Judaism was founded over 3,500 years ago in the Middle East. "Judaism and Christianity have the same beginnings," Sister Maria commented. "Jesus’ apostles sprang from the Jewish people, and Jesus is the bridge between Jews and Christians." The Old Testament of the Christian Bible comes from Jewish scripture.
Sister Maria pointed out three features of Judaism: each Jew has a relationship with God where God looks after them and they keep God’s laws; Judaism is a faith of community – Israelites believe that they have been chosen to be examples of holiness to the world; and Jewish rituals and customs revolve around the home.
Jews seek holiness in every aspect of life. This can be seen in their practice of praying three times a day, and strict observances in their diet and of the Sabbath.
"If you want to invite Jewish friends for anything, keep in mind they cannot come on Friday night till Saturday evening," Sister Maria said. The Jews follow scriptural injunctions to rest as God had rested on the seventh day during the creation of the world. The Jewish Talmud lists 39 types of work forbidden on the Sabbath.
Sister Maria is the chairperson of the Singapore Archdiocesan Council for Inter-Religious and Ecumenical Dialogue (IRED). At the talk, she also mentioned points from Nostra Aetate, a Second Vatican Council declaration on other faiths. "Vatican II really opened the doors for us. It says that our neighbours can still be saved. The church widened its tent to include others."
She added that it is in this context that the IRED organized the series of talks. "We hope in future more people will come and work with us to further inter-religious dialogue," she said. - Regina Xie