An essay donated by Rabbi A.S. Maller
Judaism: The BIG Themes
A. By virtue of their religion Jews have always been, and will always be, a minority.
In a pagan world where everybody worshipped many Gods, Jews worshipped only one.
In a pagan world where everybody represented the divine visibly through sculpture, painting, or a natural object, Jews were taught that God was invisible.
When it’s daughter religions, Christianity and Islam took over the western world, the Jews continued to follow their own tradition and refused to assimilate.
Of all the religions and cultures that existed in the western world 3,000 years ago when David was King in Jerusalem only the Jews have survived.
- Even in the Messianic Age “each nation will follow its own God” (religion) and Jews will follow their God. i.e. religious pluralism is the will of God. (Micah 4:5)
Since Jews did not choose this historical fate, they felt they were chosen by God to play an important role in the spiritual development of humanity.
Jews were redeemed from Egypt not as individuals but as a community/people.
The covenant at Sinai was with the whole people not just with the believers.
The Jewish religion is mostly the outgrowth of events that happened to the people, not the result of the spiritual insights of one or more individuals.
When non-Jews become Jewish they join the Jewish people i.e. “your people shall be my people” precedes “your God shall be my God” (Ruth 1:16)
C: Differences are very important even though nothing is totally black or white.
Differences are of degree and relative mixture. Thus Judaism teaches:
- This world, and what you make of it, is more important than the next world.
- How you behave is more important than what you believe.
- Human nature is both good and bad, but in most people the good is greater than the bad.
- God will not make us good without our co-operation (free will) and humans alone can’t create a holy society. God and humans need each other.
D. Relationships are the most important aspect of living a good life.
Relationships demand commitments. (covenants)
To do something from a sense of duty is spiritually superior to doing it just because you want to do it. (mitzvah)
To do something as part of a community or a tradition is better than to just do your own thing.
Relationships are mutual, interactive and continually changing, so Judaism is an always developing religion, as each generation reacts to God's continual call.
- "Mitzvah" is Hebrew for "commandment." "A combination of a
religious law, personal obligation, and a privilege." Plural is
Mitzvot. Often used to refer to a meritorious or charitable act. Hebrew miṣwāh. First known Use: 1650 CE
First posted: 2013-AUG-18
Latest update: 2013-AUG-18
Author: A.S. Maller