Judaism/What Is Judaism?

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Judaism is a monotheistic religion, or a religion believing that one God exists, the Source of all. It has three essential elements, found in all historical forms of Judaism, namely, Torah revelation, God and Israel. Each needs definition.

The Torah ("Teaching," in Hebrew) is not only the revelation of God to Israel, explicitly described as the eternal covenant that links both to each other, it also presents the fundamental paradigms for all later historical interaction of God and Israel. The Torah consists first of all of the Five Books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy), and secondly the entire Hebrew Scriptures (the Mosaic books of "Teaching" to which are added the "Prophets" and associated historical books, and the "Writings" of wisdom: Torah, Nevi'im, and Ketuvim). These works are together traditionally termed the "Written Torah." There is also thirdly the "Oral Torah" or interpretative tradition, said to extend from the time of Moses with further elaborations down through the ages (even up to the present time) by sagely and inspired exegetes. These oral teachings were eventually consolidated, according to mainstream Judaism, in the Talmud and later Rabbinic writings and commentaries including the mystical writings of the Kabbalah. However, Ethiopian Jewry never knew of the Talmud and followed its own exegetical traditions, and Karaite Judaism quite intentionally developed its own separate oral traditions.

God is understood as the one source of the entire universe, transcendent of both space and time, but, although undifferentiated unity in itself, ever present and sustaining every moment and place in the universe, past, present and future, as Creator, Loving Ruler and ultimate Savior. Creation, i.e., the entire universe, arises out of divine wisdom and mirrors its Creator, God; humanity is also in the divine image, insofar as human beings can actualize the divine attributes of wisdom, love and mercy, justice, etc., in their own lives. In particular the nuclear family is stated in the first chapter of the Bible to reflect the divine image as a whole, since it unites male and female to each other with sustaining love, and creates out of this and nurtures together new life in their children.

Israel consists of the "kingdom of priests" instituted by God to be a blessing and intercessor for all humanity its laity (in accordance to his promise to Abraham, Gen. 12:1-3, 18:17-33, and to Moses and Israel, Exod. 19:6) at Mt. Sinai. At Sinai God created again an entire people and community dedicated to the service of God on earth, and gave them commandments aiming at actualizing holiness in all aspects of ordinary society and life. As mentioned, this they are to do not just as a society themselves, but also as intercessors for all humanity, although humanity in general is already linked to God through the Covenant with Noah and can already attain to true righteousness through obedience to that covenant (Gen. 9:1-17). Since a people needs a land, God appointed them the land of Israel as their own. Although subsequently exiled from there for their sins (in ca. 586 B.C.E.; the Dispersion or Diaspora dates from this time), they were also enabled to return in part soon afterward and rebuild their Temple. The Torah teaches that their link with their land will always be unbroken, and ultimate complete restoration is guaranteed by God. This final massive ingathering of all Jews to their land will even be one of the chief early signs of the coming of the Messianic Age promised in the Torah, a time when all humanity shall know God and live in peace.