Jews and Zoroastrians share a number of beliefs and features; to such an extent that some people find it difficult to differentiate the two. Despite these similarities, there are some very important factors that make the two different. To begin with, Jews follow the religion known as Judaism whereas the religion of Zoroastrians is Zoroastrianism.
The founder of Zoroastrianism was Zoroaster (Zarathustra Haechataspa) who lived from 660 to 583 BC in the area that is now part of western Iran although some claim that his birthplace is today’s Azerbaijan. The founders of Judaism include Abraham, Moses, Isaac and Jacob. In accordance with the most reliable sources, Judaism originated in The Levant whereas Zoroastrianism in Persia (modern day Iran).
The concept of deity is another ground on which the two religions are different. Jews believe in one God and also follow the teachings and traditions of their prophets and rabbis. The Zoroastrians, on the other hand, believe in one good God, who according to them, is in a cosmic battle with his counterpart, the evil God. They also refer to him as the Wise God. Apart from this concept, their beliefs in God also have some important differences. Whereas Zoroastrian just believe in one God, Jews go a step further in believing in one God who is the True Creator; he transcends life and death and has always existed and will always exist.
When it comes to prayers and practices, Jews pray 3 times a day with an additional prayer on Shabbat and on holidays. Their prayers include Shacarit in the morning, Mincha at noon, and then Arvit at night time. The extra Shabbat prayer is Musaf. Zoroastrians are quite distinctive in their religious practices; they worship fire. Therefore they are also sometimes referred to as ‘fire-worshippers’. In terms of prayers, they pray 5 times a day. The place of worship of Jews is called a synagogue. Their sacred place is the western Wall of the Temple located in Jerusalem. Zoroastrians pray in fire temples which are known as Dar-e-Mehr in Persian.
The use of statues and artwork is common to both religions. Zoroastrianism permits (and has always permitted) it an there are several drawings of the Prophet Zoroaster as well symbolic images of their God (Ahura Mazda). In Judaism, however, statues and pictures have been allowed in recent times; in the ancient times they were disallowed as it was considered Idolatry. There are statues of people to be found, but not as religious icons.
Every religion has a goal and a reason for being sent into this world. For Jews, it is to celebrate life and to fulfil the Covenant they have with God. They believe in doing good deeds, repairing the world, loving God with all your heart and promoting strong social justice and ethic. Zoroastrians also have similar goals of life along with trying to acquire and then cultivate divine attributes, walking on the righteous path, trying to elevate themselves in harmony with God and making their best effort to listen to the guiding voice of God within themselves.
A very important difference that cannot be left out is about the Holy book or scripture. The Tanakh (Jewish Bible) also referred to as The Torah is what the Jews follow whereas Zoroastrians follow The Zend Avesta.
Furthermore, Zoroastrians believe in an eternal life either in Heaven or in Hell. Their Jewish counterparts have different believes with some groups believing in Reincarnation whereas others believe in unification with God after death.
Summary of differences expressed in points
- Zoroastrianism-followers are Zoroastrians; Judaism-followers are Jews
- Founder; Isaac, Moses, Jacob and Abraham for Judaism; Zoroaster for Zoroastrianism
- Place of origin; Judaism-The Levant; Zoroastrianism-Persia (Iran)
- Zoroastrians believe in one Wise God who is in constant battle with another evil God; Jews believe in one God, prophets, rabbis; God is the True Creator, has always existed and will always exist
- Prayers; Jews pray three times a day; Zoroastrians pray five times a day; worship fire
- Jews pray in synagogues, Zoroastrians pray in fire temples
- Statues and artwork common to both religion but wasn’t allowed in ancient times in Judaism; portrayal of religious icons still not allowed
- Goal of life; to do good and promote ethic for Jews; these as well as making an effort to listen to the voice of God inside one’s own self- for Zoroastrians
- Scriptures- Jews-Torah, Zoroastrians- Zend Avesta
- Jews have various beliefs regarding life after death; reincarnation, unification with God etc.; Zoroastrians believe in the concept of Heaven and Hell