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Limmudai Chol Publications

© August 2015 Moshe Brody

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Contents

Introduction to Comparative Religions. 3

Introduction to Hindusim.. 4

Hinduism.. 4

Introduction to Buddhism.. 6

Buddhism.. 6

Introduction to Christianity and Islam.. 7

Christianity. 7

The impact of the Crusades on Jewish communities. 11

Luther and the Jews: 15

The Counter-Reformation. 17

Islam.. 18

Other Religions. 20

Regent Questions: 21

Bibliography. 26

Introduction to Comparative Religions

By Hagaon Harav Yisroel Belsky, shlita

The Torah discusses many types of avodah zarah and warns us to stay away from them. Avodah zarahs can be very attractive. They have their own mythology, their own rituals, and their own images and symbols, which could become very attractive to us if one were permitted to become acquainted with them. Thus, because of this potential attraction and accompanying spiritual danger, the Torah declared many prohibitions regarding avodah zarah — one that includes studying other religions and the ways other worship.

Since the Torah warns us to refrain from studying avodah zarah, we will not present a study of comparative religions. Rather, we will focus on the history of these religions and discuss some very basic terms associated with these religions deemed important by the government about what various populations have adopted over time.

As an aside, it is important to note that the name of the subject, “Comparative Religions,” is a terrible error. This is not the study of “different religions,” but of people who veered from the true path of recognizing and serving Hashem. Instead, they began to worship objects they created themselves, which have no rhyme, reason, or truth to them.

Introduction to Hindusim

By Harav Yisroel Belsky, shlita

Hinduism is one of the many avodah zarahs that the Torah speaks about. The Torah discusses the practice of worshipping icons and objects made of wood or stone, and human sacrifice. All of the Eastern religions belong to this class of avodah zarah (although not all practiced human sacrifice).

Hinduism

  • Hinduism is a polytheistic religion that began about 3,500 years ago. It is practiced today by about 800 million to 1 billion people, mainly in India and Nepal.
  • The Hindus’ books, the Vedas and the Upanishads, describe their religious ceremonies. They give detailed descriptions of the images they worship and the idols they bow down to which mirror the ancient avodah zarahs mentioned in the Torah.

Some of the more commonly held beliefs of Hinduism are:

  • Karma: the sum of all of one’s deeds, whether during one’s current life or during lives previously lived. Hindus believe in reincarnation — the belief that one’s soul lives on after one’s body dies and is reborn again to a different caste. (The Hindu caste system divides society into social groups — having to do with society — and political groups — having to do with government and power.) If one has a positive Karma, one can rise to a higher caste in his next life.
  • Dharma: Hindu ritual laws and ethics
  • Nirvana: a state of liberation from the worldly cycles, or union with the Brahman (the highest being in Hinduism and Buddhism)