time, but only in a single creator. This marks the beginning of the religion of the Scriptures.
Judaism – a religion of the Scriptures
Judaism is a religion of writing. It knows neither a clergy, as there is in the Christian churches, nor a spiritual head like the Pope. Priests, mediators between God and man, are also foreign to Judaism. Instead, there are the rabbis: mainly learned, pious, and wise Jews. Community leaders are responsible for their community members and advise them on religious, personal, and everyday matters.
The Torah is the center and source of Jewish life. It includes the five books of Moses. For Christians, these five books are part of the Old Testament. Orthodox Jews believe that the words of the Torah are the words of God that He passed on to Moses on Mount Sinai 3,000 years ago. It contains the early history of the Jewish religion and the people of Israel. In addition, the Torah regulates many questions of everyday Jewish life. She is always treated with reverence. Specially trained scribes transfer their text to parchments, which are stapled together in rolls and taken out in the synagogue during the liturgy of the word.
The circumcision of Jews
In the Jewish religion, Male Jewish babies are usually circumcised on their eighth day of life. Circumcision (“Brit Mila” in Hebrew) is intended to commemorate the covenant that Abraham once made with God. Through the ceremony, the newborn is also accepted into this covenant. Circumcisions may even be performed on a Sabbath, although they involve work. However, the prerequisite is that the child was also born on a Shabbat.
While babies used to be circumcised in the synagogue, nowadays, the ritual occurs in a banquet hall, home, or hospital. The circumcision is performed by a religious official, the so-called mohel, or a Jewish doctor.
Different branches of Judaism
Judaism today knows a variety of different currents and concepts of piety. In the Age of Enlightenment (18th century), the idea of a reform movement that sought new, contemporary forms of Jewish religious practice began to gain ground. According to the reformers, this should be done following the needs and circumstances of the time.
The critical examination of the long-established tradition of Jewish culture and its integration into modernity led to various currents that ran in a conservative, liberal and orthodox direction.
Orthodox Jews understand the Torah as revealed directly by God, and Halacha, the Jewish religious law, is observed in everyday life. The Orthodox Jews follow a kosher diet and strictly observe many ritual and liturgical rules, such as Sabbath observance.
Progressive Judaism translates and interprets the Torah into the present day. The religious commandments are not recognized as given by God, as in orthodoxy, but understood as made by man. Therefore, Scripture and commandments can also be reinterpreted and explained by humans. According to the progressive reading, the mitzvot, the Jewish laws, are applied loosely.
Conservative Judaism – a vital trend particularly in the USA – sees itself as a middle ground between orthodox and progressive Judaism. On the one hand, it wants to preserve Jewish tradition, but on the other, it wants to push through modernizations compatible with Jewish religious law.
Judaism has existed for around three thousand years and is considered the oldest of the three monotheistic world religions. Over millennia, many countries have developed Jewish religion and historical practices. Jews belong to a historical and traditional community whose self-image is based on an ethical, religious, secular, and ethnic basis.
Judaism regards deeds as a central expression of Jewish life, anchored as everyday practice; it is necessary, as the prophets put it, to participate in “Tikkun ha Olam” (Hebrew “healing/repairing of the world”).