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    What do Jews believe? – Ki Tavo

    ritual-150x150Everybody knows Jews have commandments. But do they have dogmas? Do Jews have beliefs which they must profess on pain of exclusion? Some say no, and there is a “great dogma of dogmalessness”.

    Great minds ­- Maimonides in particular -­ have tried to formulate Jewish beliefs, but no formulation has ever achieved dogmatic status, binding every Jew to its contents.

    Not that Judaism lacks great principles, characteristic teachings and fundamental axioms, to which Jews throughout history have on the whole subscribed. But what makes Judaism different is that none of these principles has been frozen into final form. Thus whilst the existence of God is axiomatic in Judaism, some perceive Him in rarefied philosophical terms whilst to others He is the Sweet Father in whose presence one feels pure ecstasy.

    Joseph Albo says three principles are axiomatic: Metziat HaShem, the existence of God; Torah Min HaShamayim, Divine revelation; and S’char VaOnesh, reward and punishment. All are hinted at in this week’s sidra.

    It commands the people when they cross the Jordan to set up large stones and inscribe on them the words of the Torah (Deut. 27:2). The Talmud says there were three such commands; “There were three sets of stones ­- one that Moses set up in the land of Moab, one that Joshua set up when they crossed the Jordan, and one later set up at Gilgal” (Sotah 35b).

    The first, says the Maharsha, alludes to revelation, the second to the existence of God and the third to reward and punishment. So this must be the preferred rabbinic listing of the principles of Judaism.

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