Judaism

Lifeways

About Judaism. Judaism is an ancient way of life in which people hope for and cooperatively work toward the renewal and healing of the entire planet. At the foundation of Judaism is the individual’s humble, loving, and intimate relationship with God, in which the individual is molded by God (gently whenever possible) to more effectively serve God and bring healing to their own life, their family, their community, and the planet. The manifestation of Judaism is seen as individuals and families come together as an interdependent and uplifting community.

Scientific Religion. Judaism’s effectiveness at achieving this goal is partially due to the almost ‘scientific’ approach to the study of spirituality and the meta-sensory human experience and condition. This study is grounded in the Torah and supportive books of study that branch out from and elaborate upon the Torah – an ever unfolding revelation of increasing understanding and enlightenment. Through faith in and reliance upon God, Judaism combines spiritual study and practice with cutting edge science and technology to achieve a better life for the individual and all humanity.

Healing the Planet. The teachings and guidance of today’s Rabbis reinforce and further elaborate on premises set forth in the original Torah. So, with each new generation, Judaism grows in its effectiveness and relative impact upon humanity. For this reason, Judaism is like a tree that grows each year to produce more fruit than the year before. The fruit and leaves of Judaism bring nourishment and healing to the individual and to the world. This scripture from Ezekiel provides a poetic description of Judaism: “Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing.” (Ezekiel 47:12)

Living the Torah. Regarding the Torah, it is related from Chabad Lubavitch Chassidic tradition that the Rebbe Menachem M. Schneerson offered the following comments: “Where is the Torah? Does it reside in the heavens with the angels? Or in a parchment scroll in the ark of the synagogue? Or with the rabbis and scholars? It lives in the heart of each person who learns it, in the voice of the one who discusses it and in the life of the one who lives it.”

Branches of Judaism. There are three primary branches to the tree of Judaism. Each of these branches serves a unique and important purpose. The primary distinction between the various branches of Judaism and their sub-branches is with regard to the interpretation of and application of the scriptures. In addition to the three primary branches, there are other expressions of Judaism that have grown and flourished.

  • Orthodox Judaism is the branch of Judaism that studies and applies a comprehensive and cumulative collection of Jewish teachings, traditions, and practices to modern life. Every attempt is made to hold on to original teachings and traditions as well as any additional revelations which complement and support the previous traditions and precepts. Emphasis is placed on literal interpretation and complete acceptance of Torah. Orthodox Judaism is represented by the Orthodox Union. Chabad Chassidus Lubavitch is an important group within the Orthodox Union. Chabad Iowa City is an example of the local outreach of Chabad.
  • Conservative Judaism is the branch of Judaism that seeks to have further reach, relevance, and accessibility through addressing and adapting to social changes that have occurred since the Torah was received. Conservative Judaism is represented by The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.
  • Reform Judaism is the branch of Judaism that interprets and applies the Torah through a hermeneutical model which places significant weight on the original social context of scripture as well as the original implied intent of scripture rather than a literal interpretation and application of scripture. There are two primary online sources for more information about Reform Judaism: The Reform Judaism website and the Union of American Hebrew Congregations website.
  • Jewish Renewal is an expression of Judaism that works to bring together various elements of the above branches. An organization called Aleph is the Alliance for Jewish Renewal.
  • Global Judaism is an expression of Judaism that transcends ethnic, geographical, and political boundaries to offer the beauty and life changing power of Judaism to all people on earth. In this way, it differs from other expressions of Judaism which are primarily directed toward those who come from a Jewish background In the words of Rabbi Michael Learner, Global Judaism is: “A way to re-understand Judaism for the 21st century when there is a planetary imperative to overcome tribalism & chauvinism, to stop fighting the battles of the past, and to build a world based on love, generosity, open-heartedness, ecological sensitivity, and a recognition of the interconnectedness and sanctity of all human beings. This path toward a new Global Judaism is open to non-Jews as well as Jews, to those with no background in Judaism and those who have studied it all their lives.” Rabbi Learner heads up Tikkun Magazine and its related outreach efforts which are an expression of Global Judaism.

Judaism Like Medicine. The more elaborate, esoteric, mystical, and seemingly more demanding branch of Judaism represented by Hasidic Judaism is sometimes misunderstood. Though it may be dismissed as not practical for some people to observe, it is highly valuable to society in the same way that not many people choose to be doctors, yet we all benefit from there being doctors in society. Even a cursory review of Chabad history from the Baal Shem Tov to present illustrates the significant contribution to society that Hasidic Judaism has made.

Articles and Documents. Below are some related documents available on our website.

Song of the Soul. The following two quotes provide a possible insight into the soul of Judaism.

  • “In Africa, there is a tribe in which expectant mothers create a song-of-the-soul for their unborn children. Villagers sing this song to the baby at birth and at every important moment of his life – from his first step to his wedding day. The song is also sung when that person steps out of the integrity of his true self. Rather than be punished, the individual is brought back into harmony through the music of his soul. You, too, have a soul song that belongs only to you. Listen for it. Re-discover the harmony of your own life.” – Mary Manin Morrissey (20030121tu)
  • “As the people of Israel were ‘birthed’ out of Egypt through the watery ‘birth canal’ of the Red Sea, they began singing a song that is sung for Israel even to this day (Exodus 15). Perhaps this is their song-of-the-soul that commemorates and remembers Israel’s birth.” – Resources for Life (20030121tu)

20091102mo-old-jews-telling-jokesJewish Life Resources. Below are some resources for Judaism and Jewish Life. For some levity, you can click the banner to the right for videos of Old Jews Telling Jokes.

Israeli Links

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