THE MENORAH—The seven-stemmed menorah was a primary article of
furniture in both the Tabernacle and the Temple. It first represents God's
light shining in Israel; second, Israel's calling to shine God's light in
this world. The menorah is associated in Scripture with Zechariah 4:6 (a
seven word prophecy in Hebrew), "Not by might, nor by power, but by
This modern term relates to the religious culture of the
Jews, those who are identified historically and presently as the remnant of
biblical Israel. Though Jews, as God’s chosen people, trace their history back
to the first man, Adam, their origin is primarily identified with the visitation
Abraham received from God. At that time Abraham’s seed were set apart as a
special treasure to God. Moses is one of the most revered prophets in this
religion. Through him came the revelation and codification of foundational
religious laws of Judaism.
Judaism has developed into a religious and cultural system of
regulations, traditions and ceremonies that govern the entire life of a Jew. The
goal is the sanctification of all Israelites from the world as a people
consecrated to the Most High God. Halakah is the “way” in which to
live according to Jewish laws, customs and rituals. It primarily involves
abiding in a covenant relationship with God (Heb. berith) by observing
His commandments (Heb. mitzvoth). A right relationship with God is
further maintained by repentance for any shortcomings and faith in the God who
mercifully forgives and restores the remorseful to a righteous standing.
Being a great monotheistic tradition, Judaism emphasizes the
oneness of God. The most revered of all Scripture passages is the Shema-“Hear,
O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.” (Deuteronomy 6:4 JPS)
To a Jew, the one and only true God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob:
transcendent, omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient and personal.
Pivotal events in the history of Judaism include: the calling
of Abraham (separating him from a polytheistic family and culture); the
enslavement of his offspring in Egypt; the supernatural deliverance of the
children of Israel from Egypt; the receiving the Law at Mount Sinai; their
conquest of the Land of Canaan; their enslavement in Babylon, the subsequent
restoration of the Israelite people to their homeland seventy years later, their
dispersion (diaspora) into all the world after the destruction of
Jerusalem in 70 A.D., and their regathering in 1948.
The doctrinal foundation of Judaism is fivefold: (1) The
Torah (the Pentateuch-the most revered, first five books of the Hebrew Bible);
(2) The rest of the Tenach, which is divided into three parts: the Torah, the
Nebiim (the prophetic writings) and the Ketubim (other writings). (3) The
compilation of handed-down oral traditions, which resulted in the Mishnah
(meaning “that which is learned”). (4) Commentaries on the Mishnah, which
produced the Talmud (meaning “that which is studied”). (5) Other exegetical
studies on the Scripture, and works of Halakhah, philosophy and thought.
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