24 From Judaism

Moses found in the river. Fresco from Dura Europos synagogue.

The basic beliefs that come into our culture from Judaism include the concept of monotheism–the belief in one, single divine being–and these basic commandments for living.  The impact on the Western cultures of these two simple things is hard to measure. The law and ethics of many modern civilizations in the developed world hold fast to some version of these 10 commandments.  And, of course, the belief in a single deity is common in many places, and lead to the development of both Christianity and Islam.  Here are these  two central statements from the Torah, which is the teaching section of the Hebrew Bible.

Judaism really focuses on living now, for this day, and having a good relationship with family, community and God.  The afterlife is not really the consideration–it is all about the ethical living now.  And all of this happens, of course, in the context of ritual, tradition and family.

This Ted Talk illustrates the Jewish emphasis on community, on ethical living.  From their site: “It’s a fateful moment in history. We’ve seen divisive elections, divided societies and the growth of extremism — all fueled by anxiety and uncertainty. “Is there something we can do, each of us, to be able to face the future without fear?” asks Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks[1]. In this electrifying talk, the spiritual leader gives us three specific ways we can move from the politics of “me” to the politics of “all of us, together.”

How we can face the future together?


 a close-up photo of the Shema inscription on the Knesset Menorah in Jerusalem.Deuteronomy 6:4-9   Sh’ma Yisrael

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord:

And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.

And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:

And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.

And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.

And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.



The 10 Commandments In this 1768 parchment, Jekuthiel Sofer emulated decalogue at the Esnoga

Exodus 20:1-17

[1] And God spake all these words, saying,
[2] I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
[3] Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
[4] Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:
[5] Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
[6] And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
[7] Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
[8] Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
[9] Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
Moses with the Tablets of the Law Rembrandt [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons[10] But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:
[11] For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
[12] Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
[13] Thou shalt not kill.
[14] Thou shalt not commit adultery.
[15] Thou shalt not steal.
[16] Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
[17] Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.


divider between body and bibliography


King James Version of the Bible


  1. Rabbi Lord Sacks is one of Judaism's spiritual leaders, and he exercises a primary influence on the thought and philosophy of Jews and people of all faiths worldwide. Since stepping down as Chief Rabbi of the UK and Commonwealth in 2013, Rabbi Lord Sacks has become an increasingly well-known speaker, respected moral voice and writer. He has authored more than 30 books, the latest, Not in God's Name: Confronting Religious Violence, was published in 2015. Granted a seat in the British House of Lords in 2009 and the winner of the 2016 Templeton Prize, Rabbi Lord Sacks is a key Jewish voice for universalism and an embrace of tolerance between religions and cultures. He rejects the "politics of anger" brought about by the way "we have acted as if markets can function without morals, international corporations without social responsibility and economic systems without regard to their effect on the people left stranded by the shifting tide." He also sees, as a key idea for faith in our times, that unity in heaven creates diversity on earth.


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Words of Wisdom: Intro to Philosophy Copyright © 2018 by Jody L Ondich is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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