Judaism is one of the oldest of the worlds continuing religious traditions. It is encompasses the culture, law, history and traditions of the People of Israel.
4500 years ago, the patriarch Abraham held steadfast to a belief that would change the course of history and form the basis of many of the worlds major religions. He believed in One G-d.
This is one of the most essential ideas of Judaism. The radical belief in a single transcendent G-d who created the universe and continues to govern it. Jews believe that the world has a purpose and there is meaning in life, because a divine intelligence stands behind it. The only way to live a fulfilling life is to follow G-d's commandments. These commandments are a blueprint for living a wholesome life, regulating how to interact with others and with G-d.
The Torah, which includes the Five Books of the Old Testament, The Books of the Prophets and Scriptures, The Mishnah and The Talmud along with all the Rabbinical Commentaries form the basis of Jewish learning. The Torah was given to Moses on Mount Sinai and transmitted word for word from father to son, Rabbi ("teacher") to student, for countless generations in an unbroken chain.
Jewish history begins within the Torah itself and the creation of the world. Please come back soon: an historical section to this page is under construction.
One remarkable aspect of this people is the very fact that they have survived in spite of being prosecuted, murdered, exiled again and again from land to land and yet the traditions have remained intact. It has led to a fervent love of life and a wry sense of humor.
Customs of Jewish people are very numerous because the Torah and it's hundreds of commandments apply to every situation of daily life. Religious Jews pray three times a day, make blessings before and after eating or drinking, dress modestly, and learn Torah every day. There are many more customs for each holiday, such blowing the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah, fasting on Yom Kippur, eating festive meals in little wooden cabins built for Succoth, lighting the eight candles on Chanukah, eating Matzoth on Pesach, and dairy products on Shavuot. The holidays commemorate historical events in Jewish history and reaffirm the covenant with G-d.
Today, Jews belong to three major movements. The Orthodox are deeply religious, and follow every precept carefully. The Conservative movement follows the traditions as well, but allows more personal interpretation. The Reform movement is the liberal branch of Judaism. Most Jews in the US belong the last two movements. In Israel as well, only a minority of Jews are fervently religious. But in every generation there is always a vibrant core that keep the traditions alive.
Please return for a separate section on Jewish holidays, customs and symbols and humor.
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