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Judaism vs. Christianity Essay

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Introduction

            Judaism is the Jewish religion. According to the Judaism 101 website: “a set of ideas about the world and the way we should live our lives is called Judaism” (Rich, 2006). Judaism is the monotheistic religion of the nation of Hebrews, which belongs to the world’s most popular religions, along with Christianity. These religions have a lot of similarities as to their geographical origin and theological structure.  The central religious book of Judaism, the Tanakh, the part of which was later on “borrowed” by Christians and became the Bible (Rich, 2006).

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Hebrew people consider that the main founder of Judaism was Abraham, though many historians claim that it could be Moses, who received sacred scriptures from the God (Rich, 2006). Hebrew nation believes that they are special people chosen by God, and have to dedicate their lives to obeying the God’s laws and staying away from of sins (Rich, 2006). Religious scriptures of Judaism consist of the five books of Torah (Pentateuch), the Nevi’im, the Ketuvim and the Talmud (Rich, 2006). The latter contains special texts for Judaism, and many historical promoters of Christianity repeatedly attempted to destroy it. Jews pray in synagogues and their spiritual leaders are called rabbi (Rich, 2006). Principal religious holidays for Judaism are Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year), Yom Kippur, Passover (Pilgrim Festival) and Hanukkah. During eight days after birth, Jewish male babies undergo circumcision (berith milah) and receive religious names. There are also some special beautiful rituals and traditions, connected with marriage and wedding, along with multi-staged ceremonies for the occasions of death and mourning (Rich, 2006).

            This paper is intended to discuss more about Judaism and other underlying issues such as: the main point behind the ten commandments, the stories behind Abraham and Moses, challenges, practices, holidays, conversion, and its similarities and differences with  Christianity. The said information were all based upon researches gathered through the internet and after conducting an interview with someone of this faith.

Interview

A good way to understand better about Judaism happened when I visited the (kindly pick which location is nearest you from this website: http://www.sanantonio.com/religion/business-directory/judaism ) in San Antonio (San Antonio, 2008). The best source of information about Judaism comes from followers of the religion themselves. I had a great opportunity to interview Susan Cohein and here are the details of our conversation:

            According to Susan, The Ten Commandments contain the fundamental laws that God requires His people to abide. These state the different religious and moral obligations of men, revealing God’s will on man’s duties to Him and to the rest of His creation. God’s commandments are written in the Pentateuch twice, as it is found both in the Books of Exodus and Deuteronomy. God himself carved the words on two stone tablets as sacred texts handed to Moses (Cohein, 2008).

            The Ten Commandments are God’s covenant with the Israelites. The first three laws concern man’s relationship with God, as it states what man’s responsibilities are to his Lord. While the remaining seven laws are about how man should live with others, as they should not transgress each other’s rights as human beings and equal children of God.  The first commandments directly state that there is only one God, the monotheistic notion of an Almighty Creator. The people should not worship other Gods, and therefore should not commit idolatry and other forms of polytheistic practices. The other two commandments teach the people to not commit blasphemy, or take the name of the Lord in vain, and to always observe the Sabbath day.  The rest relates the basic commandment that one must not wrong his neighbor, that he must not commit murder, adultery, thievery, and bear false witness. Children are also expected by God to always honor their parents (Cohein, 2008).

            Judaism is considered as both faith and culture. There should be no confusion between  Judaism and ethnicity, because the faith welcomes anyone who wanted conversion to Judaism (Rich, 2006). Jewish culture is followed by those who believes and practices Judaism. Most Jewish people lives in Israel, but a person doesn’t have to be Jewish-born in order to practice Judaism. The religion is open to everyone who has the same beliefs and principles in line with the religion (Rich, 2006).

            Most of Susan’s answer were more of her personal account, her life as a person under the religion Judaism. She narrated experiences of how she achieved personal and spiritual formation. She also recalls certain Holidays, Cultural practices and Beliefs.

            Two of the most important Jewish holidays are the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Rosh Hashanah is known as the Jewish New Year while Yom Kippur is known as the Day of Atonement (Rich, 2006). Both of these holidays are expression of the Jewish belief on the judgment of God and that they need to both repent and forgive. Yom Kippur is an entire day where Jews contemplate and reflect, making amends to their sins, and ask God for His forgiveness by fasting.

            Customs and practices of the Jews include circumcising the boys during their eighth day. When the boy reaches age 13, he takes participation in a ceremonial rite where he becomes bar mitzvah (Rich, 2006). From here on, he is considered an adult who will take on his religious responsibilities. Other religious congregations perform a similar ceremony for girls of age 12, called the bat mitzvah. Jews also recite different kinds of prayers in the morning, afternoon and evening. They perform these either at home or the synagogue. Once every week, the Jews celebrate the holy day of Sabbath, from Friday sundown until Saturday sundown. They also observe strict dietary laws called the Kosher and their spiritual leader is called the rabbi (Rich, 2006).

            In 2006, Judaism’s devotees are approximately 14 million that makes Judaism faith as the eleventh-biggest organized religion globally (Rich, 2006). Unlike with other religions, Judaism is totally distinct in such a way that its “central authority is not vested in any person or group” but it abides in its writings and traditions (Rich, 2006). This would mean that Judaism religion does not have a head or a leader that oversees them but they rather obey what is written in its writings and traditions. Moreover, the Judaism church is continually bound to a number of religious practices and beliefs, specifically its belief that there is one, omnipotent, omni benevolent, transcended omniscient God who made the heavens and the earth and continually have its control over mankind. The conventional Jewish belief stated that the God who made the universe had made a covenant with the Jewish people only and gave his laws and commandments through Torah (Rich, 2006).  Judaism‘s belief and practices are focused on these laws and commandments.

            When I asked Susan what is  the best thing about her religion she answered that it is the Jewish understanding towards their relationship with the Lord the worship is in accordance to their Covenant (Cohein, 2008). God gives His promise to be their God who guides and protects them, while requiring them to follow the Mitzvot or His commandments. God chose the Jews as His chosen people. This is not because He favors them with privileges, but because He endowed them with a responsibility of being the priest people.  One of Susan’s most treasured beliefs is that they when she worship God and recite prayers. This is because she can freely express her gratitude and thanks to the Lord for his love and greatness. She also see herself as a worthy person who has the task of responding to God through both repentance and search of social justice (Cohein, 2008).

Judaism and Christianity

            Most people are familiar with the fact that Judaism and Christianity share similar aspects and religious elements. Both religions are offshoots of their same historical roots. Both Jews and Christians had hailed from the same ancestors, not to mention from the same place of origin. And with that being said, it is just understandable that both religions would have so many striking similarities. The personalities in both the two religion’s respective holy scriptures are almost the exactly the same (Comparison, 2008).

            What sets Judaism from Christianity is the religion’s emphasis. Christianity is more focused on practices and beliefs that are based on the Bible. They are also more focused on how an individual accepts the salvation that is being offered by Jesus. On the other hand, Judaism is more focused on responding to questions of how to act according to the “covenant” that the Israelites had received at Mount Sinai.

            The Christians’ belief in Jesus as the Messiah and the rejection of Judaism of this doctrine is the main source of conflict between the two faiths (Comparison, 2008). The Christians despise the Jews for not believing in him, considering that he is the Son of God and thereby should also be considered as a God.  The Jews on the other hand believe that Christians are destroying the concept of God. To them, there is only one God who is all powerful, all knowing and ever present. They believe in the Ten Commandments and perceive that this is the law that God gave them to follow. The Judaism faith believes that the difficulties of the present life, and the occurrence of death and the forty day flood are the result of man’s disregard to God’s order of not committing any sin (Comparison, 2008).

            Unlike the Christians, the Jews have dietary laws. They gain purity through the food that they eat. They do not eat pork and only eat meat that are slaughtered according to the kosher requirements (Comparison, 2008). They also do not consume milk and meat products. They only consume vegetables and fruits that have no bugs in it. As to the Jewish worship, at least ten men must be present in order for worship to take place. Their type of worship include praying, singing and studying the Torah. All members of the Jewish faith except for unmarried women, who have not yet matured, are required to wear hats during worship. Tallits or shawls are also worn by men and boys during worship which usually starts sundown of Friday to sundown on Saturdays. The Jews believe that through sincere repentance and sacrifice, they can receive atonement for their sins. Sacrifice in the concept of the Jews mean blood sacrifice (Comparison, 2008).

            They also have several rites of passage: Brit Milah which is the naming of a Jewish baby; Bar Mitzvah and the Bat Mitzvah which are the welcoming of boys and girls respectively to adulthood; marriage and death. They do to believe in cremation and bury their dead immediately, however, the family mourns for a week after the death of a love one (Comparison, 2008).

            They Christians on the other hand do not foster such beliefs. They believe in Jesus Christ, the son of God who save humanity from its sinfulness through his sufferings on the cross. They also believe in Mary, the virgin who gave birth to Jesus.

            Unlike the Jews who only perceive God as a single Being, the Christians believe that God has three persona—God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Their worship consist of the singing of hymns and reciting of creeds. They also base their beliefs on the Ten Commandments and the biblical teachings.

            Christianity and Judaism are actually related religions as their beliefs are almost similar. They are patterned after a similar belief and are only different on how they practice these beliefs. us authority of the Christian faith is the bible which contains the old testament, patterned after the Jewish bible and the new testament which speaks about the life of Christ and his teachings. Other written authorities of the Christian faith come from the church councils, decrees of the pope, the highest authority in the modern Christian faith, and the canon law (Comparison, 2008).  Judaism on the other hand bases its teachings from the Jewish bible called Tanakh and the Talmud as well as the halakhah. The components of the tanakh are the first five books of the old testament called the Pentateuch. The authority in the Christian faith are the rabbis (Comparison, 2008).

            The doctrine binding Christianity is summarized in the Nicene Creed and the Apostle’s Creed. Both creeds narrates the life of Jesus Christ—the sufferings he faced and the kind of death he had to go through. The doctrine of Judaism on the other hand is summarized in the 13 articles of faith. The articles are composed of phrases detailing those that their religion believe in (Comparison, 2008).

            The Christians’ belief in Jesus as the Messiah and the rejection of Judaism of this doctrine is the main source of conflict between the two faiths. The Christians despise the Jews for not believing in him, considering that he is the Son of God and thereby should also be considered as a God.  The Jews on the other hand believe that Christians are destroying the concept of God. To them, there is only one God who is all powerful, all knowing and ever present. They believe in the Ten Commandments and perceive that this is the law that God gave them to follow. The Judaism faith believes that the difficulties of the present life, and the occurrence of death and the forty day flood are the result of man’s disregard to God’s order of not committing any sin (Comparison, 2008).

            Unlike the Christians, the Jews have dietary laws. They gain purity through the food that they eat. They do not eat pork and only eat meat that are slaughtered according to the kosher requirements. They also do not consume milk and meat products. They only consume vegetables and fruits that have no bugs in it. As to the Jewish worship, at least ten men must be present in order for worship to take place. Their type of worship include praying, singing and studying the Torah. All members of the Jewish faith except for unmarried women, who have not yet matured, are required to wear hats during worship. Tallits or shawls are also worn by men and boys during worship which usually starts sundown of Friday to sundown on Saturdays. The Jews believe that through sincere repentance and sacrifice, they can receive atonement for their sins. Sacrifice in the concept of the Jews mean blood sacrifice.

            They also have several rites of passage: Brit Milah which is the naming of a Jewish baby; Bar Mitzvah and the Bat Mitzvah which are the welcoming of boys and girls respectively to adulthood; marriage and death. They do to believe in cremation and bury their dead immediately, however, the family mourns for a week after the death of a love one.

            They Christians on the other hand do not foster such beliefs. They believe in Jesus Christ, the son of God who save humanity from its sinfulness through his sufferings on the cross. They also believe in Mary, the virgin who gave birth to Jesus (Comparison, 2008).

            Unlike the Jews who only perceive God as a single Being, the Christians believe that God has three persona—God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Their worship consist of the singing of hymns and reciting of creeds. They also base their beliefs on the Ten Commandments and the biblical teachings.

            Christianity and Judaism are actually related religions as their beliefs are almost similar. They are patterned after a similar belief and are only different on how they practice these beliefs.

5. Conclusion

In contrast to the other world religions, Judaism did not undergo radical changes through time. Jews had stood firm with the religious beliefs and practices that their predecessors had established. Holding on to those beliefs and practices and protecting them from the fast-changing world.

As a conclusion, the answer to the query: what makes Judaism religion, can only be roughly traced at its history and religious aspects. What makes Judaism a religion are its followers, that are being loyal to Judaism even if they become the target of negative racial stereotyping.  They had embraced the beliefs and practices and are able to pass them down to the succeeding generations. But what is most commendable about the Jews, is that even though they had to endure hardships because of their religion and ethnicity, they had never gave up their fate.

            What the followers of Judaism had shown is something more greater and divine than the concept of religion—religion is just a subordinate of it. Faith is what made these people strong and special.

References:

“Comparison of Christianity and Judaism.” n.d. Religion Facts. Retrieved June 27, 2008,             from: http://209.85.175.104/search?q=cache:quKbDnGZrZAJ:www.religionfacts.com/            christianity/charts/christianity_judaism.htm+christianity+vs.            +judaism;hl=tl;ct=clnk;cd=1;gl=ph;client=firefox-a

Rich, T. (2006). Judaism 101. Jewfaq Organization Website. Retrieved June 27, 2008, from             http://www.jewfaq.org/toc.htm
San Antonio.com (2008). “San Antonio Judaism ; Synagogues”. Retrieved June 27, 2008,         from: http://www.sanantonio.com/religion/business-directory/judaism
S. Cohein, personal communication, June 26, 2008.