Judaism Beliefs

Posted by Yevgeni Kuritski on 22nd Jun 2014

There are particular beliefs which Judaism displays and which need to be assessed in the particular role they have on the configuration of the religion.

The central statement of Judaism is to be found in the Shema Israel passage of the Torah and proclaims that God is only one. This statement is the profession of Judaic faith, to be recited every morning and evening. God appeared to Moses under the name made up of four Hebrew letters – IHWH, which mean “He who is, was and shall be”. While praying, this name is pronounced as “Adonai”. God is seen as the Creator of the World, a merciful and just entity who has had some interventions throughout the evolution of history. He is the One who led the children of Israel out of Egypt, showing thus His interest in protecting those in danger.

The Torah refers also to the concept of ”transcendence”, presenting God as a creator – the idea has become an usual one in any discourse related to God. The meaning of the ”creation of the world” is that the world as we know it has been an expression of God’s will, entirely dependent of His ideas and concept. Given this overwhelming view of God’s creative power, it is thus easy to explain the strong position that Jews have on “idolatry” – God is too great and impressive to have humans draw images and representations of Him. However, a deep study of Hebrew religious texts has shown that there is at least one representation of God that has been allowed – the human being had been created resembling God’s image. The Torah presents God in several poses – as a shepherd, a king, a judge, an entity described to be just, merciful, faithful, righteous, who can punish as well as reward people. Also, God is unique as presented by the command “You shall have no other gods beside me”.

Deriving from this image of God is the covenant between God and His believers. A first example of such a covenant appears in the Old Testament, in Genesis 15:12 – 21, where Yahweh makes an unconditional pledge to give the land of Palestine to the descendants of Abraham. Also, in Samuel 7:13-17, Yahweh makes another pledge to establish a forever lasting dynasty of King David. These two constitute examples of promissory covenants, unlike the obligatory covenant which was the one established between Yahweh and Moses – in this later case, the covenant is bound by specific stipulations. Such examples led to the belief that there is a covenant between Yahweh and the people of Israel, a covenant implying that the latter are to be obedient and faithful to God and God shall bestow upon them His blessing and protection. After the driving out of Palestine of the Jews and their spreading across the world, this covenant between Jews and Yahweh remained as a landmark of their belief in the restoration of their homeland.

Elements of the Judaic belief stem from the Book of Ezekiel, an important prophetic book belonging to the Old Testament – the book is usually attributed to the prophet Ezekiel, although there are clear indications that his disciples have applied their influence to it as well. The Book of Ezekiel is important to Judaism due to several ideas that have influenced the religious beliefs throughout time. Ezekiel is the first to have drawn the picture of Israel as a rather particular and exclusive nation. He also contributed to strengthening the belief that a Messiah shall come. Moreover, he is the first Hebrew prophet to have assessed correctly the consequences for the chosen people of the withdrawal of God’s spirit. He places a great emphasis on obeying God; as a result of that he sees the exile and the destruction of the Temple as a dire punishment for those disobeying God. The uniqueness of God is represented in the Book of Ezekiel in the form of God as a ruler of history. This is exemplified by the constant usage of the phrase “then they will know that I am the Lord”. This idea is supported also by the image of the valley of dry bones - this theme aims to portray God as en entity creating life and building life over death.

The Book of Ezekiel had a great contribution to help Jews preserve their religious heritage and values and maintained their belief in a future possible restoration of the Temple, and implicitly of their nationhood. In addition to this, Ezekiel is also responsible for the Levitical Code, which became, in time, the legal and moral standard of the faith.

The coming of the Messiah is another important as well as particular belief of Judaism. Believing in the coming of the Messiah, means entertaining the hope of a day when all nations shall enjoy peace, justice and brotherhood. At that distant moment in time, the people of Israel shall gather on the land of its ancestors and all hardships shall end. Consequently, life should be guided by the precepts of the Torah, and God shall take a man from the people of David, a man who is dominated by wisdom, as well as love and fear of God, and he shall be the Messiah.

The Messiah concept combines two Hebrew traditions - that of King David and that of Moses. The Book of Isaiah states that there is also a third dimension of the Messiah, a more humble one – that of a suffering servant. The Messiah of the Christian theology embodies all three dimensions.

Other elements of Judaic beliefs refer to perceiving the faith as a family-related one. Many elements of the faith lay a great emphasis on reuniting the family. To name but a few, the circumcision which is to be performed on eight-year old boys is a family celebration, as well as the Sabbath meal and the eight days of Chanukah.

Moreover, Jews perceive their belief as a part of their life, which means that their lives and actions are lived and performed as a worshiping of God. Each action should have holiness bestowed upon it and should be seen as a daily celebration of God and His greatness.