Judaism originated in Israel and can be traced back 4,000 years. It is the oldest of the world's major monotheistic religions: BahÃ¡'i, Islam and Christianity are three others.
Like Christianity and Islam, Judaism's roots originated with the prophet Abraham. The name 'Jew' derives from Juda, one of the twelve original tribes of Israel.
Judaism does not have a set of doctrines or creeds, but followers seek guidance in Jewish holy texts: the Torah and the Talmud. The Torah is the first five books of the Old Testament in the Christian bible. It contains the foundational beliefs and values that have always served as the faith's moral authority.
The Talmud is a compendium of law and commentary on the Torah. It includes stories, laws, debates about moral issues, etc.
The fundamental beliefs of Judaism are: that there is one all powerful God who is the creator and ruler of the universe; Jews are God's chosen people; the ten commandments are the core instruction for Jewish life. The Synagogue is the Jewish place of worship and the religious leader is known as a Rabbi.
Judaism has various sects based on beliefs and practices and place of origin. The main forms of Judaism in the world today are:
- Orthodox Judaism: It follows the original teachings and traditions of the faith closely and looks at the sacred text as being divinely inspired.
- Reform Judaism: Its adherents have adapted their faith and customs to modern life and are strong advocates for creating a just society, thus many Reform Jews have been at the forefront of political activism. Women constitute a large number of Rabbis in Reform congregations.
- Conservative Judaism: It began in the mid-nineteenth century in reaction to the more liberal positions of Reform Judaism. It too adapts to modern cultures and rejects fundamentalism but is concerned to stay deeply rooted in tradition Jewish history and community practice.
- Hasidic Judaism: Hasidic Judaism arose in 18th century Europe as a movement stressing spirituality over academicism. Humanistic Judaism: It is one of the modern sects. Its small group of adherents are less inclined to accept the supernatural elements of the faith, but rather see humankind in control of all things.
- Reconstructionist Judaism: It also has a small group of adherents and is a modern, liberal movement which began as an attempt to unify the religion. Its followers reject the concept that Jews are a uniquely favored and chosen people.
There are an estimated 12 million Jews around the world, concentrated mainly in Israel and the U.S. The Holocaust of the 1930's and "˜40's in Europe, one of history's examples of large-scale religious and racial genocide, shaped the history of the twentieth century and political relations globally up to this very day.
Resources and Links
- Judaism 101, online encyclopedia of Judaism, www.jewFaq.org
- Shamash, a project of Hebrew College has links to Jewish web sites, www.shamash.org
- About.com, page on Judaism, http://judaism.about.com
- Shalom Center, www.shalomctr.org
- Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, www.rac.org
- World Union for Progressive Judaism, http://wupj.org/home/index.html
- Union of American Hebrew Congregations, http://www.uahc.org