Soc.Culture.Jewish Newsgroups
Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

URL: www.scjfaq.org/faq/02-24.html
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Question 2.24:
What is Judaism all about?

Answer:

You couldn't ask a easy question, huh? Actually, this is one of the most common questions asked of the FAQ maintainer, often by students who want an easy, concise summary of Judaism in a single mail message. Alas, it isn't that easy. Don't expect this message to answer everything. You should read this entire FAQ, and take a look at other Jewish FAQs on the network, such as http://www.jewfaq.org/, http://www.beingjewish.com/ and the material at http://www.torah.org/ and http://members.aol.com/LazerA/. You should also check out the General portion of the reading list (http://www.scjfaq.org/rl/), and go to a library and read some of the books there.

Hillel the Elder, who lived in the first century, BCE, was asked this question. His response was, "That which is distasteful to thyself, do not do unto thy neighbor. All the rest is commentary. Now go forth and study."

The real answer, however, is far more complex than that. To begin with, there is no such thing as a religion called Judaism. Judaism is a civilization, in which religion is one of its many dimensions. Within its religious area we find a number of mutually similar but different (you expected this to be easy?) belief systems that are called names such as: Orthodoxy, Conservatism, Reconstructionism, Reform, and Humanistic Judaism.

Judaism is a monotheistic religion (one god) founded by Abraham of the book of Genesis. It's holy text is what Christian's call the "Old Testament", and what Jews call the Tanakh, for Torah (1st five books), Prophets, and Writings. There is also a tradition of an Oral Torah, which was written down around the time of Christ as the Talmud.

There are varying degrees to which Jews give authority to Torah and follow is practices. The most traditional are called Orthodox Jews; the least traditional Reform. Some practices are common to all.

Many Jews follow the dietary laws called out in Lev. 11 and elsewhere, and refrain from eating pork, shellfish, insects, and separate meat (chicken, beef, lamb, goat, turkey) from milk.

Jews observe the Sabbath from Friday Night to Saturday night, as well as a large variety of holy days during the year. These are all listed and described in the FAQ (http://www.scjfaq.org/faq/).


The FAQ is a collection of documents that is an attempt to answer questions that are continually asked on the soc.culture.jewish family of newsgroups. It was written by cooperating laypeople from the various Judaic movements. You should not make any assumption as to accuracy and/or authoritativeness of the answers provided herein. In all cases, it is always best to consult a competent authority--your local rabbi is a good place to start.

[Got Questions?]Hopefully, the FAQ will provide the answer to your questions. If it doesn't, please drop Email to questions@scjfaq.org. The FAQ maintainer will endeavor to direct your query to an appropriate individual that can answer it. If you would like to be part of the group to which the maintainer directs questions, please drop a note to the FAQ maintainer at maintainer@scjfaq.org.

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© (c) 1993-2002 Daniel P. Faigin <maintainer@scjfaq.org>