The central scripture in the Jewish faith is the Bible or Tanakh, also known as the Old Testament. These writings are composed of three main parts: The Torah (law), the Nevi'im (propehts), and the Kethuvim (writings). For Judaism, these scriptures are the source of communion with God and an insight into God's communication with the Jews. Scripture is also considered a practical guide for living a fulfilling and spiritual life.
In Judaism, the emphasis is not on a system of beliefs or the coherence of a doctrine. Rather, the focus is on the actions of an individual. The basis of a good life and a relationship with the Jewish God is through good deeds (mitzvoth). The scriptures function as a guide for ethical action. Although many of the archaic regulations outlined in the Jewish scripture have been abandoned or revised, the spirit of the scripture serves as a basis for ethical living. Studying and analyzing the scriptures, done alone and in groups, is the process through which a Jew comes to understand what God demands and what constitutes a good life.
The scriptures also provide an important background for present day Jews. Whether or not the history is accurate or factual, part of the purpose of the scripture, as it is understood in Jewish life, is to give an account of the origins of the people of Israel. This history begins with Abraham, who is the first person to develop an intimate relationship with God. It follows the trials, journeys and growth of the tribe of Jews, of which Abraham is the father. God's promise to Abraham, that his offspring would become a great nation, is fulfilled throughout the scripture in a story that charts the emergence of the Jewish people and the nation of Israel.
Through common history, ethics, values and beliefs about God, the Jewish scripture helps to give Jews a common identity and a sense of origin. This has become increasingly important as Jews have scattered all over the world and are not particularly tied to any one nation aside from Israel. Through the lessons and the practical laws and traditions outlined in the scripture, Jewish identity has been reinforced. The scripture can also serve as a guideline for certain traditions and rituals, such as holiday practices, which also serves to unite Jews all over the world and provide a sense of community, identity and belonging.
Relationship With God
Judaism involves very strong elements of faith and personal relationships with God. Abraham serves as the first example of this intimate contact with God. The God of the Jewish scriptures is often angry and vengeful, but for those who listen, it is also a source of guidance from a dependable and loving power. The scriptures record the spiritual development of individuals such as Abraham and Moses through their relationship with the God of the Jews. One of the main functional purposes of the scripture is to help Jews develop a relationship with their God. This is done through studying the examples of the ancestors of the Jewish people.
- Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images