Religion Essay Introduction: Judaism
3. Origin and Founder
4. Supreme Being
Judaism is one of the oldest religions in the world. History reveals that Judaism has existed for more than four thousand years ago. Historians point out that Judaism is the religion with the least number of followers’ globally. Beside Zoroastrianism, Islam and Christianity, Judaism is among the four major monotheistic faiths present in the modern world. Monotheistic adherents have a strong conviction that God exists as one. The construction of Judaism is rooted in this assertion.
Judaism has a number of followers in various continents. Although widely practiced by Jews, Judaism practices and beliefs have attracted other cultures across the world. It is estimated that about fourteen million of the world Jew population claim Judaism tenets of beliefs. Judaism is mostly concentrated in Europe, Israel, United States and some parts of Asia.
According to Hannabuss (16) whereas Judaism is connected with the rabbis of the second century, many historians believe that the Sage Hillel, a Pharisee was the real founder. Hillel Immigrated to Palestine during the first century B.C.E. His immigration was sparked by King Herod decision to dissolve the Hasmonean priesthood. Hillel influenced many followers; this made him appeal to the majority of the followers. Besides, he was found to posses the "holy spirit”, which was based on his personality attributes. He was patient, humble, loving and peaceful. These moral attributes were exemplified in his personal precept of embracing personal responsibility and being careful to avoid endangering the well-being of the society. Hillel further illustrated these values by balancing between self and others in his legal enactments, the Prosbol. The Prosbol negated the biblical decree that demanded the liberation of all debts a person had in every seven years.
The origin can also be traced in the region of Canaan, the present day Israel. It originated as a method of practices and beliefs of the people referred to as "Israel”, Rabbinic or Classical (Forta, 98). However, in the earlier periods of growth, Judaism did not emerge strongly. It was until the first century when the strength of Judaism started to be felt. Judaic heritage is anchored in the covenant made between God and Abraham, and his lineage. The covenant spelled out that; God will grant his descendants a holy land and make them sacred. For several years this covenant became true. This was illustrated in the main leaders of Israelite culture such as; Moses, Isaac and Abraham himself.
Judaic followers believe in God has the Supreme Being. They believe that God created the world and all that is therein. Judaism beliefs are entrenched in the ethical, religious and social laws; as they are presented in the five books of the Hebrew Bible, the Torah. Jews refer to the Bible or the holy book, the Tanakh; an ellipsis for the prophets, writings and Torah. They also have other revered texts (Forta, 103). They include; the Mild rash, (oral law),and the Talmud (holiest book) legal, the rabbinic and narrative control of the Torah (Warren, 238).
Judaism has various rites which shapes their religious practices. The primary rite of the Jews is the circumcision of baby boys (Hannabuss, 16). The circumcision was and is still done when the boy is eight days. The rite came into being when God authorized Abraham to circumcise himself, the male members of his family and his descendants. This was to illustrate the Divine Covenant God had made with him and his offspring’s as the preferred people of Israel.
The rite has prevailed over the ages and serves as a rite of passage into the entry in the Jewish community. For example, the uncircumcised males were not allowed to participate in the first sacrament of historical Judaism and the sacrifice of the Paschal Lamb during the exodus (Forta, 123). Similarly, the uncircumcised person was "alienated” in the rabbinic traditions, the community of Israel and from enjoying his or her future life in the perceived world to come (Solomon, 198).
The Jews believe that the soul of the uncircumcised perishes with his body. Thus such a person is not likely to experience the anticipated renewal at the end of time of the Messianic age. A professional surgeon called Mohel, carries out this rite. The rite entailed giving a baby a Hebrew name accompanied with a commemorative feast.Besides, a girl who is not circumcised is often named in the synagogue, a Jew sacred place of worship, for ritual on Sabbath morning; this occurs thirty days after her birth (Solomon, 112).
Another common rite of Judaism is the tradition of mourning a lost relative. When a relative dies, burial is done in less than twenty four hours. The volunteers or holly society, called Cheryra Kadisha performs ritual cleansing on the body of the deceased. The body is buried in white shrouds. For men, the tallit or fringed prayer shawl is used (Solomon, 74). One fringe is often detached or removed to make it unsuitable for ritual use. The Judaic law restricts using any materials which are not eco-friendly. These materials include; metals in the burial of a casket. Most Jew religious leaders are therefore buried in plain made pine boxes with no hinges, decorations and nails. After the burials, close relatives of the deceased gather at home and start a week of Shiva, a seven week of mourning.
The third ritual of the Jews is marriage. Wedding is major canopy of Judaism because it is the moment of social and personal transition. The female and male assume new responsibilities as productive members of the community. The wedding fulfills the first Mitzah (commandment) of the Torah; being fruitful and multiply. Hence the wedding is a basic transition to Jewish institutions of the welfare of the community (Warren, 249). The marriage is normally arranged by peer groups. The bridegroom is not allowed to see his bride until a day nearing wedding.
Judaism tends to avoid using symbols as a representation during worship. However, there exist some outstanding symbols that are commonly displayed in many Jewish institutions and synagogues, place of Jews worship. Similarly, the traditional Judaism created objects of art. They were restricted for decorative purposes. They included breastplates and silver crowns which were used to adorn and cover Torah scrolls. Additionally, silver wine beakers were designed for use during meals and Sabbath festival (Warren, 164). Gold was shunned for religious use. This was because it had a connection with a biblical incident of idolatrous reverence of the golden calf.
There are some other symbols which are significant to Judaism, whose present is omnipresent in Jewish life. One of these symbols is Magen David, Star of David (Robinson and Rodrigues, 224). It is a popular image that reminds of the Jewish people the height of Kind David, for whose restoration Jews pray for each day.
Judaism believes in sacred narratives, hence this is reflected in the biblical construction of revelation, creation and redemption. The origin of Jewish narratives is the Hebrew Scriptures. The thematic role is used to form a relationship between God and Israel. This is represented in a three distinct ways; creation, revelation and redemption.
Judaism believes in ultimate reality and Divine Beings. Whereas many Jewish philosophers have traditionally connected reality with a theistic icon of God, there as had been an on-going deliberate about the character of God and the divine nature of human relationship.
The Jews believe in the human nature and human existence. Human nature is deeply rooted in the divine image thus it has an infinite value. They also relate the purpose of human existence to divine and human "other” (Robinson and Rodrigues, 145). Besides, they view this linkage as God’s covenant. While the Jew ascertain that they have a covenant with God as children of Israel, the rest of humanity is seeming to have a collective covenant connected with the children of Noah. The rabbis recognized the twofold character of human beings and positioned them amid earthly and heavenly creatures in the hierarchy.
Jews have constantly addressed the relationship between God, human and evil by representing a scale between those who preserve, recognize or rationalize God’s connection to evil, and those who detest attributing any optimistic sense for the existence of evil on earth. However Jewish view God in these circumstances as omnipresent, omnipotent and goodness, the God’s connection to evil is hazy in the light of unfair distress.
Jews reflection on afterlife and salvation occurs on different perspectives. This is particularly what happens to the soul and the body after death. They are based on various medieval, rabbinic, theological sources and folklore to understand after life. Basing on folklores and intellectual sources throughout medieval time, Jews believe that there is a steady evolution of bodily death to afterlife in which spirit remains connected through immortality or resurrection of the soul. Rabbinic folklore indicates that souls of the dead continue to drift on earth in hope of being restored to the body (Robinson and Rodrigues, 124). They further suggest that the soul maintains a temporal correlation with the body in a kind of purgatory leading either to hell, Gehinnom or paradise, Gan Eden.
Modern Judaism exists in four main movements; they include Conservatives, Orthodox and Reformists. Despite of their distinct views, Jews remain unified on the grounds of their common link to an array of consecrated narratives expressing their bond with God as righteous people.
Forte, Arye. Judaism. London: Heinemann, 1995. Print
Hannabuss, Stuart. "The Cambridge Companion to American Judaism", Reference Reviews(2006): 9 – 20. Print
Solomon, Norman. Judaism. New York: Sterling Publishing Company, Inc., 2009. Print
Warren, Matthews. World Religions. Connecticut: Cengage Learning, 2008. Print.
Robinson, Thomas Arthur, and Rodrigues Hillary. World Religions. London: Hymns Ancient & Modern Ltd, 2006. Print