Judaism is a truly ancient religion that has been practised for more than 4000 years. It is based on the belief in the one true and universal God.
Jews believe in one universal God who has no physical form and is omnipotent and omniscient, and who revealed the unchanging Torah (Divine Law) to Moses. In addition, the Jewish Bible (Tanach) contains the books of Prophets and other Holy Writings including the books of Psalms and Proverbs. Traditional Judaism believes that God will reward the righteous and punish the wicked at the end of time; that there will be a resurrection of all the dead; and that the Messiah is still to come. Judaism is not just a set of beliefs but a way of life. There are 613 commandments, of which the Ten Commandments are the best known, and lay down how to live by Jewish values, which are summarised by the first-century Rabbi Hillel as "Do not do to others what is hateful to you - that is the whole law, the rest is commentary".
Places of Worship
Jewish people worship in a synagogue, which is often a centre for the many aspects of communal life. On the wall facing Jerusalem is an 'ark', or closed, usually curtained, cupboard where the Torah scrolls are kept. The Bimah is a raised platform, either in front of the ark or in the centre of the synagogue, from which prayers are also led, and from which, during some services, the Torah scrolls are read. These are hand-written on parchment and are treated with great reverence. In orthodox and most other synagogues, men are required to cover their heads. In orthodox synagogues men and women sit separately and married women are also expected to cover their hair.
Shabbat (the Jewish Sabbath) begins before nightfall on Friday and lasts until it is completely dark on Saturday night. It is observed as a day of rest when observant Jews will not write, travel, work or cook. There are also a number of festivals throughout the calendar when similar laws apply. The Jewish New Year, Rosh HaShanah, normally occurs in September, and is marked by two days of reflection and prayer. Ten days later comes Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. This is the most solemn day of the Jewish calendar and is spent in prayer and a 25 hour fast. The following week is Sukkot (Tabernacles), when observant Jews will eat in huts with temporary roofs, followed by Simchat Torah (celebration of Torah).
In the spring there is Pesach, or Passover which commemorates the delivery from slavery in Egypt. Most Jews mark the first night of Pesach with a festive meal, the Seder, and during the week eat
matzah (unleavened bread) and avoid all fermented grain products. Seven weeks later is Shavuot, which commemorates the giving of the Torah. Chanukah, in December, and Purim, in March, celebrate later
deliverances from extermination. There are also a number of fast days throughout the year.
Food and Diet
Food that complies with Jewish dietary law is known as 'Kosher'. Only some animals, birds, and fish are kosher. Meat and dairy products should not be taken at the same meal and food must also be prepared correctly, so observant Jews will only eat food that is certified as being made under supervision. As different Jewish people have different levels of observance of the dietary laws, when catering is entirely vegetarian, observant Jews will still require the food to be kosher. Many products carry a kosher logo, and there are a list of approved products at the website www.klbdkosher.org
Click here for useful links to the Jewish community in Scotland.
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