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    What is Judaism?

    The Jews Making Australian Society Rabbi Raymond AppleJudaism is the mother-faith from which Christianity and Islam developed. All three date back to Abraham, who discovered the one, true, invisible God.

    At Mount Sinai, several centuries later, Moses and the Israelites received the Torah (teaching), which revealed the way God wished to be served.

    Belief in one God, taught by Abraham, and observance of the Torah, taught by Moses, are the basic principles of Judaism.


    The great book of Judaism is the Torah. Strictly speaking, the Torah consists of the first five books of the Scriptures, known as the Five Books of Moses. But the name Torah has come to stand for the teachings of Judaism as a whole.

    The Torah gave rise to many commentaries, interpretations and codes of conduct, at first passed only word of mouth (“the Oral Law”). Much of this material was written down in the 5th century in the Talmud (“Learning”), a great work in 63 volumes. Apart from ethical and theological teaching, the Talmud contains closely reasoned discussions on Judaism, stories about the sages, and information on legal, historical, social and even scientific matters.

    13 BELIEFS

    These principles of the Jewish faith were formulated by Moses Maimonides (13th century):
    1. God created all things; 2. There is only one God; 3. God has no bodily form; 4. God is eternal; 5. We must pray only to God; 6. All the words of the prophets are true; 7. Moses was the greatest of the prophets; 8. The Torah we have is the same that was given to Moses; 9. The Torah will never be changed; 10. God knows human deeds and thoughts; 11. God rewards good and punishes evil; 12. The Messiah will come to redeem Israel and the world; 13. There will be a resurrection of the dead.


    Judaism contains duties to God, especially modes of worship and rituals, and to human beings, especially truth, justice and peace. Jewish ethics stress business, professional, public and personal morality. Marriage and the family are especially important to Judaism, as are education and charity.

    While it believes it is the true faith, Judaism respects other religions and upholds freedom of conscience and belief for all human beings.


    Observant Jews eat only kosher foods. Kosher meat must come from a permitted animal or bird (ham, bacon, pork and shellfish are not kosher), carefully slaughtered by a pious person. The meat is soaked in water and then salted and rinsed in order to remove the blood.

    Meat and dairy foods are not cooked, served or eaten together. Kosher homes have separate meat and dairy utensils.


    Jews pray three times a day, though spontaneous prayer may be offered at any time. God accepts prayer in any language, but the official language of Jewish prayer is Hebrew.

    In ancient times Jews had a temple in Jerusalem, which will one day be rebuilt. The Jewish place of worship is the synagogue, where prayer takes place facing Jerusalem. Public worship requires a minyan of ten males aged 13-plus. In orthodox synagogues, men and women sit separately and the service is conducted by males.


    • The Sabbath is a day of rest from work, lasting from sunset on Friday until nightfall on Saturday. Features of the day are the synagogue services and the family gathering at home. Sabbath candles are lit before sunset, and prayers of sanctification are said over wine and bread.

    • Pesach (Passover) lasts eight days and marks the deliverance of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. On the first two-evenings there is a home ceremony with symbolic foods recalling the bitterness of slavery and the sweetness of freedom. The main Passover food is unleavened matzah, eaten to recall the “bread of affliction” in Egypt. Passover is the time of the barley harvest in Israel.

    • Shavu’ot falls seven weeks after Passover. On Shavu’ot God gave the Torah at Mount Sinai, so that it is an occasion for renewed dedication to the Divine law. It is the time of the wheat harvest in Israel.

    • Rosh HaShanah (the New Year) is the anniversary of creation when God reviews His world and examines the deeds of human beings. The shofar (ram’s horn trumpet) is blown as a call to spiritual wakefulness.

    • Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) is a 25-hour fast largely spent in prayers for forgiveness and in making resolutions for the future. Yom Kippur falls ten days after Rosh HaShanah.

    • Sukkot comes at the end of the fruit harvest in Israel. The sukkah or harvest booth recalls the portable homes of the Israelites in the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land. The sukkah symbolises the fragility of life and the need for God’s protection.


    The Jewish population of the world is about 15 million. Six million Jews perished in the Holocaust, when great sages and outstanding centres of learning and piety were devastated. The largest Jewish community in the world is in the USA, where six million Jews live. There are over five million Jews in the State of Israel, established in 1948, which is the spiritual and cultural centre of world Jewry. Jews have been in Australia since the First Fleet and despite their small numbers have made many contributions to national life.


    SIR JOHN MONASH – World War I commander-in-chief
    SIR ISAAC ISAACS – Chief Justice; first Australian-born Governor-General
    SIR ZELMAN COWEN – Academic; Governor-General
    SIR ASHER JOEL – Parliamentarian; National event organiser
    SYDNEY D EINFELD – Parliamentarian; Consumer advocate
    JUDY CASSAB – Artist
    E PHILLIPS FOX – Artist
    FELIX WERDER – Composer
    GEORGE DREYFUS – Composer
    HARRY SEIDLER – Architect
    NANCY KEESING – Author
    FRANK LOWY – Businessman; philanthropist
    LEO PORT – Lord Mayor; inventor
    RUBY RICH-SCHALIT – Pioneer feminist


    * Love the Lord your God -with all your heart, soul and might (Bible)
    * Love your neighbour as yourself (Bible)
    * Justice, justice shall you pursue (Bible)
    * Know before Whom you stand (Talmud)
    * In every age when the cry of despair is heard, the Jew hopes (Edmond Fleg)
    * There are many pathways leading towards heaven but only one gate – the home – opening into heaven (Nathan Marcus Adler)
    * Salvation is attained not by dogmas but by love of God that fulfils itself in action (Hasdai Crescas)
    * Seek peace and pursue it (Bible)
    * What does the Lord ask of you but to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God? (Bible)

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