Judaism is a monotheistic religion which was developed amongst the ancient Hebrews. It was characterized by the belief of a transcendent God whom had been revealed to Abraham, Moses and Hebrew prophets also by the religious life they led which was in accordance to the scriptures and the traditions of the rabbinic (Graham, 2005). The Judaism way of life is a complex phenomenon as it comprises of law, innumerable cultural traditions and theology. Being formed over 4000 years ago, it is a religion that encompasses on the philosophies and cultures of the Jewish people as their direct expression of their covenant as the children of Israel.
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History is what provides key understandings to Judaism as its primal affirmations have appeared earlier in historical narratives. In the bible it is reported that contemporary events with activities were essential for religious purposes. Bible authors were deemed to have a divine presence which was only encountered in history. God’s presence was also experienced in the natural realm, though it was more immediate and intimate in disclosures occurring mostly in human actions (Kaplan and Scult, 2010). Although other communities in the times claimed to perceive a divided history, the Israelites understanding proved most influential as they claimed to have experienced God’s presence in events involving humans which led to the differentiation in development as per the Jewish thoughts.
In over 4000 years in history and development, the nature and character of the Jews has been displayed remarkably in their adaptability and continuity of their religion. As they encountered great civilizations of modern secular culture, did manage to assimilate the foreign elements in them enabling them to integrate them to their own religious and social systems hence being able to maintain a religion and a traditional culture that was unbroken. Furthermore, the Jewish heritage has been influenced by the combination of specific elements of its history which was left behind leading to developments which are as a result of adjustments and accretions occurring in each age (Graham, 2005). Its teachings have regarded on a central idea of a single creator which is monotheism. This has both universal and particular features where universally it is affirmed that God created and rules the world and at the end he will he will redeem Israel. Jewish people express themselves in messianism which is an idea of peace and justice in the political realm. Their life is also embraced by law in all domains which acts as a guide to conduct both religiously and ethnically.
Jewish history is divided into millennia periods which are independent of philosophical predilections. Christians in the world believe until Christianity rose, Judaism was a preparation of the gospel being followed by its manifestation which was revealed by Christ and the apostles (Stitskin, 2007). Theologically this was reconciled by the assumption that Christianity had been ordained before the world was created. In the 19th century biblical scholars made the decision to restore the kingdom of Judah to the Jews. This was asserted after the first fall of Jerusalem which was an ancient Israeli tic religion which gave it a new form of Judaism. These theories were later discarded after scholars got comprehensive knowledge of Middle East as a result of gradual development evolutionary in the beginning of the 20th century (Kaplan and Scult, 2010). As of today, Jewish groups either orthodox reform or conservative claim descent of direct spirituality from Pharisees and rabbinic sages. In any event the history of Judaism has been divided into the following major periods of biblical Judaism, Hellenistic, rabbinic and modern Judaism.
Biblical Judaism is the period designated by historians as that which was covered by the narratives of Tanakh being the primitive and last prophets of mankind in the century of 4th BCE. Tanakh follows the Hebrew nation during the experience cycles as they got favors and discipline from God. Here covenants were established with humanity (Abraham, Noah and Adam) where they were issued with an extensive set of laws via Moses where the Hebrews were set aside as God’s people. The patriarchs and Abraham, who is considered in the Jewish religion as the founder, promises his descendants a land in Canaan. Circumcision later became the defining mark of the religious community (Graham, 2005). Sacred altar was the place of prayer and sacrifice was made a practice. The patriarchs centered religion as the agreement between God and Abraham. Moses and the covenant in the bible are where under his leadership God rescued them from the bondage and at Mount Sinai a nation was established named Israel which was his grandson of Jacob. Mosaic religion later centered on the covenant of God and his people of Israel.
Practices such as worshiping of other gods were prohibited and this led to the establishment of rituals and festivals to celebrate God’s continuous provision (Kaplan and Scult, 2010). After the Canaan conquest Israel named its leaders as judges where it was described as the period they repeatedly fell into idolatry and apostasy. This covenant was carefully housed and protected in the Shiloh sanctuary and staffed by priests of the Eli’s family. A divided monarchy was experienced during Solomon’s reign where the nation is split into two north and southern kingdoms of Judah and Israel. The Hasmonaean kingdom succumbed as a result of civil war as the people didn’t want the governance of a king as they opted for theocratic clergy. Judeans began a revolt against the roman rules which led to the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem which contributed to Jews being denied entry to Jerusalem.
Hellenistic Judaism was a form of Jewish classical antiquity which was a combination of traditional elements of the Greek culture. It was known to exist in Jerusalem during the periods of the second temple during the conflict experienced between Hellenism and Judaizes. Hellenists were described as persons living the Greek way of life from language to outlook but were not from their ancestry. They were termed as specialist in language or culture of ancient Greece (Graham, 2005). As a result of contact between Semites and Greeks, Jews began to praise their writers as brave philosophical and self-disciplined. This Judaism included Jews who spoke and adopted Greek lifestyle as a result of conquests by Alexander where the Romans encompassed ending of the Islamic conquest during the byzantine period.
Rabbinic Judaism can be distinguished as the belief in Moses as the rabbi and as revealed by God in the Torah it is in two parts both in oral and written being known as the Mishnah. This came as a result of the destruction of the second temple that brought about a change in Judaism. During this period in Israel as the biblical and its co-texts were being edited and interpretation being done. This enabled rabbis to flourish due to the closure of Babylonian Talmud. Amongst the different Judaism in antiquity was rabbinic which was held at Mount Sinai (Graham, 2005). Classical bit of it is divided into different strata which are Tannaitic Amoraic and Saboraic. As interpreted in the Torah the opposition of priestly tradition which committed to written tradition of sacrificial cult in the temple led to the second destruction. However, as the formative period ended, it later became synthesized with interpretive and priestly traditions. Today it is represented as a normative form of Judaism where the Jews religiously express themselves as a substantial part of the international Jewish community (Stitskin, 2007).
Modern Judaism has been identified by the criteria dividing the history of Judaism and the Jews. Israeli scholars prefer to date it as from the late 17th century to the present. Social and political historians start it as from the French and American revolutions which led to the emancipation of Jews from laws which were discriminatory and segregative. The modern Jews as per scholars is characterized by a passive ending to the waiting of the messiah and the beginning of the active pursuit of both personal and national fulfilment of one’s lifetime on earth.
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The philosophy of the modern culture was to reconcile it with traditional religion in the Jewish history. This has led to the rise of a movement known as Haskalah which meant enlightenment. Being centered in berlin it was hoped to improve the image of Judaism as it brought reforms. The merging of Wissenschaft and Halaskalah led to the alteration of the nature of Judaism which led to reforms. As a result of new cultural and political ideologies the movement took a more literal character which was later experienced in many forms such as Zionism, Bundism and diaspora nationalism. Secular Jewish culture is a phenomenal that will live on today in forms of klezmer music, Yiddish revival and other areas of Jewish arts (Meyer, 2005).
There are different sects within Judaism. Orthodox Judaism which is typically known to be strict observers of traditional Jewish rituals and laws where most of them shabbat should not involve driving working nor handling money as it is a day of rest.it is divided into subgroups which include Hasidic Jews who emphasize on a mystical experience that involves direct communion with God through worship and prayer. Chabad is amongst the well-known of the orthodox (Graham, 2005). In addition, Reform Judaism is considered as a liberal category where it values strict observance of ethical traditions where followers tend to promote the adoption of progressive ideas. Most of these Jews are found in the United States. Conservative Judaism is on which is considered to be between orthodox and reformed Judaism where typically the conservatives honor the Judaism traditions as they allow modernization.
Further, Reconstructionist Judaism is a sect that believes in religious civilization which is constantly evolving and is dated back to 1922 which was founded by the society of advancement of Judaism headed by Mordecai Kaplan. Humanistic Judaism was founded by Rabbi Sherwin wine in 1963 which celebrated Jewish culture and history without emphasis to God. Messianic Judaism is the most modern that combines beliefs of both Christianity and Judaism where Jesus Christ is the messiah but yet they follow their Jewish traditions (Meyer, 2005).
Jewish people observe events in history and several important days. For example, Passover which is a holiday lasting for seven or eight days meant to celebrate their freedom from Egypt slavery. Passover is referred in the bible as story where the God of the Hebrews saved their families and children during the plague which was to kill the first-born babies. Rosh Hashanah is meant to celebrate the birth of humanity and university. Yom Kippur is considered as the day of astonishment which is the holiest day of the year which is spent on prayer and fasting (Graham, 2005). The days of Awe are the 10 days which start from Rosh Hashanah and end at Yom Kippur and are considered as time for repentance. Hanukkah is a celebration lasting for 8 days which also goes by the name Festivals of Lights which commemorates the rededication of the temple in Jerusalem where the Syrian Greeks were defeated 2000 years ago. Purim is alight holiday of joy as it celebrates time which the Jews were saved in Persia from extermination. The religion has also witnessed a dark past of persecution for their religious beliefs in the following events. 1066 Granada Massacre which happened on the 30th of December where a Muslim mob in Granada stormed a royal palace killing over 1000 Jewish families and later kidnapped Joseph Naghrela who was at last crucified
Judaism being a religious tradition dates back to over 4000 years ago. It is rooted from ancient eastern Canaan region. Its origins were the beliefs and practices of the people of Israel, classical or rabbinic. Judaism heritage is traced from the covenant between God with Abraham’s lineage which was to make them sacred and later award them the Promised Land. The traditions were grounded both socially and in ethics and outlined in the Torah which in the Hebrews bible are the first five books. Their bible is referred to as Tanaka which was an acronym for texts in the Torah. They have four main movements which include orthodox, conservative, Reconstructionist and reform ranging from traditional, liberal to religiously progressive in the way they apply the Torah. As their views became diverse they continued to be unified based on the common connection to set sacred narratives which expressed the relationship with their God as people who were holy. They worshipped in synagogues where they emphasized to practice their beliefs. Their religious leaders were called Rabbis who oversaw the rituals and ceremonies essential to their religion.
- Graham, I. (2005). Judaism. London: Chrysalis Children’s Books.
- Kaplan, M. M., & Scult, M. (2010). Judaism as a civilization: Toward a reconstruction of American-Jewish life. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society.
- Meyer, M. A. (2005). Response to modernity: A history of the Reform Movement in Judaism. Detroit: Wayne State University Press.
- Stitskin, L. D. (2007). Judaism as a religion: A series of holiday sermons. New York: Bloch Pub. Co.
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