Section: Judaism and Jewish life

Jewish beliefs

Jewish women praying at the Western Wall, Jerusalem, Israel.
Jewish women praying at the Western Wall, Jerusalem, Israel. © 2011 Beit Hatfutsot.

Central to Judaism is the belief in one God (monotheism).

This God is the God who created the world and everything in it. God gave humanity special qualities and responsibilities.

God values justice and mercy, and cares about all humanity, not just the Jews. Jews recognise that Christians and Muslims are also monotheistic, even if their belief systems are different.

The Torah

The Torah is the most important book in Judaism. It refers to the first five books of the Bible. These five books are: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Religious Jews regard the books of the Torah as the word of God Himself, as dictated by the Almighty to the great prophet Moses.

The five books of the Torah contain the early history of the Jews and rules for how Jews should live a moral life.

In the video Joel from BBC’s Blue Peter went to visit a scribe, someone who writes and repairs the Torah. Watch the video and learn more about the Torah.

The Ten Commandments

Moses receives the Commandments
Moses receives the Commandments © 2011 Beit Hatfutsot.

The Torah identifies 613 rules; ten of these are known as the Ten Commandments.

  1. I am the LORD your God who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other God to set against me.
  2. You shall not make a carved image for yourself nor the likeness of anything… …for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God…. …But I keep faith with thousands, with those who love me and keep my commandments.
  3. You shall not make use of the name of the LORD your God; the LORD will not leave unpunished the man who misuses his name.
  4. Remember to keep the sabbath day holy. …the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; that day you shall not do any work… …the LORD blessed the sabbath day and declared it holy.
  5. Honour your father and mother, that you may live long in the land which the LORD your God is giving you.
  6. You shall not commit murder.
  7. You shall not commit adultery.
  8. You shall not steal.
  9. You shall not give false evidence against your neighbour.
  10. You shall not covet your neighbour’s house… …or anything that belongs to him.

The Ten Commandments are also crucial to Christianity.

Within the 603 other Commandments are rules dealing with the Jewish people’s relationship with God, and their relationships with other people.

The Noahide Commandments

One world, one people, one God
One world, one people, one God

Jews do not take a particular view on other religions and their practices and beliefs, so long as they are broadly moral and teach people to behave well.

As long ago as Roman times, Jewish scholars had outlined seven basic moral laws. These were called the Noahide Commandments, which in their view were all that was required for people to live a decent life.

  1. Do not worship false gods
  2. Do not murder
  3. Do not steal or kidnap
  4. Do not be sexually immoral
  5. Do not blaspheme
  6. Do not eat any flesh that was torn from the body of a living animal (traditionally interpreted as a prohibition against cruelty towards animals)
  7. Do set up a system of honest, effective courts, police and laws

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