Jewish Practices 101
"Judaism is about how to live, not just what to believe," writes one contemporary observer. Jewish daily life and practice is how Jews do things--day in and day out, and week after week--that embody the ideals and standards expressed in Judaism's sacred writings and its ancient (and modern) traditions.
The children of Israel are called upon in Leviticus 18:2 to be holy: You shall be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy. Holiness--kedushah--is a theological concept. It refers to the attempt to live in a way that emulates or brings us into contact with the realm of the divine, a realm of existence beyond that which is objective and verifiable. Living a life of kedushah, though, is a practical matter. It means identifying ideals in alignment with divinity and generating codes of behavior that bring us into harmony with those ideals. Jewish thinkers have offered suggestions of how to accomplish this, often taking us beyond the letter of Jewish law.
The principles of ethical behavior elaborated by Jewish thinkers usually begin with assumptions about God and about God's expectations of Jews or generally of human beings. That makes it difficult to separate ethical behavior from the quest for holiness of which it is a part. Nonetheless, the Jewish literary tradition provides us with a number of works that explore the underlying principles of ethics and offer detailed explorations of interpersonal ethics.