Judaism

For a discussion of Jews as an ethnicity or ethnic group see the article on Jew.

Judaism is the religious culture of the Jewish people. It is one of the first recorded monotheistic faiths and one of the oldest religious traditions still practiced today. The tenets and history of Judaism are the major part of the foundation of other Abrahamic religions religions, including Christianity and Islam. For all of these reasons, Judaism has been a major force in shaping the world.

Introduction

Judaism does not easily fit into common Western categories, such as religion, race, ethnicity, or culture. This is because Jews understand Judaism in terms of its 4,000-year history. During this time, Jews have experienced slavery, anarchic self-government, theocratic self-government, conquest, occupation, and exile; they have been in contact, and have been influenced by ancient Egyptian, Babylonian, Persian, and Hellenic cultures, as well as modern movements such as the Enlightenment and the rise of nationalism. Thus, Daniel Boyarin has argued that "Jewishness disrupts the very categories of identity, because it is not national, not genealogical, not religious, but all of these, in dialectical tension."

The seven-branched Menorah is an ancient symbol of Judaism. It was used in the Temple in ancient Jerusalem.

According to both traditional Jews and critical historical scholars, a number of qualities distinguish Judaism from the other religions that existed when it first emerged. The first characteristic is monotheism. This notion is derived directly from the Torah (the Hebrew Bible) where God makes it part of the Ten Commandments: "...I am the Lord your God. Do not have any other gods before Me. Do not represent [such] gods by any carved statue or picture of anything in the heaven above, on the earth below, or in the water below the land. Do not bow down to [such gods] or worship them. I am God your Lord, a God who demands exclusive worship" [1] (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ten_Commandments#Exodus_20.2FDeuteronomy_5)

The Jewish understanding of this is that:

  1. "I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt..." The belief in the existence of God, that God exists for all time, that God is the sole creator of all that exists, that God determines the course of events in this world. This is the foundation of Judaism. To turn from these beliefs is to deny God and the essence of Judaism.
  2. "You shall have no other gods besides Me...Do not make a sculpted image or any likeness of what is in the heavens above..." One is required to believe in God and God alone. This prohibits belief in or worship of any additional deities, gods, spirits or incarnations. To deny the uniqueness of God, is to deny all that is written in the Torah. It is also a prohibition against making or possessing objects that one or other may bow down to or serve such as crucifixes, and any forms of paintings or artistic representations of God. One must not bow down to or serve any being or object but God. [2] (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ten_Commandments#Jewish_interpretation)

The significance of this idea lies in that Judaism holds that an omniscient and omnipotent God created humankind as recorded in the Book of Genesis, in the Creation according to Genesis starting with the very first verse of Genesis 1:1: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." While in polytheistic religions, the gods are limited by the preoccupation of personal desires irrelevant to humankind, by limited powers, and by the interference of other powers, in Judaism, God is unlimited and fully available to care for Creation.

Second, the Torah (i.e. The Hebrew Bible) specifies a number of laws, known as the 613 mitzvot, to be followed by the Children of Israel. Other religions at the time were characterized by temples in which priests would worship their gods through sacrifice. The Children of Israel similarly had a Temple in Jerusalem, priests, and made sacrifices -— but these were not the sole means of worshiping God.

As a matter of practical worship (in comparison to other religions) Judaism seeks to elevate everyday life to the level of the ancient temples' worship by worshipping God through the spectrum of daily activites and actions. It has traditionally maintained that this is how the individual would merit rewards in the afterlife, called gan eden (Hebrew: "Garden of Eden") or olam haba ("World to Come").

Religious view of the development of Judaism

According to Orthodox Judaism and most religious Jews, the Biblical patriarch Abraham was the first Jew. Rabbinic literature records that he was the first to reject idolatry and preach monotheism. As a result, God promised he would have children. His first child was Ishmael and then he had Isaac, who God said would carry on his work and inherit the Land of Israel (then called Canaan) after having been exiled and redeemed. God sent the patriarch Jacob and his children to Egypt; after they eventually became enslaved, God sent Moses to redeem the Israelites from slavery. After the Exodus from Egypt, God led them to Mount Sinai and gave them the Torah, and eventually brought them to the land of Israel.

God set the descendants of Aaron, Moses' brother, to be a priestly class within the Israelite community. They first officiated in the tabernacle (a portable house of worship), and later their descendants were in charge of worship in the Temple in Jerusalem

Once the Jews had settled in the land of Israel, the tabernacle was planted in the city of Shiloh for over 300 years during which time God provided great men, and occasionally women, to rally the nation against attacking enemies, some of which were sent by God as a punishment for the sins of the people. This is described in the Book of Joshua and the Book of Judges. As time went on, the spiritual level of the nation declined to the point that God allowed the Philistines to capture the tabernacle in Shiloh.

The people of Israel then told Samuel the prophet that they had reached the point where they needed a permanent king like other nations had, and described in the Books of Samuel. God knew this was not best for the Jews, but acceded to this request and had Samuel appoint Saul, a great but very humble man, to be their king. When the people pressured Saul into going against a command conveyed to him by Samuel, God told Samuel to appoint David in his stead.

Once David was established as king, he told the prophet Nathan that he would like to build a permanent temple. As a reward for his actions, God promised David that he would allow his son to build the temple and the throne would never depart from his children. David himself was not allowed to build the temple because he had been involved in many wars, making it inappropriate for him to build a temple representing peace. As a result, it was David's son Solomon who built the first permanent temple according to God's will, in Jerusalem. This era is described in the Books of Kings.

After Solomon's death, the kingdom was split into the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah. Israel had a number of kings, but after a few hundred years God allowed Assyria to conquer Israel and exile its people because of the rampant idolatry in the kingdom. The southern kingdom of Judah, whose capital was Jerusalem, home of the Temple, remained under the rulership of the house of David. However, as in the north, idolatry increased to the point that God allowed Babylonia to conquer it, destroy the temple which had stood for 410 years and exile its people to Babylonia, with the promise that they would be redeemed after seventy years. These events are recored in the Book of Isaiah and the Book of Jeremiah.

After seventy years the Jews were allowed back into Israel under the leadership of Ezra, and the temple was rebuilt, as recorded in the Book of Ezra and the Book of Nehemiah. The Second Temple stood for 420 years after which it was destroyed by the Roman general (later emperor) Titus. This is the state in which it is to remain until a descendant of David arises to restore the glory of Israel (the current existence of the Islamic Dome of the Rock is not relevent to the Rabbinical view.)

The Torah given on Mount Sinai was summarized in the five books of Moses. Together with the books of the prophets is called the Written Torah. The details and interpretation of the law, which are called the Oral Torah or oral law were originally unwritten. However as the persecutions of the Jews increased and the details were in danger of being forgotten, rabbinic tradition holds that these oral laws were recorded in the Mishnah, and the Talmud, as well as other holy books.

Critical historical view of the development of Judaism

Although monotheism is fundamental to Rabbinic Judaism, according to many critical Bible scholars the Torah often implies that the early Israelites accepted the existence of other gods. However, they viewed their God as the Creator and the one that mankind was morally bound to worship alone. But by the Hellenic period most Jews had come to believe that their God was the only God (and thus, the God of everyone), and that the record of His revelation (the Torah) contained within it universal truths. This attitude may reflect growing Gentile interest in Judaism (some Greeks and Romans considered the Jews a most "philosophical" people because of their belief in a God that cannot be represented visually), and growing Jewish interest in Greek philosophy, which sought to establish universal truths.

Jews began to grapple with the tension between the particularism of their claim that only Jews were required to obey the Torah, and the universalism of their claim that the Torah contained universal truths. The result is a set of beliefs and practices concerning both identity, ethics, one's relation to nature, and one's relation to God, that privilege "difference" -— the difference between Jews and non-Jews; the differences between locally variable ways of practicing Judaism; a close attention to different meanings of words when interpreting texts; attempts to encode different points of view within texts, and a relative indifference to creed and dogma.

The subject of the Hebrew Bible is an account of the Israelites' (also called Hebrews) relationship with God as reflected in their history from the beginning of time until the building of the Second Temple (approx. 350 BCE). This relationship is generally portrayed as contentious, as Jews struggle between their faith in God and their attraction for other gods, and as some Jews (most notably and directly, Abraham, Jacob -- later known as Israel—and Moses) struggle with God. Modern scholars also suggest that the Torah consists of a variety of inconsistent texts that were edited together in a way that calls attention to divergent accounts (see Documentary hypothesis).

Religious doctrine and Principles of Faith

Main article: Jewish principles of faith

While Judaism has always affirmed a number of Jewish principles of faith, it has never developed a fully binding "catechism". It is difficult to generalize about Jewish theology because Judaism is non-creedal; that is, there is no agreed-upon dogma (set of orthodox beliefs) that most Jews believed were required of Jews. While individual Jewish rabbis, or sometimes entire groups, at times agreed upon a firm dogma, other rabbis and groups disagreed. With no central agreed-upon authority, no one formulation of Jewish principles of faith could take precedent over any other.

This approach to religious doctrine dates back at least two thousand years. For example, the ancient historian Josephus emphasized practices and traditions rather than beliefs when he describes the characteristics of an apostate (a Jew who does not follow traditional customs) and the requirements for conversion to Judaism (circumcision, and adherence to traditional customs). Despite the above, in Orthodox Judaism some principles (e.g. the Divine origin of the Torah) are considered important enough that public rebellion against them can put one in the category of "apikoros" (heretic).

Over the centuries, a number of clear formulations of Jewish principles of faith have appeared; most of them have much in common, yet they differ in certain details. A comparison of them demonstrates a wide array of tolerance for varying theological perspectives. Generally, however, the thirteen principles of faith expressed by Maimonides are considered authorative descriptions of Jewish beliefs:

  • God is one - Judaism is based on strict unitarian monotheism, the belief in one God, the eternal creator of the universe and the source of morality. The idea of God as a duality or trinity is heretical for Jews to hold; it is considered akin to polytheism.
  • God is all powerful (omnipotent), as well as all knowing (omniscient). The different names of God are ways to express different aspects of God's presence in the world. See the entry on Names of God in Judaism.
  • God is non-physical, non-corporeal, and eternal. All statements in the Hebrew Bible and in rabbinic literature which use anthropomorphism are held to be linguistic conceits or metaphors, as it would otherwise be impossible to talk about God.
  • To God alone may one offer prayer. Any belief that an intermediary between man and God could be used, whether necessary or even optional, has traditionally been considered heretical.
  • The Hebrew Bible, and much of the beliefs described in the Mishnah and Talmud, are held to be the product of divine Revelation. How Revelation works, and what precisely one means when one says that a book is "divine", has always been a matter of some dispute. Different understandings of this subject exist among Jews.
  • The words of the prophets are true.
  • Moses was the chief of all prophets.
  • The Torah (five books of Moses) is the primary text of Judaism.
  • God will reward those who observe His commandments, and punish those who violate them.
  • God chose the Jewish people to be in a unique covenant with God; see Jews as a chosen people.
  • The messianic age. There will be a moshiach (Jewish Messiah), or perhaps a messianic era.
  • The soul is pure at birth. People are born with a yetzer ha'tov, a tendency to do good, and with a yetzer ha'ra, a tendency to do bad. Thus, human beings have free will and can choose the path in life that they will take.
  • People can atone for sins through words and deeds, and without intermediaries. The liturgy of the Days of Awe (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) states that prayer, repentance and tzedakah (dutiful giving of charity) atone for sin. Atonement is deemed only meaningful if accompanied by sincere decision to cease unacceptable actions, and then only if appropriate amends to others are honestly undertaken. It covers wrongdoings by which a person has fallen short of divine wishes in his daily life, and thus there is always a "way back" to God. In Judaism, sin is more considered in terms of a wrongful action, contravening divine commandment to live a holy life, than wrongful thought. A more detailed discussion of the Jewish view of sin is available in the entry on sin.

The traditional Jewish bookshelf

Jews are often called the "people of the book," and Judaism has an age-old intellectual tradition focusing on text-based Torah study. The following is a basic, structured list of the central works of Jewish practice and thought. For more detail, see Rabbinic literature.

  • The Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) and Jewish bible study, which include:
    • Mesorah
    • Targum
    • Jewish Biblical exegesis (also see Midrash below)
  • Works of the Talmudic Era (classic rabbinic literature)
    • The Mishnah and its commentaries.
    • The Tosefta and the minor tractates.
    • The Talmud:
      • The Jerusalem Talmud and its commentaries.
      • The Babylonian Talmud and its commentaries.
    • Midrashic Literature:
      • Halakhic Midrash
      • Aggadic Midrash
  • Halakhic literature
    • The Major Codes of Jewish Law and Custom
      • The Mishneh Torah and its commentaries.
      • The Tur and its commentaries.
      • The Shulhan Arukh and its commentaries.
    • Other books on Jewish Law and Custom
    • The Responsa literature
  • Jewish Thought and Ethics
    • Jewish philosophy
    • Kabbalah
    • Hasidic works
    • Jewish ethics and the Mussar Movement
  • The Siddur and Jewish liturgy
  • Piyyut (Classical Jewish poetry)

Related Topics

  • Torah databases (electronic versions of the Traditional Jewish Bookshelf)
  • List of Jewish Prayers and Blessings

Jewish Law and interpretation

Main article: Halakha

The basis of Jewish law and tradition ("halakha") is the Torah (the five books of Moses). According to rabbinic tradition there are 613 commandments in the Torah. Some of these laws are directed only to men or to women, some only to the ancient priestly groups, the Kohanim and Leviyim (members of the tribe of Levi), some only to those who practice farming within the land of Israel. Many laws were only applicable when the Temple in Jerusalem existed, and fewer than 300 of these commandments are still applicable today.

While there have been Jewish groups which claimed to be based on the written text of the Torah alone (e.g. the Sadducees, the Karaites), most Jews believed in what they call the oral law. These oral traditions originated in the Pharisee sect of ancient Judaism, and were latter recorded in written form and expanded upon by the Rabbis.

Rabbinic Judaism has always held that the books of the Tanakh (called the written law) have always been transmitted in parallel with an oral tradition. To justify this viewpoint, Jews point to the text of the Torah, where many words are left undefined, and many procedures mentioned without explanation or instructions; this, they argue, means that the reader is assumed to be familiar with the details from other, i.e. oral, sources. This parallel set of material was originally transmitted orally, and came to be known as "the oral law".

By time of Rabbi Judah Ha-Nasi (200 CE), after the destruction of Jerusalem, much of this material was edited together into the Mishnah. Over the next four centuries this law underwent discussion and debate in both of the world's major Jewish communities (in Israel and Babylon), and the commentaries on the Mishnah from each of these communities eventually came to be edited together into compilations known as the two Talmuds. These have been expounded by commentaries of various Torah scholars during the ages.

Halakha, the rabbinic Jewish way of life, then, is based on a combined reading of the Torah, and the oral tradition - the Mishnah, the halakhic Midrash, the Talmud and its commentaries. The Halakha has developed slowly, through a precedent-based system. The literature of questions to rabbis, and their considered answers, is referred to as responsa (in Hebrew, '"Sheelot U-Teshuvot".) Over time, as practices develop, codes of Jewish law are written that are based on the responsa; the most important code, the Shulkhan Arukh, largely determines Jewish religious practice up till today.

What makes a person Jewish?

Main article: Who is a Jew

According to Jewish law, someone is considered to be a Jew if he or she was born of a Jewish mother or converted in accord with Jewish Law. (Recently, the American Reform and Reconstructionist movements have included those born of Jewish fathers and gentile mothers, if the children are raised practicing Judaism only.) All mainstream forms of Judaism today are open to sincere converts.

A Jew who ceases to practice Judaism is still considered a Jew, as is a Jew who does not accept Jewish principles of faith and becomes an agnostic or an atheist; so too with a Jew who converts to another religion. However, in the latter case, the person loses standing as a member of the Jewish community and becomes known as an apostate. In the past, family and friends were said to often formally mourn for the person, though this is rarely done today.

The question of what determines Jewish identity was given new impetus when, in the 1950s, David ben Gurion requested opinions on mihu Yehudi ("who is a Jew") from Jewish religious authorities and intellectuals worldwide. The question is far from settled and occasionally resurfaces in Israeli politics.

Jewish philosophy

Main article: Jewish philosophy

Jewish philosophy refers to the conjunction between serious study of philosophy and Jewish theology. Early Jewish philosophy was influenced by the philosophy of Plato, Aristotle and Islamic philosophy. Major Jewish philosophers include Solomon ibn Gabirol, Saadia Gaon, Maimonides and Gersonides. Major changes occurred in response to the enlightenment (late 1700s to early 1800s) leading to the post-Enlightenment Jewish philosophers, and then modern Jewish philosophers such as Martin Buber, Franz Rosenzweig, Mordecai Kaplan, Abraham Joshua Heschel, Will Herberg, Emmanuel Levinas, Richard Rubenstein, Emil Fackenheim, and Joseph Soloveitchik.

Jewish denominations

Main article: Jewish denominations

Over the past two centuries the Jewish community has divided into a number of Jewish denominations; each has a different understanding of what principles of belief a Jew should hold, and how one should live as a Jew. Unlike Christian denominations, these doctrinal differences have not fundamentally split Jewish denominations, which continue to overlap on many issues. It would not be unusual for a Conservative Jew to attend either an Orthodox or Reform synagogue, for example.

  • Orthodox Judaism holds that the Torah was written by God and dictated to Moses, and that the laws within it are binding and unchanging. Orthodox Jews generally consider a 16th century CE law code, the Shulkhan Arukh, to be the definitive codification of Jewish law, and assert a continuity between pre-Enlightenment Judaism and modern-day Orthodox Judaism. Orthodox Judaism consists of Modern Orthodox Judaism and Haredi Judaism. Hasidic Judaism is a sub-set of Haredi Judaism. Most of Orthodox Judaism holds to one particular form of Jewish theology, based on Maimonides' 13 principles of Jewish faith.
  • Reform Judaism (outside of the USA also known as Progressive Judaism, and in the U.K. as Liberal Judaism) originally formed in Germany in response to the Enlightenment. Reform Judaism initially defined Judaism as a religion, rather than as a race or culture; rejected the ritual prescriptions and proscriptions of the Torah; and emphasized the ethical call of the Prophets. Reform Judaism developed a prayer service in the vernacular and emphasized decorum during services. Today, many Reform congregations have returned to Hebrew prayers and encourage some degree of legal observance.
  • Conservative Judaism. Outside of the USA it is known as Masorti (Hebrew for "Traditional") Judaism. "Masorti" is its official title in the State of Israel as well, although most Israelis use the word in a more general sense (see below). Conservative Judaism formed in the United States in the late 1800s through the fusion of two distinct groups: former Reform Jews who were alienated by that movement's emphatic rejection of Jewish law, and former Orthodox Jews who had rejected belief in the "oral law" (which claims continuity between God's revelation at Sinai and Jewish law as codified in the Shulkhan Arukh) in favor of the critical study of Jewish texts and history. Conservative Jews emphasize that Jews constitute a nation as well as a religion. Conservative scholars emphasize their identification with the Amoraim, the sages of the Talmud, who embraced open debates over interpretations (and reinterpretations) of Jewish law.
  • Reconstructionist Judaism started as a stream of philosophy by a rabbi within Conservative Judaism, and later became an independent movement emphasizing reinterpreting Judaism for modern times.

Many religious Jews do not look at one's denomination as a valid way of designating Jews; instead they view Jews by the level of their religious observance. According to most Orthodox Jews, Jewish people who do not keep the laws of Shabbat and Yom Tov (the holidays), Kashrut, and family purity are considered non-religious. Any Jew who keeps at least those laws would be considered observant and religious).

Jewish denominations in Israel

Even though all of these denominations exist in Israel, Israelis tend to classify Jewish identity in ways that are different than diaspora Jewry. Most Jewish Israelis classify themselves as "secular" (hiloni), "traditional" (masorti), or Haredi. "Secular," or non-observant, Judaism is more popular among Israeli families of western (European) origin, whose Jewish identity may be a very powerful force in their lives, but who see it as largely independent of traditional religious belief and practice. This portion of the population largely ignores organized religious life, be it of the official Israeli rabbinate (Orthodox) or of the liberal movements common to diaspora Judaism (Reform, Conservative).

The term "traditional" (masorti) is most common among Israeli families of "eastern" origin (i.e. Middle East, Central Asia and North Africa). This term, as commonly used, has nothing to do with the official Masorti (Conservative) movement.

There is a great deal of ambiguity in the ways "secular" and "traditional" are used in Israel. They often overlap, and they cover an extremely wide range in terms of ideology and religious observance.

The term "Orthodox" (Ortodoxi) is unpopular in Israeli discourse (among both "secular" and "religious" alike). Nevertheless, the spectrum covered by "Orthodox" in the diaspora exists in Israel, again with some important variations. The "Orthodox" spectrum in Israel is a far greater percentage of the Jewish population in Israel than in the diaspora, though how much greater is hotly debated. Various ways of measuring this percentage, each with its pros and cons, include the proportion of religiously observant Knesset members, the proportion of Jewish children enrolled in religious schools, and statistical studies on "identity".

What would be called "Orthodox" in the diaspora includes what is commonly called dati (religious) or haredi (ultra-Orthodox) in Israel. The former term includes what is called "Religious Zionism" or the "National Religious" community, as well as what has become known over the past decade or so as haredi-leumi (nationalist haredi), which combines a largely haredi lifestyle with nationist ideology.

Haredi applies to a populace that can be roughly divided into three separate groups along both ethnic and ideological lines: (1) "Lithuanian" (non-hasidic) haredim of Ashkenazic origin; (2) Hasidic haredim of Ashkenazic origin; and (3) Sephardic haredim. The third group is the largest, and has been the most politically active since the early 1990s.

Karaism

Unlike the above denominations, which were ideological reactions that resulted from the exposure of traditional rabbinic Judaism to the radical changes of modern times, Karaite Judaism did not begin as a modern Jewish movement. The followers of Karaism believe they are the remnants of the non-Rabbinic Jewish sects of the Second Temple period, such as the Saducees, though others contend they are a sect started in the 8th and 9th centuries. The Karaites, or "Scripturalists," accept only the Hebrew bible and what they view as the Peshat/"Plain or Simple Meaning";, and do not accept non-biblical writings as authoritative. Some European Karaites do not see themselves as part of the Jewish community, while most do.

The main article Jewish views of religious pluralism describes how Judaism views other religions; it also describes how members of each of the Jewish religious denomination view the other denominations.

Jewish prayer and practice

Prayers

Main article: Jewish services

There are three main daily prayer services, named Shacharit, Mincha (literally: flour-offering) and Maariv or Arvit. All services include a number of benedictions called the Amidah or the Shemonah Esrei ("eighteen"), which on weekdays consists of nineteen blessings (one was added in the time of the Mishna, but the name remains). Another key prayer in many services is the declaration of faith, the Shema which is recited at shacharit and maariv. Most of the prayers in a traditional Jewish service can be said in solitary prayer, but Kaddish and Kedusha require a group of ten adult men (or men and women in some branches of Judaism) called a minyan (prayer quorum). There are also prayers and benedictions recited throughout the day, such as those before eating or drinking.

There are a number of common Jewish religious objects used in prayer. The tallit is a Jewish prayer shawl. A kippah or yarmulke (skullcap) is a head covering worn during prayer by most Jews, and at all times by more orthodox Jews — especially Ashkenazim. Phylacteries or tefillin, boxes containing the portions of the Torah mandating them, are also worn by religious Jews during weekday morning services.

The Jewish approach to prayer differs slightly between the various branches of Judaism, although all use the same set of prayers and texts, the frequency of prayer, the number of prayers recited at various religious events, and whether one prays in a particular liturgical language or the vernacular differs from denomination to denomination, with Conservative and Orthodox congregations using more traditional services, while Reform and Reconstructionist synagogues are more likely to incorporate translations, contemporary writings, and abbreviated services.

Shabbat

Main article: Shabbat

Shabbat, the weekly day of rest lasting from Friday night to Saturday night, celebrates God's creation as a day of rest that commemorates God's day of rest upon the completion of creation. It plays an important role in Jewish practice and is the subject of a large body of religious law. Some consider it the most important Jewish holiday.

Jewish holidays

Main article: Jewish holidays

The Jewish holy days celebrate central themes in the relationship between God and the world, such as creation, revelation, and redemption. Some holidays are also linked to the agricultural cycle.

Three holidays celebrate revelation by commemorating different events in the passage of the Children of Israel out of slavery in Egypt to their return to the land of Canaan. They are also timed to coincide with important agricultural seasons. They are also pilgramage holidays, for which the Children of Israel would journey to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices to God in His Temple.

  • Pesach or Passover celebrates the Exodus from Egypt, and coincides with the barley harvest. It is the only holiday that centers on home-service, the Seder. Pesach occurs on the 15th of Nissan; Nissan is the first month of the Jewish calendar, because it was in this month that the Children of Israel left Egypt.
  • Shavuot or Pentacost or Feast of Weeks celebrates Moses' giving of the Ten Commandments to the Israelites, and marks the transition from the barley harvest to the wheat harvest.
  • Sukkot, or The Festival of booths or the Festival of the ingathering commemorates the wandering of the Children of Israel through the desert. It is celebrated through the construction of temporary booths that represent the temporary shelters of the Children of Israel during their wandering. It coincides with the fruit harvest, and marks the end of the agricultural cycle.
  • Rosh Hashanah, also Yom Ha-Zikkaron (the day of remembrance) or Yom Teruah (the day of the sounding of the shofar). Called the Jewish New Year because it celebrates the day that the world was created, and marks the advance in the calendar from one year to the next, although it occurs in the seventh month, Tishri. It is also a holiday of redemption, as it marks the beginning of the atonement period that ends ten days later with Yom Kippur.
  • Yom Kippur, or The Day of Atonement, also called "the Sabbath of Sabbaths," is a holiday centered on redemption; a day of atonement and fasting for sins committed during the previous year. Many consider this the most important Jewish holiday.

There are many minor holidays as well, including Purim, which celebrates the events told in the Biblical book of Esther, and Chanukkah, which is not established in the Bible but which celebrates the successful rebellion by the Maccabees against the Seleucid Empire.

Torah readings

The core of festival and Sabbath prayer services is the public reading of the Torah, along with connected readings from the other books of the Jewish Bible, called Haftarah. During the course of a year, the full Torah is read, and the cycle begins again every autumn during Simhat Torah (“rejoicing in the Torah”).

Dietary laws: Kashrut

Main article: Kashrut

The laws of kashrut ("keeping kosher") are the Jewish dietary laws. Food in accord with Jewish law is termed kosher, and food not in accord with Jewish law is termed treifah or treif. From the context of the laws in the book of Leviticus, the purpose of kashrut is related to ritual purity and holiness. Reform and Reconstructionist Jews do not keep kosher, Orthodox Jews and some Conservative Jews do keep kosher, to varying degrees of strictness.

Family purity

Main article: Niddah

The laws of niddah ("menstruant", often referred to euphemistically as "family purity") and various other laws regulating the interaction between men and women (e.g. tzeniut, modesty in dress) are perceived, especially by Orthodox Jews, as vital factors in Jewish life.

The laws of niddah dictate that sexual intercourse cannot take place while the woman is having a menstrual flow, and she has to count seven "clean" days and immerse in a mikvah (ritual bath).

Life-cycle events

Life-cycle events occur throughout a Jew's life that bind him/her to the entire community.

  • Brit milah - Welcoming male babies into the covenant through the rite of circumcision.
  • Bar mitzvah and Bat mitzvah - Celebrating a child's reaching the age of majority, becoming responsible from now on for themselves as an adult for living a Jewish life and following halakha.
  • Marriage
  • Shiv'ah (mourning) - Judaism has a multi-staged mourning practice. The first stage is called the Shiv'ah (literally "seven", observed for one week) during which it is traditional to sit at home and be comforted by friends and family, the second is the shloshim (observed for one month) and for those who have lost one of their parents, there is a third stage, avelut yud bet chodesh, which is observed for eleven months.

Community leadership

Classical priesthood

Judaism does not have a clergy, in the sense of full-time specialists required for religious services. Technically, the last time Judaism had a clergy was prior to the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E., when priests attended to the Temple and sacrifices. The priesthood is an inherited position, and although priests no longer have clerical duties, they are still honored in many Jewish communities

  • Kohen (priest) - patrilineal descendant of Aaron, brother of Moses. In the Temple, the kohanim were charged with performing the sacrifices. Today, a Kohen is the first one called up at the reading of the Torah, performs the priestly blessing, as well as complying with other unique laws.
  • Levi (Levite) - Patrilineal descendant of Levi the son of Jacob. Today, a Levite is called up second to the reading of the Torah.

Prayer leaders

From the times of the Mishna and Talmud to the present, Judaism has required specialists or authorities for the practice of very few rituals or ceremonies. A Jew can fulfil most requirements for prayer by himself. Some activities -- reading the Torah and haftarah (a supplementary portion from the Prophets or Writings); the prayer for mourners; the blessings for bridegroom and bride; the complete grace after meals -- require a minyan, the presense of ten adults (Orthodox Jews and some Conservative Jews require ten adult men; some Conservative Jews and Reform Jews include women in the minyan).

The most common professional clergy in a synogogue are:

  • Rabbi of a congregation - Jewish scholar who is charged with answering the legal questions of a congregation. Orthodox Judaism requires semicha (Rabbinical ordination). A congregation does not necessarily require a Rabbi. Some congregations have a Rabbi but also allow members of the congregation to act as shatz or baal koreh (see below).
    • Hassidic Rebbe - Rabbi who is the head of a Hassidic dynasty.
  • Hazzan (cantor) - a trained vocalist who acts as shatz. Chosen for a good voice, knowledge of traditional tunes, understanding of the meaning of the prayers and sincerity in reciting them. A congregation does not need to have a dedicated hazzan.

Jewish prayer services do involve two specified roles, which are often, but not always, filled by a Rabbi and/or Hazzan in many congregations:

  • Shaliach tzibur or Shatz (leader -- literally "agent" or "representative" -- of the congregation) leads those assembled in prayer, and sometimes prays on behalf of the community. When a shatz recites a prayer on behalf of the congregation, he is not acting as an intermediary but rather as a facilitator. The entire congregation participates in the recital of such prayers by saying amen at their conclusion; it is with this act that the shatz's prayer becomes the prayer of the congregation. Any adult capable of speaking Hebrew clearly may act as shatz (Orthodox Jews and some Conservative Jews allow only men to act as shatz; some Conservative Jews and Reform Jews allow women to act as shatz as well).
  • Baal koreh (master of the reading) reads the weekly Torah portion. The requirements for acting as baal koreh are the same as those for the shatz.

Note that these roles are not mutually exclusive. The same person is often qualified to fill more than one role, and often does.

Many congregations, especially larger ones, also rely on a:

  • Gabbai (sexton) - Calls people up to the Torah, appoints the shatz for each prayer session if there is no standard shatz, and makes certain that the synagogue is kept clean and supplied.

The three preceding positions are usually voluntary and considered an honor. Since the Enlightenment large synagogues have often adopted the practice of hiring rabbis and hazzans to act as shatz and baal koreh, and this is still typically the case in most Conservative and Reform congretations. However, in most Orthodox synagogues these positions are filled by laypeople.

Specialized religious roles

  • Dayan (judge) - expert in Jewish law who sits on a beth din (rabbinical court) for either monetary matters or for overseeing the giving of a bill of divorce. A dayan always requires semicha.
  • Mohel - performs the brit milah (circumcision). An expert in the laws of circumcision who has received training from a qualified mohel.
  • Shochet (ritual slaughterer) - slaughters all kosher meat. In order for meat to be kosher, it must be slaughtered by a shochet who is expert in the laws and has received training from another shochet, as well as having regular contact with a rabbi and revising the relevant guidelines on a regular basis.
  • Sofer (scribe) - Torah scrolls, tefillin (phylacteries), mezuzahs (scrolls put on doorposts), and gittin (bills of divorce) must be written by a sofer who is an expert in the laws of writing.
  • Rosh yeshivah - head of a yeshiva. Somebody who is an expert in delving into the depths of the Talmud, and lectures the highest class in a Yeshiva.
  • Mashgiach of a yeshiva - expert in mussar (ethics). Oversees the emotional and spiritual welfare of the students in a yeshiva, and gives lectures on mussar.
  • Mashgiach over kosher products - supervises merchants and manufacturers of kosher food to ensure that the food is kosher. Either an expert in the laws of kashrut, or (generally) under the supervision of a rabbi who is expert in those laws.

Jewish religious history

Main article: Jewish history

Jewish history is an extensive topic, this section will cover the elements of Jewish history of most importance to the Jewish religion and the development of Jewish denominations.

Ancient Jewish religious history

Jews trace their religious lineage to the biblical patriarch Abraham through Isaac and Jacob. After the Exodus from Egypt, the Jews came to Canaan, and settled the land. A kingdom was established under Saul and continued under King David and Solomon with its capital in Jerusalem. After Solomon's reign the nation split into two kingdoms, the Kingdom of Israel (in the north) and the Kingdom of Judah (in the south). The Kingdom of Israel was conquered by the Assyrian ruler Shalmaneser V in the 8th century BCE and spread all over the Assyrian empire, where they were assimilated into other cultures and become known as the Ten Lost Tribes. The Kingdom of Judah continued as an independent state until it was conquered by a Babylonian army in the early 6th century BCE, destroying the First Temple that was at the centre of ancient Jewish worship. The Judean elite was exiled to Babylonia, but later at least a part of them returned to their homeland after the subsequent conquest of Babylonia by the Persians seventy years later, a period known as the Babylonian Captivity. A new Second Temple was constructed, and old religious practices were resumed.

After a Jewish revolt against Roman rule in 66 CE, the Romans all but destroyed Jerusalem; only a single "Western Wall" of the Second Temple remained. Following a second revolt, Jews were not allowed to enter the city of Jerusalem and most Jewish worship was forbidden by Rome. Following the destruction of Jerusalem and the expulsion of the Jews, Jewish worship stopped being centrally organized around the Temple, and instead was rebuilt around rabbis who acted as teachers and leaders of individual communities. No new books were added to the Jewish Bible after the Roman period, instead major efforts went into interpreting and developing Jewish law.

Historical Jewish groupings (-1700)

Around the first century CE there were several small Jewish sects: the Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots, Essenes, and Christians. After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE., these sects vanished. Christianity survived, but by breaking with Judaism and becoming a separate religion; the Pharisees survived but in the form of Rabbinic Judaism (today, known simply as "Judaism").

Some Jews in the 8th and 9th centuries adopted the Sadducees' rejection of the oral law of the Pharisees/Rabbis recorded in the Mishnah (and developed by later Rabbis in the two Talmuds), intending to rely only upon the Tanakh. These included the Isunians, the Yudganites, the Malikites, and others. They soon developed oral traditions of their own which differed from the Rabbinic traditions, and eventually formed the Karaite sect. Karaites exist in small numbers today, mostly living in Israel. Rabbinical and Karaite Jews each hold that the others are Jews, but that the other faith is erroneous.

Over time Jews developed into distinct ethnic groups — amongst others, the Ashkenazi Jews (of Central and Eastern Europe with Russia); the Sephardi Jews (of Spain, Portugal and North Africa) and the Yemenite Jews, from the southern tip of the Arabian peninsula. This split is cultural, and is not based on any doctrinal dispute, although the distance did result in minor differences in practice and prayers.

Hasidism

Main article: Hasidic Judaism

Hasidic Judaism was founded by Israel ben Eliezer (1700-1760), also known as the Ba'al Shem Tov (or Besht). His disciples attracted many followers; they themselves established numerous Hasidic sects across Europe. Hasidic Judaism eventually became the way of life for many Jews in Europe. Waves of Jewish immigration in the 1880s carried it to the United States.

Early on, there was a serious schism between the Hasidic and non-Hasidic Jews. European Jews who rejected the Hasidic movement were dubbed by the Hasidim as mitnagdim, (lit. "opponents"). Some of the reasons for the rejection of Hasidic Judaism were the overwhelming exuberance of Hasidic worship; their untraditional ascriptions of infallibility and alleged miracle-working to their leaders, and the concern that it might become a messianic sect. Since then all the sects of Hasidic Judaism have been subsumed into mainstream Orthodox Judaism, particularly Haredi Judaism.

The Enlightenment and Reform Judaism

Main article: Haskalah

In the late 18th century CE Europe was swept by a group of intellectual, social and political movements known as the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment led to reductions in the European laws that prohibited Jews to interact with the wider secular world, thus allowing Jews access to secular education and experience. A parallel Jewish movement, Haskalah or the "Jewish Enlightenment," began, especially in Central Europe, in response to both the Enlightenment and these new freedoms. It placed an emphasis on integration with secular society and a pursuit of non-religious knowledge. The thrust and counter-thrust between supporters of Haskalah and more traditional Jewish concepts eventually led to the formation of a number of different branches of Judaism: Haskalah supporters founded Reform Judaism and Liberal Judaism, while traditionalists founded many forms of Orthodox Judaism, and Jews seeking a balance between the two sides founded Conservative Judaism. A number of smaller groups came into being as well.

The Holocaust

While the Holocaust did not immediately affect Jewish denominations, its great loss of life caused a radical demographic shift, ultimately affecting the makeup of organized Judaism the way it is today. A Jewish day of mourning, Yom HaShoah, was inserted into the Jewish calendar, commemorating the Holocaust.

The present situation

In most western nations, such as the United States of America, Israel, Canada, United Kingdom and South Africa, a wide variety of Jewish practices exist, along with a growing plurality of secular and non-practicing Jews. For example, in the world's largest Jewish community, the United States, according to the 2001 National Jewish Population Survey (http://www.ujc.org/content_display.html?ArticleID=83784), 4.3 million out of 5.1 million Jews had some sort of connection to the religion. Of that population of connected Jews, 80% participated in some sort of Jewish religious observance, but only 48% belonged to a synagogue.

Religious (and secular) Jewish movements in the USA and Canada perceive this as a crisis situation, and have grave concern over rising rates of intermarriage and assimilation in the Jewish community. Since American Jews are marrying at a later time in their life than they used to, and are having fewer children than they used, the birth rate for American Jews has dropped from over 2.0 down to 1.7 (the replacement rate is 2.1). (This is My Beloved, This is My Friend: A Rabbinic Letter on Intimate relations, p.27, Elliot N. Dorff, The Rabbinical Assembly, 1996). Intermarriage rates range from 40-50% in the US, and only about a third of children of intermarried couples are raised Jewish. Due to intermarriage and low birth rates, the Jewish population in the US shrank from 5.5 million in 1990 to 5.1 million in 2001. This is indicative of the general population trends among the Jewish community in the Diaspora, but a focus on population masks the diversity of current Jewish religious practice, as well as growth trends among some communities, like haredi Jews.

In the last 50 years there has been a general increase in interest in religion among many segments of the Jewish population. All of the major Jewish denominations have experienced a resurgence in popularity, with increasing numbers of younger Jews participating in Jewish education, joining synagogues, and becoming (to varying degrees) more observant. Complementing the increased popularity of the major denominations has been a number of new approaches to Jewish worship, including feminist approaches to Judaism and Jewish renewal movements. There is a separate article on the Baal teshuva movement, the movement of Jews returning to observant Judaism. Though this gain has not offset the general demographic loss due to intermarriage and acculturation, many Jewish communities and movements are growing.

Judaism and other religions

Christianity and Judaism

There are a number of articles on the relationship between Judaism and Christianity. These articles include:

  • Comparing and contrasting Judaism and Christianity
  • Judeo-Christian
  • Christianity and anti-Semitism
  • Jewish view of Jesus
  • Cultural and historical background of Jesus

Since the Holocaust, there has been much to note in the way of reconciliation between some Christians groups and the Jewish people; the article on Christian-Jewish reconciliation studies this issue.

Messianic Judaism (sometimes Hebrew Christianity) is the common designation for a number of Christian groups which include varying degrees of Jewish practice. These groups have attracted tens (and perhaps hundreds) of thousands of Jews and Christians to their ranks; members identify themselves as Jews. These groups are viewed highly negatively by all Jewish denominations, which typically see them as covert and deceptive attempts to convert Jews to Christianity, a view Messianic-Jewish groups strongly contest.

Some Jews have joined other faiths, such as Judeo-Paganism and neo-paganism. Some adherents to those movements identify themselves as Jews nonetheless.

Islam and Judaism

Main article: Islam and Judaism

Under Islamic rule, Judaism has been practiced for almost 1500 years and this has led to an interplay between the two religions which has been positive as well as negative at times. The period around 900 to 1200 in Moorish Spain came to be known as the Golden age of Jewish culture in Spain.

The 20th century animosity of Muslim leaders towards the Zionism, the political movement of Jewish self-determination, has led to a renewed interest in the relationship between Judaism and Islam.

Other relevant material:

  • Similarities between the Bible and the Qur'an
  • Islam and anti-Semitism

This page about Judaism includes information from a Wikipedia article.
Additional articles about Judaism
News stories about Judaism
External links for Judaism
Videos for Judaism
Wikis about Judaism
Discussion Groups about Judaism
Blogs about Judaism
Images of Judaism

Other relevant material:. Other important scriptures are the sectarian Hindu Agamas which are texts dedicated to Vishnu, Shiva and Devi. The 20th century animosity of Muslim leaders towards the Zionism, the political movement of Jewish self-determination, has led to a renewed interest in the relationship between Judaism and Islam. There are also a number of revered Hindu Tantras and Sutras that command the respect of various Hindu sects of different persuasion, some including the Mahanirvana Tantra, Tirumantiram and Shiva Sutras. The period around 900 to 1200 in Moorish Spain came to be known as the Golden age of Jewish culture in Spain. Other texts considered important by today's Hindus include the Devi Mahatmya, an ode to Devi, the Divine Mother, and the Yoga Sutras, a key meditative yoga text of Shri Patanjali. Under Islamic rule, Judaism has been practiced for almost 1500 years and this has led to an interplay between the two religions which has been positive as well as negative at times. The post- Vedic Hindu scriptures form the latter category, the most notable of which are the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, major epics considered scripture by most followers of Sanatana Dharma, their stories arguably familiar to the vast majority of Hindus living in the Indian subcontinent, if not abroad.

Main article: Islam and Judaism. See Bhagavad Gita to explore this text. Some adherents to those movements identify themselves as Jews nonetheless. In a wider context, it is considered a timeless classic of world literature. Some Jews have joined other faiths, such as Judeo-Paganism and neo-paganism. While technically it is considered Smriti, it has singularly achieved nearly unquestioned status as Shruti, or revealed, and is thus the most definitive single Hindu text, read by millions of bhaktas (devotees) and yogis on a largely daily basis throughout the Sanatana Dharmic world. These groups are viewed highly negatively by all Jewish denominations, which typically see them as covert and deceptive attempts to convert Jews to Christianity, a view Messianic-Jewish groups strongly contest. The text documents a conversation between Arjuna, a warrior, and Lord Krishna immediately prior to the major battle described in the epic Mahabharata.

These groups have attracted tens (and perhaps hundreds) of thousands of Jews and Christians to their ranks; members identify themselves as Jews. The Bhagavad Gita occupies a special position in the hearts of most Hindus as a keystone yoga upanishad whose eternal words perhaps are the most representative of all Hindu thought. Messianic Judaism (sometimes Hebrew Christianity) is the common designation for a number of Christian groups which include varying degrees of Jewish practice. It can be said that while early Hinduism is most reliant on the four Vedas, Classical Hinduism, from the Yoga and Vedanta to Tantra and Bhakti streams, was molded around the Upanishads. Since the Holocaust, there has been much to note in the way of reconciliation between some Christians groups and the Jewish people; the article on Christian-Jewish reconciliation studies this issue. While the Vedas and their early commentaries on one hand center on ritual and sacrifice, the late Vedantic (End of Vedas) texts emphasize mystic insight and express abhorrence for ritual practiced at the expense of spiritual insight, claiming to streamline the excessive litany of praise to Vedic gods and to capture the essence of the Rig Vedic dictum "Truth Is One." They set Hindu philosophy apart with its embrace of a single transcendent and yet immanent force that is native to each man's soul, an identification of micro- and macrocosm as One. These articles include:. The Aranyakas and the Upanishads were originally esoteric, mystical teachings related in secrecy.

There are a number of articles on the relationship between Judaism and Christianity. The Shrautasutras and Grhyasutras form a younger stratum dealing with domestic ritual. Though this gain has not offset the general demographic loss due to intermarriage and acculturation, many Jewish communities and movements are growing. The oldest of these are the Brahmanas. There is a separate article on the Baal teshuva movement, the movement of Jews returning to observant Judaism. Depending on the school, various commentaries and instructions are associated with each Veda. Complementing the increased popularity of the major denominations has been a number of new approaches to Jewish worship, including feminist approaches to Judaism and Jewish renewal movements. The four Vedas (the Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharva Vedas) were preserved by various shakhas or schools.

In the last 50 years there has been a general increase in interest in religion among many segments of the Jewish population. All of the major Jewish denominations have experienced a resurgence in popularity, with increasing numbers of younger Jews participating in Jewish education, joining synagogues, and becoming (to varying degrees) more observant. While the overwhelming majority of Hindus may never read the Vedas, the reverence for the more abstract notion of eternal knowledge (Veda means knowledge) is etched deep into the hearts of all those who follow Veda Dharma. This is indicative of the general population trends among the Jewish community in the Diaspora, but a focus on population masks the diversity of current Jewish religious practice, as well as growth trends among some communities, like haredi Jews. The Vedas are considered as shruti (inspired) by all Hindus. Due to intermarriage and low birth rates, the Jewish population in the US shrank from 5.5 million in 1990 to 5.1 million in 2001. tradition, not revelation). Intermarriage rates range from 40-50% in the US, and only about a third of children of intermarried couples are raised Jewish. The texts are divided into two categories: Shruti- that which is heard (i.e. revelation) and Smriti- that which is remembered (i.e.

(This is My Beloved, This is My Friend: A Rabbinic Letter on Intimate relations, p.27, Elliot N. Dorff, The Rabbinical Assembly, 1996). Indeed, much of the morphology and linguistic philosophy inherent in the learning of Sanskrit is sometimes claimed to be inextricably linked to study. Since American Jews are marrying at a later time in their life than they used to, and are having fewer children than they used, the birth rate for American Jews has dropped from over 2.0 down to 1.7 (the replacement rate is 2.1). The overwhelming majority of Hindu sacred texts are composed in the Sanskrit language. Religious (and secular) Jewish movements in the USA and Canada perceive this as a crisis situation, and have grave concern over rising rates of intermarriage and assimilation in the Jewish community. Main article: Hindu scripture. Of that population of connected Jews, 80% participated in some sort of Jewish religious observance, but only 48% belonged to a synagogue. Hinduism's fundamental truth is best expressed in the Upanishadic dictum, Tat Twam Asi (Thou Art That), and the ultimate aspiration as follows:.

For example, in the world's largest Jewish community, the United States, according to the 2001 National Jewish Population Survey (http://www.ujc.org/content_display.html?ArticleID=83784), 4.3 million out of 5.1 million Jews had some sort of connection to the religion. the temporal or earthly plane) who succeeds in living an honest, loving and dharmic life a jivanmukta (living free soul). In most western nations, such as the United States of America, Israel, Canada, United Kingdom and South Africa, a wide variety of Jewish practices exist, along with a growing plurality of secular and non-practicing Jews. The great rishis (Hindu sages) have termed the samsaric (one who lives in samsara, i.e. A Jewish day of mourning, Yom HaShoah, was inserted into the Jewish calendar, commemorating the Holocaust. The chief aim of the Vedic religion is to achieve moksha, or liberation, through constant dedication to satya (Truth) and eventual realization of the atman (Universal Soul), held to be achievable by all, whether through meditation or pure love. While the Holocaust did not immediately affect Jewish denominations, its great loss of life caused a radical demographic shift, ultimately affecting the makeup of organized Judaism the way it is today. Its presiding principle, Ma (Mother) Gayatri, is also known as Veda Mata (Mother of the Vedas) and is strongly associated with the Goddess of Learning and Illumination, Saraswati.

A number of smaller groups came into being as well. Known as a universal mantra, it is revered as being the most condensed form of Divine Knowledge (Veda). The thrust and counter-thrust between supporters of Haskalah and more traditional Jewish concepts eventually led to the formation of a number of different branches of Judaism: Haskalah supporters founded Reform Judaism and Liberal Judaism, while traditionalists founded many forms of Orthodox Judaism, and Jews seeking a balance between the two sides founded Conservative Judaism. Many Hindus to this day, in a tradition that has continued unbroken for at least 3,000 years, perform morning ablutions at the bank of a sacred river (especially the Ganga/Ganges). It placed an emphasis on integration with secular society and a pursuit of non-religious knowledge. It is considered one of the most universal of all Hindu mantras, invoking the universal Brahman as the principle of knowledge and the illumination of the primordial Sun. A parallel Jewish movement, Haskalah or the "Jewish Enlightenment," began, especially in Central Europe, in response to both the Enlightenment and these new freedoms. The most revered mantra in Hinduism is the famed Gayatri Mantra (see Sanskrit for pronunciation):.

The Enlightenment led to reductions in the European laws that prohibited Jews to interact with the wider secular world, thus allowing Jews access to secular education and experience. Indeed, Mahatma Gandhi's dying words were a two-word mantra to the Lord Rama: "Hai Ram!"'.. In the late 18th century CE Europe was swept by a group of intellectual, social and political movements known as the Enlightenment. They often give courage in exigent times and serve to help 'invoke' one's inner spiritual strength. Main article: Haskalah. They can also be used to aid in expression of love for the deity, another facet of Bhakti yoga akin to the understanding of the murti. Since then all the sects of Hasidic Judaism have been subsumed into mainstream Orthodox Judaism, particularly Haredi Judaism. Mantras are said, through their meaning, sound, and chanting style, to help meditational focus for the sadhaka (practitioner).

Some of the reasons for the rejection of Hasidic Judaism were the overwhelming exuberance of Hasidic worship; their untraditional ascriptions of infallibility and alleged miracle-working to their leaders, and the concern that it might become a messianic sect. Much of mantra yoga, as it is called, is done through japa (repetition). "opponents"). Reciting mantras is a fundamental practice in Hinduism. European Jews who rejected the Hasidic movement were dubbed by the Hasidim as mitnagdim, (lit. Main article: Mantra.. Early on, there was a serious schism between the Hasidic and non-Hasidic Jews. For more details on this form of worship, see murti.
.

Waves of Jewish immigration in the 1880s carried it to the United States. Thus, Hindu image worship is a form of iconolatry, in which the symbols are venerated as putative sigils of divinity, as opposed to idolatry, a charge often levied (erroneously) at Hindus. Hasidic Judaism eventually became the way of life for many Jews in Europe. They are symbols of the greater principle, representing and are never presumed to be the concept or entity itself. His disciples attracted many followers; they themselves established numerous Hasidic sects across Europe. Worship of said deities is often done through the aid of pictures or icons (murti) which are said not to be God themselves but conduits for the devotee's consciousness, markers for the human soul that signify the ineffable and illimitable nature of the love and grandeur of God. Hasidic Judaism was founded by Israel ben Eliezer (1700-1760), also known as the Ba'al Shem Tov (or Besht). Also, the puranas list twenty-five avatara of Vishnu : Catursana, Narad, Varaha, Matsya, Yajna, Nara-Narayana, Kapila, Dattatreya, Hayasirsa, Hamsa, Prsnigarbha, Rsabha, Prithu, Narasimha , Kurma, Dhanvantari, Mohini, Vamana, Parasurama, Raghavendra, Vyasa, Balarama, Krishna, Buddha.

Main article: Hasidic Judaism. Among the most popular are Vishnu (as Krishna or Rama), Shiva, Devi (the Mother as many female deities, such as Lakshmi, Saraswati, Kali and Durga), Ganesha, Skanda and Hanuman. This split is cultural, and is not based on any doctrinal dispute, although the distance did result in minor differences in practice and prayers. The vast majority of Hindus worship many gods as varicolored forms of the same prism of Truth. Over time Jews developed into distinct ethnic groups — amongst others, the Ashkenazi Jews (of Central and Eastern Europe with Russia); the Sephardi Jews (of Spain, Portugal and North Africa) and the Yemenite Jews, from the southern tip of the Arabian peninsula. While some censuses hold worshippers of one form or another of Vishnu (known as Vaishnavites) to be at 80% and those of Shiva (called Shaivaites) and Shakti at the remaining 20%, such figures are perhaps misleading. Rabbinical and Karaite Jews each hold that the others are Jews, but that the other faith is erroneous. Hinduism encourages devotees to describe and develop a personal relationship with their chosen deity (ishta devata) in the form of a God or Goddess.

Karaites exist in small numbers today, mostly living in Israel. Whether believing in the One source as formless (nirguna brahman, without attributes) or as a personal God (saguna Brahman, with attributes), Hindus understand that the one truth may be seen as different to different people. They soon developed oral traditions of their own which differed from the Rabbinic traditions, and eventually formed the Karaite sect. The various gods and avatars that are worshipped by Hindus are understood as different forms of One truth, sometimes seen as beyond a mere God and as a formless Divine Ground (Brahman), akin but not limited to monism, or as one monotheistic principle like Vishnu or Shiva. These included the Isunians, the Yudganites, the Malikites, and others. Contrary to popular belief, practiced Hinduism is neither polytheistic nor strictly monotheistic. Some Jews in the 8th and 9th centuries adopted the Sadducees' rejection of the oral law of the Pharisees/Rabbis recorded in the Mishnah (and developed by later Rabbis in the two Talmuds), intending to rely only upon the Tanakh. See Swastika.

Christianity survived, but by breaking with Judaism and becoming a separate religion; the Pharisees survived but in the form of Rabbinic Judaism (today, known simply as "Judaism"). Many Eastern cultures still hold it to be sacred, especially in India, in spite of the recent association with Nazism which perverted the original meaning of this universal symbol. After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE., these sects vanished. It has been used in Hinduism since the early Vedic culture and is still widespread in the Indian subcontinent. Around the first century CE there were several small Jewish sects: the Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots, Essenes, and Christians. Its rotation in four directions has been used to represent many ideas, but primarily describes the four directions and their harmonious whole. No new books were added to the Jewish Bible after the Roman period, instead major efforts went into interpreting and developing Jewish law. It stands for satya, truth, and stability within the power of Brahma or, alternatively, of Surya, the sun.

Following the destruction of Jerusalem and the expulsion of the Jews, Jewish worship stopped being centrally organized around the Temple, and instead was rebuilt around rabbis who acted as teachers and leaders of individual communities. The swastika () is an Arya, or noble symbol. Following a second revolt, Jews were not allowed to enter the city of Jerusalem and most Jewish worship was forbidden by Rome. It contains an enormous and diverse amount of symbolism; Hindus consider its sound and vibration to be the divine representation of existence, encompassing all of manifold nature into the One eternal truth. ; see Aum for more detail. After a Jewish revolt against Roman rule in 66 CE, the Romans all but destroyed Jerusalem; only a single "Western Wall" of the Second Temple remained. Aum () is the standard sign of Hinduism, and is prefixed and sometimes suffixed to all Hindu mantras and prayers. A new Second Temple was constructed, and old religious practices were resumed. Among the most revered symbols in Hinduism, two are quintessentially a part of its culture and representative of its general ethos:.

The Judean elite was exiled to Babylonia, but later at least a part of them returned to their homeland after the subsequent conquest of Babylonia by the Persians seventy years later, a period known as the Babylonian Captivity. With the stress on vegetarianism (which is usually followed even by meat-eating Hindus on religious days or special occasions) and the sacred nature of the cow, it is no wonder that most holy cities and areas in India have a ban on selling beef and there is a movement among Hindus to ban cow-slaughter not only in specific regions, but in all of India. The Kingdom of Judah continued as an independent state until it was conquered by a Babylonian army in the early 6th century BCE, destroying the First Temple that was at the centre of ancient Jewish worship. It is said that Krishna is both Govinda (herder of cows) and Gopala (protector of cows), and Shiva's attendant is Nandi, the bull. The Kingdom of Israel was conquered by the Assyrian ruler Shalmaneser V in the 8th century BCE and spread all over the Assyrian empire, where they were assimilated into other cultures and become known as the Ten Lost Tribes. Thus, while most Hindus do not worship the cow, and scriptural injunctions against eating beef arose long after the Vedas had been written, it still holds an honored place in Hindu society. After Solomon's reign the nation split into two kingdoms, the Kingdom of Israel (in the north) and the Kingdom of Judah (in the south). This is most likely because the largely pastoral Vedic people and subsequent generations of Hindus throughout the centuries relied so heavily on the cow for all sorts of dairy products, tilling of fields and fuel for fertilizer that its status as a willing 'caretaker' of humanity grew to identifying it as an almost maternal figure(so the term gaumata).

A kingdom was established under Saul and continued under King David and Solomon with its capital in Jerusalem. Those Hindus who do eat meat predominantly abstain from beef, some even going so far as to avoid leather products. After the Exodus from Egypt, the Jews came to Canaan, and settled the land. Thus, while vegetarianism is not dogma, it is recommended as a sattwic (purifying) lifestyle. Jews trace their religious lineage to the biblical patriarch Abraham through Isaac and Jacob. About 30% of today's Hindu population, especially in orthodox communities in South India, in certain northerly states like Gujarat, and in many Brahmin enclaves around the subcontinent, is vegetarian. Jewish history is an extensive topic, this section will cover the elements of Jewish history of most importance to the Jewish religion and the development of Jewish denominations. Thus, an ingrained and externally motivated influence led to the development of a large section of Hindus who grew to embrace vegetarianism in a bid to respect higher forms of life, restricting their diet to plants and vegetables.

Main article: Jewish history. While Jainism as it was practiced was certainly a major influence on Indian society with its exhortation of strict veganism and non-violence as ahimsa, the term first appeared in the Upanishads. However, in most Orthodox synagogues these positions are filled by laypeople. A note of the element of ahimsa in Hinduism is vital to understanding the society that has arisen around some of its principles. Since the Enlightenment large synagogues have often adopted the practice of hiring rabbis and hazzans to act as shatz and baal koreh, and this is still typically the case in most Conservative and Reform congretations. See Tantra for more. The three preceding positions are usually voluntary and considered an honor. Most tantras were written in the late middle ages and sprang from Hindu cosmology and Yoga.

Many congregations, especially larger ones, also rely on a:. The word "tantra" means "treatise" or "continuum", and is applied to a variety of mystical, occult, medical and scientific works as well as to those which we would now regard as "tantric". The same person is often qualified to fill more than one role, and often does. To the Tantra we must therefore look if we would understand aright both ritual, yoga, and sadhana of all kinds, as also the general principles of which these practices are but the objective expression." (Introduction to Sir John Woodroffe's translation of "Mahanirvana Tantra."). Note that these roles are not mutually exclusive. IX., verse 12). Jewish prayer services do involve two specified roles, which are often, but not always, filled by a Rabbi and/or Hazzan in many congregations:. Shiva says: 'For the benefit of men of the Kali age, men bereft of energy and dependent for existence on the food they eat, the Kaula doctrine, O auspicious one! is given' (Chap.

The most common professional clergy in a synogogue are:. The Tantra Shastra is, in fact, and whatever be its historical origin, a development of the Vaidika Karmakanda, promulgated to meet the needs of that age. Some activities -- reading the Torah and haftarah (a supplementary portion from the Prophets or Writings); the prayer for mourners; the blessings for bridegroom and bride; the complete grace after meals -- require a minyan, the presense of ten adults (Orthodox Jews and some Conservative Jews require ten adult men; some Conservative Jews and Reform Jews include women in the minyan). According to the most famous Western Tantrik scholar, Sir John Woodroffe Sir John Woodroffe/temp (pseudonym Arthur Avalon): "The Indian Tantras, which are numerous, constitute the Scripture (Shastra) of the Kaliyuga, and as such are the voluminous source of present and practical orthodox 'Hinduism'. A Jew can fulfil most requirements for prayer by himself. See bhakti yoga for more. From the times of the Mishna and Talmud to the present, Judaism has required specialists or authorities for the practice of very few rituals or ceremonies. Altogether, bhakti resulted in a mass of devotional literature, music and art that has enriched the world and given India renewed spiritual impetus, one eschewing unnecessary ritual and artificial social boundaries.

The priesthood is an inherited position, and although priests no longer have clerical duties, they are still honored in many Jewish communities. See bhakti movement for more depth. Technically, the last time Judaism had a clergy was prior to the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E., when priests attended to the Temple and sacrifices. It is said, however, that the bhakta, through a growing connection with God, is eventually able to eschew all external form and is immersed entirely in the bliss of undifferentiated Love in Truth. Judaism does not have a clergy, in the sense of full-time specialists required for religious services. This rather organic system of devotion attempts to aid the individual in connecting with God through symbolic medium. Life-cycle events occur throughout a Jew's life that bind him/her to the entire community. Devotional songs called bhajans (written primarily from the 14th-17th centuries), kirtan (praise), and arti (a filtered down form of Vedic fire ritual) are sometimes sung in conjunction with performance of puja.

The laws of niddah dictate that sexual intercourse cannot take place while the woman is having a menstrual flow, and she has to count seven "clean" days and immerse in a mikvah (ritual bath). The most popular means of expressing love for God in the Hindu tradition has been through puja, or ritual devotion, frequently using the aid of a murti (statue) in conjunction with the singing or chanting of meditational prayer in the form of mantras. tzeniut, modesty in dress) are perceived, especially by Orthodox Jews, as vital factors in Jewish life. They can rightly be said to have affected the greatest wave of change in Hindu prayer and ritual since ancient times. The laws of niddah ("menstruant", often referred to euphemistically as "family purity") and various other laws regulating the interaction between men and women (e.g. The Bhakti movements rejuvenated Hinduism through their intense expression of faith and their responsiveness to the emotional and philosophical needs of India. Main article: Niddah. Essentially, it is God who effects all change, who is the source of all works, who acts through the devotee as love and light. 'Sins' and evil-doings of the devotee are said to fall away of their own accord, the devotee shriven, limitedness even transcended, through the love of God.

Reform and Reconstructionist Jews do not keep kosher, Orthodox Jews and some Conservative Jews do keep kosher, to varying degrees of strictness. Seen as a form of Yoga, or union, it seeks to dissolve the ego in God, since consciousness of the body and limited mind as self is seen to be a divisive factor in spiritual realization. From the context of the laws in the book of Leviticus, the purpose of kashrut is related to ritual purity and holiness. The philosophy of Bhakti seeks to tap into the universal divinity through personal form, which explains the proliferation of so many Gods and Goddesses in India, often reflecting the singular inclinations of small regions or groups of people. Food in accord with Jewish law is termed kosher, and food not in accord with Jewish law is termed treifah or treif. The Bhakti (Devotional) school takes its name from the Hindu term that signifies a blissful, selfless and overwhelming love of God as the beloved Father, Mother, Child, or whatever relationship finds appeal in the devotee's heart. The laws of kashrut ("keeping kosher") are the Jewish dietary laws. Like Ramanuja, Madhva (1238 - 1317) identified God with Vishnu, but his view of reality was purely dualistic in that he understood a fundamental differentiation between the ultimate Godhead and the individual soul, and the system is therefore called Dvaita (dualistic) Vedanta.

Main article: Kashrut. Because of this qualification of Ultimate reality, Ramanuja's system is known as qualified non-dualism. During the course of a year, the full Torah is read, and the cycle begins again every autumn during Simhat Torah (“rejoicing in the Torah”). Vishnu is the only independent reality, while souls and matter are dependent on God for their existence. The core of festival and Sabbath prayer services is the public reading of the Torah, along with connected readings from the other books of the Jewish Bible, called Haftarah. He taught that Ultimate reality had three aspects: Isvara (Vishnu), cit (soul) and acit (matter). There are many minor holidays as well, including Purim, which celebrates the events told in the Biblical book of Esther, and Chanukkah, which is not established in the Bible but which celebrates the successful rebellion by the Maccabees against the Seleucid Empire. Ramanuja (1040 - 1137) was the foremost proponent of the concept of Sriman Narayana as the supreme Brahman.

They are also pilgramage holidays, for which the Children of Israel would journey to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices to God in His Temple. See Advaita for more. They are also timed to coincide with important agricultural seasons. For them, Shiva is personified as God without attributes. Three holidays celebrate revelation by commemorating different events in the passage of the Children of Israel out of slavery in Egypt to their return to the land of Canaan. For Shaktas, who worship Devi, Devi is the personal form of God to attain the impersonal Absolute, God, i.e., Shiva. Some holidays are also linked to the agricultural cycle. For Shaivites, Devi is Parvati.

The Jewish holy days celebrate central themes in the relationship between God and the world, such as creation, revelation, and redemption. For Vaishnvaites who follow Ramanuja's philosophy, Devi is Lakshmi, who is the Mother of all and who pleads with Vishnu for mankind who is entrenched in sin. Main article: Jewish holidays. God's energy is personified as Devi, the Divine Mother. Some consider it the most important Jewish holiday. All personal forms of God such as Vishnu or Shiva are different aspects of God in personal form or God with attributes, Saguna Brahman. It plays an important role in Jewish practice and is the subject of a large body of religious law. Nirguna Brahman can never be described as that as It transcends all definitions.

Shabbat, the weekly day of rest lasting from Friday night to Saturday night, celebrates God's creation as a day of rest that commemorates God's day of rest upon the completion of creation. However, even that definition can be limiting. Main article: Shabbat. To Advaitists (nondualists) Ultimate Truth is best expressed as Nirguna Brahman, or God without form, or God without personal attributes; indeed, some might go so far as to say it is not 'God' but something beyond. The Jewish approach to prayer differs slightly between the various branches of Judaism, although all use the same set of prayers and texts, the frequency of prayer, the number of prayers recited at various religious events, and whether one prays in a particular liturgical language or the vernacular differs from denomination to denomination, with Conservative and Orthodox congregations using more traditional services, while Reform and Reconstructionist synagogues are more likely to incorporate translations, contemporary writings, and abbreviated services. Adi Sankara denounced caste and meaningless ritual as foolish, and in his own charismatic manner, exhorted the true devotee to meditate on God's love and apprehend truth. Phylacteries or tefillin, boxes containing the portions of the Torah mandating them, are also worn by religious Jews during weekday morning services. It is not merely philosophy, but a conscious system of applied ethics and meditation, all geared towards attaining peace and understanding of truth.

A kippah or yarmulke (skullcap) is a head covering worn during prayer by most Jews, and at all times by more orthodox Jews — especially Ashkenazim. By analysis of experiential consciousness, he exposed the relative nature of the world and established the non-dual reality of Brahman in which Atman (the individual soul) and Brahman (the ultimate reality) are identified absolutely. The tallit is a Jewish prayer shawl. Sankara expounded his theories largely based on previous teachings of the Upanishads and his own guru Govinda Bhagavadpada. There are a number of common Jewish religious objects used in prayer. Its consolidator was Sankara (788?-820?). There are also prayers and benedictions recited throughout the day, such as those before eating or drinking. Advaita literally means "not two"; thus this is what we refer to as a monistic (or non-dualistic) system, which emphasises oneness.

Most of the prayers in a traditional Jewish service can be said in solitary prayer, but Kaddish and Kedusha require a group of ten adult men (or men and women in some branches of Judaism) called a minyan (prayer quorum). See Vedanta for greater depth. Another key prayer in many services is the declaration of faith, the Shema which is recited at shacharit and maariv. The great debate between followers among the major Hindu philosophical school, Vedanta, from followers of Advaita philosophy on one hand and the strict theistic schools such as those of Ramanuja and Madhva on the other, focused on the true nature of Brahman, on whether Brahman was essentially attributeless or with attributes, i.e., a personal Supreme Being. All services include a number of benedictions called the Amidah or the Shemonah Esrei ("eighteen"), which on weekdays consists of nineteen blessings (one was added in the time of the Mishna, but the name remains). Most Hindu thought today in some way relates to changes affected by Vedantic thought, which focused on meditation, morality and centeredness on the one Self rather than on rituals and societal distinctions like caste. There are three main daily prayer services, named Shacharit, Mincha (literally: flour-offering) and Maariv or Arvit. Primarily associated with the Upanishads and their commentary by Badarayana, the Vedanta Sutras, Vedanta thought split into three groups, initiated by the thinking and writing of Adi Sankara.

Main article: Jewish services. The Uttara ("later") Mimamsa school is perhaps one of the cornerstone movements of Hinduism and certainly was responsible for a new wave of philosophical and meditative inquiry, renewal of faith, and cultural reform. The main article Jewish views of religious pluralism describes how Judaism views other religions; it also describes how members of each of the Jewish religious denomination view the other denominations. It, like the Upanishads, seeks realization of the Atman as being nothing other than the infinite Brahman through ethical (mind), physical (body) and meditational (soul) practices of one-pointedness on the 'one supreme truth.' See Yoga for an in-depth look at its history. Some European Karaites do not see themselves as part of the Jewish community, while most do. Realization of the goal of Yoga is known as moksha or samadhi. The Karaites, or "Scripturalists," accept only the Hebrew bible and what they view as the Peshat/"Plain or Simple Meaning";, and do not accept non-biblical writings as authoritative. It also utilizes the Brahman/Atman terminology and concepts that are found in depth in the Upanishads, adopting Vedantic monist concepts.

The followers of Karaism believe they are the remnants of the non-Rabbinic Jewish sects of the Second Temple period, such as the Saducees, though others contend they are a sect started in the 8th and 9th centuries. This is because Ishvara is the only aspect of purusha (the infinite Divine Ground) that has not become entangled with prakrti (the temporal creative forces). Unlike the above denominations, which were ideological reactions that resulted from the exposure of traditional rabbinic Judaism to the radical changes of modern times, Karaite Judaism did not begin as a modern Jewish movement. The most significant difference from Samkhya is that the Yoga school not only incorporates the concept of Ishvara (a personal God) into its metaphysical worldview but also that it holds Ishvara as the ideal upon which to meditate. The third group is the largest, and has been the most politically active since the early 1990s. Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita are also indispensable literature in the study of Yoga. Haredi applies to a populace that can be roughly divided into three separate groups along both ethnic and ideological lines: (1) "Lithuanian" (non-hasidic) haredim of Ashkenazic origin; (2) Hasidic haredim of Ashkenazic origin; and (3) Sephardic haredim. It is based on the sage Patanjali's extremely influential text entitled the Yoga Sutra, which is essentially a compilation and systematization of meditational Yoga philosophy that came before.

The former term includes what is called "Religious Zionism" or the "National Religious" community, as well as what has become known over the past decade or so as haredi-leumi (nationalist haredi), which combines a largely haredi lifestyle with nationist ideology. The yoga referred to here, however, is specifically Raja Yoga (or meditational union). What would be called "Orthodox" in the diaspora includes what is commonly called dati (religious) or haredi (ultra-Orthodox) in Israel. The Yoga system is generally considered to have arisen from the Samkhya philosophy. Various ways of measuring this percentage, each with its pros and cons, include the proportion of religiously observant Knesset members, the proportion of Jewish children enrolled in religious schools, and statistical studies on "identity". For greater depth, please see Purva Mimamsa. The "Orthodox" spectrum in Israel is a far greater percentage of the Jewish population in Israel than in the diaspora, though how much greater is hotly debated. This empirical and eminently sensible manner of religious application is key to the Sanatana/Hindu Dharma and was especially championed by rationalists like Adi Sankara and Swami Vivekananda.

The term "Orthodox" (Ortodoxi) is unpopular in Israeli discourse (among both "secular" and "religious" alike). Nevertheless, the spectrum covered by "Orthodox" in the diaspora exists in Israel, again with some important variations. Its adherents believed that revelation must be proved by reasoning, that it should not be accepted blindly as dogma. They often overlap, and they cover an extremely wide range in terms of ideology and religious observance. Consequently this school's most valuable contribution to Hinduism was its formulation of the rules of Vedic interpretation. There is a great deal of ambiguity in the ways "secular" and "traditional" are used in Israel. The main objective of the Purva ("earlier") Mimamsa school was to establish the authority of the Vedas. This term, as commonly used, has nothing to do with the official Masorti (Conservative) movement. See Hindu philosophy for a discussion of the historical significance of Samkhya, Nyaya, and Vaisheshika.

Middle East, Central Asia and North Africa). The schools that continue to affect Hinduism today are Purva Mimamsa, Yoga, and Vedanta. The term "traditional" (masorti) is most common among Israeli families of "eastern" origin (i.e. The non-Vedic schools are called Nastika, or heterodox, and refer to Buddhism, Jainism and Lokayata. This portion of the population largely ignores organized religious life, be it of the official Israeli rabbinate (Orthodox) or of the liberal movements common to diaspora Judaism (Reform, Conservative). The six Astika or orthodox (accepting the authority of the Vedas) schools of Hindu philosophy are Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Samkhya, Yoga, Purva Mimamsa (also called just 'Mimamsa'), and Uttara Mimamsa (also called 'Vedanta'). "Secular," or non-observant, Judaism is more popular among Israeli families of western (European) origin, whose Jewish identity may be a very powerful force in their lives, but who see it as largely independent of traditional religious belief and practice. See: Hinduism by country.

Most Jewish Israelis classify themselves as "secular" (hiloni), "traditional" (masorti), or Haredi. The Indonesian islands of Bali, Java, Sulawesi, Sumatra, and Borneo have significant native Hindu populations. Even though all of these denominations exist in Israel, Israelis tend to classify Jewish identity in ways that are different than diaspora Jewry. Other countries with a significant Hindu population include:. Any Jew who keeps at least those laws would be considered observant and religious). Of the total Hindu population of the world, about 94% (890 million) live in India. According to most Orthodox Jews, Jewish people who do not keep the laws of Shabbat and Yom Tov (the holidays), Kashrut, and family purity are considered non-religious. It has come to symbolize the rising bi-polarization of indian polity in the late 1990's and the first decade of the 21th century, evident in the rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP) in the same period.

Many religious Jews do not look at one's denomination as a valid way of designating Jews; instead they view Jews by the level of their religious observance. Hindutva ideology rose to importance in Indian politics in the 1980s and is chiefly associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh movement. It would not be unusual for a Conservative Jew to attend either an Orthodox or Reform synagogue, for example. Such nationalistic Hinduism is generally termed Hindutva ("Hinduness", paradoxically not a well-formed Sanskrit word, since "Hindu" is a Persian word), but the boundaries are fluid and the Indian Supreme Court ruled that "no precise meaning can be ascribed to the terms 'Hindu', 'Hindutva' and 'Hinduism'; and no meaning in the abstract can confine it to the narrow limits of religion alone, excluding the content of Indian culture and heritage." Hindutva ideology was enunciated first by Savarkar in his seminal work 'Hindutva'. Unlike Christian denominations, these doctrinal differences have not fundamentally split Jewish denominations, which continue to overlap on many issues. In the 20th century, emerging Indian nationalism began to emphasize Hinduism, in opposition to the British Raj, but also in contrast to Islam, and after Independence in connection with the territorial disputes with Pakistan. Over the past two centuries the Jewish community has divided into a number of Jewish denominations; each has a different understanding of what principles of belief a Jew should hold, and how one should live as a Jew. Main article: Hindutva.

Main article: Jewish denominations. In a 1966 ruling, the Supreme Court of India defined the Hindu faith as follows for legal purposes:. Major changes occurred in response to the enlightenment (late 1700s to early 1800s) leading to the post-Enlightenment Jewish philosophers, and then modern Jewish philosophers such as Martin Buber, Franz Rosenzweig, Mordecai Kaplan, Abraham Joshua Heschel, Will Herberg, Emmanuel Levinas, Richard Rubenstein, Emil Fackenheim, and Joseph Soloveitchik. Despite this various political parties sometimes exploit these divisions for electoral gain. Major Jewish philosophers include Solomon ibn Gabirol, Saadia Gaon, Maimonides and Gersonides. [2] (http://www.hindu.com/thehindu/2001/10/19/stories/05192524.htm). Early Jewish philosophy was influenced by the philosophy of Plato, Aristotle and Islamic philosophy. Caste still plays a significant role in Hindu society; however, post Independence, caste is losing favour in India and caste-based discrimination has been illegitimised.

Jewish philosophy refers to the conjunction between serious study of philosophy and Jewish theology. A number of Muslim communities have retained caste practices as well. Main article: Jewish philosophy. In spite of centuries of numerous reform movements, notably within Vedanta, bhakti yoga and Hindu streams of Tantra, and reformers, with recent stalwarts like Swami Vivekananda and Mahatma Gandhi, caste based discrimination is so deeply ensconced in the Indian consciousness that even Christian converts have been known to separate church meetings for different castes. The question is far from settled and occasionally resurfaces in Israeli politics. But over a period of time the caste system has become rigid and discriminatory. The question of what determines Jewish identity was given new impetus when, in the 1950s, David ben Gurion requested opinions on mihu Yehudi ("who is a Jew") from Jewish religious authorities and intellectuals worldwide. According to this understanding, discrimination by caste is a perversion of dharma's true meaning.

In the past, family and friends were said to often formally mourn for the person, though this is rarely done today. According to ancient Hindus, the four varnas (literally, 'colors') or castes had equal standing in the society and were based upon the duties to society and worked together towards the welfare of the society. However, in the latter case, the person loses standing as a member of the Jewish community and becomes known as an apostate. See also: caste.. A Jew who ceases to practice Judaism is still considered a Jew, as is a Jew who does not accept Jewish principles of faith and becomes an agnostic or an atheist; so too with a Jew who converts to another religion. They show strong similarities to the language and religion of the Avesta, which are sometimes traced back to either the influence of the 3rd millennium BC Indus Valley Civilisation, or to a 2nd millennium BC Indo-Iranian migration (see Aryan invasion theory), or to a combination of these. (Recently, the American Reform and Reconstructionist movements have included those born of Jewish fathers and gentile mothers, if the children are raised practicing Judaism only.) All mainstream forms of Judaism today are open to sincere converts. The age and origins of the Vedas themselves are disputed, but it is clear that they were transmitted orally for several millennia.

According to Jewish law, someone is considered to be a Jew if he or she was born of a Jewish mother or converted in accord with Jewish Law. The earliest of these, the Rigveda centers on worship of the gods Indra and Agni, and on the Soma ritual. The Ashvamedha was the most important sacrifice described in the Yajurveda, possibly performed for the last time by Samudragupta in the 4th century. Main article: Who is a Jew. Modern Hinduism grew out of the religion described in the Vedas. The literature of questions to rabbis, and their considered answers, is referred to as responsa (in Hebrew, '"Sheelot U-Teshuvot".) Over time, as practices develop, codes of Jewish law are written that are based on the responsa; the most important code, the Shulkhan Arukh, largely determines Jewish religious practice up till today. Again, these views, in fact, more strongly, reflect a Smarta viewpoint. The Halakha has developed slowly, through a precedent-based system. Thus, with all Hindus, there is a strong belief in all paths being true religions that lead to one God or source, whatever one chooses to call the ultimate truth.

Halakha, the rabbinic Jewish way of life, then, is based on a combined reading of the Torah, and the oral tradition - the Mishnah, the halakhic Midrash, the Talmud and its commentaries. Often, the monad Brahman is seen as the one source, with all other gods emanating therefrom. These have been expounded by commentaries of various Torah scholars during the ages. Vaishnavism, Saivism and Shaktism, respectively believe in a monotheistic ideal of Vishnu (often as Krishna), Siva, or Devi; this view does not exclude other personal Gods, as they are understood to be aspects of the chosen ideal (e.g., to many devotees of Krishna, Shiva is seen as having sprung from Krishna's creative force). Over the next four centuries this law underwent discussion and debate in both of the world's major Jewish communities (in Israel and Babylon), and the commentaries on the Mishnah from each of these communities eventually came to be edited together into compilations known as the two Talmuds. However, each denomination respects and accepts all others, and conflict of any kind is rare. By time of Rabbi Judah Ha-Nasi (200 CE), after the destruction of Jerusalem, much of this material was edited together into the Mishnah. Each denomination fundamentally believes in different methods of self-realization and in different aspects of the One Supreme God.

This parallel set of material was originally transmitted orally, and came to be known as "the oral law". Each of its four denominations shares rituals, beliefs, traditions and personal Gods with one another, but each sect has a different philosophy on how to achieve life's ultimate goal (moksa, liberation) and on their views of the Gods. oral, sources. Hinduism is a very rich and complex religion. To justify this viewpoint, Jews point to the text of the Torah, where many words are left undefined, and many procedures mentioned without explanation or instructions; this, they argue, means that the reader is assumed to be familiar with the details from other, i.e. Contemporary Hinduism is traditionally divided into four major divisions, Saivism, Shaktism, Vaishnavism, and Smarthism.. Rabbinic Judaism has always held that the books of the Tanakh (called the written law) have always been transmitted in parallel with an oral tradition. He achieved the spiritual high of other religions besides Hinduism, such as Christianity and Islam, and came to the same conclusion proclaimed by the Vedas, "Truth is one, the wise call it by different names.".

These oral traditions originated in the Pharisee sect of ancient Judaism, and were latter recorded in written form and expanded upon by the Rabbis. The great Hindu saint, Ramakrishna, a monist, was a prominent advocate of this traditional Hindu view. the Sadducees, the Karaites), most Jews believed in what they call the oral law. Hindus believe that God, in whatever form they prefer, (or as monists prefer to call, "Ishta Devata,", i.e., the preferred form of God) can grant worshippers grace to bring them closer to Moksha, end of the cycle of rebirth. While there have been Jewish groups which claimed to be based on the written text of the Torah alone (e.g. Some of the Hindu aspects of God include Devi, Vishnu, Ganesh, and Siva. Many laws were only applicable when the Temple in Jerusalem existed, and fewer than 300 of these commandments are still applicable today. It is seen as one unity, with the personal Gods differents aspects of only one Supreme Being, like a single beam of light separated into colours by a prism, and are valid to worship.

Some of these laws are directed only to men or to women, some only to the ancient priestly groups, the Kohanim and Leviyim (members of the tribe of Levi), some only to those who practice farming within the land of Israel. Some of Hinduism's adherents are monists, seeing in multiple manifestations of the one God or source of being, which is often confused by non-Hindus as being polytheism. According to rabbinic tradition there are 613 commandments in the Torah. Yoga is the primary focus in many ways of a Hindu's religious activities, being somewhere between meditation, prayer and healthful exercise. The basis of Jewish law and tradition ("halakha") is the Torah (the five books of Moses). Vedanta is a branch of Hindu philosophy which gives this matter a greater focus. Main article: Halakha. Brahman is not a God in the monotheistic sense, as it is not imbued with any limiting characteristics, not even those of being and non-being, and this is reflected in the fact that in Sanskrit, the word brahman is of neuter (as opposed to masculine or feminine) gender.

Related Topics. Brahman is the ultimate, both transcendent and immanent the absolute infinite existence, the sum total of all that ever is, was, or ever shall be. For more detail, see Rabbinic literature. Brahman is seen as the universal spirit. The following is a basic, structured list of the central works of Jewish practice and thought. Within Sanatana Dharma, or Hinduism (as it is commonly called), a variety of lesser gods are seen as aspects of the one impersonal divine ground, Brahman (not Brahma). Jews are often called the "people of the book," and Judaism has an age-old intellectual tradition focusing on text-based Torah study. Finally, in sanyasa, the individual goes off into seclusion, often envisioned as the forest, to find God through Yogic meditation and peacefully shed the body for the next life.

Generally, however, the thirteen principles of faith expressed by Maimonides are considered authorative descriptions of Jewish beliefs:. Vanaprastha is gradual detachment from the material world, ostensibly giving over duties to one's sons and daughters, spending more time in contemplation of the truth, and making holy pilgrimages. A comparison of them demonstrates a wide array of tolerance for varying theological perspectives. Grihastya is the householder's stage, alternatively known as samsara, in which one marries and satisfies karma and artha within a married life and professional career. Over the centuries, a number of clear formulations of Jewish principles of faith have appeared; most of them have much in common, yet they differ in certain details. The first quarter of one's life, brahmacharya (literally "grazing in Brahma") is spent in celibate, sober and pure contemplation of life's secrets under a Guru, building up body and mind for the responsibilities of life. the Divine origin of the Torah) are considered important enough that public rebellion against them can put one in the category of "apikoros" (heretic). They are Brahmacharya, Grihasthya, Vanaprastha and Sanyasa.

Despite the above, in Orthodox Judaism some principles (e.g. The human life is also seen as four Ashramas ("phases" or "stages"). For example, the ancient historian Josephus emphasized practices and traditions rather than beliefs when he describes the characteristics of an apostate (a Jew who does not follow traditional customs) and the requirements for conversion to Judaism (circumcision, and adherence to traditional customs). Reincarnation), the cycle of life, death, and existential duality. This approach to religious doctrine dates back at least two thousand years. Mukti, Samadhi, Nirvana, etc.) from Samsara (a.k.a. With no central agreed-upon authority, no one formulation of Jewish principles of faith could take precedent over any other. Of course, the only goal that is truly infinite, whose attainment results in absolute happiness, is moksha, or liberation, (a.k.a.

While individual Jewish rabbis, or sometimes entire groups, at times agreed upon a firm dogma, other rabbis and groups disagreed. It is said that all humans seek kama (pleasure, physical or emotional) and artha (power, fame and wealth), but soon, with maturity, learn to govern these legitimate desires within a higher, pragmatic framework of dharma, or moral harmony in all. It is difficult to generalize about Jewish theology because Judaism is non-creedal; that is, there is no agreed-upon dogma (set of orthodox beliefs) that most Jews believed were required of Jews. They are kama, artha, dharma and moksha. While Judaism has always affirmed a number of Jewish principles of faith, it has never developed a fully binding "catechism". Another major aspect of Hindu dharma that is common to practically all Hindus is that of purushartha, the "four goals of life". Main article: Jewish principles of faith. The Upanishads are also important as a philosophical foundation for this rational spiritualism.

Modern scholars also suggest that the Torah consists of a variety of inconsistent texts that were edited together in a way that calls attention to divergent accounts (see Documentary hypothesis). These are described in the two principal texts of Hindu Yoga: The Bhagavad Gita and the Yoga Sutras. This relationship is generally portrayed as contentious, as Jews struggle between their faith in God and their attraction for other gods, and as some Jews (most notably and directly, Abraham, Jacob -- later known as Israel—and Moses) struggle with God. Hinduism is practiced through a variety of Yogas (spiritual practices), primarily bhakti (loving devotion), Karma Yoga (selfless service), Raja Yoga (meditational Yoga) and Jnana Yoga (Yoga of discrimination, pronounced Nyāna). 350 BCE). It is not uncommon for some to meld both in an amalgam marker signifying Hari-Hara (Vishnu-Shiva indissoluble). The subject of the Hebrew Bible is an account of the Israelites' (also called Hebrews) relationship with God as reflected in their history from the beginning of time until the building of the Second Temple (approx. Men, too, will bear on their foreheads the equivalent tika or tilak mark, usually on religious occasions, its shape often representing particular devotion to a certain main deity: a 'U' shape stands for Vishnu, a group of three horizontal lines for Shiva.

The result is a set of beliefs and practices concerning both identity, ethics, one's relation to nature, and one's relation to God, that privilege "difference" -— the difference between Jews and non-Jews; the differences between locally variable ways of practicing Judaism; a close attention to different meanings of words when interpreting texts; attempts to encode different points of view within texts, and a relative indifference to creed and dogma. Hindus across the board stress meditative insight, an intuition beyond the mind and body, a trait that is often associated with the ascetic god Shiva. Jews began to grapple with the tension between the particularism of their claim that only Jews were required to obey the Torah, and the universalism of their claim that the Torah contained universal truths. It is sometimes also said to symbolize the need to cultivate supramental consciousness, which is achieved by opening the mystic "third eye.". This attitude may reflect growing Gentile interest in Judaism (some Greeks and Romans considered the Jews a most "philosophical" people because of their belief in a God that cannot be represented visually), and growing Jewish interest in Greek philosophy, which sought to establish universal truths. An example of the pervasiveness of this paramount truth-seeking spirituality in daily life is the laltika (or bindi) (seen left), which is a religious symbol denoting marriage. But by the Hellenic period most Jews had come to believe that their God was the only God (and thus, the God of everyone), and that the record of His revelation (the Torah) contained within it universal truths. Still more fundamental principles include ahimsa (non-violence), the primacy of the Guru, the Divine Word of OM and the power of mantras, love of Truth in many manifestations as Gods and Goddesses, and an understanding that the essential spark of the Divine (Atman/Brahman) is in every human and living being, thus allowing for many spiritual paths leading to the One Unitary Truth.

However, they viewed their God as the Creator and the one that mankind was morally bound to worship alone. What can be said to be common to all Hindus is belief in Dharma, reincarnation, karma, and moksha (liberation) of every soul through a variety of moral, action-based, and meditative yogas. Although monotheism is fundamental to Rabbinic Judaism, according to many critical Bible scholars the Torah often implies that the early Israelites accepted the existence of other gods. This inherent faith, therefore, is also known as Arya/Noble Dharma, Veda/Knowledge Dharma, Yoga/Union Dharma, Hindu Dharma or, simply, the Dharma. However as the persecutions of the Jews increased and the details were in danger of being forgotten, rabbinic tradition holds that these oral laws were recorded in the Mishnah, and the Talmud, as well as other holy books. Indeed, all existence, from vegetation and beasts to mankind, are subjects and objects of the eternal Dharma. The details and interpretation of the law, which are called the Oral Torah or oral law were originally unwritten. Truth sought with faith shall yield itself in blissful luminescence no matter the race or creed professed.

Together with the books of the prophets is called the Written Torah. Religion to the Hindu is the native search for the divine within the Self, the search to find the One truth that in actuality never was lost. The Torah given on Mount Sinai was summarized in the five books of Moses. But this consciousness is not merely that of the body or mind and intellect, but of a supramental soul-state that exists within and beyond our existence, the unsullied Self of all. This is the state in which it is to remain until a descendant of David arises to restore the glory of Israel (the current existence of the Islamic Dome of the Rock is not relevent to the Rabbinical view.). According to Hindus, it speaks to the idea that certain spiritual principles hold eternally true, transcending man-made constructs, representing a pure science of consciousness. The Second Temple stood for 420 years after which it was destroyed by the Roman general (later emperor) Titus. "The Eternal Way" (in Sanskrit सनातन धर्म, Sanātana Dharma), or the "Perennial Philosophy/Harmony/Faith", is the one name that has represented Hinduism for many thousands of years.

After seventy years the Jews were allowed back into Israel under the leadership of Ezra, and the temple was rebuilt, as recorded in the Book of Ezra and the Book of Nehemiah. The great debate between followers among the major Hindu philosophical school, Vedanta, from followers of Shankaracharya's Advaita philosophy on one hand and the strict theistic schools such as Ramanuja and Madhva on the other, focused on the true nature of Brahman, on whether Brahman was essentially attributeless or with attributes, i.e., a personal Supreme Being. These events are recored in the Book of Isaiah and the Book of Jeremiah. See Schools of Hinduism. However, as in the north, idolatry increased to the point that God allowed Babylonia to conquer it, destroy the temple which had stood for 410 years and exile its people to Babylonia, with the promise that they would be redeemed after seventy years. Many streams of thought flow from the six Vedic/Hindu schools, Bhakti sects and Tantra Agamic schools into the one ocean of Hinduism, the first of the Dharma religions. The southern kingdom of Judah, whose capital was Jerusalem, home of the Temple, remained under the rulership of the house of David. Hinduism rests on the spiritual bedrock of the Vedas, hence Veda Dharma, and their mystic issue, the Upanishads, as well as the teachings of many great Hindu gurus through the ages.

Israel had a number of kings, but after a few hundred years God allowed Assyria to conquer Israel and exile its people because of the rampant idolatry in the kingdom. For example, a well-known Rig Vedic hymn stemming from Hinduism states that "Truth is One, though the sages know it variously." This is in contrast with some beliefs of other religious traditions, where one must believe in God being one aspect and to totally reject or disdain other beliefs. After Solomon's death, the kingdom was split into the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah. The Vedas are revered in Hinduism, regardless of denomination. This era is described in the Books of Kings. Even a Vedic verse illustrates this theme of tolerance. As a result, it was David's son Solomon who built the first permanent temple according to God's will, in Jerusalem. I alone am the enjoyer of all sacrificial services (Seva, Yajna) and Lord of the universe" (Gita: 9:23).

David himself was not allowed to build the temple because he had been involved in many wars, making it inappropriate for him to build a temple representing peace. Another quote in the Gita states: "O Arjuna, even those devotees who worship other lesser deities (e.g., Devas, for example) with faith, they also worship Me, but in an improper way because I am the Supreme Being. As a reward for his actions, God promised David that he would allow his son to build the temple and the throne would never depart from his children. However, their wishes are only granted by Me" (Gita: 7:21-22). Once David was established as king, he told the prophet Nathan that he would like to build a permanent temple. Few views illustrate this view of tolerance: Krishna said: "Whatever deity or form a devotee worships, I make his faith steady. When the people pressured Saul into going against a command conveyed to him by Samuel, God told Samuel to appoint David in his stead. However, even Vaisnavites, like other Hindus, have tolerance for other beliefs because Lord Krishna, avatar of Vishnu, said so in the Gita.

God knew this was not best for the Jews, but acceded to this request and had Samuel appoint Saul, a great but very humble man, to be their king. Similarly, many Shaivites also hold similar beliefs, as illustrated at at this link (http://www.sroutasaivasiddhanta.org/2-1.htm) and at this link (http://www.sroutasaivasiddhanta.org/2-11.htm). The people of Israel then told Samuel the prophet that they had reached the point where they needed a permanent king like other nations had, and described in the Books of Samuel. , this link (http://sriranganatha.tripod.com/id63.html) and this link (http://www.gopala.org/index.php/2005/05/30/shiva_the_auspicious_one). As time went on, the spiritual level of the nation declined to the point that God allowed the Philistines to capture the tabernacle in Shiloh. See for example, this link (http://www.dvaita.org/docs/srv_faq.html#hell). This is described in the Book of Joshua and the Book of Judges. Accordingly, many Vaishnavites, for example, believe that only Vishnu can grant the ultimate aim for mankind, moksha.

Once the Jews had settled in the land of Israel, the tabernacle was planted in the city of Shiloh for over 300 years during which time God provided great men, and occasionally women, to rally the nation against attacking enemies, some of which were sent by God as a punishment for the sins of the people. See for example, an illustration of the Vaishnavite view of Vishnu as the one true God, at this link (http://www.dvaita.org/docs/srv_faq.html#othergods). They first officiated in the tabernacle (a portable house of worship), and later their descendants were in charge of worship in the Temple in Jerusalem. By contrast, a Vaishnavite considers Vishnu as the one true God, worthy of worship and other forms as subordinate. God set the descendants of Aaron, Moses' brother, to be a priestly class within the Israelite community. It is the Smarta view that predominates the view of Hinduism in the West. After the Exodus from Egypt, God led them to Mount Sinai and gave them the Torah, and eventually brought them to the land of Israel. Only a Smartist would have no problem worshiping Shiva or Vishnu together as he views the different aspects of God as leading to the same One God.

God sent the patriarch Jacob and his children to Egypt; after they eventually became enslaved, God sent Moses to redeem the Israelites from slavery. Other aspects of God are in fact aspects of Vishnu or Shiva; see Smartism for more information. As a result, God promised he would have children. His first child was Ishmael and then he had Isaac, who God said would carry on his work and inherit the Land of Israel (then called Canaan) after having been exiled and redeemed. The two primary form of differences are between the two monotheistic religions of Vaishnavism which conceives God as Vishnu and Shaivism, which conceives God as Shiva. According to Orthodox Judaism and most religious Jews, the Biblical patriarch Abraham was the first Jew. Rabbinic literature records that he was the first to reject idolatry and preach monotheism. Just as Jews, Christians, and Muslims all believe in one God but differ in their conceptions of Him, Hindus all believe in one God but differ in their conceptions. It has traditionally maintained that this is how the individual would merit rewards in the afterlife, called gan eden (Hebrew: "Garden of Eden") or olam haba ("World to Come"). Contemporary Hinduism is now divided into four major divisions, Vaishnavism, Shaivism, Shaktism, and Smartism.

As a matter of practical worship (in comparison to other religions) Judaism seeks to elevate everyday life to the level of the ancient temples' worship by worshipping God through the spectrum of daily activites and actions. Additionally, like JudŠo-Christian-Islamic religions which believe in angels, Hindus also believe in less powerful entities, such as devas. The Children of Israel similarly had a Temple in Jerusalem, priests, and made sacrifices -— but these were not the sole means of worshiping God. Other denominations of Hinduism, as described later, don't hold this belief strictly and more closely adhere to a Western perception of what a monotheistic faith is. Other religions at the time were characterized by temples in which priests would worship their gods through sacrifice. After all, Swami Vivekananda, a follower of Ramakrishna, along with many others, who brought Hindu beliefs to the West, were all Smarta in belief. The Hebrew Bible) specifies a number of laws, known as the 613 mitzvot, to be followed by the Children of Israel. Smartism is the only branch of Hinduism that adopts these ideas strictly.

Second, the Torah (i.e. It is this Smarta view that dominates the view of Hinduism in the West. The significance of this idea lies in that Judaism holds that an omniscient and omnipotent God created humankind as recorded in the Book of Genesis, in the Creation according to Genesis starting with the very first verse of Genesis 1:1: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." While in polytheistic religions, the gods are limited by the preoccupation of personal desires irrelevant to humankind, by limited powers, and by the interference of other powers, in Judaism, God is unlimited and fully available to care for Creation. Some of the Hindu aspects of God include Devi, Vishnu, Ganesh, and Siva. The Jewish understanding of this is that:. Hindu monists see one unity, with the personal Gods, different aspects of only One Supreme Being, like a single beam of light separated into colours by a prism, and are valid to worship. I am God your Lord, a God who demands exclusive worship" [1] (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ten_Commandments#Exodus_20.2FDeuteronomy_5). Hinduism has often been confused to be polytheistic as many of Hinduism's adherents, i.e., Smartas, followers of Smartism, one denonmination of Hinduism, who follow Advaita philsophy, are monists, and view multiple manifestations of the one God or source of being.

Do not represent [such] gods by any carved statue or picture of anything in the heaven above, on the earth below, or in the water below the land. Do not bow down to [such gods] or worship them. In Hinduism views are broad and range from monism, dualism, pantheism, panentheism, alternatively called monistic theism by some scholars, and strict monotheism, but are not polytheistic as outsiders perceive the religion to be. Do not have any other gods before Me. The ten avatars of Vishnu are The Fish (Matsya), The Tortoise (Kurma), The Boar (Varaha), The Man-Lion (Narasimha), The Dwarf (Vamana), Rama with the Axe (Parashurama), Rama (Ramayana), the Prince of Ayodhya, Krishna (Mahabharata), Buddha, and Kalkin. This notion is derived directly from the Torah (the Hebrew Bible) where God makes it part of the Ten Commandments: "...I am the Lord your God. The most popular avatars in the Hindu religion are the avatars of Vishnu. The first characteristic is monotheism. This is comprised of Brahma (the Creator of worlds), Vishnu (the Preserver of worlds) and Shiva (the Destroyer of worlds).

According to both traditional Jews and critical historical scholars, a number of qualities distinguish Judaism from the other religions that existed when it first emerged. Contemporary Hinduism, specifically, Smartism, is most widely accepted to consist of a Holy Trinity. Thus, Daniel Boyarin has argued that "Jewishness disrupts the very categories of identity, because it is not national, not genealogical, not religious, but all of these, in dialectical tension.". Hindus believe that everything in the world is part of the universal spirit, and therefore everything needs to be respected, preserved and protected. During this time, Jews have experienced slavery, anarchic self-government, theocratic self-government, conquest, occupation, and exile; they have been in contact, and have been influenced by ancient Egyptian, Babylonian, Persian, and Hellenic cultures, as well as modern movements such as the Enlightenment and the rise of nationalism. Another major concept is the concept of Ahimsa, which means "non-violence." Through this concept, strict movements of vegetarianism and tolerance grew. This is because Jews understand Judaism in terms of its 4,000-year history. Although Hinduism is very diverse, one of the possible things that unites all hindus is the quest for enlightenment and to free oneself from the cycle of rebirth.

Judaism does not easily fit into common Western categories, such as religion, race, ethnicity, or culture. One of the most prominent Hindu monists is the saint Ramakrishna, whose preferred form of God is Devi and who reiterated traditional Hindu beliefs that aver devotees can invoke God in whatever form a devotee prefers (termed Ishta Devata, i.e., the preferred form of God) and ask for God's grace in order to attain Moksha, the end of the cycle of rebirth and death. For all of these reasons, Judaism has been a major force in shaping the world. Some of the Hindu aspects of God include Devi, Vishnu, Ganesh, and Shiva. The tenets and history of Judaism are the major part of the foundation of other Abrahamic religions religions, including Christianity and Islam. Hindu monists, i.e., Smartas, who follow Advaita philsosophy, see one unity, with the personal Gods, different aspects of only One Supreme Being, like a single beam of light separated into colours by a prism, and are valid to worship. It is one of the first recorded monotheistic faiths and one of the oldest religious traditions still practiced today. In general, Hindu views are broad and range from monism, dualism, qualified non-dualism, pantheism, panentheism (alternatively called monistic theism by some scholars), strict monotheism, polytheism, and atheism.

Judaism is the religious culture of the Jewish people. To the Hindu, this idea has been an active force in defining the 'Eternal Dharma.'[1] (http://www.ramakrishna.org/message14.htm) It has been for Hinduism what the infinite Divine Self of Advaita is to existence, remaining forever unchanged and self-luminous, central and pervasive, in spite of all the chaos and flux around it. Islam and anti-Semitism. Thus, Hindu thought distinguishes itself by strongly encouraging tolerance for different beliefs since temporal systems cannot claim sole understanding of the one transcendental Truth. Similarities between the Bible and the Qur'an. Essentially, any kind of spiritual practice followed with faith, love and persistence will lead to the same ultimate state of self-realization. Cultural and historical background of Jesus. Perhaps the Hindu spirit of unity in diversity is best captured in a line from the ancient Rig Veda:.

Jewish view of Jesus. In the US alone, 3 million people follow some form of Hinduism. Christianity and anti-Semitism. It has its origin in the ancient Indo-Aryan Vedic culture and is called by Time Almanac "the oldest religion." It is the third largest religion with approximately 940 million followers worldwide, 96 percent of whom live in the Indian subcontinent. Judeo-Christian. Hinduism (सनातन धर्म; commonly called Sanātana Dharma, roughly translated as "Perennial Faith") is characterized by a diverse array of belief systems, practices and scriptures. Comparing and contrasting Judaism and Christianity. This article is about the Hindu religion; for other meanings of the word, see Hindu (disambiguation)..

Either an expert in the laws of kashrut, or (generally) under the supervision of a rabbi who is expert in those laws. "Hinduism" on Microsoft Encarta Online (http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761555715/Hinduism.html). Mashgiach over kosher products - supervises merchants and manufacturers of kosher food to ensure that the food is kosher. Britannica Concise Encyclopedia (http://www.britannica.com/ebc/article?eu=402241). Mashgiach of a yeshiva - expert in mussar (ethics). Oversees the emotional and spiritual welfare of the students in a yeshiva, and gives lectures on mussar. Rigveda. Somebody who is an expert in delving into the depths of the Talmud, and lectures the highest class in a Yeshiva. ISBN 0-7011-2225-0.

Rosh yeshivah - head of a yeshiva. Chatto & Windus, London. Sofer (scribe) - Torah scrolls, tefillin (phylacteries), mezuzahs (scrolls put on doorposts), and gittin (bills of divorce) must be written by a sofer who is an expert in the laws of writing. Hinduism: A Religion to Live By. In order for meat to be kosher, it must be slaughtered by a shochet who is expert in the laws and has received training from another shochet, as well as having regular contact with a rabbi and revising the relevant guidelines on a regular basis. 1979. Shochet (ritual slaughterer) - slaughters all kosher meat. Chaudhuri, Nirad C.

An expert in the laws of circumcision who has received training from a qualified mohel. Trinidad and Tobago (250,000). Mohel - performs the brit milah (circumcision). Guyana (270,000). A dayan always requires semicha. Fiji (300,000). Dayan (judge) - expert in Jewish law who sits on a beth din (rabbinical court) for either monetary matters or for overseeing the giving of a bill of divorce. Canada (320,000).

Gabbai (sexton) - Calls people up to the Torah, appoints the shatz for each prayer session if there is no standard shatz, and makes certain that the synagogue is kept clean and supplied. Kenya (330,000). The requirements for acting as baal koreh are the same as those for the shatz. Bhutan (560,000). Baal koreh (master of the reading) reads the weekly Torah portion. Mauritius (600,000). Any adult capable of speaking Hebrew clearly may act as shatz (Orthodox Jews and some Conservative Jews allow only men to act as shatz; some Conservative Jews and Reform Jews allow women to act as shatz as well). Russia (700,000).

The entire congregation participates in the recital of such prayers by saying amen at their conclusion; it is with this act that the shatz's prayer becomes the prayer of the congregation. the United Kingdom (1 million). When a shatz recites a prayer on behalf of the congregation, he is not acting as an intermediary but rather as a facilitator. South Africa (1.1 million). Shaliach tzibur or Shatz (leader -- literally "agent" or "representative" -- of the congregation) leads those assembled in prayer, and sometimes prays on behalf of the community. the United States (1.5 million). A congregation does not need to have a dedicated hazzan. Malaysia (1.5 million).

Chosen for a good voice, knowledge of traditional tunes, understanding of the meaning of the prayers and sincerity in reciting them. Philippines (1.8 million). Hazzan (cantor) - a trained vocalist who acts as shatz. Sri Lanka (3 million). Hassidic Rebbe - Rabbi who is the head of a Hassidic dynasty. Pakistan (3.3 million). Some congregations have a Rabbi but also allow members of the congregation to act as shatz or baal koreh (see below).

    . Indonesia (4.3 million).

    A congregation does not necessarily require a Rabbi. Bangladesh (14.4 million). Orthodox Judaism requires semicha (Rabbinical ordination). Nepal (22.5 million). Rabbi of a congregation - Jewish scholar who is charged with answering the legal questions of a congregation. So even the Supreme Court of India, also adopted a Smarta viewpoint. Today, a Levite is called up second to the reading of the Torah. It is noteworthy that point #6, of the legal definition of Hinduism, again reflects a Smarta definition of Hinduism, or its influence, rather the viewpoints of other denominations of Hinduism, which are exclusive monotheistic faiths.

    Levi (Levite) - Patrilineal descendant of Levi the son of Jacob. Realization of the truth that numbers of Gods to be worshiped may be large, yet there are Hindus who do not believe in the worshiping of idols. Today, a Kohen is the first one called up at the reading of the Torah, performs the priestly blessing, as well as complying with other unique laws. Recognition of the fact that the means or ways to salvation are many. In the Temple, the kohanim were charged with performing the sacrifices. Acceptance by all systems of Hindu philosophy of the belief in rebirth and pre-existence. Kohen (priest) - patrilineal descendant of Aaron, brother of Moses. Acceptance of great world rhythm — vast periods of creation, maintenance and dissolution follow each other in endless succession — by all six systems of Hindu philosophy.

    The first stage is called the Shiv'ah (literally "seven", observed for one week) during which it is traditional to sit at home and be comforted by friends and family, the second is the shloshim (observed for one month) and for those who have lost one of their parents, there is a third stage, avelut yud bet chodesh, which is observed for eleven months. Spirit of tolerance and willingness to understand and appreciate the opponent's point of view based on the realization that truth is many-sided. Shiv'ah (mourning) - Judaism has a multi-staged mourning practice. Acceptance of the Vedas with reverence as the highest authority in religious and philosophic matters and acceptance with reverence of Vedas by Hindu thinkers and philosophers as the sole foundation of Hindu philosophy. Marriage. Bar mitzvah and Bat mitzvah - Celebrating a child's reaching the age of majority, becoming responsible from now on for themselves as an adult for living a Jewish life and following halakha.

    Brit milah - Welcoming male babies into the covenant through the rite of circumcision. Many consider this the most important Jewish holiday. Yom Kippur, or The Day of Atonement, also called "the Sabbath of Sabbaths," is a holiday centered on redemption; a day of atonement and fasting for sins committed during the previous year. It is also a holiday of redemption, as it marks the beginning of the atonement period that ends ten days later with Yom Kippur.

    Called the Jewish New Year because it celebrates the day that the world was created, and marks the advance in the calendar from one year to the next, although it occurs in the seventh month, Tishri. Rosh Hashanah, also Yom Ha-Zikkaron (the day of remembrance) or Yom Teruah (the day of the sounding of the shofar). It coincides with the fruit harvest, and marks the end of the agricultural cycle. It is celebrated through the construction of temporary booths that represent the temporary shelters of the Children of Israel during their wandering.

    Sukkot, or The Festival of booths or the Festival of the ingathering commemorates the wandering of the Children of Israel through the desert. Shavuot or Pentacost or Feast of Weeks celebrates Moses' giving of the Ten Commandments to the Israelites, and marks the transition from the barley harvest to the wheat harvest. Pesach occurs on the 15th of Nissan; Nissan is the first month of the Jewish calendar, because it was in this month that the Children of Israel left Egypt. It is the only holiday that centers on home-service, the Seder.

    Pesach or Passover celebrates the Exodus from Egypt, and coincides with the barley harvest. Reconstructionist Judaism started as a stream of philosophy by a rabbi within Conservative Judaism, and later became an independent movement emphasizing reinterpreting Judaism for modern times. Conservative scholars emphasize their identification with the Amoraim, the sages of the Talmud, who embraced open debates over interpretations (and reinterpretations) of Jewish law. Conservative Judaism formed in the United States in the late 1800s through the fusion of two distinct groups: former Reform Jews who were alienated by that movement's emphatic rejection of Jewish law, and former Orthodox Jews who had rejected belief in the "oral law" (which claims continuity between God's revelation at Sinai and Jewish law as codified in the Shulkhan Arukh) in favor of the critical study of Jewish texts and history. Conservative Jews emphasize that Jews constitute a nation as well as a religion.

    "Masorti" is its official title in the State of Israel as well, although most Israelis use the word in a more general sense (see below). Outside of the USA it is known as Masorti (Hebrew for "Traditional") Judaism. Conservative Judaism. Today, many Reform congregations have returned to Hebrew prayers and encourage some degree of legal observance.

    Reform Judaism developed a prayer service in the vernacular and emphasized decorum during services. Reform Judaism initially defined Judaism as a religion, rather than as a race or culture; rejected the ritual prescriptions and proscriptions of the Torah; and emphasized the ethical call of the Prophets. as Liberal Judaism) originally formed in Germany in response to the Enlightenment. Reform Judaism (outside of the USA also known as Progressive Judaism, and in the U.K.

    Most of Orthodox Judaism holds to one particular form of Jewish theology, based on Maimonides' 13 principles of Jewish faith. Hasidic Judaism is a sub-set of Haredi Judaism. Orthodox Judaism consists of Modern Orthodox Judaism and Haredi Judaism. Orthodox Jews generally consider a 16th century CE law code, the Shulkhan Arukh, to be the definitive codification of Jewish law, and assert a continuity between pre-Enlightenment Judaism and modern-day Orthodox Judaism.

    Orthodox Judaism holds that the Torah was written by God and dictated to Moses, and that the laws within it are binding and unchanging. List of Jewish Prayers and Blessings. Torah databases (electronic versions of the Traditional Jewish Bookshelf). Piyyut (Classical Jewish poetry).

    The Siddur and Jewish liturgy. Jewish ethics and the Mussar Movement. Hasidic works. Kabbalah.

    Jewish philosophy. Jewish Thought and Ethics

      . The Responsa literature. Other books on Jewish Law and Custom.

      The Shulhan Arukh and its commentaries. The Tur and its commentaries. The Mishneh Torah and its commentaries. The Major Codes of Jewish Law and Custom

        .

        Halakhic literature

          . Aggadic Midrash. Halakhic Midrash. Midrashic Literature:
            .

            The Babylonian Talmud and its commentaries. The Jerusalem Talmud and its commentaries. The Talmud:

              . The Tosefta and the minor tractates.

              The Mishnah and its commentaries. Works of the Talmudic Era (classic rabbinic literature)

                . Jewish Biblical exegesis (also see Midrash below). Targum.

                Mesorah. The Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) and Jewish bible study, which include:

                  . A more detailed discussion of the Jewish view of sin is available in the entry on sin. In Judaism, sin is more considered in terms of a wrongful action, contravening divine commandment to live a holy life, than wrongful thought.

                  It covers wrongdoings by which a person has fallen short of divine wishes in his daily life, and thus there is always a "way back" to God. Atonement is deemed only meaningful if accompanied by sincere decision to cease unacceptable actions, and then only if appropriate amends to others are honestly undertaken. The liturgy of the Days of Awe (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) states that prayer, repentance and tzedakah (dutiful giving of charity) atone for sin. People can atone for sins through words and deeds, and without intermediaries.

                  Thus, human beings have free will and can choose the path in life that they will take. People are born with a yetzer ha'tov, a tendency to do good, and with a yetzer ha'ra, a tendency to do bad. The soul is pure at birth. There will be a moshiach (Jewish Messiah), or perhaps a messianic era.

                  The messianic age. God chose the Jewish people to be in a unique covenant with God; see Jews as a chosen people. God will reward those who observe His commandments, and punish those who violate them. The Torah (five books of Moses) is the primary text of Judaism.

                  Moses was the chief of all prophets. The words of the prophets are true. Different understandings of this subject exist among Jews. How Revelation works, and what precisely one means when one says that a book is "divine", has always been a matter of some dispute.

                  The Hebrew Bible, and much of the beliefs described in the Mishnah and Talmud, are held to be the product of divine Revelation. Any belief that an intermediary between man and God could be used, whether necessary or even optional, has traditionally been considered heretical. To God alone may one offer prayer. All statements in the Hebrew Bible and in rabbinic literature which use anthropomorphism are held to be linguistic conceits or metaphors, as it would otherwise be impossible to talk about God.

                  God is non-physical, non-corporeal, and eternal. See the entry on Names of God in Judaism. The different names of God are ways to express different aspects of God's presence in the world. God is all powerful (omnipotent), as well as all knowing (omniscient).

                  The idea of God as a duality or trinity is heretical for Jews to hold; it is considered akin to polytheism. God is one - Judaism is based on strict unitarian monotheism, the belief in one God, the eternal creator of the universe and the source of morality. One must not bow down to or serve any being or object but God. [2] (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ten_Commandments#Jewish_interpretation). To deny the uniqueness of God, is to deny all that is written in the Torah. It is also a prohibition against making or possessing objects that one or other may bow down to or serve such as crucifixes, and any forms of paintings or artistic representations of God.

                  This prohibits belief in or worship of any additional deities, gods, spirits or incarnations. "You shall have no other gods besides Me...Do not make a sculpted image or any likeness of what is in the heavens above..." One is required to believe in God and God alone. To turn from these beliefs is to deny God and the essence of Judaism. This is the foundation of Judaism.

                  "I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt..." The belief in the existence of God, that God exists for all time, that God is the sole creator of all that exists, that God determines the course of events in this world.

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