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Core Values in Judaism

It is important to note that Jewish people not only identify themselves as belonging to a religious group, but also as a nation and as a people, reflecting both religious doctrine and cultural practices.

Judaism, in both its religious and cultural manifestations, has varied a great deal throughout history and has changed and challenged its adherents for millennia. Jewish tradition unites Jews from a vast array of backgrounds and countries, such as Jews from Poland, Spain, Yemen, Iraq, India, Ethiopia, and the United States, to name just a few.

Culturally, Jewish values emphasize family, community, charity, education, ethics, compassion for the vulnerable, a common history and ritual, and the connection to the ancient Jewish homeland, Israel.

As a religion, from antiquity to the present day, Judaism has been the religious expression of the Jewish people in their efforts to live a life of holiness before G-d.

The following are only some of the important structures of the Jewish tradition.

G-d

G-d’s name is treated with great care in Jewish tradition. The writing of the name is not prohibited; however, erasing or defacing the name of G-d is. Thus, it is not written due to the risk of it later becoming defaced or destroyed accidentally, to prevent others from destroying the name of G-d. As such, it is a common practice to write G-d’s name with a hyphen.

Belief in G-d is the foundation of the Jewish faith and the ground of its legal system. The Torah depicts creation and G-d’s activity in ancient Israelite history. The Torah ascribes certain traits to G-d, such as mercy, justice and benevolence. In rabbinic sources, G-d is described as omnipotent, omniscient, incorporeal, and all-good. Judaism adheres to the belief that there is only one G-d.

The Torah

Synonymous with Pentateuch, the five Books of Moses are the Written Teachings known as the Torah. According to tradition, the five books were given by G-d to Moses on Mount Sinai. Along with the Written Teachings, G-d gave Moses a detailed explanation of His commandments, known as the Oral Teachings.

Today, Torah has come to mean not only the Written and Oral Teachings, but the totality of Jewish teaching and thought as well.

The Torah is divided into 54 portions, one of which is read in Synagogue each Sabbath. This cycle of readings concludes each year on Shmini Atzeret and begins again of the following day on Simchat Torah.

Prayer/Liturgy

Jewish prayer can either be public or private and is both set and spontaneous. In Judaism, every aspect of life is marked by a blessing, from food to nature. Some prayers are recited regularly by traditional Jews who pray three times a day — evening, morning, and afternoon.

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