said that circa 2000 BCE, the God of the Israelites established a divine covenant
with Abraham, making him the patriarch of many nations. The term Abramic
Religions is derived from his name. These are the four religions which
trace their roots back to Abraham: Judaism, Christianity, Islam and
the Baha'i World Faith. The book of Genesis describes the events surrounding
the lives of the three patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. (Joseph,
who is recognized as a fourth patriarch by Christians is not considered
one by Jews). Moses was the next leader of the ancient Israelites. He
led his people out of captivity in Egypt, and received the 'Law from
God'. After decades of wandering through wilderness, Joshua led the
tribes into the promised land, driving out the Canaanites through a
series of military battles.
tribal organization was converted into a kingdom by Samuel; its first
king was Saul. The second king, David, established Jerusalem as the
religious and political centre. The third king, Solomon built the first
into the Northern kingdom of Israel and the Southern kingdom of Judah
occurred shortly after the death of Solomon in 922 BCE. Israel fell
to Assyria in 722 BCE; Judah fell to the Babylonians in 587 BCE. The
temple was destroyed. Some Jews returned from captivity under the Babylonians
and started to restore the temple in 536 BCE. (Orthodox Jews date the
Babylonian exile from 422 to 352 BCE). Alexander the Great invaded the
area in 332 BCE. From circa 300 to 63 BCE, Greek became the language
of commerce, and Greek culture had a major influence on Judaism. In
63 BCE, the Roman Empire took control of Palestine.
(and some minor) religious sects had formed by the 1st century AD: the
Basusim, Essenes, Pharisees and Sadducees. Many anticipated the arrival
of the Messiah who would drive the Roman invaders out and restore independence.
Christianity was established initially as a Jewish sect, centred in
Jerusalem. Paul broke with this tradition and spread the religion to
the Gentiles (non-Jews). Many mini-revolts led to the destruction of
Jerusalem and its temple in 70 CE. The Jewish Christians were wiped
out or scattered at this time. The movement started by Paul flourished
and quickly evolved into the religion of Christianity. Jews were scattered
throughout the known world. Their religion was no longer centred in
Jerusalem; Jews were prohibited from setting foot there. Judaism became
decentralized and stopped seeking converts. The local synagogue became
the new centre of Jewish life, and authority shifted from the centralized
priesthood to local scholars and teachers, giving rise to Rabbinic Judaism.
from the destruction of the temple onward give rise to heavy persecution
by Christians throughout Europe and Russia. Many groundless stories
were spread, accusing Jews of ritual murder, the desecration of the
Catholic host and continuing responsibility for the execution of Jesus
. Unsubstantiated rumours continue to be circulated today. In the 1930s
and 1940s, Adolph Hitler and the German Nazi party drew on centuries
of anti-Semitism, and upon their own psychotic beliefs in racial purity.
They organized the Holocaust, the attempted extermination of all Jews
in Europe. About 6 million were killed in one of the world's greatest
examples of religious and racial intolerance.
movement was a response within all Jewish traditions to centuries of
Christian persecution. Their initial goal was create a Jewish homeland
in Palestine. The state of Israel was formed on 18th May 1948.
Tanakh corresponds to the Jewish Scriptures, (often referred to as the
Old Testament by Christians). It is composed of three groups of books:
Torah (aka Pentateuch): Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and
Nevi'im: Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel,
Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah,
Haggai, Zachariah, MalachiIsaiah, Amos.
Ketuvim: the "Writings" including Psalms, Proverbs, Job,
Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Ruth, Esther, Lamentations, Daniel,
Ezra, Nehemiah, Chronicles.
The Talmud contains
stories, laws, medical knowledge, debates about moral choices, etc.
It is composed of material which comes mainly from two sources:
||The Mishnah: 6
"orders" containing hundreds of chapters, including series
of laws from the Hebrew Scriptures. It was compiled about 200 CE.
||The Gemara (one
Babylonian and one Palestinian): is encyclopaedic in scope. It includes
comments from hundreds of Rabbi's from 200 - 500 CE, explaining
the Mishnah with additional historical, religious, legal, sociological,
etc. material. It often records many different opinions on a topic
without giving a definitive answer.
||God is the creator
of all that exists; he is one, incorporeal (without a body), and
he alone is to be worshipped as absolute ruler of the universe.
||The first five
books of the Hebrew Bible were revealed to Moses by God. It will
not be changed or augmented in the future.
||God has communicated
to the Jewish people through prophets.
||God monitors the
activities of humans; he rewards individuals for good deeds and
base much of their faith on the same Hebrew Scriptures as Jews,
there are major differences in belief: Jews generally consider actions
and behaviour to be of primary importance; beliefs come out of actions.
This conflicts with conservative Christians for whom belief is of
primary importance and actions tend to be secondary.
||Jewish belief does
not accept the Christian concept of original sin (the belief that
all people have inherited Adam and Eve's sin when they disobeyed
God's instructions in the Garden of Eden).
the inherent goodness of the world and its people as creations of
||Believers are able
to sanctify their lives and draw closer to God by performing fulfilling
mitzvot (divine commandments).
||No saviour is needed
or is available as an intermediary.
||Beliefs about Jesus
vary considerably. Some view him as a great moral teacher. Others
see him as a false prophet or as an idol of Christianity. Some sects
of Judaism will not even say his name due to the prohibition against
saying an idol's name.
||The Jews are often
referred to as God's chosen people. This does not mean that they
are in any way to be considered superior to other groups. Biblical
verses such as Exodus 19:5 simply imply that God has selected Israel
to receive and study the Torah, to worship God only, to rest on
the Sabbath, and to celebrate the festivals. Jews were not chosen
to be better that others; they were simply selected to receive more
difficult responsibilities, and more onerous punishment if they
||The 613 commandments
found in Leviticus and other books regulate all aspects of Jewish
||The Ten commandments,
as delineated in Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21, form a brief
synopsis of the Law.
||The Messiah (anointed
one of God) will arrive in the future and gather Jews once more
into the land of Israel. There will be a general resurrection of
the dead at that time. The Jerusalem Temple, destroyed in 70 CE,
will be rebuilt.
||Boys reach the
status of Bar Mitzvah on their 13th birthday; girls reach Bar Mitzvah
on their 12th birthday. This means that they are recognized as adults
and are personally responsible to follow the Jewish commandments
and laws; they are allowed to lead a religious service; they are
counted in a "minyan" (a quota of men necessary to perform
certain parts of religious services); they can sign contracts; they
can testify in religious courts; theoretically, they can marry,
although the Talmud recommends 18 to 24 as the proper age for marriage.
||The more liberal
movements within Judaism differ from some of the above beliefs concerning
the source of the Torah, the concept of direct reward and punishment
according to one's behaviour, etc.
of the Sabbath as a day of rest, starting at sundown on Friday evening.
discipline, according to the Law, which governs all areas of life.
attendance by Jewish males at Synagogue.
of the annual festivals including: Passover, or Pesach is held each
Spring to recall the Jews' deliverance out of slavery in Egypt circa
1300 BCE. A ritual Seder meal is eaten in each observing Jewish home
at this time. Six different foods are placed on the seder plate in the
order in which they area eaten:
(vegetables dipped in salt water) recalls the bitter tears shed
||Maror (bitter herbs)
to symbolize the bitterness of slavery.
vegetables) also to symbolize the bitterness of slavery.
nuts & spices with wine) represents the mortar used by Hebrew
on the seder plate, but uneaten during the Seder meal:
(lamb shankbone) to recall the Passover sacrifice in the ancient
egg) symbolizes mourning, sacrifice, spring, and renewal.
on the Seder plate, but often eaten, is a boiled egg.
||Rosh Hashanah is
the Jewish New Year, and is the anniversary of the completion of
creation, about 5760 years ago. It is held in the fall. The
10 days from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement,
are days of fasting and penitence.
||Sukkoth or the
Feast of Booths is an 8 day harvest festival; a time of thanksgiving.
||Hanukkah or the
Feast of Lights is an 8 day feast of dedication. It recalls the
war fought by the Maccabees in the cause of religious freedom. It
is typically observed in December. Originally a minor Jewish holy
day, it has become more important in recent years
||Purim, the Feast
of Lots recalls the defeat by Queen Esther of the plan to slaughter
all of the Persian Jews, circa 400 BCE.
||Shavout, the Feast
of Weeks recalls God's revelation of the Torah to the Jewish people.
It is held in late May or early June.
synagogue is governed by the congregation and is normally led by a rabbi
who has been chosen by the congregation. A Rabbi is a teacher who has
been well educated in Jewish law and tradition.
male with sufficient knowledge can lead religious services. In reform
and some conservative congregations, a woman can also preside. This
is often done in those Jewish communities who lack a rabbi.
Rabbi's in France and Great Britain have authority only by the agreement
of those who accept it. Two Chief Rabbis in Israel have civil authority
in areas of family law.
are five main forms of Judaism in the world today:
Judaism: This began in the mid-nineteenth century as a reaction
against the Reform movement. It is a main-line movement midway between
Reform and Orthodox.
This is a very small group, mainly composed of atheists and agnostics,
who regard mankind as the measure of all things.
This the oldest, most conservative, and most diverse form of Judaism.
Modern Orthodox, Chasidim and Ultra Orthodox share a basic belief
in the derivation of Jewish law, even as they hold very different
outlooks on life. They attempt to follow the original form of Judaism
as they view it to be. They look upon every word in their sacred
texts as being divinely inspired.
Judaism: This is a new, small, liberal movement started by Mordecai
Kaplan as an attempt to unify and revitalize the religion. They
reject the concept that Jews are a uniquely favoured and chosen
people. They have no connection at all with Christian Reconstructionism,
which is an ultra-conservative form of Christianity.
They are a liberal group, followed by many North American Jews.
The movement started in the 1790's in Germany. They follow the ethical
laws of Judaism, but leave up to the individual the decision whether
to follow or ignore the dietary and other traditional laws. They
use modern forms of worship. There are many female rabbis in reform
The faith of Israel,
as described in the Hebrew Scriptures, had divided into a number of
Jewish Sects (the Basusim, Pharisees, Essenes, Saducees, Zealots and
others) by the early first century CE. Subsequently, a number of events
of momentous importance occurred:
||30 CE: Some Jews,
following the teachings of Jeshua (known by Christians as Jesus
Christ), formed a Jewish Christian reform movement within Judaism
under the leadership of James, an apostle of Jeshua.
||circa 55 CE: Paul,
a Jewish persecutor of Christians, became converted to Christianity
and started to organize Pauline Christian churches throughout much
of the Roman empire in conflict with the Jewish Christians.
||70 CE: The Roman
army destroyed the Temple and the rest of Jerusalem.
||132 CE: Many Jews
accepted Bar Kochba as the Messiah. This led to a hopeless three-year
revolt against the Roman Empire. About a half-million Jews were
killed; thousands were sold into slavery or taken into captivity.
The rest were exiled from Palestine and scattered throughout the
known world in what is called the "Diaspora."
Out of these events
came two major world religions:
||Judaism in its
Rabbinical form, centred in local synagogues, scattered throughout
the known world
which later became centred in Rome.
Relations between the two
religions became strained. The Christian Scriptures include many examples of
anti-Judaism. One of the gospels, written during the last third of the 1st
century CE, included the accusation that all Jews, (past, present, and future),
are responsible for deicide: the killing of God. This form of religious
propaganda was serious enough in its original setting, as long as Christianity
remained a small reform movement within Judaism. There are many examples of
inter-religious friction throughout literature of that era; indeed, it is
prevalent today. But when the Christian religion became the official religion of
Rome in the late 4th century CE, Christianity became sufficiently powerful to
actively oppress and persecute Jews. This led to numerous exterminations of
groups of Jews during the Dark Ages, Middle Ages, Renaissance and into the
modern era. Ancient Christian teachings and practices paved the way for the Nazi
holocaust during World War II.
Today, only a few fringe
Christian groups still teach that Jews are responsible for Christ's death. Many
Christian denominations teach that the promises that God made to the Jewish
people have been withdrawn and transferred to the Christian Church. This
teaching has led to conflicts over attempts to evangelise Jews. Although
anti-Semitism has been abandoned by most in North America, the relationships
between Christians and Jews have much room for improvement.
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