Star of DavidJUDAISM

The term "G-d" is used in this essay to respect the Jewish prohibition against spelling the name of G-d in full.

Early History of Judaism

Circa 2000 BCE, the G-d of the ancient Israelites established a divine covenant with Abraham, making him the patriarch of many nations. From his name, the term Abramic Religions is derived; these are the three religions which trace their roots back to Abraham: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The book of Genesis describes the events surrounding the lives of the four patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph. Moses was the next leader. 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.

The original 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 temple there.

Division 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. 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.

Three religious sects had formed by the 1st century AD: the Sadducees, Pharisees and Essenes. Many anticipated the arrival of a 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 a separate religion. 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.

The period from the destruction of the temple onward give rise to heavy persecution by Christians throughout Europe and Russia. The latter held the Jews continuously responsible for the execution of Jesus. In the 1930s and 1940s, Adolf Hitler and the German Nazi party drew on centuries of anti-Semitism (and upon their own psychotic beliefs in racial purity) when 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.

A Zionist movement was a response to persecution. Their initial goal was create a Jewish homeland in Palestine. The state of Israel was formed on 1948-MAY-18.

There are currently about 18 million Jews throughout the world; about 7 million live in North America.

Jewish Texts

The Tanakh corresponds to the Jewish Scriptures (Old Testament) in the Christian bible. It is composed of three groups of books: The Talmud describes a code for daily Jewish life.

Jewish Beliefs and Practices

Jewish beliefs include:

Jewish practices include:

The local synagogue is governed by the congregation and led by a rabbi who has been chosen by the congregation. The Chief Rabbis 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.

Jewish Sects

There are five main forms of Judaism in the world today:

* These are the largest forms of Judaism

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