About 20 years ago, a Jewish publication in Australia invited me to make a list of my basic Jewish beliefs. I found the exercise much more difficult and much more significant than I had anticipated. I have come to believe that all those who consider themselves thoughtful individuals should draw up a list of their fundamental beliefs — not only religious ones, but political, social and moral as well. At least as much as our psyche and our nature, our core beliefs are what make us who we are.
Unlike my list of 20 years ago — which I have not looked at in preparing this list — I have appended a “therefore” to each belief. The reason is that the “therefores” are even more important than the beliefs themselves. They are the consequences of the beliefs, and the consequences of any belief are what matter.
Here, then, are one Jew’s core Jewish beliefs.
1. There is a God who is the Creator of the world.
Therefore, life is not a meaningless coincidence, but has ultimate meaning — even if we humans are not fully capable of knowing what that meaning is.
2. This God is a personal God — meaning that God knows each of us.
Therefore, God matters and we matter. If there is a Creator God who does not know His creations, He doesn’t matter and we don’t matter. That is why there is no meaningful difference between belief in a God who does not know us and atheism.
3. “Personal God” does not mean that God necessarily intervenes in the life of each of us.
Therefore, we humans should be more concerned with what God wants from us than what we want from God.
4. This God is known as “the God of Israel.”
Therefore, those who say they believe in God but are unwilling to identify this God as the God of Israel believe in another god than believing Jews and Christians do.
5. God is moral and just.
Therefore, God judges all men and women.
6. There is ultimate justice.
Therefore, there is an afterlife. If there were no afterlife, God would neither be good nor just, since there is little justice in this life.
7. As G.K. Chesterton put it, “When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing, they believe in anything.”
Therefore, the secular West has produced a plethora of foolish, often dangerous, substitutes for God-based religion. These include substitute religions such as socialism, feminism and environmentalism, and evils such as communism and Nazism.
8. The Jews are God’s Chosen People, which means they have been chosen to bring humanity to God and His ethical standards (ethical monotheism).
Therefore, (1) the most evil regimes and doctrines of each generation focus their hatred on the Jews and, (2) there is transcendent meaning to the Jews’ existence and even to the Jews’ suffering.
9. Most Jews do not understand the meaning of chosenness.
Therefore, the greatest Jewish tragedy is that few Jews engage in this mission of the Jewish people. The Jews who talk to the world rarely live or advocate Judaism; and the Jews who live Judaism rarely talk to the world.
10. God blesses those who bless the Jews and curses those who curse the Jews (Genesis 12:3).
Therefore, America, which has blessed the Jews more than any nation in history, has been uniquely blessed; and the Arab world, which curses the Jewish state and Jewish people, is benighted. Conversely, should America abandon Israel, it will cease to be blessed. And only when the Arab world abandons its hate-filled preoccupation with the Jewish state will it begin to leave its benighted state.
11. God cares about goodness more than He cares about anything else. “The holy God is sanctified through righteous conduct” (Isaiah 5:16).
Therefore, God is not sanctified when Jews place law above goodness or when Christians place faith above goodness.
12. Human beings, not animals, are created in God’s image.
Therefore, human life is infinitely more valuable than animal life.
13. God, not human beings, is the author of the Torah.
Therefore, even when the Torah’s laws are time-bound— for example, the temple sacrifices or the potion drunk by an accused adulterer — its values are eternal even when unpopular (for example, man-woman marriage, taking the life of murderers, honoring a parent one does not love).
14. At the present time, conservative Christians — such as Evangelicals — and conservatives generally — such as Wall Street Journal columnists and talk radio hosts — are Israel’s, and therefore the Jews’, best friends. Meanwhile, universities throughout the Western world are centers of Israel hatred.
Therefore, most Jews ought to be suffering from major cognitive dissonance. That which they most distrust — Christians and conservatives — are Israel’s greatest defenders; and that which they most venerate — the universities — are Israel’s greatest antagonists.
15. The Israel-Arab conflict is the morally clearest dispute in our time.
Therefore, anyone who sides with Israel’s enemies or who works to delegitimize Israel has a broken moral compass, is to be feared, and is to be fought by all good people.
Dennis Prager’s nationally syndicated radio talk show is heard in Los Angeles on KRLA (AM 870) 9 a.m. to noon. His latest project is the Internet-based Prager University (prageru.com).