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Judaism sees an important moment of history in the Messianic age. Judaism looks into the Kingdom of God, but there is no strict division between this world and the next. Most religious Jews believe in both resurrection and immortality of the soul, but Jews are free to make their own philosophical interpretation. In Jewish law a Jew does not cease to be a Jew simply because he lapses from religious observance. It holds anyone born to a Jewish mother to be a Jew.
The idea of one living God, when God elected them to be the "Chosen People" they believed that God had given them responsibilities rather than privileges. Jews as well as some Christian people believe that the Jews mission until the end of history is to bear witness against manmade Gods, which are fashioned not only of stone and bronze but also of false ideas.
Sects: (back to top)
In North America there are 3 main branches of Judaism, they are Orthodox, Reform, and Conservative. Orthodox Jews are the strictest. They separate men and women from the services, follow strict kosher dietary, or food, laws- no pork or crawling seafood, no mixing of milk and meat products, among other laws. Reform Judaism is the most liberal and seeks to adapt traditional ways to modern times. Reform Judaism holds the Torah (the old testament book of law) as authoritative, as do other branches of Judaism. Reform Judaism does not believe, by and large, of the coming of a personal leader, but rather in the period of time that God will rule. Conservative Judaism is somewhere between Reform and Orthodox. Like the Orthodox the Conservative Jews keep dietary laws and emphasize Hebrew, the Jewish language. Like the Reform they favor the families sitting together in services and seek to interpret ancient laws for modern life and education.
Holy Days: (back to top)
Chanukah- also spelled as Hannukah or Hannuka, a "festival of lights" in December commemorating the defeat of the Syrian Greeks by the Maccabes in 165 B.C.E and the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem. Miraculously, a tiny container of oil was found in the Temple burned for eight days. In celebrating this festival an eight branch candle stick, or menorah, is used, plus a ninth or Shamash, candle used for lighting each of the other candles, one for each day of Chanukah. Children receive gifts and play a top spinning game.
Passover- A spring festival lasting seven or eight days, recalling the angel of death "passing over" the Hebrews, as the first born of the Egyptians were taken by death of the last of the great plagues brought by God on the Egyptian captors. A home and synagogue ceremonial meal recalls the bitter experience of slavery in Egypt and the haste of the escape, or "Exodus."
Rosh Hashanah- This means literally, the "head of the year," the Jewish New Year. Ushering in a period of high holy days for reflection and repentance. A ramís horn or shofar is sounded. (the ram is used because Abraham sacrificed a ram instead of Isaac.)
Sabbath- This means of rest each week- the seventh and last day of the week- commemorates Godís rest on the seventh day of Creation. The observance is a reminder of Godís justice and rule on earth, is ordered in the Ten Commandments.
Shavuoth- This means a "Feast of Weeks" in the spring that celebrates the giving of the law, or Torah.
Sukkoth- The "Feast of booths," a fall harvest festival, marked by putting up harvest booths.
Yom Kippur- This means "Day of Atonement," and is the most important holy day, the last of the high holy days. It is a time of confessing of sins, atoning or making amends for wrongdoing, and seeking forgiveness, and it comes ten days after Rosh Hashanah. The shofar, or ramís horn, is sounded at the end of Yom Kippur.
Symbols of Judaism: (back to top)
Mezuzah- Metal, plastic, or wooden container holding Scripture quotations; they are put on doors of homes or gates following instructions in Deut.
Star of David- This is a six point star, used on his shield by King David, who wrote many of the Psalms in the Bible.
The name "Jew" comes from the word "Judah," the name of the great-grandson of Abraham (Judah). Judah became a name for the southern kingdom, with Jerusalem as its capital. Because there are so many Jewish groups of Judaism today, there are some differences of opinions as to who is a true Jew. Basically, a Jew is one who is born of Jewish parents. There are also people who convert to Judaism.
There are two main rituals for becoming part of a Jewish religion: (1) a ceremony comes eight days shortly after birth, at which time names are given and (2) an initiation rite into adulthood and into the responsibilities of the Jewish community.
Bar Mitzvah (for boys)/ Bat Mitzvah (for girls)-
A ceremony held traditionally
at the age of thirteen. This ceremony brings the child into adulthood through
Family Life: (back to top)
a family is a sacred duty to Jews, and it is through family loyalty that
they express loyalty to Judaism. Whenever Jews eat they hold a big prayer
thanking God for everything in front of them. The height of the family
ritual comes on the Sabbath. Rabbis have described it as the foretaste
of the world to come. Orthodox Jews shun work on Sabbath and refuse to
travel, use the phone, write, touch money or pose for photographs. The
Sabbath begins at dusk every Friday when the woman of the house, her husband
and children lights the traditional candles with the following blessing:
"Blessed art thou O Lord our God King of Universe, Who hast sanctified
us by Thy laws and commanded us to kindle Sabbath light." That is how the
Orthodox families bless God. The Reform families do the following blessing:
Let us praise God with his symbol of joy and thank him for the blessing
of past week, for life, health and strength, for home, love and friendship,
for the discipline of our trials and temptations, for the happiness that
has come out of us from our labors." After the blessing everyone sips the
wine and the head of the household slices the Sabbath loaf.