Judaism – Jewish Religion -The First Monotheistic Faith
I have always been fascinated by the Jewish religion, the first monotheistic religion, Judaism, as well as the significant role they played in history. I decided to learn more about it. This is what I gathered:
First, What is Monotheism?
Monotheism is the belief in the existence of only one God.
What is Judaism?
Judaism, the Jewish Religion, is derived from the Hebrew word ‘Yahedut’. Sometimes referred to as the Jewish faith, stands as the oldest monotheistic religion, i.e., the belief in one God. As is written in the Sh’ma, which is considered the most important prayer in Judaism, this God is omnipotent (all powerful), omniscient (all knowing) and omnipresent (ever present). Judaism is the anchor of the Jewish faith. It is believed to have given birth to Christianity and Islam. The first and most important written evidence of Judaism is the Torah, which is believed to have originated from the book of ‘J’.
What is Religion?
Religion is a strong belief in a supernatural power or powers that control human destiny. It is an institution to express belief in a divine power.
What is the History of Religion?
Complex and organized religion began during the Neolithic age. The Neolithic age (New Stone Age) is identified with the invention of crop cultivation and animal domestication. Humans began to dwell permanently in a particular area during this era, which in turn led to the formation of communities. These communities and their preceding generation, which later grew into societies, began to expand in terms of population and geographical locations. The transition from these communities to organized societies resulted in even more developed forms of religion. These new organized and developed forms of religion served to validate the central authority. An example is ancient Egypt, where the Pharaoh was seen as both a political and spiritual leader. Religion was also a means of maintaining peace and tolerance among members of these societies. In other words, religion was a means of providing and sustaining social and economic security.
What are the Branches of Judaism?
Many branches of Judaism, with different beliefs, exist. There are many different groups of Judaism with different strength of beliefs. The various branches of Judaism include Conservative, Orthodox, Reconstructionist, Reform, and Secular Humanistic.
What are the Beliefs of Judaism?
Judaism, contrary to Christianity, believes the Messiah (‘Mashiach’) is yet to come as promised. This expected messiah will be a descendant from the family of King David, who will bring lasting peace on earth and goodwill to mankind.
Below are the basic beliefs of Judaism:
1) Judaism preaches the existence of one all knowing, all powerful and ‘ever present’ God who created and rules everything in existence. ‘Yahweh’, as he is called in Judaism is also just and merciful.
2) Judaism also preaches the equality of man. Every man is created equal and in the image of God.
3) Judaism believes that humans were given freewill and is responsible for their own choices and actions.
4) Judaism emphasizes on ethics and how humans treat each other. The ‘Code of Law provided’, by God, to them at Mount Sinai, which is known as the Ten Commandments, provide some guidelines on how humans should treat God and others.
What are the Principles of Judaism?
Rambam’s thirteen principles of faith is the most widely-accepted list of Jewish beliefs. Below are four of the Thirteen Articles of the Jewish faith:
- Belief in the existence of the Creator, who is perfect in every manner of existence and is the Primary Cause of all that exists.
- The belief in God’s absolute and unparalleled unity.
- The belief in God’s no corporeality, nor that will He be affected by any physical occurrences, such as movement, or rest, or dwelling.
- The belief in God’s eternity.
What are Judaism Holy Books?
The most important literature of Judaism is the ‘Torah’. It is the primary document of Judaism. The ‘Torah’, which is translated ‘teaching’, is God’s instructions to the Jewish people of faith. The Torah contains 613 commandments (‘Mitzvot’). The Ten Commandments are considered the most important commandments. The Torah contains instructions on how to deal with life emotionally, physically and mentally. In other words, the Torah contains instructions on how to act, think and feel. The Torah is divided into two parts, the written Torah and the oral Torah.
The Written Torah is often called the ‘Tanakh,’ which stands for Torah (T), Nevi’im (N) and Ketuvim (K). The Written Torah contains the Five Books of Moses (Chumashe Torah), which were given to the Jewish People at Mount Sinai approximately 3500 years ago, the Prophets (Nevi’im), which are direct prophecies from God to the prophets of the past, and the Writings (Ketuvim), which are written by the prophets with the inspiration and guidance of God. Jews read the Torah out loud each week in synagogue in an effort to become more learned about their Jewish heritage.
Who are Judaism Leaders?
The Synagogue is a place of gathering and worship for people of Jewish faith. In as much as there are many important roles in Judaism and in the Synagogue, there are no leaders. Each congregation has a ‘Rabbi’ (the Hebrew word meaning ‘teacher’) and a ‘Hazzan.’ The rabbi’s function is to interpret and teach the laws and scriptures and render judgments on matters of Judaism and its commandments while the Hazzan’s function is to recite and chant prayers. Central authority is not vested on one person or body, but in sacred texts and religious laws.
What are Jewish Religious Clothing?
- The ‘Kippah’’, a skullcap worn by many Jewish men at all times.
- The ‘Tzitzit’, tassels worn by observant Jews on the corners of four-cornered garments.
- The ‘Tefillin’, two square leather boxes containing biblical verses, attached to the forehead and wound around the left arm by leather straps.
- A ‘Kittel’, a white knee-length over garment, worn by prayer leaders and some observant traditional Jews on some Holidays. It also serves as a burial shroud.
What are Jewish Prayers?
Traditionally, Jews recite prayers three times daily, with a fourth prayer added on Shabbat and holidays. Below are a few of the prayers:
‘Amidah,’ also known as the ‘Shemoneh Esreh,’ is said three times a day (four times on holidays, and five times on ‘Yom Kipur’).
‘Anim Zemirot’ , a song that is sung at the end of morning prayers on ‘Shabbat.’
‘Shema Yisrael’, a prayer that affirms belief and trust in One God.
‘Kaddish’, an Aramaic prayer usually said for the dead.
‘Aleinu’, a prayer of praise to God for allowing people of the Jewish faith serve him.
What are Prominent Jewish Holidays?
Below are a few of the holidays;
- ‘Shabbat’, the seventh day of the Jewish week and a day of rest in Judaism. This starts before sundown on Friday to after sundown Saturday.
- ‘Passover’, an eight-day holiday celebrating the Jews’ escape from slavery in Egypt.
- ‘Hanukkah’ (Festival of Lights), an eight-day holiday celebrating the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.
Others include ‘Sukkot’ (“Tabernacles” or “The Festival of Booths”), ‘Simchat Torah,’ (Rejoicing of the Torah), ‘Rosh Hashanah’ (Day of Remembrance), ‘Yom Kippur’ (Day of Atonement), ‘Purim’ (meaning “Lots”) etc.
In 2007, the world Jewish population was estimated at 13.2 million people, 41% of whom lived in Israel and 40% of whom lived in the United States.