A. Well, like all things in Judaism, I can’t answer that in one sentence. With Hashem’s help, I will tell you some of the most basic beliefs of Judaism, which you can use as a starting point. (And please see my FAQ pages as well).
Judaism believes that the Creator is the Only Creator, and the Only Controller. The Creator is the true One and Only Power, the true Source.
There is only One G-d. G-d is the Creator. We often use the Name «Hashem,» when referring to the Creator.
The Creator is only One. The Creator is not one of two, nor one of three. The Creator is not one of a species, not one of a type, nor one of a family or group. There are no other true gods. There are other things that have power, but none of them are G-d, and none of them are like G-d. (Sometimes they are called by the term «gods,» because in Hebrew that word means «something that has powers,» or «something that has might.» Therefore, even a powerful warrior could be called by the Hebrew word for god.)
There are no other beings like the Creator.
The Creator has no parts, limbs, sections, or anything like that. The Creator is unique. There is nothing in all of Creation or anywhere else (if there is an anywhere else) that can be compared to the Creator. The Torah uses anthropomorphic terms only so that we can understand what we are being taught, but not to literally describe the Creator. The Torah uses masculine terms to describe the Creator because there is no neuter gender in Hebrew.
The Creator cannot die. The Creator cannot suffer, and the Creator cannot bleed. The Creator is not a man, and no human can be G-d. The Creator cannot be hanged on a cross to die, or flogged like a criminal.
The Torah also teaches that the Creator does not change (Malachi 3:6).
The Creator does not have a mediator, nor does the Creator need a mediator. Furthermore, humanity does not need a mediator to have a relationship with the Creator.
Therefore, Jews pray only to the Creator. It is not proper to pray to anyone or anything else, nor is it permissible to pray through anyone else. And it will always be forbidden. It would be forbidden even if that thing or person had the ability to grant what you ask for.
The Creator is merciful. The Creator receives and cherishes to every prayer said to Him.
Judaism believes that Moses was the greatest of all prophets. Prophets are humans who have raised themselves to a high level. Prophecy comes to a righteous person who has greatly developed his character in the service of Hashem. Some very few people, like the Prophet Samuel, were able to develop themselves at a very young age.
The extent to which a prophet can receive prophecy depends upon how much he or she has succeeded in negating the self and making the Creator primary in his or her thoughts. Therefore, Moses, whom the Torah says was the humblest of all people, was the greatest prophet.
There is no prophecy today. There has been none since the passing of Malachi, around 300 B.C.E., and there will be none until the Messiah comes. There has been Divine Inspiration on lower levels, but only to people who were great enough to have been prophets in an earlier age.
We do not accept or believe those people whom other religions call their prophets. We do not accept or believe the writings of other religions. At times, we even dispute their version of history, particularly the christian version of history.
Judaism accepts and studies the teachings of all the true prophets, which includes all of those in the Jewish Bible. We use the term «Jewish Bible.» We do not use the term «Old
Testament,» because we find that term insulting, and also because we do not accept the so-called «new testament.»
The only way to know what the Creator wants us to do is to study the Torah. It is otherwise impossible to know what the Creator wants us to do.
The Torah includes two sections; the Written Torah and the Oral Torah. No human being can understand the Written Torah without the guidance of the Oral Torah. The Creator created both 2,000 years before creating the universe. Both were taught to Moses, and both were given to us at the same time, at Mount Sinai, though some portions were taught to us earlier.
The Written Torah is the Jewish Bible. The skeleton basics of the Oral Torah were written down in the Mishnah and Talmud and Rabbinical Writings, to prevent them from being forgotten.
The Torah is eternal, the Torah is forever. The Laws of the Torah are binding upon us
forever. The holiness of the Torah and the effect it has on us and on the universe are
The Torah we Jews have today is precisely the same Torah that we received at Mount Sinai 3,311 years ago (from the year 1999). It is the only Torah we will ever have. It will not be exchanged, nor will there be any other new one from Hashem. Everything in all the Books of the Prophets are really just explanations and expansions of what was already taught in the Five Books of Moses. The Books of the Prophets added no Commandments, nor did they have the authority to remove any.
The Torah contains 613 Commandments. Each of the Commandments has numerous details. Each of those details were taught to us, and are part of the Torah. None may be changed, though Rabbis are required, with certain limits, to enact additional Laws to protect the Laws of the Torah from being violated, or to protect people from being harmed.
The Torah teaches us that the Torah is not difficult to fulfill (Deuteronomy 30:11-14), if one only has faith and devotion. The Torah says that the Commandments are life, blessing, and good (Deut. 30:15, Psalms 19 & 119, et. al.).
Every human being has divine and spiritual essences within him and surrounding him, and that is our connection to the spiritual worlds. By studying Torah and also by fulfilling the Commandments, we become attached to the spiritual universe.
The Creator has promised us that we will be rescued from our exile. When we are finally
rescued, we will be returned to Israel, and a King will be restored to the throne of David. He will be the King Messiah.
The Messiah will bring peace to the world. The Messiah will bring back all Jews to the
proper understanding of how to serve Hashem and how to fulfill ourselves spiritually. The Messiah will rebuild the Holy Temple (or else it will be rebuilt just before he comes). The Messiah will bring back all Jews to the Land of Israel, with joy and hope. And he will do all this on the first try.
The Messiah has not yet come.
The Torah has *NO* prophecies that can be correctly considered as proving that jesus was the Messiah. Quite the contrary. A proper and careful study of all the verses in question shows that jesus could *NOT* have been the Messiah. (If you wish to research this matter, click here for a page that lists some websites that deal with this subject. Do not email me to try and convince me, because you will simply be wasting my time and yours.)
The time of the arrival of the Messiah is not known. About this there is a saying, «Those who know, don’t say; those who say, don’t know.»
There will be a Resurrection of the Dead at some time in the future. Its time is not known.
The Creator created the world in order to give us eternal pleasure. However, the Creator’s intention is not to give it to us for free, but as a reward for our work, so that we can enjoy it and feel that we deserve it. We call this place of reward the World to Come. At some time in the future this world will come to an end, and the World to Come will begin.
Judaism believes that if you have sinned, all you need to do is repent and mend your ways. «Return to Hashem,» say Moses and all the Prophets,»and Hashem will receive you because Hashem is very merciful.» (See Deuteronomy 4:30; Jeremiah Chapter 3; Ezekiel Chapters 14, 18, 33; Joel Chapter 2; Zachariah Chapter 1, Malachi Chapter 3, to mention a few). And «Let the evil forsake his way, and the sinner his plans, and return to Hashem, Who will have mercy on him; to our G-d, for He is very forgiving.» (Isaiah 55:7)
Blood is not necessary for atonement. This is taught in many places, including Hosea Chapter 14, where it says, «Israel, return to Hashem your G-d, for you have fallen because of your sins. Take with you words, and return to Hashem; say to Him, ‘Take away all sin, and receive us graciously, and will we give calves with our lips.’» In other words, instead of sacrifices, when we cannot bring sacrifices we will pray, and we will bring Hashem words. Hashem will then receive us and forgive us for our sins.
The Talmud teaches that in some ways a repentant person is more beloved than a perfectly righteous person, unless the person sinned with the intention of repenting later.
It is not necessary to be an ascetic in order to be holy. Hashem created the world for us to use, though we should not be gluttons. To use permitted things in moderation is in fact a greater test of spirituality, and a means of growth, just as it is to use some things and to refrain from using others.
The Torah demands from Jews both faith in Hashem and obedience to the Commandments of the Torah. The Laws of the Torah are forever. (Deut. 12:28; Deut. 29:28, and many other places).
From Gentiles, Hashem demands only adherence to the Seven Laws of the Children of Noah. The generation of Israelites that left Egypt was the greatest generation of people who have ever lived. They were the most righteous, and they had the more faith and trust in Hashem than any other generation as a whole. The Torah says about them, «And they believed in Hashem and in Moses His servant» (Exodus 14:31). And it says, «And those of you who have remained firmly attached to Hashem are all still alive today» (Deut. 4:4). So that generation had a tremendous amount of faith. They had so much faith, that in all the forty years they were in the Sinai Desert they sinned only ten times! (Numbers 14:22) How much does the average person today sin in one day?
The Jews’ relationship with the Creator is unique. No other nation has ever had that, or ever will. Therefore, the Torah says, «Ask now, in earlier days that have passed, from the day that G-d created humanity on earth, and from one end of the planet to the other, has such a great thing ever happened? Has anyone ever even heard of such a thing happening? Has an entire nation ever heard the voice of G-d speaking from the fire, as you heard, and lived? Or has any power ever tried to take for itself a nation from the midst of another nation, with such tremendous miracles, signs, wonders, war, a strong hand and an outstretched arm, with awe-inspiring acts, like Hashem your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes? You have been shown, so that you have clear knowledge, that Hashem is the Power, there is none other besides Him» (Deuteronomy 4:32-36).
When Hashem brought us to Mount Sinai, He showed us — the entire nation all at once — indisputable evidence that He exists and that He controls the universe. This has never happened to any other nation. No other religion makes the claim that G-d did such miracles before an entire nation.
Hashem chose the Jewish People in the merit of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, and because of the promise Hashem made to them that the descendants of Jacob (who was also called Israel) would remain forever the Chosen People (see Deut. 4:37). Since the Jews were chosen in the merit of our ancestors, not for own merits, nothing that we do can make us lose that position. Hashem will never reject the Jews. This is stated many times in the Torah. Here is one example:
«This is what Hashem says: ‘Only if the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth below be searched out will I reject all the descendants of Israel because of all they have done,’ declares Hashem» (Jeremiah 31:37).
Judaism has no concept of «being brought to salvation.» No one is in need of «saving.» When Adam and Eve sinned, they brought the world down to a more physical level. Now the work for spirituality is more difficult, but the rewards are greater. We are not born «in sin.» We are all born with a clean slate. We are all born to improve ourselves through our work for spirituality.
What is the work for spirituality? All we need do is study the Torah and fulfill the
Commandments we are able to fulfill, or to honestly and sincerely attempt to fulfill the
Commandments, as Hashem has instructed us. This includes improving our character traits, as explained in the previous article, Being Jewish.
One of the most important aspects of Service to Hashem and self-development for a Jew is the study of Torah. As it says, «This Book of the Torah must never be absent from your speech, and you shall study it day and night, so that you can be sure to fulfill all that is written in the Torah. Then everything you do will be successful, and you will be wise» (Joshua 1:8). Therefore, we study the Torah constantly. This is why the Jews are known to be a studious, intelligent, learned people. The Torah therefore says, «You shall be careful and do the Commandments, because that is your wisdom and knowledge as the Gentiles see it; when they hear about all these Laws they will say, «this great nation is surely a wise and sage nation» (Deut. 4:6).
Hashem knows everything that goes on the universe. Hashem rewards those who do good, and punishes those who do evil, but that is not the reason to do good. The more good we do, the greater our relationship with Hashem, and the holier we become.
Judaism is a beautiful and complex life. It cannot be summed up easily. It must be observed, lived, and enjoyed. It is the religion of joy. It is the religion of life.
To fully understand Judaism, it must be experienced firsthand. If you desire to understand Judaism, accept an offer, or get yourself invited to the home of an Orthodox Jew (or better yet, an Orthodox Rabbi) for a Sabbath or at least for a Sabbath meal. Most Orthodox Jews love to have guests for the Sabbath Meals. Go here to find websites that can help you find a place near where you live or almost anywhere you can stay or visit for Shabbat.
And don’t forget to read my article: Can a Person Fulfill all the Torah?