Judaism, Quick Survey
Judaism, Quick Survey:
Judaism is one of three Western Abramic religions — faiths which recognize Abraham as a Patriarch. The others are Christianity and Islam. Although Jews comprise only about 0.2% of the human race, 18 million, Jewish influence on the world has been vast — far more than their numbers would indicate.
Judaism espouses belief in a monotheistic God, who is creator of the universe and who leads His people, the Jews, by speaking through prophets.
His word is revealed in the Hebrew Bible (or Old Testament), especially in that part known as the Torah. The Torah also contains, according to rabbinic tradition, a total of 613 biblical commandments, including the Ten Commandments, which are explicated in the Talmud. Tanakh, Torah, Talmud, Mishna
Fundamental to Judaism is the belief that the people of Israel are God’s chosen people, who must serve as a light for other nations. God made a covenant first with Abraham around 2000 BC, then renewed it with Isaac, Jacob, and Moses.
The next leader of the Israelites, Moses, led his people out of captivity in Egypt and received the Law from God. Joshua later led them into the promised land where Samuel established the Israelite kingdom with Saul as its first king. King David established Jerusalem and King Solomon built the first temple there. The worship of Yahweh (God) was centered in Jerusalem from the time of David. In 70 CE the temple was destroyed and the Jews were scattered throughout the world.
The Jews were later allowed to return by the Persians, but an unsuccessful rebellion against Roman rule led to the destruction of the Second Temple in AD 70 and the Jews’ dispersal throughout the world in the Jewish Diaspora.
Rabbinic Judaism emerged to replace the temple cult at Jerusalem, as the Jews carried on their culture and religion through a tradition of scholarship and strict observance. The great body of oral law and commentaries were committed to writing in the Talmud and Mishna. The religion was maintained despite severe persecutions in many nations.
Two kinds of Judaism:
1- The original one of Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah, Jesus, with temple, altar, sacrifices and priests.
2- The Rabbinic Judaism, the modern one, with synagogue and teachers (Rabbis) but not temple nor altar nor sacrifice nor priests. if Abraham or David would come today to New York or Jerusalem they would not recognize Judaism, without altar? nor sacrifice? nor priests?
Two branches of Judaism emerged in the Middle Ages: the Sephardim, centered in Spain and culturally linked with the Babylonian Jews; and the Ashkenazi, centered in France and Germany and linked with the Jewish culture of Palestine and Rome. Elements of mysticism also appeared, notably the esoteric writings of the Kabbala and, in the 18th century, the movement known as Hasidism. The 18th century was also the time of the Jewish Enlightenment, or Haskala. Conservative and Reform Judaism emerged in 19th-century Germany as an effort to modify the strictness of Orthodox Judaism.
By the end of the 19th century Zionism had appeared as an outgrowth of reform. European Judaism suffered terribly during the Holocaust, when millions were put to death by the Nazis, and the rising flow of Jewish emigrants to Palestine led to declaration of the State of Israel in 1948.
Jews believe that the human condition can be improved, that the letter and the spirit of the Torah must be followed, and that a Messiah will eventually bring the world to a state of paradise.
Today, Judaism promotes community among all people of Jewish faith, dedication to a synagogue or temple (the basic social unit of a group of Jews, led by a rabbi), and the importance of family life.
Religious observance takes place both at home and in the synagogue.
Judaism is divided today into three main groups who vary in their interpretation of those parts of the Torah that deal with personal, communal, international, and religious activities:
1- The Orthodox community, which views the Torah as derived from God, and therefore absolutely binding.
2- The Reform movement, which follows primarily its ethical content;
3- The Conservative Jews, who follow most of the observances set out in the Torah but allow for change in the face of modern life.
4- A fourth group, Reconstructionist Jews, rejects the concept of the Jews as God’s chosen people, yet maintains rituals as part of the Judaic cultural heritage.