Judaism is a religion. It is the belief in a single God.
Religious Jews believe that God is everywhere, that he knows everything and that he can do anything. That’s about it. Jews know nothing more about God.
As to what he does, there is a little more understanding. For one thing, Jews believe in the Bible. This tells many stories about how God works.
Goodness in the Eyes of Judaism
Jews believe God gave people the Old Testament Bible (or Torah as it is known in Hebrew), brimming with tips on how to be good and what happens to those who are not.
Prayer towards God is important in Judaism. Every Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, for example, Jews get together to pray to God. To be a “good” person, however, prayer is not enough. It is every bit as important to be good in yourself and to others.
One very important part of Judaism is the belief that anyone can be forgiven their sins by changing their ways. Judaism has vast respect for people who behave well towards others.
Jews believe that, at some stage, someone or some people will be so good that they will redeem all humanity. The person or people are known as the Messiah. With the coming of the Messiah, the reign of God will be ushered in and we will all live a wonder life for ever more.
The Jewish People
Judaism is a religious belief, it has nothing to do with where you are born. Anyone who believes in Jewish tradition can be a Jew.
There are many Jews. The more observant Jews are known as Orthodox. They tend to be deeply traditional. Partly as a mark of respect for our forefathers, Orthodox Jews will often wear clothes that their ancestors wore, hundreds of years ago. The Jews who are less strict in their interpretation of the Jewish laws are known as Reform or Liberal Jews. They will behave and dress much more in line with everyone else, following largely the same fun and fashions as the majority of people in the UK.
Over five thousand years ago, Jews lived in Israel. Since then, they have lived in many other countries throughout the world. Today, part of the being Jewish reflects the very wide range of countries and cultures that Jews have lived within.
There are several events that are commemorated by Jews. They tend to be events where God played a significant part in some way. They tend to have a great mix of religious and cultural parts.
At the beginning of each year is the festival of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. It is followed ten days later by the festival of Yom Kipur, during which Jews ask God for forgiveness of their sins and promise to be better in future. Many people will know Yom Kipur as the festival where Jews fast for the whole day, to allow them to spend more time in synagogue in prayer.
A couple of months later comes one of the children’s favourites, Chanuka, the festival of lights. Chanuka celebrates one of God’s miracles where he made one day’s supply of oil last for the whole of the important eight days needed by the Jews for their purity. For each of the eight days of Chanuka, Jews light a magnificent candlearbre of eight candles, called a Menorah, and on each of the eight days, a present is given to each child to celebrate the kindness and wonder of God.
Another festival in which children have a happy role in is the festival of Purim. This is a festival that celebrates the mercy shown to the Jews by the King of Persia, 2,500 years ago. The celebrations today involve children dressing up in all sorts of fancy-dress costumes and receiving sweets throughout the night.
Jews have several other festivals, that range from the sad festival that remembers many of the Jews that died during the second world, to the mixed festival of Passover which celebrates the miracles God performed to set the Israelites free from slavery in Egypt, to the wonderful “Pilgrim” festivals that celebrate the farmers’ harvest.
There are many fun sides to Judaism. Children and the elderly are always treated with great respect. Food is very important within the Jewish culture, which means delicious meals are often prepared, even when there is no good reason to do so.
Jewish tradition has great fun with music. Jewish dancing is often very lively and exciting. Everyone joins in singing and dancing to some of the great Jewish songs of old. Story telling is another great Jewish tradition, with some truly wonderful stories being brought to life in the most exciting way.