Basis of Jewish Belief
I am proud of my Jewish identity, but I don’t get this whole thing about Jewish tradition and observance. I enjoy Jewish music, and have a lot of Jewish friends. Isn’t that enough?
The Aish Rabbi Replies
Being culturally Jewish, without belief in God, is compared to a cut flower. While it still retains much of its vitality, the flower has been cut off from its source of nutrition, and within a short time will wither and die. The ideals which have kept the Jewish people alive and thriving over the millennia – despite all odds – can only be transmitted with the framework that the Torah provides.
The basis of Jewish belief is the recognition of God. This is codified in the Shema prayer, the Jewish Pledge of Allegiance: "Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one" (Deut. 6:4). (See more at: www.aish.com/jl/m/pb/48954656.html)
The second foundation of Jewish belief is that the Torah was given by God to the entire Jewish people at Mount Sinai, and its commandments are unchanging and binding for all time.
Historically, any Jewish group which denied the basic principles of Jewish tradition – Torah and Mitzvah-observance – ultimately ceased to be part of the Jewish people. The Saducees and the Karites, for example, refused to accept certain parts of the Oral Law, and soon after broke away completely as part of the Jewish people. The Hellenists, secularists during the Second Temple period, also soon became regarded as no longer "Jewish." Eventually, these groups vanished completely.
To learn more, see this series on Maimonides’ 13 Principles of Jewish Faith: www.aish.com/jl/p/mp/
Also, I suggest you attend a Discovery seminar, which provides an excellent overview of Jewish history, philosophy and literature. The seminar is given in hundreds of cities throughout the world. For a current schedule, visit www.aish.com/dis/