The Mezuzah is a tiny parchment scroll inscribed with biblical exts and enclosed in a case. Traditionally, Mezuzahs are fixed to the door-frames of Jewish homes. They usually contain the words of the Shema from the Bible, which calls God's people to love him totally. (Langley 43)
God is a moral being, as the paradigm of ethical conduct: a holy, just, and merciful being.
The people are the instrument of God, His chosen vessel to bear witness to Him for all humans. The covenant is the alliance or pact between God and his people. It is the alliance to which He will be utterly faithful, no matter how faithless the people might be. The idea of covenant starts with Adam, goes through Noah, but "The Covenant" is the promise God made to Abraham, who becomes the first Patriarch of the Jewish religion (a role he plays in Christianity and Islam as well).
Torah, "instruction" or "revelation," is the way of imitating God and
becoming holy like Him. The Torah (using the article) is the Holy
Book of Judaism and is comprised of first five books of the Old Testament
(Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy). They are also
called The Pentateuch.
|Kosher (kashrut) is a set of dietary laws
governing Orthodox Jews. Forbidden foods include pork, shellfish and scavengers,
the separation of meat and dairy products, and the manner in which food
The sabbath or holy day for Jews starts at sundown Friday and runs till sundown Saturday. Jews will sometimes go to temple for services led by the rabbi, or spend time with family. Orthodox Jews are forbidden to work on this day and take this rule seriously -- no cleaning, school work, cooking (foods are prepared the day before), travel. It's a time for God and family.
is an eight-day celebration commemorating the flight from slavery in Egypt.
The story is told in the Book of Exodus. There are special foods
eaten and the special dinners are called seders. Since the date is based
on a lunar calendar it's not fixed, but it usually occurs in early April.
Left: A Jewish family gathered together for the seder or Passover feast. On the table can be seen the unleavened bread which commemorates the hasty way in which the Israelites left Egypt.(Parrinder 406)
||Chanuka (also Hanukka or The Festival of Lights) celebrates a military victory and the miracle of the temple lights burning for eight days when there was only enough oil for one. Jews light the menorah, an eight-branched candelabrum, have special dinners, give small gifts, play games and sing songs. This usually falls sometime in December and because of that is sometime called "Jewish Christmas," but that's a totally misleading misnomer.|
Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement) This is the holiest of holy days for Jews. It occurs two weeks after the New Year, and it's a day of fasting, mourning and prayer for forgiveness of sins. It's a somber and serious day, but also one of joy, since God is merciful and forgives sins.
A more moderate approach which emerged during the 19th century, this form stresses the need to be as faithful as possible to the way of Torah. It continually reassesses its particular directives in the light of present-day needs, adapting the traditional teachings in order to make prophetic Judaism come to life in a unique way.
This form also emerged in the 19th century. It broke with tradition in its attitude toward the binding authenticity of Biblical and Talmudic interpretations of Torah, stressing, instead, the ethical dimensions of Judaic faith. Since this group does not regard Jewish law as divine in origin, it sees no need to follow them. Non-morality based laws are ignored. They also allow women full equality in religious matters.
A sect of ultra-orthodox mystical Jews which originated in Eastern Europe in the 18th century and have since settled in large numbers in Brooklyn, NY, but they are in other places as well. Their way of life and style of dress has changed little since the 19th century. They are often portrayed in movies as something "different," and are easily seen when visiting New York City as many work in the diamond market, though they work in many fields as well.
Photo: Hasidic Jews in Jerusalem.(Parrinder 416)