Learning About the Basics of Judaism
Judaism is one of the oldest world religions. In fact, as the oldest Abrahamic religion it can be thought of as the precursor to both the Christian and Muslim faiths. This has resulted in a world where most people have some general cursory knowledge about Judaism. But at the same time this knowledge is usually fairly basic and vague.
To go beyond a theoretical understanding of the religion one must first look at the Jewish community as a whole. This is what shows Judaism as a living religion. When a religion isn’t being practiced anymore the tenets of the faith can be considered immutable. But a living religion can’t really be fully understood without seeing the ways people actually practice their faith.
When looking at the Jewish community one will usually see a surprisingly large amount of variety. The most constant unifying factors are the presence of a synagogue where one can also find a rabbi. The synagogue and rabbi can be thought of as the central hub of a Jewish community. This also highlights one of the larger differences between Christians and Jews. Churches are an important part of any Christian community. But this integration isn’t nearly as strong as with most Jewish communities.
The rabbi is an interpreter of the Torah. He serves the community by relating the teachings of the Torah to people’s everyday life. The Torah isn’t just a holy book to the Jewish people. It’s a living guide which is used to help inform the modern world. Additionally it’s seen as a strong link between the past, present and future of the Jewish people. When people think of the difference between Christians and Jews they usually focus on the minutia of different holy books. The larger difference is how the two religions relate to those holy books.
When people ask about the Jewish faith, there’s an unspoken assumption underlying every part of the discussion. The religion can best be thought of as tradition. Every part of the faith is about the long journey of a belief through both time and geography. Most cultural aspects of the religion can be understood by looking at how the Torah sits in the center of Jewish life. The book and the people come first, and society as a whole mixes in to create a continually evolving way of life.