Judaism as Religion With Strong Covenant Concepts

It is by considering the eternality of sacred texts, principle beliefs, ethical teachings and ritualistic practice that the dynamic, living, nature of Judaism is established even amidst non-religious societies. Principle beliefs of God’s oneness, the covenant, and Mosaic Law are enshrined within the Tanakh, a sacred text that is static and unchanging throughout the generations and thus as imperative for modern- day Jews and it was for those millennia ago. As a result, observance of the mitzvot leads to adherence and interpretation of ethical teachings such as commentary in the Talmud, as well as the continuation of ceremonies including marriage, ensuring that the foundational covenant between Abraham, God and subsequent generations reverberates in the present day.

The covenantal promises of God reinforce that Judaism is a living tradition as Jeremiah 40 states: “And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good.” The covenant is a perpetual connection between modern Jewish people and their ancestors whom of which escaped Egypt due to having faith in God’s oneness. This is opposed to the Pharaoh's idolatry and oppression of the chosen people (Israelites) leading to the Lord’s wrath on the unbelievers. They must thus listen to God’s Will, which is infallible and un-leading, ultimately justifying the living nature of Judaism. Principle beliefs of Judaism are the belief in one god, the belief in divinely revealed moral law and belief in the covenant. These principles beliefs are made accessible to Jews through the use of modern-day technology such as “My Jewish Learning” allowing adherents to have easily accessible information about their faith, sacred texts, religious teachings, rituals in particular.

Jewish faith revolves around the continuation of the Abrahamic covenant for all generations and adherence to the Law received by Moses on Mt. Sinai as evidenced by the sacred texts of the Tanakh and Talmud. The Tanakh is the Hebrew scriptures made up of three smaller texts including the Torah (law) split into Nevi’im (prophets) and Ketuvim (writings). Through the works of Moses Maimonides such as the Mishneh Torah for instance, the Law is simplified to ensure that secular societal influences did not diminish the importance of Mosaic Law in a modern world. As a result, progressive and conservative adherents can still be taught the foundations of the Torah through other means, such as the Mishneh Torah or the rabbinic commentary enshrined in the Talmud to reinforce a connection to their Jewish heritage although in a way that will be relevant and practical to modern-day life. On the other hand, Orthodox Jews tend to adhere to tradition more than the demands of modern-day society, their ways of practice are never changing. Judith Baskin is an individual that has made the rabbis of the Talmud designate to specific female roles and activities. Her ideology is demonstrated in Genesis 2 where: “It is not good for man to be alone; I will make a fitting helper for him.”, which portrays women as being equivalent with a man in terms of humanity  albeit with different responsibilities according to God’s Will. This shows how God portrayed women as helpers to a man. Judith Baskin exemplifies the idea of women equal rights in which the influence of Jewish feminism is now evident during marriage where only a group of 10 men (minyan) were allowed to witness a marriage, the unity of a man and woman into “one flesh”. Nowadays, conservative and progressive adherents encourage women to participate in the ceremony through diversification. This is reinforced by God’s creation of mankind, in his “image and likeness”, thus, an element of God’s being and capacity to do good can be found in humans. Evidently, sacred texts allow adherents to better understand the nature of the covenant, as taught through matrilineal (oral) tradition and sacred texts, providing a malleable way in which believers are able to adapt to an ever-changing modern world.

Jewish ethical teachings, whether Tanakhic or Talmudic, lead to multivariate perspectives on bioethical issues such as abortion and euthanasia, made visible through the distinctions between Jewish variants such as Orthodox, Reform, and Progressive, demonstrating the dynamic nature of Judaism as a living tradition. This refers to how Orthodox believe the Torah to contain the untampered Words of God, but progressive generally believe it to merely be inspired by God. The Mosaic Law such as the Decalogue (10 commandments) is critical in the lives of its adherents being the predominant source of ethical instruction that guides Jewish people irrespective of societal norms and is hence unmalleable through time. An example of this is “Thou shalt not kill” (Ex. 20:130. A contemporary example of bioethics is through abortion. Lev 17: 11 “life is in the blood” expresses how the fetus should be treated as a life that shouldn’t be “kill[ed]” due to it developing blood prior to the pregnancy tests being able to detect their existence. The principles of Jewish bioethics reinstate how human life has intrinsic and infinite value so the preservation of life is most important. Illness and death are a natural part of life and all life belongs to God hence we have no right to affect its natural order. This is because the connection between the Lord and His chosen people through the covenant is strengthened by bioethical principles of human life being equal and that one’s actions towards others are supposed to imitate God’s glory.

The covenantal promises for descendants is reaffirmed through marriage as a man and women follow God’s commandment in Genesis 1:28 to “be fruitful, and multiply.” The procreation of children is an expression remembering the covenantal relationship that exists between God and the People of Israel. As God commanded Adam and Eve to fulfill this mitzvah (commandment) within a relationship he sanctified, the Orthodox position is that marriage should take place regardless of social paradigm. Following the unveiling of the bride, the couple stands together under a chuppah as it is highly symbolic of the importance of a material home, the covering and protection God offers as well as the Garden of Eden supported by 4 poles signifying the 4 corners in the world. The chuppah is the manifestation of God’s intervention in the lives of adherents, whether during a marriage or exodus from Egypt. A wedding ceremony is usually held outside (Orthodox tradition), under the stars, as a sign of the blessing given by God to the patriarch braham, that his children shall be “as numerous as the stars of heavens” Genesis 15. The ceremony is particularly significant as it reminds contemporary Jewish adherents about the History of Salvation of Israel, the covenant between Abraham and God and also pivotal Tanakhic events such as the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem made ever relevant as the groom breaks a glass over his foot.

In conclusion, Judaism is one of the most dynamic living religions in the world embodying its core beliefs whilst still adapting facets to a modern context. This, in turn, allows for adherents to practice their given religion and live out covenantal teachings within their societal bounds. Observances including marriage, bioethical interpretations of abortion and “My Jewish Learning” are contemporary examples of how believers obey and reinforce the covenant even amidst every changing times.

07 July 2022
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