This paper will explore Jewish life, from the day to day, to the spiritual, to the theological. I will examine the story of Judaism and how one participates in it. I will dive into the basic structure and central elements of Judaism as well as discus the importance of history as it relates to the Jewish story. How the story leads one to a relationship with God will be expanded.
Beginning with an historical perspective, it is easy to understand that God had a hands-on relationship with the Jewish people since the revelation period. God revealed himself to the people of Israel and entered into a covenant with them. This marked the beginning of Judaism. God revealed himself in several ways, as a burning bush to Moses and to all the Jews as he hardened pharos’ heart and then plagued the Egyptian people. During the revelation period there were many experiences of God revealing God-self to his people and expressing his power or mercy or omniscience. And thus, revelations mark a major chapter in the history of Israel. It is important to remember that God did not only reveal God-self to the Hebrews at the time of revelation, God was revealed to all Jews in all times. Therefore through the scripture and through history Jews of all time may come to know God and God will be revealed to them through Torah. As history is the semantic account of past events, a story if you will, it is acceptable to say that nearly all of what it means to be Jewish can be written and passed on as a story.
The story of Judaism is more than just an account of history; it is an interactive relationship with God, originating with the covenant. God did more than bargain with Hebrew tribes of biblical times, God entered into a pact that bound God-self to the people of Israel forever. Every Jew, past, present and future is born into the grace and protection of the covenant. And thus every Jew, past, present and future are vital members in this story.
On a daily bases, it is important to remember that God will and is fulfilling his end of the agreement entered into by the people of Israel. The story at this point is the Jews fallowing and studying torah in keeping with their part of this covenant. Through scripture and torah a young Jew is learning the story of Israel but also with his actions taking his place in the story. When a sage teaches the torah to a young person the story is being passed on at the same time the last part is being written. Every action that was or is influenced by the people of Israel becomes part of their history. And as the God of Israel is bound to Israel by its history, this on-going story is increasingly important.
The collective stories of a culture is called its history, or in this case, the Torah. As important as history is to any given culture, a deity is just as important. The complexity of Judaism is that the God of Israel is intertwined with the history of Israel. By studying one, the other is prevalent and extremely important. Torah is an excellent word that signifies the presence of God in many Jewish stories. Israel is the nation that is to be saved by Torah. Torah is that which will save Israel.
Everyday of this story, everyday in the life of Israel, God empowers his people. Everyday we define our identity by the story we tell ourselves. To know something is to bond with it in a unique fashion and to actively bring it into our daily lives. Learning is a part of knowing, and learning can be the key to the unique relationship. The story of Israel is a recording of past events, current happenings, and prophecies of the future in relation to the God of Israel that will help current day Jews to learn and have a particular relationship with the God of the covenant. The kind of information that is known through the process of learning, self-reflection and discussion is the knowledge that will be known through Torah. History is the initial part of the process of building a relationship with the God of Israel, such as, learning the events of the past, and the meaning and value of those events. The stories of the past help equip us with tools to better cope with events that happen in our lives from a day to day bases.
Central to the story of Judaism is a unique concept of God and an intimate relationship with history. More so than just about any other religion, the past is a vital part of the Jewish understanding of God. What God did in the past is a huge clue to what the future will hold. At least for the Jews, the scripture and the torah are not just fables or riddles about the meaning of life, the Torah is a direct account of God interacting with the chosen people of Israel. History is the prequel to the story that is happening right now with the people of Israel. The great trilogy of Israel is unfolding right in front of us. For many other religions, the script is something that happened long ago, and is over. Precisely the opposite is true for Judaism. Everyday life is the grand adventure of playing the role of God’s chosen people. Interpreting the history of the past to better write the story of now and to better prepare for the unveiling of the future. That brief synopsis is Judaism in a nutshell. A very small, abstract nutshell.
The uniqueness of the God of Israel is just that. That God is the God of Israel. God is not the god of humanity; he is not the god of the sea. Israel is that which is saved by God. God bound himself to the people of Israel. This is much more that a personally relationship, it is a governmental, ideological, paternal relationship with the God of Israel. God is found prevalent in every part of the Jewish life. They don’t just go to church on Sunday; they don’t just share their lives with the lord part-time. Everything that is done is done according to the covenant.
I have shown that because of their unique relationship to God, Jewish life it extremely focused on God. Their lives are more that a record of events, they are chapters in a story that began with a covenant with God. And I have described how history and this story of the relationship between God and Israel will lead to a better understanding of the oneness with God.