A religion question and so much more: What is Judaism?

GetReligion | 1/17/2020 | Richard Ostling
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What is Judaism?



How are we to comprehend the series of attacks on American Jews during the holiday season? Why were there 1,879 anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. during 2018, by Anti-Defamation League count, which was double the 2017 total and the third-worst year on record?

Explanation - Question - Headline - Subject - Article

Whatever the explanation, the three-word question above was the headline and subject of an online article just before the recent repellent events. Author Dennis Prager is a religiously and politically conservative Jew whose talk show airs on many “Christian-formatted” stations in the Salem Radio Network.

Prager said he raised this very fundamental question because “fewer and fewer Jews know anything about Judaism,” and many non-Jews “erroneously identify Judaism with what most Jews believe,” namely some vague secularized outlook.

Question - Identity - Nature - Americans - Buddhist

This is no easy question because Jewish identity has a dual nature, religious and ethnic. Many Americans who consider themselves Jewish may be religiously Buddhist, or atheistic, or could care less about any religion and see their identity only as a cultural heritage. Also, unlike Christianity, Judaism is not a religion with defined creeds and confessions.

The Jewish Encyclopedia of 1906 told us Judaism is quite simply “the religion of the Jewish people,” which doesn’t get us very far.

Orthodox - Approach - Defines - Judaism - Entirety

An Orthodox and maximalist approach defines Judaism as the entirety of the Bible’s first five books (a.k.a. the Torah or Pentateuch) with all 613 commandments listed by Maimonides (1135-1204), and the discussions of them in the Talmud’s massive collection.

A minimalist approach sees the essence in the Pentateuch’s Ten Commandments or in the revered shema: “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5, Jewish Publication Society translation). In Christians’ New Testament, Jesus...
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