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Understanding Judaism

Religion is a complex thing for both kids and adults. It means so many different things to everyone - faith, community, history, power, family, and understanding the universe. If your understanding of Judaism doesn't extend much beyond bagels and the Adam Sandler flick Eight Crazy Nights, we have the basic info for you right here.

What Is Judaism?

Judaism is a religion practiced by about 13-14 million people worldwide, with the majority of those people living in the United States and Israel. Judaism is a religion that believes in one god. It is based upon principles and ethics embodied in the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible), and is also explained in other texts like the Talmud.

What Do Jews Believe?

You could spend a lifetime studying Judaism because, like any other religion, it's a complicated thing. There is also a lot of variation in the specifics of what different Jews believe. Here's the rundown on the very basic principles :

  • There is only unique, eternal, all-knowing God who does not exist in material form.
  • Prayer is to be directed to God alone and to no one else.
  • The words of the prophets are true.
  • Moses was the greatest of the prophets.
  • God gave Moses the written Torah (the first five books of the Bible) and Oral Torah (teachings now contained in the Talmud and other writings).
  • There will be no other Torah.
  • God will reward the good and punish the bad.
  • The Messiah will come.
  • The dead will be resurrected.

Religion, Race or Culture?

Many people consider themselves to be "culturally" or "ethnically" Jewish even though they don't participate in the religion. It can be helpful to think of Judaism sort of like citizenship -- a person born to a Jewish family is usually considered to be Jewish even if they don't practice the religion, whereas a person who believes everything that Jews believe is still a non-Jew until they formally convert to Judaism.

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