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Judaism is regarded as religion, culture, ethics and law of the Jewish people and Judaism is seen to have been major channel to the finding of other religions like Christianity and Islam. Judaism which constitute of the world major religions is seen to be a diverse tapestry and it is composed of numerous different strands emerging from different cultural, theological and geographic points of origin. History indicates that Judaism as a religion and its followers commonly known as the Jews, emerged from a single location in the ancient Near East but at the same time diasporas adventurism and history have enabled the community to plant their presence in many places and times in other parts of the world (Kunin, 2000, p.3). Judaism seen as the fourth largest religion of the world has most of its adherents close to 90 per cent residing in Israel and only 1.5 per cent of Jews are believed to be living outside Israel. Jews worship in Synagogues which are regarded as holy places for the Jews and sometimes they are known as temples. For a long time the synagogues have served as assembly for community prayer, study and even as meeting places for the Jews. With time styles of most synagogues have varied in design and architecture but what remain common to all of them is that; the ark where the Torah scrolls are preserved must face the wall facing Jerusalem and the Ner Tamid which is an everlasting flame has and must be lit in front of the ark (Education Foundation, n.d). Looking at design of most synagogues it is evident that they manifest the following characteristics: they are generally wide buildings; entrances are placed in the eastern wall; there is a platform with an alcove for the Torah Ark always on the northern wall facing Jerusalem; a mosaic floor; hewn-stone construction; a wooden ceiling and tiles; and lastly, no pillars are used to support the roof (Urman and Flesher, 1998, p.138).
Key elements and practices of the religion (Interview summary)
As a result of the interview that involved an individual of Judaism faith, key elements that denote the religion and to extent makes Judaism unique from other religions was discovered. In the first place the central belief among the Jewish people and hence their religion is that there is existence of only one God and that there is a special connection between the Jewish people and God. As a result the Jewish have the sole obligation to obey the Law given by God and in doing so the Jews are hoping that the Messiah will arrive in the world and his role will be to recreate order and stability in the world with Jerusalem and Israel as the center.
Judaism as a ritual and as a tradition of the Jews, there is always three prayers a day whereby the Morning Prayer is known as shaharith, mid day prayer on the other hand is known as minhah, whereas the evening prayer is known as maarib. In addition to this, during the day the Jews will engage themselves in reciting numerous benedictions before engaging or performing certain actions either religious or even secular (Encyclopedia, n.d). In performing daily synagogue services, Jews observe daily services whereby during the services, the rabbi recite a particular piece from the Torah and thereafter prayers are chanted from the Siddur which is a prayer book and this will be done throughout the year and when the year ends the congregation will have finished the whole Torah. The Torah is the main and central document of law to Judaism religion where it is the source of all the primary Biblical commandments.
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On weekly basis the main feast that most Jew takes part in is the Sabbath which in its nature is celebrated from Friday afternoon up to Saturday afternoon and this is done every week. In some instances, during the Sabbath no secular activity is allowed whereas some Jews allow themselves to engage in normal activities that go beyond the main celebration. For the yearly festivals, the Jews participate in numerous feasts in accordance to Judaism. There is the Yom Kippur, which is the Day of Atonement and which is part of the Jewish New Year. There is also the feast of Chanukah which is performed in remembering the rededication of the Temple of Jerusalem and on closer look this feast resembles the Christians Christmas feast and to extent Jews have adopted some Christmas elements which they have infused into the Chanukah feast.
With regards to holy places, Jews regards Jerusalem as the total dominating holy place for the Judaism adherence and the city is important to the religion just like Mecca is to Muslims. This scenario emanated largely after the destruction of the Temple that Jerusalem evolved to become very important to the Jewish identity and the remaining Western Wall (Wailing Wall) is the most regarded holiest place on earth. Other sacred places which Jews regards as important include; Hebron, Palestine where Abraham was laid to rest and also Mount Sinai where Moses established covenant with God.
In synagogues it is always a sign of respect for all male congregations to put on a head covering known as yarmulke (kipa). And for the visitors in synagogues there are some guidelines which they are supposed to adhere to during services: Jews always stand when some parts of the Torah are being recited and as a result visitors are required to stand together with the congregation; bowing also is done at certain points during services but for this visitors are not expected to bow; a prayer known as tallit is done in the service but again the non-Jewish visitors are not expected to do the prayer.
Similarities between Judaism and Buddhism
Judaism as a religion has manifested considerable similarities to the Buddhism religion. For instance the two religions manifests similarities not in their beliefs but more so in their set up. First, Buddhism followers believe in the teachings of one god whom they refer to as Buddha and at the same time Jews believe in the teachings of one God. Secondly, Judaism and Buddhism are seen as religions with strict principles, where the Jews are expected always stay Kosher and strictly follow the Ten Commandments that were given to Moses by God, on the same note Buddhists have the responsibility to be good in life since it is from doing good and respecting others that an individual is assured of being reincarnated. Further, Buddhism is similar to Judaism in that it has the Noble Eightfold Path that is equivalent to Ten Commandments but the Buddhist one has eight commandments instead of ten. Another profound similarity is that the two religions worship in temples and the temples have almost similar design. Moreover, the two religions believe in rebirth. For Buddhists, they believe in reincarnation and for the Jews the concept of rebirth is known as ‘gilgul’ or ‘ibur’, where they believe that there is life after death. Another similarity between the two religions is that they pride themselves in having many rituals and beliefs which they adhere to in an almost strict manner.
Differences between Judaism and Buddhism
At the same time the two religions manifest some differences which it is necessary to highlight. First Judaism and Buddhism are different in that the two religions have different founders and they were also founded at a different time. For instance, most Jews believe that their religion was founded by Abraham around 1,300 B.C.E and to the Buddhists their religion was founded by Siddhartha Gautma around 2,500 years ago. Another difference emanate from the fact that Buddhism is much more spiritual whereas Judaism has curved its niche as traditional religion. For example, most Buddhists believe that desires are responsible causes of suffering and to escape from suffering the Buddhists are assured of living good life and in the process give up attachment to the world and from these elements Buddhism reflects many spiritual things. On the other hand Jewish followers content that it is not necessary to give up worldly attachments as a result they follow traditions and lead regular and normal life. Another difference is that Judaism has the Torah as its holy book and which constitute the teachings of the religion while on the other hand the Buddhism has the Tripitaka that carry the main teachings of the religion. Another difference is that Judaism is regarded as monotheistic religion where they believe and worship one god, on the other hand Buddhism is regarded as polytheistic religion where there is belief and worship in many gods and goddess.
Judaism has a history spanning more than 3000 years and in that period Judaism has become one of the oldest monotheistic religion of the world and also one of the oldest to survive into the present day. Analyzed more keenly it is evident that Judaism texts, traditions and even values have been at forefront in inspiring the so called, later Abrahamic religions that comprise, Christianity, Islam and also the Bahai Faith. Jews believe that they are the appointed ones of God and as a result they have a role to set an example of holiness and ethical behavior to other people in the world. They believe there is only one God and whom they have a covenant with and because God has done a lot of good things to them, the Jews have demonstrated desire to keep the laws of God and in every aspect they try to bring holiness in their lives. Therefore Judaism can be said to be rich in history of religion and central in terms of way of life, belief, behavior and lastly religious aspects in the lives of Jews.
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