Being a member of the Jewish faith, Judaism, means embracing some basic religious beliefs in common with others in this broad-based religion, but Judaism does not have the dogmatic requirements found in some other religions. Judaism has no central authority and is expressed in different types of congregations including orthodox, reformed, conservative, liberal and even the mystical branch known for its study of the Kabbalah. What these branches of Judaism have in common is monotheism, the Torah and an obligation to prayer.
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Judaism is a Monotheistic Faith
Calling yourself a member of the Jewish faith means embracing monotheism. This belief is central to all branches of Judaism, and means a belief that there is one God, the creator of all the earth and all life. The central statement of faith that is known throughout he world and over the history of Judaism is the "Shema Yisrael," which is from Deuteronomy 6:4 in the Hebrew scriptures. It reads, "Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One." It is a morning and evening prayer of blessing and is also used during prayer services. The faithful are reminded daily that there is one God.
Moral and Spiritual Code in the Torah
Reading the Torah and living life by its moral and spiritual code is a second constant across the various expressions of Judaism, although the interpretations may vary. The very fabric of life for those of the Jewish faith is found in the Torah. What is perhaps the most famous code of living in world history is found in the Torah and is popularly known as the Ten Commandments, the laws of living rightly and justly as given to Moses on Mount Sinai. The Ten Commandments are revealed in the Book of Exodus, Chapter 20, a foundational book for the Jewish faith. The first commandment emphasises that there is only one God in Judaism: "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me."
Jewish obligation to prayer
Belief in prayer and an obligation to carry out prayer is a third central belief of Judaism. Life is meant to be a path of prayer in the Jewish faith, and that means on rising in the morning and on going to bed at night, the believer offers heartfelt prayers of thankfulness and praise to the one God. In Judaism, eating is always done with awareness that the fruit of the earth is a gift to be received with gratitude. For the Jewish believer, prayer is a habit that continually builds a God-consciousness and allows life to be lived with integrity and thankfulness.
Practicing Judaism can vary greatly in interpretation and requirements. The major branches in the U.S. are Orthodox, Conservative and Reform Judaism. You can explore more about the various branches of Judaism by reading at a site like Judaism 101 or by taking a class at your local university or community college.
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