Judaism

Judaism
By Chris Coman

Introduction of the religion
Judaism is one of the five major religious groups in the world today joined by Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, and Hinduism. Those who worship in the Judaism faith believe that their belief dates back to the beginning of the formation of the world and the creation of man. Judaism is a monotheistic religion with Yahweh, or God, as the creator of the cosmos. God, through his prophets, spoke to the Jewish people giving them rules to live by and guiding them as his own children. Jews believe that God has chosen them to be a special people set apart from the rest of the nations (Fisher, 2005).
The most notable of the prophets was Moses. Moses was born of the tribe of the Levite tribe if Israel during a time of captivity. Egypt had imprisoned the people and were using them as slave labor to build Egyptian temples and palaces. Through a series of events during the birth period of Moses, he ended up in the hands of the Pharaoh’s household where he grew up as Egyptian royalty. When he learns of his lineage at an older date, he runs from the Egyptians and meets God in the form of a burning bush where he is told to free his people from bondage. He then frees the Israelites from Egypt and leads them on a trek through the desert where God gives them rule to govern there lives referred to as the Ten Commandments (Fisher, 2005).
The books that Moses wrote chronicled his time with them and God’s interaction with his chosen people. Jews today read and memorize these books know as the Pentateuch, along with other writings by the kings of Israel and by the prophets. This total collection is known as Torah. Traditionally, these stories were passed down through the generations, each time told with a personal interpretation of the story. These commentaries were then later included with the teachings as Oral Law (Blech, 1999).
Traditional Judaists believe in the validity of the Old Testament Scriptures as the Word of that God and do not believe in the New Testament Scriptures as the Word of God. Messianic Judaism however does believe that both the Old and New testaments are the Word of God. Secular Jews believe but have turned their backs on God and have focused on worldly things like money and success (Cohen, R. Personal Communication, February 19, 2009).

Name, location review of the site
Jewish synagogues are the holy temples of the Judaic religion. Jewish places of worship are in abundance here in America and world wide. I visited the Congregation B'nai Cham & Community Center in Murrieta, California, which is part of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism group. The building itself was quite a bit smaller than I had anticipated. I had thought it would have been something grand on the scale of the Temple Of Solomon or something with gold inlays everywhere but it wasn’t. It did however have a very specific layout according to biblical references and contained special rooms for praying and housing holy items. It appeared as though the main synagogues are located in the major cities and are extravagant in the decorations; where as the multiple local places of worship were toned down. These community centers and worship centers are basically small synagogues in association with the closest regional synagogue.

Interview summary
I met with Ronna Cohen who is a Messianic Jew and asked her a few questions about Judaism to get a better understanding of the religion and what it means in today’s world. Ronna (personal communication, February 19th, 2009) told me when asked about the qualifications for membership that you had to attend the High Holy Days and have a Jewish parent. The High Holy Days are called the Yamim Noraim, or the Days of Repentance. Yamim Noraim begins with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and end ten days later with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. These ten days are spent contemplating the past years sins and preparing for repentance on the Day of Atonement (Blech, 1999).
I also ask Ronna about the after life as most of the religions of the world have some thought about a type of Heaven and Hell and soul judgment. Ronna says (personal communication, February 19th, 2009) that the subject of the after life isn’t really discussed as often as you would think. It is assumed by the Jewish community that they go to heaven based on the fact that they are Jewish. The quality of life here and in the after life is determined by good deeds done for others here and through prayer to Yahweh (Cohen, R. Personal Communication, February 19, 2009).
. The prophets in Judaism serve a great and noble purpose. However they also suffer great trails, scorn and persecution from the people. A prophet is someone who God chooses to speak for Him. Many times the prophet would bring reports to the people from God that were very truthful and unpopular. Many of the prophets turned up during great turmoil in Israel, such as the Jewish Civil War. This was a time period after the King Solomon when the 12 tribes of Israel split into two nations. The northern tribe was called Israel and the Southern Tribe was called Judea. Another tumult would be the Babylonian conquest of Judea. This time period of captivity to the Babylonians brought Jews to a point of desperation where they were force to turn away from the way they were living and return back to worship God. Some of the devout, like Daniel, had God on their side and the refused to bow to the Babylonian ways. God would give them favor even though the message they were bringing was unfavorable and not what they wanted to hear (Blech, 1999).
Nothing is written of there being any prophets during the Holocaust in the 1940’s, but it would be interesting to find out if there was since this time was quite tragic for the Jewish people. Without the prophets, Jews have lacked in being able to build there relationship with God. Some Jews have turned away completely from God as they have done throughout Jewish history. Orthodox Jews, Jews that have refused to turn away, still seek to have a relationship with God. They turn to the Rabbis, or teachers of the Torah. It is through these teachings they can learn Gods will for their lives (Cohen, R. Personal Communication, February 19, 2009).
I asked Ronna about life now. How does one attain a better life now as opposed to in the after life? Her answer was twofold. She said (personal communication, February 19, 2009), that it depended on who you ask. Orthodox Jews, or those that follow the laws as they were taught and practiced through the ages, kept to life of prayer and good deeds. They were always petitioning God on their behalf and for the behalf of others. Orthodox Jews looked for ways that they could help those that were around them as they walked through life. Secular Jews however had a worldlier look on things. They believe that financial success is how you have a better life now (Cohen, R., Personal Communication, February 19, 2009).
We also spoke about dietary restrictions within Judaism. I had a step mother that once had a catering service. One of here longest term customers was a Jewish camp in the mountains of Southern California. When helping one summer I had heard them mention the word Kosher. I have always wondered at it’s meaning and thought to ask Ronna about it. At this camp a rabbi that was in charge that specific camp would come in and bless the kitchen and make sure that the cleaning procedure of the kitchen and the ingredients of the food met a certain standard to be regarded Kosher. Ronna (personal communication, February 19, 2009) told me that means to follow the dietary law that God set up in the book of Leviticus.
There are two types of Kosher. Biblical Kosher is based on the commandments in the bible regarding Israel’s diet. What they should eat and how it was to be prepared. Rabbinic Kosher is based on man’s interpretation of the biblical laws. These are much more stringent and expanded upon then what the Bible says (Cohen, R., Personal Communication, February 19, 2009).
My final question in this interview was something that Ronna, as a Messianic Jew, would like to impart to the world. My question was to determine not just what she thinks and feels but how she sees her purpose as it fits within Judaism and the world around her. She told me that God created the Jewish people with a specific purpose to witness to the entire world about Him and His Love for humanity. The Jewish people as a whole turned their backs on God and embraced the gods of the world: political leaders, money, success, community. God does have a remnant of faithful Jews who do embrace and worship Him and obey His commandments. Those include the Messianic Jews, whose eyes have been opened to the truth because of their relationship with the Messiah of Israel, Yeshua which is Aramaic for Jesus (Cohen, R., Personal Communication, February 19th, 2009).
Ronna Cohen (personal communication, February, 2009) believes that traditional Jews are being brainwashed into believing the lie that Messianic Jews are no longer Jews. Ironically it is the traditional and secular Jews who are not obedient to God's commandments in Scripture and have created their own rules and regulations to follow, calling that Judaism. Some have even embraced Eastern Mystical religions and mix that with orthodox Judaism and believe that they are the most holy and reverent of the Jewish people. Sadly, most Jews worship the religion of Judaism itself and not the God of Israel.
God, however, is not done with the Jewish people, which is a term synonymous with Israel. The Christian church does not replace the Jews. God still has a plan for them because His covenants with them are eternal covenants. The Jewish people turned their backs on Messiah, for the most part, so that salvation could come to the entire world. Their acceptance of Jesus will mean life from the dead and be the precursor to the return of Christ to the earth to rule and reign as He sets up God's Kingdom on earth. This is why it is so important to witness to Jewish people and be involved with Jewish evangelism in a way that doesn't offend and frighten the Jews, but in fact provokes them to jealousy and turns them back to their God, and their Messiah. There are more Jewish people on earth today who do believe that Jesus is the Messiah of Israel, and this fact proves we are nearer to the end of the time of the gentiles than ever before in history (Cohen, R., Personal Communication, February 19, 2009).

Comparing and contrasting with another religion
Judaism and Christianity are very closely related belief systems. Judaists believe in the one God, creator of the Universe. Christians believe the same thing but that Jesus is the savior, the son of God, or also known as God incarnate. Christians believe that God came to Earth as a human so that he can save all the people he had created from the final judgment which will determine your place in eternity, Heaven or Hell. Christians follow closely the teaching of Jesus which has been compiled together from several authors over time, with the Torah. The Torah is called the Old Testament and Jesus’ teachings are called the New Testament. Together they make up the Holy Bible (Fisher, M, 2005).

Conclusion
Judaism is one of the main religions in the world today and has been for a very long time. Jews, members of the Jewish faith believe in one true God that created all things including man in his image. Through God’s prophets, God has spoken to the Jews. These interactions have been document it a collection of books called the Torah. These books contain the wisdom of God handed down to his children, Israel, or as we know them, the Jews. God has chosen the Jewish people to be a witness to all the world of God’s love. Many in the Jewish community take this calling very serious and set out to do good to others not only to help other but to be the example of God’s love so others can learn to do the same.

References

Blech, B., The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Jewish History and Culture, 1999, Alpha Books, New York City, NY

Fisher, M., Living Religions, 2005, Prentice Hallhttp://www.oppapers.com/essays/Judaism/401606

Judaism 7.4 of 10 on the basis of 1025 Review.