I've made several posts about recent discussions taking place in my class "Religious Roots of the Holocaust". Our instructor wisely asked a Rabbi to come in and speak with our class three seperate times about Judaism so we would have some idea about the historical and theological backgrounds of Judaism.
Those three class periods were probably some of the best time i've ever spent in college.
It's prompted me to really think about the differences about Judaism and Christianity. Now, there's all sorts of things to discuss, admitedly. One of which i've already touched on (see The Messiah). But one of the distinctions between Judaism from Christianity is the way one's faith and one's actions are connected.
Rabbi Feintuch explained to us that in Judaism when you follow the Torah (the law, THE most important thing in Judaism) you have the obligation of Mitzvot. Mitzvot means duty. It's what you do. There are two kinds: Ethical Mitzvot and Ritual Mitzvot.
Ethical Mitzvot deals with your relationships with people. This would be things like not stealing, not slandering, not coveting, etc.
Ritual Mitzvot revolvs around your relationship with God. Dietary restrictions, Observation of the Sabbath and other holy days would be just a few examples.
There are 613 laws which comprise the Mitzvot of the Jews. How strong you adhere to them is usually an indicator of "what sort" of Jew you are: Orthodox, Conservative, or Reform.
So the focus of Judaism is how you observe Mitzvot. God has given his people these commands, this code, this ethic to follow. Thats it. When the Rabbi was asked "Why follow Mitzvot?" He simply replied: "Because God said so."
I like that phrase, "Because God said so".
You then become concerned not really with 'what you believe' but rather 'what you observe'. The question is not 'what is your opinion on evolution' but rather 'do you rest on the sabbath'?
What you believe is not nearly as important as what you do. Whereas in Christianity, especially the more 'evangelical' type first and foremost is what you believe and often times I feel like one is left to fend for themselves.