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What Is Judaism?

There is one universal God. This God is the creator of the world; the God of all humanity; the God introduced to the world by the Hebrew Bible.
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September 23, 2020
A Star of David is visible among the ornamentation at the Brodyer Synagogue at the ordination of new Rabbis Shlomo Afanasev and Moshe Baumel on August 30, 2010 in Leipzig, Germany. Though both Afanasev and Baumel were born in the former Soviet Union, they grew up in Germany and are among a growing number of German-raised rabbis graduating from the Ronald Lauder-supported Rabbinical Seminary in Berlin. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Some thoughts for Yom Kippur on the beliefs that define Judaism. Although not an “official” list, these beliefs have been widely held by Jews for thousands of years.

  1. There is one universal God. This God is the creator of the world; the God of all humanity; the God introduced to the world by the Hebrew Bible.
  2. One universal God means there is one universal morality. This was one of the many radical innovations of the Torah that made moral civilization possible.
  3. God is:
  4. a) Incorporeal (not physical). This means, among other things, that there is a reality outside of matter (the soul, for example).
  5. b) Eternal — all matter has a beginning and an end; God exists outside of time.
  6. c) Outside of nature — God is not in nature; and nature is not divine.
  7. d) Personal — God knows each of us.
  8. e) Good — God is moral and compassionate.
  9. f) Just — God judges every human being.
  10. God is the God revealed in the Torah — the God of Creation, the God of Israel, the God of the Ten Commandments.To a Jew, any other god is not God.
  11. God’s primary demand is that people be good. Therefore, correct behavior matters more than correct intentions and more than correct faith.
  12. There is an afterlife. God rewards the good and punishes the bad. If good people and bad people have the same fate, there is either no God or God is not just.
  13. Although there is an afterlife, God wants us to be preoccupied with this life.
  14. Reward in the afterlife (“heaven”) is available to all good people, not just good Jews.
  15. Human beings are not born basically good. Therefore:
  16. a) Evil comes primarily from within, not from external causes, such as poverty.
  17. b) The greatest battle for most human beings is with their own nature, not with society.
  18. c) The most important task of society and of parents must be to make good people.
  19. All people are created in the image of God. Therefore:
  20. a) Racism is theologically impossible.
  21. b) The most important distinction among human beings is not their race, religion, nationality, class or sex. It is their behavior. In the words of Viktor Frankl,“There are only two races; the decent and the indecent.”
  22. c) Human life is sacred and animal life is not — although humans are forbidden from inflicting gratuitous suffering on animals.
  23. Godcreated the world forhuman beings. Therefore, there is no purpose to nature without man to appreciate and use it(responsibly).
  24. The Jews are the Chosen People, chosen to bring mankind to the God of the Torah and to the Ten Commandments, and to bring the Torah to the world. However, Jews are not obligated to bring people to Judaism (though Judaism warmly welcomes converts). Chosen-ness has never meant that Jews are better than anyone else. Indeed, the Torah and the entire Hebrew Bible go out of their way to depict the Jews as flawed.
  25. The Torah is from God. If the Torah is man-made, it will be man-rejected.
  26. Judaism has a trinity: God, Torah, Israel (Jewish peoplehood and the Land of Israel). The removal of any one of these three components is no longer Judaism, and ensures the ultimate demise of Judaism.
  27. Jewish faith rests on two pillars: Creation and Exodus. Judaism cannot survive denial of either as a divine event. They are to Judaism what Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection are to Christianity.
  28. Judaism is a religion of distinctions. These distinctions are:
  29. a) God and man.
  30. b) Good and evil.
  31. c) Man and woman.
  32. d) Holy and profane.
  33. e) Life and death.
  34. Judaism can ennoble anyone. Therefore, any non-Jew is welcome to embrace Judaism and become a member of the Jewish people. But one does not need to become a Jew to enter heaven.
  35. Jews look forward to the coming of the Messiah or the Messianic Age.

Copyright 2020 creators.com. Dennis Prager is a nationally syndicated radio talk show host; president of PragerU, and author of volume two (“Genesis”) “The Rational Bible.” Reprinted with permission.

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