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Religious Comparison

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Religious Comparison

Judaism and Islam

Introduction of the religion

Judaism is a very old monotheistic religion. The year One of the Jewish calendar corresponds to year 3760 BCE. According to history that is the year when Adam and Eve were created (American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise, 2008). Judaism is based on thirteen principals of faith outlined by Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon (Rich, 2001):

1. God Exists

2. God is one and unique

3. God is incorporeal

4. God is eternal

5. Prayer is to be directed to God alone and to no other

6. The words of the prophets are true

7. Moses' prophecies are true, and Moses was the greatest of the prophets

8. The Written Torah (first 5 books of the Bible) and Oral Torah (teachings now contained in the Talmud and other writings) were given to Moses

9. There will be no other Torah

10. God knows the thoughts and deeds of men

11. God will reward the good and punish the wicked

12. The Messiah will come

13. The dead will be resurrected

Judaism is a history of relationships (Rich, 2001), relationships between God and its worshipers and followers, and relationships between people. And the story of Judaism starts with Abraham, who is considered to be a father of Judaism. According to history, Judaism started when Abraham went into a covenant with God, or Creator, that he was worshiping. The God offered to give him a great nation and bless him; in return Abraham was supposed to leave his idol worshiping family (Rich, 2001). Later, after Jewish people spent time as slaves in Egypt, God led them out under the leadership of Moses to Mount Sinai. There, as history tells us, God had appeared to Moses and presented him with Torah, which Moses wrote down and people accepted, thus themselves coming into a covenant with God (Rich, 2001). Torah is the first five Books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, sometimes called the Pentateuch. Torah is considered to be the most important document in Judaism. In Christian Bible it is known as an Old Testament. The five books of Torah contain the religious Law by which all Jewish people have to abide. This religious Law is a collection of 613 commandments and historical descriptions of what happened in the beginning when the Judaism was formed.

Name, location review of the site

To gain additional information about Judaism, I went to Adat Reyim Synagogue, located in Springfield, Virginia. This is a fairly young congregation, dating back only to 1990 and can be most closely connected with Reform Judaism, which is the most popular denomination of Judaism in North America (Shapiro, 2006). The Synagogue is a very contemporary building that from outside looks more like a small office building rather then anything religious in nature. Built in 1990 for a congregation that for the previous 10 years got together at any place they could find, including member’s homes, local Messiah United Methodist Church and Burke Presbyterian Church. Right after, the congregation acquired Torah rescued from the Holocaust. It has been fully restored and is used for special occasions as well as regular worship Services. In 2002, Synagogue building was extended with an Educational wing that contains Sunday school and daily preschool for any child the county, no matter what language you speak or what religion your family practices.

At the Synagogue I had an interview with Rabbi Bruce Aft. I have asked him some of the more interesting questions about Judaism and his views on few issues. The interview was not very long, but Rabbi did pass on a lot of interesting information.

Interview summary

Rabbi Bruce Aft has been with the Synagogue since 1991. He is a graduate of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Philadelphia and currently the Rabbinic Advisor of the George Mason University Community Hillel Board. He is a very nice man, very open and easygoing. When I asked him how has religion shaped his life, he was not, in the slightest, offended by the personal nature of the question. He openly spoke about being raised in a non-observant home, though a home where religious values were still very important. He mentioned that despite growing up in a non-observant home, his views on faith and its’ needs for people were very different. He said, “Just yesterday morning I got called at 6 in the morning to go to local hospital, to be with the family whose relative was dying, and had died on my way over there. Being with the family and be able to recite a couple of psalms and say the Shema (the beginning of the most important Jewish prayer) was very meaningful to that family, reciting the 23 psalms, reaffirming their faith. I think it’s key moments in our life when religion becomes important to us.” (Aft, 2008). Rabbi also spoke about the value of a role model and how he thinks, “religious leader should be a role model of ethicality, honesty and integrity.” (Aft, 2008)

Rabbi also talks about great relationships that the local community and the Synagogue has with other religions. I have already mentioned how congregation used local United Methodist and Presbyterian churches for worship, while Synagogue was being build. Rabbi also spoke about close relationship with local Muslim and Christian groups, with Catholics and Presbyterians. He spoke of the Judaism’s idea of the “universal value of repairing the world or Tikun Olam (Hebrew)” (Aft, 2008). He thinks that roughly about every second Jewish person is in the interfaith marriage and that there are a lot of interfaith initiatives that Jewish communities have. He spoke of Abraham Joshua Heschel, a famous Rabbi, who was also famed as an activist for civil rights in the USA and participated in the civil rights marches with Martin Luther King, Jr., and who was very supportive of Jewish people at the forefront of trying to save victims of genocide in Sudan.

Rabbi’s views on Judaism and other religions showed a person that is completely against any fundamentalism and radical behavior. He said, “Right now we live in pretty precarious world in term of religious groups. Fundamentalism of any

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