Judaism is a faith built on faith. The Messiah is coming, eternally and beautifully coming. In the meantime, there is Yahweh and the holy books: the Talmud and the Torah.
The Talmud, which literally means “work,” is a compilation of over six hundred years of rabbinic teachings, musings and legalese. It can be considered as the practical vade mecum of the Jewish faith. The Torah is basically the First Testament of the Christian Bible, with its exquisite stories of Eden, of exile, of burning bush, of sacrificial son. Upon these texts converge centuries of rabbinic ruminations on the relationship between Man & God. Scholarship in Judaism is overwhelming to the point that it’s possible to forget that the question on the table is God, and how to get closer to Him.
Indeed, even within the more mystical branch of Kabbalah, Judaism maintains its thorough exploration of the technical as related to the divine. For example, according to Kabbalah, the structure of the Hebrew alphabet is holy and evocative of God’s infinite wisdom. Different letters activate direct links to each of the ten Sephirot, or emanations of God, which conform the Tree of Life, Kabbalah’s all-encompassing symbol cum roadmap (as the cross is to Catholicism).
Faith is trust. But trust only partly unfolds the question of God; the other, deeper, part of the answer is inseparable from the search itself, from the work (AKA talmud) itself. The fact of the essence becomes the fact of the matter through faith and deliberate reflection. In the vast libraries of the Jewish sages, centuries of study transmute divine spirit into practicable faith.
*This post is part of a series of explorations on the teachings I most admire from the world’s major religions. So far, I’ve written on Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Daoism, Hinduism and Jainism as well.