Judaism: The Religion of the Jewish People
January 01, 2022
Jews believe in one God, i.e., it is a monotheistic religion. In ancient times it was a minority belief, but monotheism is now the dominant belief in the West due to the influence of Judaism on Christianity and Islam.
Today, there are approximately 14 million Jews. There are three major branches of Judaism, each with a different approach to religious life. Judaism is rich in traditions, rituals and festivals, which commemorate the past, celebrate the present and express hope for the future.
What is Judaism?
Judaism is one of the world's oldest religions. Its sacred text, the Hebrew Bible, teaches various doctrines - about God, the Messiah, human nature and the universe - and these beliefs are very important to Jews.
However, Judaism lacks an official creed.
Judaism shares some beliefs with other religions, such as monotheism with Christianity and Islam, although there are major differences between these religions.
It is important to understand that the term "Jewish" can be used to describe a race and culture, rather than a religion, so those who consider themselves Jewish may not be interested in the beliefs of Judaism.
What are the main beliefs of Judaism?
As noted above, Judaism does not have a creed and the beliefs of individual Jews can vary widely. However, the great 12th century rabbi Maimonides compiled the "13 Articles of Faith" that he believed every Jew should follow and which are often used as a summary of fundamental Jewish beliefs.
In the Jewish religion, the ultimate reality is a single omnipotent God. This belief distinguished the Jews from other Semitic peoples of antiquity and became the legacy that Judaism has passed on to the West. In Hebrew, the name of God is Yahweh, which simply and significantly means "I am".
Jewish beliefs about the Messiah
Many world religions believe that in the future a heroic figure will save the righteous, condemn the wicked and restore peace to the world (Krishna in Hinduism, Maitreya in Buddhism and the second coming of Christ in Christianity). In Judaism, this figure is the Messiah.
Jewish beliefs about human nature.
When Genesis 2:7 says that "God created man", the Hebrew word vayyitzer ("formed") is used. The Talmud (a work that collects the oral teachings), finds special significance in the spelling of the word in this context, with two "yy" instead of one. The two yy, the rabbis explain, represent the two impulses of human nature: yetzer tov (inclination to good) and yetzer ra (inclination to evil).
Jewish beliefs about the afterlife:
The sacred texts of Judaism say hardly anything about what happens after death, which might surprise non-Jews, since the sacred texts of Christianity and Islam, both of which are heavily influenced by Judaism, speak extensively about the afterlife.