Judaism is the religion of the jews. It is an ancient monotheistic religion based on the Torah which is its foundational text.
The name “Judaism” came to the forays in the earliest stages of the Christian era (2 Maccabees 2: 21, 8: 1, 14: 38; Galatians 1: 13) so it begins then. Judaism, like other major religions, is equivocal by indicating that there’s an accord of belief and practice among all people that are Jewish, which is not accurate.
However, the name generates interest to a shared genealogy; poised as having a Jewish mother; having a heritage traceable to “our fathers” Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and a sense of having been a chosen people to live in God’s light in the Holy Torah.
There is no official founder in Judaism but the prophets are considered the founders. They are Abraham, Moses and Noah.
The Holy books of Judaism are Torah, Midrash and Talmud.
This prior belief of having been a people chosen of God has been critiqued in the 21st century. Now a distinction has been made to differentiate the “secular” or “cultural” Judaism, which denotes people who accept the real history and values of Judaism, but who do not adhere to the tenets of the Torah, and Judaism as a religion.
There are disparities in belief structure among those that accept the Torah. There are different sects including Liberal Judaism, and Orthodox, Reform, Conservative, Progressive, Reconstructionist.
Attempts at reconciling the differences in beliefs between these sections haven’t been too successful. However, a common agreeable fact is that Judaism is inseparable from the idea of people that descended from Israel. That adherence to another kind of religion such as Christianity or Islam is incompatible with any form of Judaism; and those known as “Jewish Christians” having accepted Jesus. The Christ, as the Messiah, and therefore are not accepted as Jews by Jews whatsoever.
History and Origin
Historically, the origin of the Jewish people and Judaism can’t be traced with any conviction.
The major sources of information are included in works that are considered to have come from the initiative and inspiration of God, and which became scripture such as the Torah, Nebi’im (Prophets), and Kethubim (Writings), thus the abbreviated name Tanach.
This threefold section goes as far back to the second century BC. From these works, apparently, a kinship group, the “Bene Jacob” (descendants of Jacob) gradually ceased being a nomadic tribe and settled in regions of Canaan.
Slowly the tribes began settling and afterward for the conquest of land, led to some covenant not only among themselves but under the demand and protection of Yhwh. (The source and first pronouncement of Yhwh is unknown, traditionally it is interpreted Yahweh, but Orthodox Jews Will never pronounce it.
It might be out of fear, or sentiment, that the name of God should never be uttered. The word Yhwh, throughout the centuries, has to be considered one of the most, if not the most Strong magical words.
Initially, Yahweh was a god in the council of the Canaanite supreme god El; but scripture reveals that Yaweh assumed the powers and features of El. Hence becoming “that which God is: this incredible transformation is, more than other things, the origin of Judaism.
This source of Judaism is told in a more coherent version of the Old Testament of the Bible, starting with God’s creative activities in Genesis; afterward followed the succession of “covenants” which God made with special people, or their ancestors, culminating, although not finishing, with Moses.
Within the covenants was the demand that Israel was to be as holy as God, along with the folks who obeyed the order, Shema “… Hear, O Israel…” When the individuals kept the commands (according to Deuteronomy) all went well for them, but, if they didn’t, disaster was looming.
Thus Israel became a prophetic community, established by God in the midst of time, to signify that harmony which God intended in creation, and which will, in the end, be the whole human case. “When the knowledge of God cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.” (Habakkuk 2, 14)
Under David, Jerusalem was conquered, and there the Lord’s anointed (haMashiach = the Messiah) mediated between God and the individuals. There too, the Temple was built, where worshippers’ sacrifices surrounded the Holy of Holies, the inner sanctuary where only the high priest entered on the Day of Atonement (Yon Kippur).
Kingly control and ritual were never self-sufficient: prophets tracked them who spoke directly from God, Koh amar Adonai, “Thus says the Lord…” In this way, the triple twine of Israel’s religion, prophet, priest, and king, was woven together.
THE RESILIENCE OF THE JUDAISM FAITH
Even after suffering traumatic events which include the exile in Babylon after suffering defeat, the people’s faith strengthened and continued so much that in the time of Jesus, Judaism became a missionary religion that was successful, winning many converts to monotheism.
Many confusing and contradictory interpretations concerning the custom of Judaism were circulated over time, specifically, what Jews must do to keep the covenant. Such interpretations were being espoused by the Sadducees, Pharisees, among others.
There was a consensus that the final control and outcome of history was in the hand of God, and that God would send a Messiah to restore the independent realm of the Jews or the nirvana.
This type of belief led to an increase in restlessness under Roman occupation culminating in two revolts (66-70 and 132-135 AD), which caused the Jews to become a people without possession of their property or holy places.
EXPANSION AND REVOLUTION
The rebuilding and continuity of Judaism were left to rabbis beginning with Jabneh. They continued the practice of faith which no longer had a Temple. Changes included the transformation of the Sabbath table into an altar. Sacrifices became actions of charity, and the synagogue became the center of education and liturgy. This voluminous interpretation was collected first in Mishnah and then in Talmuds, and eventually, had been arranged in Code (codifications of Law). Notably among them are the Codes of Maimonides and Joseph Caaro’s Shulhan Arukh. Simultaneously, Judaism was graphically expressed and maintained through Aggadah, its stories, and its biblical exegesis Midrash.
By then, the Jews were scattered across the world between two major communities whose many differences especially customs persist). There were the Sephardim’s (from Spain after the expulsion in 1492, and in the Mediterranean) and the Ashkenazim’s (originally in Europe but after many pogroms (attacks), like the Holocaust, now scattered again. There is a sizeable number in the United States of America. Both communities and traditions are still present in Israel.
LOVE FOR TRADITION
From a distant point of view, Judaism may appear to be occupied by law, but, in fact, this is not the case. Throughout the centuries till today, unceasing work has been undertaken to define the meaning of the Torah and Talmud.
The Jews who hold the law dear, do this not to win the favor of God but because he requested them to do so. The Torah is a language of love, a style of saying “Yes” to God (throughout nearly the whole biblical period there was no notion in a continuation of life with God after death, meaning there was no thought of reward for the faithful in an afterlife).
Therefore the origin of Judaism has thrown up two main revelations of the love for God which is dependent on the Torah, but is not obligated with the keeping of the law as the sole Jewish mandate. The first is the Kabbalah, and the second is the Hasidism. Jewish philosophers created powerful connections between wisdom and truth and the inherited faith.
Bowker, John, The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions, New York, Oxford University Press, 1997, pp. 512-514
In this section are descriptions of Judaism and beliefs and topics related to its practice. (Some of the subjects fit into other Topics also.)