7 Questions of
WHAT DO JEWISH PEOPLE
THE SEVEN QUESTIONS OF JUDAISM
It is highly likely that you have encountered Jewish people and know a Jewish person. Your best friend may even be Jewish. Still, some things about their Judaism may seem curious. Your first thought maybe because they are Jewish people. They have a profound knowledge of the Scriptures. After all, God made an enduring promise with them that is forever rooted in the Abrahamic covenant, but that is generally not a primary focus of Judaism. Rather, the Talmud, Mishnah, rabbinic works, and culture are the primary construct of modern-day Judaism.
Furthermore, since Christians believe that Jesus is the Messiah, and Jews do not, some think this is the only difference between Christianity and Judaism. We should understand that an entire theology is associated with believing in Jesus, that Jews see outside of what the Bible states. Judaism is complex. Comprised of vast disparities from one sect to another, and something as foundational as Torah is not universally accepted or interpreted the same way from one to the other. Instead, different streams of thought intricately intertwine with traditional views, and they can depart from the main cloth to form their own fiber. Yet, they can remain Jewish.
For this reason, Judaism is very much a religion and culture in motion from generation to generation. A broad spectrum of beliefs defines it from complete secularism and humanism to no faith in the One True God, to intense religious rituals and beliefs. Some know more about the Bible than others, and some are absent from any knowledge of the Scriptures. In Orthodox Judaism, the ideal to garner wisdom comes from the Talmud and Mishnah, which are explained further as we proceed.
Historically, following 70 A.D., Judaism transformed itself after the Second Temple was destroyed, creating more disparities that have endured to this day. Here we highlight the seven fundamental questions about Judaism with further reading following this study.
DO JEWISH PEOPLE BELIEVE IN REPENTANCE?
The Jewish principle of repentance, or in Hebrew, Teshuvah (to return), is different from Christianity. In Judaism, no savior is needed as an intermediary to mitigate one's personal sin and separation from God. Yet, the Jewish laws of repentance and substitution are so prominent in the book of Leviticus.
Modern Judaism sees no necessity for a blood sacrifice to achieve repentance. Whether this is through an individual or the blood of an animal. The concept of one 's forgiveness from sin through Yeshua is foreign. Jews believe in individual and collective involvement with God through tradition, rituals, prayers, and ethical actions.
Repentance does take place, but once per year on Yom Kippur. On that day, they believe a unique window is open to them whereby God draws closer, and favor is provided through Yom Kippur prayers and fasting. From this one day, they will receive the forgiveness that lasts until the next year.
DO JEWISH PEOPLE BELIEVE
IN THE TRINITY?
Another significant distinction between Christianity and Judaism is over the Godhead or Trinity. In Judaism, there is no belief in a Triune God. The thought of one-person, although divine, coming in human form is heretical and a blasphemous principle. Two thousand years ago, the Pharisees viewed and treated Yeshua with disdain and revulsion over this very issue when He claimed to have come from the Father. Judaism, on the other hand, emphasizes the Oneness of God without three distinct operations. This belief has been rehearsed for thousands of years in the Shema, the most ancient Judaism declaration. It affirms Judaism's ancient Shema, "hear "O Israel the Lord your God. The Lord is One" (Deuteronomy 6:4-9.)
DO JEWISH PEOPLE BELIEVE IN HEAVEN AND HELL?
Generally speaking, Judaism does not teach a particular concept of hell. It is assumed that evildoers will be punished. But the manner and place of chastisement are left to the justice of God. Although the Old Testament clearly teaches a place of eternal suffering and torment (Sheol, or hell in the Old Testament), it is described as a place of darkness to which all the dead go, both the righteous and unrighteous, regardless of the moral decisions they make in life. Sheol is also seen as a place of stillness and darkness where a person is cut off from life and the Hebrew God.
Though this last point strongly hints at divine punishment for one’s sins. Most Jewish people believe that when the body dies, the cycle of life ends. The body returns to the dust of the ground, and the soul dissipates as a vapor. Contributing to this is that only the first five books of the Scriptures, called the Torah, are considered inspired. Most references to Sheol, Hades, and eternal separation from God, are found in other Bible books. However, ample references to the grave are throughout the first five books.
So the concept of eternal judgment that Christians believe and one that follows after death (the Great White Throne Judgment) is not prevalent in Jewish theology or Jewish people's minds. Instead, Judaism focuses on living, being kind, and performing acts of charity. At its core, it is concerned with the well-being of humanity.
A story is found in the Talmud that is often told when someone is asked to summarize the essence of Judaism: During the first century B.C.E., a great rabbi named Hillel was asked to sum up Judaism while standing on one foot. He replied: "Certainly! What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the Torah. The rest is commentary, now go and study." (Talmud Shabbat 31A.) This belief is dominant amongst almost all sects of Judaism. But because there is no eternal destination based on a personal relationship with God and how one lived, the following sad fact is seen in the Psalms: Death is tragic because it deprives us of the ability to continue to serve our Master. As the Psalmist wrote it: "praise, not the Lord, neither any that go down in silence" (Psalms 116:17.)
Olam Ha Ba
There seem to be some exceptions regarding an afterlife regarding the Orthodox in the Hebrew term Olam Ha Ba; " meaning "the world to come." Early rabbinic texts describe Olam Ha Ba as a physical realm that will exist at the end-of-days after the Messiah has come, and God has judged both the living and the dead. The righteous dead will be resurrected to enjoy a second life in Olam Ha Ba.
There is also the term Gehenna, which connotes "hell," or unseen, or the underworld. When the ancient rabbis talk about Gehenna, they are trying to answer, "How "will bad people be dealt with in the afterlife?" After being punished in Gehenna, a soul was considered pure enough to enter Gan Eden or Garden of God.
Accordingly, they saw Gehenna as a place of punishment for those who lead an immoral life. They also taught that the time a person could remain in Gehenna was limited to twelve months, and the rabbis believed that even at the very Gates of Gehenna, a person could repent and avoid punishment. Again, this highlights our earliest remarks about the significant disparities of thought that exist within Judaism.
CAN ONE HAVE A PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD?
Following the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 A.D. by the Romans, Judaism underwent sweeping changes as it brought the immediate cessation of sacrifices in the Temple. With the Temple destroyed, millions of Jews were killed, sold into slavery, and thousands more were exiled from Jerusalem. As a result, a new form of Judaism was needed to rescue it from the brink of extinction.
At the time of Rome' Rome's conquest of Jerusalem, Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai, Judaism's spiritual leader, knew certain resistance was futile. Legend has it, he had his followers secretly carry him out of the city in a coffin, so he could reach the Roman commander and appeal to let him, and some of his sages go to Yavneh, a city east of Jerusalem. Given permission, Zakkai established a new institution of learning where matters of law were reorganized. From Yavneh, legal and spiritual rulings began to be disseminated throughout the Diaspora, and Jews began to turn to Yavneh for guidance and leadership. His new system was built upon good deeds and the study of the Torah.
His followers were taught that these elements were more pleasing to God. This early movement ignited a massive overhaul of Judaism that formed the basis for the rabbinic form of Judaism. However, a catastrophic effect of his reforms set the Jewish people on a path away from any concept of a personal relationship with God as the former Prophets had shown them.
Judaism’s changes following Yavneh taught Jews to relate to God through prayers, Mitzvot (commandments), good deeds (performing Mitzvah,) and Charity (Tzedakah.) These Mitzvot are a central part of Judaism still today. So wide-ranging are they that 613 commandments cover all aspects of life. All of them comply with the ethical and ritual teachings of the Torah. These can be found in the Mishna Torah (meaning, repetition of the Torah.) The Mishna is the Oral Law, while the Torah is the Written Law. To the question then, the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament, the Talmud, Mishna, and Gemara, are the holy books of Judaism.
DO JEWISH PEOPLE BELIEVE IN THE HOLY BIBLE?
Judaism upholds three crowns; the Crown of Torah, the Crown of Priesthood, and the Crown of Kingship. The first connotes our earthly life, dependent upon the Torah; the second speaks to the Jewish people and Israel's purpose. The third speaks of the future Messianic Age when King Messiah Returns. Of course, while Christianity emphasizes both the New and Old, and salvation is mediated through Yeshua Jesus as revealed in the sacred New Testament, Judaism upholds right conduct, acts of compassion, caring for the earth, and being good stewards of what God has given to them.
Judaism does focus on the Mosaic Covenant, which is found in the first five books of the Old Testament (also considered the sacred Torah and consists of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.) The rest of the Old Testament, the Nevi'Nevi'im, Prophets, the Ketuvim (Poetical Books), and the Five Megillot (Scrolls), are held valuable and informative. Still, they are not considered inspired as the Torah.
Added to the Torah is the Talmud, which means learning and instruction." It consists of two components. The Mishnah, dated 200 CE, is a written collection of JudaiJudaism's Torah (laws, statutes, and legal interpretations that not found in the Five Books of Moses.) The second part, the Gemara, dated around 500 CE, is a rabbinical analysis of and a commentary on the Mishna. But the term "Talmud" may refer to either the Gemara alone or the Mishnah and Gemara together. According to "Maimonides," the Mishnah was to become the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, and Jewish Education. It was intended to provide a complete statement of the Oral Law so that a person who mastered first the Written Torah and then the Mishnah Torah, there would be no need for any other book.
DO JEWISH PEOPLE BELIEVE IN A FUTURE REIGN OF THEIR MESSIAH?
Throughout Jewish history, the Messianic kingdom has been longed for and prayed for. Always, Israel envisioned a time when she would be restored to her former glory, and her people would once again be living in their fullness under the leadership of their Messiah. The Christian church has longed for the same. But the Christian focus is upon such images and realities as the cross, the resurrection, the ascension, and heaven. The Jew, on the other hand, sees Jerusalem and Mt. Zion restored, and the Christian sees the "New Jerusalem" coming down out of heaven, as seen in Revelation 21:2.
While the kingdom of God has permeated Christian teaching, the kingdom of heaven has permeated Judaism. One distinction from Christianity is over its preconditions. Judaism asserts that we must prepare for the Third Temple building to hasten our Messiah's return.
For this reason, the training of priests in the sacrificial system and the manufacturing of Temple furnishings have been underway in Israel for years. These actions, according to Judaism, will accelerate the return of their Messiah. For Talmudic references of Messiah, see appendix in the back of the book.
DO JEWISH PEOPLE BELIEVE IN ORIGINAL SIN?
I Corinthians 15:21-22 states, "For since by man came death, by a man also came to the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." Sin remains one of the foundation pillars of Christianity. However, Judaism believes this is unbiblical because Jews believe that one is born into the world with Original Purity and not Original Sin.
Yes, Judaism recognizes that man is capable of great evil, but it does not associate that with man's inclination toward sin. Instead, Judaism focuses on man's power to choose good and not evil. It embraces their belief that God rejoices when a man decides to be good. So, the concept of sin entering the world through Adam and Eve, which brought death into the world, is vehemently opposed.
Judaism also believes that as one man cannot bring death into the world, one man cannot bring salvation or life. Death is seen merely as a natural cycle of life. Rabbis assert that death has existed since the first human beings were created. Hence, man does not die because of their sin. Instead, God made death part of life from the moment of Creation. In some Jewish circles, they go as far as to say the death was The Original Mistake, not Original Sin.