An infinite loop:

Judaism according to Google is "the monotheistic religion of the Jews".

And Jew is "a member of the people and cultural community whose traditional religion is Judaism and who trace their origins through the ancient Hebrew people of Israel to Abraham."

What are the best, the most precise definitions of both terms?

  • 1
    This seems to be a question about English words and answerable only by standard methods of answering "what does X mean?" where X is any word. This can include reference to a dictionary or encyclopedia or corpus... but appealing to a Q&A site about Judaism wouldn't seem to be the way to go: Judaism has nothing to say about the definitions of English words. I move to close this question therefore.
    – msh210
    Feb 12, 2016 at 21:45
  • Similar: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/15779
    – msh210
    Feb 12, 2016 at 22:14

1 Answer 1


The definition of Judaism is the laws and practices that were given to the Bnai Yisrael at Sinai and the halachos as taught by the unbroken chain of leaders, teachers and Rabbis from Moses through the prophets, the mishnah, gemara, and the other decisors until the present day.

The definition of a Jew is actually the first recursive definition.

A Jew is

  1. Someone whose mother was a Jew according to this definition


  1. Someone who has converted to Judaism according to halacha (Jewish law)

The starting point of this recursion was the revelation at Sinai. Everyone there was considered a "convert". There were special laws that allowed membership in the tribes to continue and family relationships to continue (Deuteronomy 5:27). Nowadays a convert is considered as "a new born baby".

  • According to the given definition, Moses before Sinai was not Jew at all, neither Jacob, Isaac and Abraham, peace be upon them all, right? And was that definition placed among the mentioned laws or it's more recent development?
    – truthcures
    Feb 14, 2016 at 14:25
  • 1
    @jvjurad There is a dispute as to exact status of the Patriarchs and the Bnai Yisrael before Sinai. However, at the revelation on Har Sinai, the status (and rules) changed to what we have now (a nation rather than a family). Thus, the definition starts at the Revelation of Sinai and was part of that revelation. Feb 14, 2016 at 15:50
  • 1
    @jvjurad btw, The term you use is not correct. The correct term used by Jews for a deceased tzadik is "Zecher Tzadik Livracha" (Z'tzl) - The memory of a tzdik is a blessing. Feb 14, 2016 at 15:53
  • @sabbahillel why is עליהם השלום not a proper reference? Moshe is quite often referenced as מרע"ה which stands for משה רבינו עליו השלום, and similarly Avraham as אאע"ה. Feb 15, 2016 at 22:02
  • @Yez The comment that I referred to uses the English term that Muslims normally use. While it might be a translation of עליהם השלום, it still grates because of the normal way it is used. Had the Hebrew been used, it would not have caused me to comment. Feb 15, 2016 at 23:38

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