Judaism in the beginning
Judaism from a Bible Perspective[Client]
Judaism, like any other religion, refers to a set of beliefs about God and all the beliefs surrounding the idea of the existence of a god with a series of characteristics defined by a given culture. Consequently, Judaism comes into existence as the religion of a tribe in the Levant who believed in one unique God that is concerned with humans and their actions. For that reason, Judaism can be seen as an ethical monotheism. (Neusner 2002). To explain this concept, it is important to understand that Jewish practices center in the teachings of the Torah, popularly dubbed as the “Jewish Bible,” and its commandments. The Torah covers the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, although they have different names in Hebrew. Hence, to understand the ancient Judaism, it is important to understand it through the book that encompasses its code of conduct, the Torah.
During the Exodus from Egypt to the lands of Canaan, God spoke through Moses a handful of times and commanded him to carve in a stone the commandments by which he wanted his people to live by. Therefore, from a Bible perspective, being a Jew would mean not only being born from a Jewish mother but also ascribing and following the thirteen commandments found in Exodus and Leviticus. Nevertheless, these commandments are not only of religious significance as the Jewish laws also cover ethical commandments meant to help the Israelites live in the community by their means, something that had not happened before. For instance, the prohibitions regarding idolatry and the observance of the Sabbath (Exodus: 20:4, 1962) refer exclusively to religious concerns and refer to the religious backbone of their belief, while the commandments regarding honoring one’s parents and the prohibitions against theft, adultery, and murder among others, reflect the need for an ethical norm to regulate their behavior. Hence, converting Judaism in a religion that emphasizes ethical principles regarding the life in community above everything else.
Now, having exposed the ethical norms behind Judaism, let us pass to the issue of what is to be a Jew from the Torah’s perspective.
From an ethics perspective, Judaism, at least, Classic Judaism sees the Torah and the latter scriptures as given by God, what makes them inalterable and require obedience. Part of being a Jew is obeying the commandments. However, in the Judaism, the beliefs do not have a bigger weigh than the actions. This means that a man’s actions are not pegged to his beliefs. Thus, following these precepts is entirely a matter of choice rather than obligation. Likewise, although Jews believe in the divine authority above everything else, the Torah is not completely given and dissected to be understood. Instead, it requires study to interpret it, which adds from the debate and leaves room for human interpretations that might enrich the text (Dorff, 2002). Consequently, Judaism calls for the understanding of the law, instead of focusing in a blind obedience that characterizes other monotheistic religions.
Ultimately, the Torah offers only a series of rough codes of conduct for Jews to draw upon and create their lives. Thus, Jewish religion offers open interpretations that as long as they do not go against the divine law can be argued on to provide a thorough understanding of the Scriptures. For that reason, being a Jew from a bible perspective means abiding by the laws but understanding that these laws are not set in stone and require men to make them living and useful.
ReferencesDorff, E. (2002). 21 Ethics of Judaism. In The Blackwell companion to Judaism. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Exodus. (1962). In M. Maimonides (Comp.) & M. Hyamson (Trans.),Mishneh Torah. Jersualem: Ḳiryah neʼemanah.
Neusner, J. (2002). 1 Defining Judaism. In The Blackwell companion to Judaism. Malden, MA: Blackwell.