History of Judaism

The Old Testament books of the Bible describe numerous struggles of the Jewish people. After their triumphant Exodus from Egyptian captivity following Moses, they wandered around in the desert for forty years before entering the Promised Land. They had many conflicts with neighboring societies, yet for several centuries were able to maintain a unified state centered in Jerusalem.

This occupation of the Promised Land was not to last, however. In 722 BC, the northern part of the Hebrew state fell to Assyrian raiders. By 586 BC, Jerusalem was conquered by Babylonians. The land of Israel was successively ruled by Persians, Macedonians, Greeks, Syrians, and Romans in the time that followed. As a result of the Syrian King Antiochus IV Epiphanes’ attempt to suppress the Jewish religion, a rebellion led by Judas Maccabaeus in 167 BC resulted in the independence of the Jewish nation. This is celebrated today by the festival Hanukkah.

In 70 AD, the Roman army destroyed Jerusalem, and the Jews were forced out of the area and settled in Mediterranean countries and in other areas in southwest Asia. This migration of the Jewish population is known as Diaspora. Many of these Jews settled in Europe and became victims of persecution and poverty. Ghettoes and slums became their homes and massacres were common. Because of these living conditions, many fled to the United States in the late 19th century. Migration to the States especially climbed during the aftermath of the Holocaust, the organized murder of Jews during and after World War II. Today the United States has the largest population of Jewish people with high concentration areas in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Miami, and Washington D.C.

In 1917, an attempt to reestablish Palestine as the Jewish homeland began. By 1948, the State of Israel became an independent country. They have regained their Hebrew language, which involved inventing words for modern inventions and concepts unheard of centuries ago and writing a Hebrew dictionary to unify the language.

References

McDowell, Josh and Don Stewart, Handbook of Today’s Religions. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983. Twelfth printing, June 1992.

Shelley, Fred M. and Audrey E. Clarke, eds. Human and Cultural Geography. Dubuque, Iowa: Wm. C. Brown Publishers, 1994.

Written by Sara Wenner, 2001

Jewish Terms

Diaspora The dispersion of the Jews.

Hanukkah The feast of dedication celebrating the Maccabean victory in 167 B.C.

Passover Annual feast commemorating the deliverance of the firstborn in Egypt when the angel of death took all those who did not have blood on the doorpost.

Pentateuch The first five books in the Old Testament. Also called Torah.

Rosh Hashanah The Jewish New Year.

Sabbath The holy day of rest which commemorates God’s completed work of creation and His liberation of the Israelites from their bondage in Egypt.

Seder The festival held in Jewish homes on the first night of Passover.

Shabuot The feast of weeks, seven weeks after Passover, which commemorates the giving of the Ten Commandments. Also called Pentecost.

Sukkoth The feast of tabernacles celebrating the harvest.

Talmud The Jewish library of oral law and tradition.

Torah The Pentateuch, or the entire body of Jewish religious literature, law and teaching as contained chiefly in the Old Testament and Talmud.

Yom Kippur The day of atonement, devoted to confession of sins and reconciliation with God, ten days after Rosh Hashanah.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Basic Beliefs of Judaism

Judaism is a monotheistic religion which believes that the world was created by a single, all-knowing divinity, and that all things within that world were designed to have meaning and purpose as part of a divine order. According to the teachings of Judaism, God’s will for human behavior was revealed to Moses and the Israelites at Mount Saini. The Torah, or commandments, which regulate how humans are to live their lives, were a gift from God so that they might live in according to His will.

Statement of Faith

Moses Maimonides, a Spanish Jew who lived in the 12th century, tried to condense the basic beliefs of Judaism into the form of a creed. It is still followed by the traditional forms of Judaism.

  1. I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, blessed be His Name, is the Creator and Guide of everything that has been created; He alone has made, does make, and will make all things.
  2. I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, blessed be His Name, is One, and that there is no unity in any manner like unto His, and that He alone is our God, who was, and is, and will be.
  3. I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, blessed be His Name, is not a body, and that He is free from all the properties of matter, and that He has not any form whatever.
  4. I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, blessed be His Name, is the first and the last.
  5. I believe with perfect faith that to the Creator, blessed be His Name, and to Him alone, it is right to pray, and that it is not right to pray to any being besides Him.
  6. I believe with perfect faith that all the works of the prophets are true.
  7. I believe with perfect faith that the prophecy of Moses, our teacher, peace be unto him, was true, and that he was the chief of the prophets, both of those who preceded and of those who followed him.
  8. I believe with perfect faith that the whole Torah, now in our possession, is the same that was given to Moses, our teacher, peace be unto him.
  9. I believe with perfect faith that this Torah will not be changed, and that there will never be any other Law from the Creator, blessed be His name.
  10. I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, blessed be His name, knows very deed of the children of men, and all their thoughts, as it is said. It is He that fashioned the hearts of them all, that gives heed to all their works.
  11. I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, blessed be His Name, rewards those that keep His commandments and punishes those that transgress them.
  12. I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the Messiah; and, though he tarry, I will wait daily for his coming.
  13. I believe with perfect faith that there will be a revival of the dead at the time when it shall please the Creator, blessed be His name, and exalted be His Fame for ever and ever.

For Thy salvation I hope, O Lord.

Three Branches of Judaism

These are the three branches of Judaism which form the framework for the type of lifestyle and beliefs of Jewish individuals:

Orthodox-

Traditionalists who observe most of the traditional dietary and ceremonial laws of Judaism

Conservative-

Do not hold to the importance of a Jewish political state, but put more emphasis on the historic and religious aspects of Judaism, doctrinally somewhere between Orthodox and Reform

Reform-

The liberal wing of Judaism, culture and race oriented with little consensus on doctrinal or religious belief

References

McDowell, Josh and Don Stewart, Handbook of Today’s Religions. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983. Twelfth printing, June 1992.

Shelley, Fred M. and Audrey E. Clarke, eds. Human and Cultural Geography. Dubuque, Iowa: Wm. C. Brown Publishers, 1994.

 

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