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Mod S2S Mentor

Judaism Questions


So, over the time the two of us have been on NMG, we've gotten a few questions about Judaism. We decided to start a Message Board to try and answer your questions. We are not Rabbis, and don't claim to have any kind of a degree in Jewish law; however, we're both observantly Jewish and would be happy to answer your questions to the best of our abilities.

Ask away! :)

Rina and Sarah

NOTE: The wonderful Shira has joined the question-answering team! Proceed with questions. :)

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  • How do you view God?

    • Mod S2S Mentor
      As Shira and Maya both said, there is no single view on G-d (God) that is shared by all Jews. The same goes for most religions, I'd imagine, in that every member is likely to have their own personal, slightly different variations, but if anything, even more so in Judaism, I think—because the thing about Judaism is that, while it i definitely a religion and there are certain generally accepted theological concepts (although, again, each individual is different)—there's also a lot more to it than that, and one's "Jewishness" is not defined by faith (a) there are Jews who are completely atheist yet are still 100% Jews and b) there are people whose beliefs do entirely fit Jewish theology, yet who are not Jewish). At risk of getting off-topic, the basic idea, as I understand it, is that if you're Jewish, then you're Jewish. Period.

      That said, there are certain beliefs about G-d (often called Hashem in Judaism) that are traditionally central, so I'll try to lay out what I see as the main precepts, at least from an Orthodox perspective. (Although, again, there are many Jews who do not share these beliefs, but are still just as Jewish.)
      G-d is One. This is, arguably, the single most fundamental concept of Jewish theology from a traditional perspective. In fact, observant Jews affirm it at least twice a day, in morning and evening prayers, in the "Shema" prayer. (Which translates to "Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our G-d, the Lord is one.") Hashem is generally accepted (at least, in traditional Judaism; I'm not that familiar with certain more modern/less religious branches, so I don't feel comfortable speaking on their behalf) to be almighty and eternal. G-d is believed to be incomparable to anything else, has no human or otherwise physical form, and cannot fully be comprehended on a human level, simply because He is so beyond anything in our frame of reference. As a saying I read somewhere or other goes, "G-d can be experienced, but not understood."
      But yes, from an Orthodox point of view, I would say that omnipotence, omnipresence, and, most of all, "oneness" are the key things that come to mind about Hashem.
      When it comes to specific traits that are associated with G-d, I was going to write more about that, but these are pretty much summed up in the "Thirteen Divine Attributes of Mercy," which are recited on most holidays and translates in English to roughly "G-d, merciful, gracious, slow to anger, abundant in kindness and truth, giving kindness to thousands, forgiving *insert three different categories of sins, which I'm not sure how best to translate in English* and pardoning".

      So that's one view, but again, there are countless different beliefs among Jews on this matter; it really depends on the individual.

      If you're asking about my personal beliefs, well... I think I'm largely aligned with the general traditional idea I lay out above. Although I've gone through some phases of more or less questioning, I'm pretty sure I do believe in a G-d. That said, I tend to think of myself as somewhat of an "agnostic theist" in that I do believe in G-d, but I also believe strongly that the existence of G-d is not a matter of proof in a scientific sense, and that there is no way to know for certain.

      Sorry for the ridiculous length of this post! As you can see, myself, Shira, and Maya—all three of whom, I believe, strongly identify as Jewish—each have different views. :-)
    • I hope it’s okay that I answer this...
      Every Jew views God differently. I don’t believe in God but I still follow Jewish traditions. I know Jews who believe in God, and some who don’t. Traditionally, Jews call God Adonai, and He doesn’t technically have a Messiah, like Jesus (Jews don’t believe that Jesus was the Messiah) is in some religions. Hope this clears it up!
      • Mod S2S Mentor
        (Of course, it's totally fine for you to answer! :D)

        Yep. (Disclaimer: Detail alert. I'm about to try and elaborate on a couple of the great points Maya brings up, so proceed at your own risk. xD)

        There are actually several different traditional names for G-d that are used in various contexts. The most common spelling in the Torah (Jewish Bible) is YHWH (there are no vowels in the Torah, so it's difficult to know exactly how it would have been pronounced), but it's a widely accepted idea in Rabbinical Judaism that, even if we were sure of the pronunciation, pronouncing it aloud is prohibited. The word we use in place of this is Adonai (literally meaning "my Lord"), although even this one is generally avoided in non-liturgical contexts (due to concerns about "taking G-d's name in vain," which is prohibited), so in common conversation among religious Jews a likely alternative used is "Hashem" (literally, "the name"). Other names that are sometimes used in Judaism include "Elohaynu" (literally "our G-d"; this is another one typically reserved for religious contexts), "HaKadosh Baruch Hu" (literally "The Holy One, Blessed Be He"), and "the Almighty," and I'm sure I'm neglecting to mention something.

        So, that's the gist of the name situation—now, to touch on the matter of a Messiah. As Maya said, Jews don't believe that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God, or anything else along those lines. However, there is actually a belief which is held as a very fundamental concept by many Jews (though of course not all), especially those who are more religious, that Moshiach (the Messiah) will come someday (soon, hopefully), free the Jewish people from exile (galut/galus, which we consider ourselves to be in, scattered across the world as we are), and, in essence, bring world peace. However, in contrast with the Christian understanding of Jesus, the Messiah is *not* supposed to be an embodiment of G-d, or the "son" of G-d—just a man, albeit a king and a great/wise/prophetic man chosen by G-d to lead this redemption. (As mentioned in my response directly to Anwen, traditional Judaism has it that G-d has no physical incarnation, so this concept is entirely at odds with the Christian idea of Jesus.) According to tradition, the prophet Eliyahu (Elijah) will announce the coming of the Moshiach on Pesach (Passover) night, which is why there's a custom of opening the door at the seder in the hopes that this is the year that he will finally come.

        (In fact, fun fact: Historically, that's actually how Christianity came to be—some Jews believed that Jesus was the Messiah, others didn't, and the group that split off from mainstream Judaism and followed Jesus gradually developed into a completely different religion. So, as I understand it, the Christian belief is that the Messiah has already come, in the form of Jesus [but will come again ?], while we Jews are still waiting.)

        Too much elaboration? I thought so. Sorry—if by some unlikely chance you actually read all the way through, don't say I didn't warn you. XD
      • ^^^^^^^^
    • If you're saying as the Jewish people, how do we view G-d, I can't answer that. All Jews have different ways of observing, eating, and praying. Everyone has their own way of being Jewish. If you're asking how I personally view G-d, I don't really want to go into detail. I'll leave it at the fact that I am a huge agnostic, leaning towards there isn't one, but sometimes I feel very strongly there *is* one.
  • I'm going to revive this, because I miss answering questions xD
    • Mod S2S Mentor
      Thanks! (Same, honestly. xD) I was actually thinking of reviving it myself; glad you beat me to it. :)
This reply was deleted.

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