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From Moses to Einstein, Judaism has produced some of the greatest thinkers the
world has ever known. Even today, in spite of near destruction, the influence of Jews
is out of proportion to their numbers. However, defining Judaism can be problematic.
Jews will often describe Judaism as being "not so much a religion, more a way of
life." Another complicating factor these days is that many Jews are not "Jewish" in
any religious sense of the word. You are Jewish regardless of "Judaism" as long as
you are born a Jew. Religious belief is just one ingredient in the makeup of a Jew. So
what is Judaism, and who is a Jew? Some information follows in order to help answer
this question.
Jewish history has shaped
Jewish religion. From the
time of the fall
Jerusalem in 586 BC until
the State of Israel- was set
up in 1948, wherever Jews
continually under foreign
rule. Throughout this time
Jews have been constantly
persecuted, culminating in
an attempt to completely
eradicate Jews from the
planet by the Nazis during
the Holocaust.
The Torah is the first five book of the Hebrew bible,
written (apparently) by Moses. God was revealed to
the whole of humankind through the encounter
Moses had on Mount Sinai, where God gave him the
IO Commandments. The Torah is viewed as God's
wiil, the source of all wisdom, offering guidance on
the nature of ultimate reality.
The covenantal relationship to God lies at
the very heart of Jewish consciousness. God
has chosen (elected) the Jewish people.
Basically , this relationship consists of an
agreement between God and the
which promises, ''l will be your God if you
will be my people." The whole spiritual
centre of Judaism stems from the historical
encounter between the people and God . The
ultimate goal of life is the keeping of God's
teachings in order to uphold this agreement.
Belief and action are bound
together in Judaism. Judaism is an
intensely practical religion and it
can be quite a challenge to realise
that religion can infuse every
aspect of life from the moment of
waking. For Jews, their whole day,
their weeks,
months and years. their food and
dress, their ethical standards and
family life are defined by their
religious commitment. Practice is
more important than belief. The
whole of the Torah is concerned
with behaviour. All aspects of life
are covered by this teaching, not
merely those that tend to be
classed as "religious" in today's