SRI SWAMI SIVANANDA
This article is a chapter from the book “Bliss Divine”.
Old and New Testament
The Ten Commandments
Tenets of Judaism
Judaism constitutes the religious doctrines and rites of the Jews as enjoined in the laws of Moses. Judaism is based on Zoroastrianism. It has given rise to two great religions of the world, i.e., Christianity and Islam. The Muslims admit that their religion is founded on Judaism. The Koran also is very clear on this point.
Zoroastrian conception of Ahura Mazda as the Supreme Being is perfectly identical with the idea of Elohim (God) Jehovah which we find in the books of Old Testament.
Abraham, the Prophet, was the first man who has revealed God to all humanity. He is the Founder of the Hebrew race. Hebrew is one of the descendants of Jacob, an Isralite, a Jew. Isaac had two sons, viz., Essan and Jacob and their descendants are the Christians and Jews respectively. Abraham had two sons (one from Sarah and one from Hagar, the Egyptian woman), viz., Isaac and Ismael who are the fathers of Jews and Muslims respectively.
The Old Testament contains the sacred writings of the ambient Jewish race. The newer portion is known as the New Testament which was begun after the coming of Jesus Christ, more than nineteen hundred years ago. Long before Jesus came to this world, the Jews wrote and studied their sacred books. These were written in their Hebrew tongue. The old Hebrew books were translated into Greek about two hundred years before the Christian era.
The books of the Jews were arranged into three main divisions. The first was called “The Law”. It dealt with the laws of the world. These books are now the first part of the Bible, viz., Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The second class was that of the Prophets. It included Joshua, Isaiah, and Jeremiah. Psalms and Proverbs constituted third class. The Old Testament contains 39 books.
The New Testament contains 27 books. The first four books are Gospels which describe the life of Christ on this earth. The next book tells us of the Acts of the Apostles, particularly of the important Apostle Paul. The twenty-one shorter books give out the ideas underlying the Christian faith of the early Christians. The last book is the book of Revelations. It gives a description of the series of visions, viz., the lamb of God and the heavenly city. The author is John, the favourite Apostle of Jesus. All these books were written in Greek, which was the language of educated men at the beginning of the Christian era.
The Law was set forth as a complete system by which men should live. By the Law was understood in a special sense the Pentateuch. Every word of Pentateuch was considered as inspired and an immediate revelation of Moses.
(a) There was a need for explanation of the Law. The Scribes were the interpreters of the Law. They explained and applied the rules of the Torah to special cases. The Scribes were recognised as the legislators and the judges of Israel. Their decisions had the force of Law. The first Scribes were priests.
(b) The fraternity of the Pharisees were the popular or nationalist party. They believed in the doctrine of immortality, resurrection of the body, the existence of angels and spirits. As religious teachers, they upheld the authority of oral tradition as of equal validity with the written Law. They were inclined to fatalism in the question of the freedom of the will. The Zealots represented one extreme side of the Pharisaic movement.
(c) Sadducus were aristocratic priests. They held to the letter of the Mosaic revelation. They denied the authority of the oral tradition as interpreted by the Pharisees. They taught complete freedom of the will in moral action. They had no belief in angels or spirits. They did not accept the doctrine of immortality as a deduction from the Pentateuch.
(d) The Essenes followed celibacy, isolation, silence, ceremonial ablutions, and abstinence from animal food. They practised asceticism. They did worship of the sun and the angels. They believed in the dualistic theory of good and evil and the symbolism of light. They abstained from sacrifices and temple worship.
The Prophets of Israel were the great religious leaders who brought great progress in Behraic thought. Rabbis also were authoritative teachers. They worked very hard in the field of Torah. They produced the massive Talmudic literature. They were the representatives of Pharisiasm. Talmud is indispensable, for a knowledge of Hebraic thought.
The Torah was given in ten words. Each word became a voice. Every voice was divided into 70 voices all of which shone and glittered before the eyes of all Israel. Torah denotes the divine revelation to Israel on Mount Senai as embodied in the five Books of Moses. The Torah (Law) as given to Moses consists of 613 commandments which are the essence of the divine and terrestrial mysteries. Torah indicates a way of life rather than a form of belief.
Moses received the Torah (Law, direction, instruction) on Senai and handed it down to Joshua, Joshua to the elders, the elders to the prophets and the prophets handed it down to the men of the Great Synagogue, a synod of zealous men created by Ezra, the Scribe in the fifth century B.C. The function of the synagogue was to study and teach Torah. The Synagogue was a church, a school, and a court of justice. It was a house of instruction. The unity of God, the Incorporeality of God, and the Holiness of God are the main features of Judaism.
God gave His ten commandments to Moses on the Mount Senai. The Lord called unto him out of the mountain and said: “Thus shall thou say to the house of Jacob and tell the children of Israel”.
- I am the Lord Thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
- Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; 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 and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.
- 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.
- Remember the sabbath-day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work; 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, nor thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: 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.
- Honour thy father and thy mother; that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
- Thou shalt not kill.
- Thou shalt not commit adultery.
- Thou shalt not steal.
- Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
- Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbour’s.
This is the Mosaic account of Cosmogony. On the first day heaven and earth were created; on the second, firmament and waters; on the third, dry land, grass, the birds, and fruit trees; on the fourth, lights, the sun, the moon, the stars; on the fifth, moving creatures, winged fowls, great whales; on the sixth living creatures, cattle, creepers, beasts, man. In Genesis, the Creation ends with the creation of man. God created Adam on the sixth day and gave him the charge of the animals. Adam had three children viz., Cain, Abel and Sheth. Cain killed Abel. The descendants of Cain were drowned in the flood. The descendants of the Sheth are all the humanity of the world. The Lord took Adam and put him into the garden of Eden to till it and to keep it.
The Jews believe in resurrection, in angels, and in the existence of two powers, viz., God and the Devil or Satan.
The Jews believe that every man’s actions will be weighed on the day of Judgment in a balance. Men will have to pass after their resurrection along the bridge of Hell.
The unity of God is the cardinal principle of the religion of the Hebrews. God is bodiless. This is also a doctrine of great importance. God is ever pure and holy. This is third important attribute of God. He is the Creator of the entire world. He is the Father of all His creatures. He is just and merciful. He is without iniquity.
The Jewish saints have spoken much about the efficacy and power of repentance. Happy is the man who repents. The gates of repentance never close. Repentance prolongs a man’s life. The tears of true repentance are not shed in vain. Even the most righteous shall not attain to so high a place in heaven as the truly repentant. Repent one day sincerely with a contrite heart before you die. After repentance you should not repeat the same wicked act. Even an hour spent in repentance with a contrite heart in this world is preferable to a whole life in the world to come. The end and aim of all wisdom is repentance.
The unity of God, the Incorporeality of God and the Holiness of God are the main features of Judaism.