Key points of Judaism
Aniconic Universal Monotheism:
There is one God over all of creation, not multiple Gods for each different community, each different society, each region or religion. The One God rules over all, requires the same righteousness from all, provides for all, judges the actions of all according to his laws of righteousness.
God is non-physical, non-material, inexpressible, indefinable. God is beyond all names and forms, about whom it can only be said: the One who Is.
God exists outside of time and space, the creator of all that is. It is God who sets the laws according to which the universe exists and functions. It is God who sets the laws by which human society and the human soul exist and function.
That One Supreme is beyond the limitations of the material domain and cannot be represented by any form or image. The vacant space, the empty seat, are all that can represent that One who cannot be seen by physical eyes or perceived by the finite mind.
God Immanent and Transcendent:
God is not an abstract force but the Being who rules all, supports all, is aware of everything and everyone. Judaism was born when God stepped out of the temple, out of the domain of divine otherness, and into human history. He spoke to a man, to a family, to a people, calling them into a mutual bond of commitment and faithfulness. The story of the family of Abraham, of the Hebrew peoples, of Judaism, has been one in which God has acted in the affairs of this world. God does his work in history, through history, with history.
God did not remain remote, beyond, outside of our human circumstances but joined us in the journey and struggles of our humanity. And God asked us to join him in a mutuality of trust, and love. God asks that our lives conform to the laws of love and compassion for which we were created, to live righteously in the world.
God is the only one worthy of our worship, devotion, and praise, the one who hears the prayers of the heart, the one who sees the intentions of the mind, the one who holds all things in the palm of his hand.
The relationship of the Jewish people and God is one of promises made, of agreements accepted, of faithfulness pledged. God and Jewish people are bound to each other by covenant and by history.
Judaism is the continual recounting of that relationship, seeking to understand the meaning of faithfulness and commitment in the changing conditions and events of history. Judaism is the living relationship between a people and the living God. The ongoing quest of the Jewish people has been to find new ways to understand what obedience to God means in each new era and situation.
Judaism is committed to preserving the knowledge of God and of humanityís responsibility to live according to the eternal laws of righteousness, justice, and mercy.
Worship of the heart:
In response to the first experience of diaspora in Babylon, the Jewish prophets brought the message which has sustained the Jewish people throughout the later diasporas and has radiated out, permeating Western cultures. The place where God is worshipped is in the human heart through prayer and contemplation of scripture. Establishing God foremost in the heart through prayer, transforms motivations, intentions, and actions. When the heart becomes the temple of God, the radiance of his being burns away selfish desires, leaving only the light of His presence to radiate out through the life.
The sacred books of scripture represent the consecrated center of Jewish religion and life. The Torah is the coalescence of the divine immutable laws of God; and the words of the prophets are true and reliable divine words. God speaks through the prophets; Abraham, Moses, Isaiah and all the prophets hear Godís voice, Godís message for their times and speak that message. We are not left on our own, God comes to us through the words spoken by men and women who have the unique ability to hear Godís voice deep within.
But the interpretation of meaning of the scripture is extremely varied; there is no standard Jewish position but rather a multifarious kaleidoscope of views, all preserved in sacred literature. Yet the multiplicity always revolves around the central core, that the meaningful and fulfilled human life is created when life is oriented according to Godís laws. The life of selfless service, of seeking to enact justice for the poor and powerless, of carrying out Godís mercy and kindness in the world, flows naturally from the mind and heart that are saturated with Godís laws. Godís intentions are brought to life by those who become increasingly dedicated to understanding and living them.
The covenant of God and the Jewish people has been one of mutual commitment based on loving faithfulness. The traditions and scriptures recount the times when God has stepped in to change history, to save the people, to redeem, to preserve. It has been a story of people and places, of choices and wrong turns as people learned what God expected, what God wanted.
Yet, at each turn, through the vision of dedicated people, through the words of prophets who spoke for God, through the determination of individual common people, Judaism has found its path of faithfulness to the ancient and yet ever-living agreement with God. Each time that faith in the goodness of God is challenged, Judaism struggles to find the path that leads back to the place of God in this world, this life.
Judaism has brought to humanity the incomparable lessons of how to find the face of God in the midst of suffering, to hear the voice of God in the midst of distress, horror, fear, and anguish. Even when some turn to atheism, there is still the determined resolve in Judaism to preserve the traditions of goodness and kindness, of justice and rightness in our shared human existence. Judaism remains faithful, even when all hope in God is lost and we are left alone to make our meaning in this world.
From the earliest records in Judaism of Godís commands, the recurring, incessant theme has been the preeminence of ethical and moral actions, words, and thoughts. The essence of faithfulness to God is found in the way we live our daily lives in the world. The heart of our commitment to God is a commitment to align our lives with the laws of God that govern the universe and human life.
Each person is born with a tendency to do good and a tendency to do evil. Each life is a path that continually presents a series of choices between self-indulgence and selfless service. It is not what we talk about but how we act that matters; it is not what we say we believe but how we live our life that counts. The range of ideas and beliefs in Judaism is so broad and inclusive that even those who do not believe in God at all are still active participants in the life of Judaism. There are many atheists who are Jews and who also faithfully carry out the commitment to live righteously and justly in the world.
The community of Judaism is extremely diverse. It comprises people of many different nationalities, ethnicities, languages and cultural traditions. Although it is a confessional religion, a community of those who have chosen to covenant with God to live in faithfulness to the eternal laws set down for human life, they are also a community of family relationships. And like families, you canít stop being related just because you disagree. So you find ways to get along, to live together, to love one another in spite of differences. All the diversity of beliefs and practices across the different forms of Judaism co-exist together in a model of unity in diversity that only divine wisdom could have cultivated.
"mystery of light"
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