Judaism is one of the oldest monotheistic religions in the world. This SpiritualRay article states some interesting facts related to its history, origin, beliefs, and rituals.
Actions Speak Louder!
The Jews believe that an individual should be judged based on his actions, not his thoughts.
Judaism is the religion and way of life of the Jewish people. With a continuity spanning 3,000 years, it has roots in the Middle East. It is a monotheistic religion, that is, Jews believe that there is only one god, who does not have a form and is omnipotent. Judaism is based on the Torah, which is a part of the Hebrew Bible. Judaism has a set of rules and rituals for all occasions which should be followed. Today, it has changed and adapted with time.
▶ Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are the three Patriarchs of Judaism. They founded the religion, and their posterity are called Jewish people.
▶ Abraham, originally called Abram, is the first of the Patriarchs of Judaism.
▶ God promised him and all his descendants their own nation. A covenant was established between God and Abraham. He had to pass ten tests to prove his worthiness.
▶ Abraham was blessed with a son Isaac, when he was 100 and his wife Sarah was 90 years old.
▶ As his final test, God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering. Isaac showed a lot of faith and determination, as he did not flinch even though he was aware of the sacrifice.
▶ God sent an angel to stop the sacrifice at the last moment. People were surprised that God had stopped the sacrifice, as child sacrifices were very common then. This story proves that God loathes human sacrifice.
▶ The ancestor of Jewish people is Isaac. Isaac later married Rebecca and was blessed with twin sons, Jacob and Esau.
▶ The tribes of Israel are named after Jacob’s 12 sons: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Zebulun, Issachar, Dan, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Joseph, and Benjamin. They are called the Children of Israel.
▶ Abraham is an important character in Islam and Christianity as well. He is regarded as Ibrahim by the Muslims, and his first son Isma’il is the father of the Arabs.
▶ Moses or Moshe Rabbenu (in Hebrew) is the most important prophet in Judaism. He is like a connection between God and the Jewish people. The Ten Commandments, a set of principles and ethics, were given to Moses by God on Mount Sinai.
The Star of David is an important symbol in Judaism
The Wailing Wall
▶ The first five books of the Bible tell the story of birth as well as history of Judaism.
▶ Kings like Saul, David, and Solomon built the first temple, and the Jews became powerful people. The temple contained the Ark of the Covenant, and many rituals were carried out there.
▶ The temple was destroyed in around 600 BCE, and many Jews were sent into exile in Babylon.
▶ In 175 BCE, the King of Syria destroyed the second temple, but the Jews revolted and the temple was restored. Jews celebrate this revolt in Hanukkah. The Wailing Wall was a part of this structure.
▶ Rabbinic Judaism started around 1 CE. The importance of temple worship declined. The Rabbis told people to pray at home and at synagogues.
▶ The period between 70 – 200 CE saw two revolts by the Jews against Romans. The first resulted in the destruction of the temple, while the second led to the death of thousands of Jews and banning of Jews from Jerusalem.
▶ After 200 CE, Judaism developed rapidly, and a collection of teachings and sayings of the early Rabbis was compiled. It is called Mishna.
▶ The period around 1000 CE is considered as the golden period for Jews. They lived peacefully with Islamic rulers in Spain and were also recorded in Britain.
▶ The next millennium though was marked by crusades, and bad times returned for the Jews. They were expelled from England, France, Spain, and Portugal in the thirteenth century.
▶ The seventeenth century again saw Jewish expansion. In 1648, Jews were recorded in America.
▶ The birth of Reform Judaism began in the 19th century. The belief that customs and rituals should reform with changing times was inculcated. This reformation began in Germany and is popular today in Europe and America.
▶ The Jews were convinced that the only way they would be safe was if they had their own nation. Thus, Zionist movement took root in the mid-19th century.
▶ In the 1930s and 1940s, a massive tragedy struck the Jews. Around 6 million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust carried by the Nazi government in Germany.
▶ The State of Israel was created in 1948. But, even today there is severe unrest in the area, as Israel shares an uneasy relationship with its Arab neighbors.
▶ There are 613 commandments (or mitzvot), according to Jewish tradition. All the mitzvots are equally sacred for the Jewish people. In Torah, the ten sayings or commandments are called the Aseret HaDibrot. They are:
- I am the Lord, your God.
- You shall not have other gods.
- You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
- Remember the Sabbath day.
- Honor your father and mother.
- You shall not murder.
- You shall not commit adultery.
- You shall not steal.
- You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
- You shall not covet your neighbor’s house.
All the commandments can be categorized directly or indirectly in the above main types. These categories constitute duties to God as well as people.
▶ Jews pray three times in a day. The morning prayer is called Shacharit, the afternoon service is called Mincha, and the evening prayer is called Ma’ariv. On Shabbat and other holidays, a fourth prayer called Mussaf is added.
▶ Brit milah
Male babies are circumcised on their eight day, and given their Hebrew name as well.
▶ Bar mitzvah and Bat mitzvah
It denotes passage to adulthood, when the female Jew is twelve and the male Jew is thirteen years old.
▶ Tanakh is the ancient book of Jews; it is the acronym for the Torah, the Nevi’im, and the Ketuvim.
▶ The Talmud was written approximately 2,000 years before, which describes the way of following the Torah.
▶ The Torah or the Pentateuch is the collection of the first five books: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.
▶ The Leviticus which is also known as Torat Kohanim or “instructions for priest” tells how to worship God.
▶ The Book of Daniel is the most famous work of the genre of apocalyptic literature during (2 – 1 BCE).
Shabbat (Day of Rest)
Shabbat is observed from Friday evening till the appearance of three stars on Saturday night. During dinner, candles are lit and a blessing is recited over two loaves of challah, a braided Jewish bread. It is the day to remember the creation of Heaven and Earth and spend time with your family.
Rosh Hashanah (Day of Remembrance)
It is the Jewish New Year, which marks the beginning of the 10-day period of atonement leading up to Yom Kippur. The Jews blow the shofar, or ram’s horn, in the synagogue as a holiday custom. Blessings are also said over diverse symbolic foods like pomegranates.
Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement)
It is a day of fasting and praying for forgiveness for one’s sins. It is considered as the holiest day of the Jewish year.
Hanukkah is a festival of lights, which is celebrated as an eight-day Jewish holiday. A single candle is lit on the first day, two on the second, and so on till the eight day. A nine-branched Menorah is lit on the eight day; the ninth is used to light all other candles.
▶ The Jews believe that a descendant of King David will be the Messiah, who will bring an era of peace and build the third temple. This period will be the golden period of Judaism as well as for the entire mankind.
▶ A kippah is a brimless skullcap that Jews wear when praying, eating, reciting blessings, or studying religious texts.
▶ A person born to a Jewish mother is considered a Jew, whether he follows the customs and traditions or not.
▶ Traditional Jews believe in existence after death.