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 JUDAISM RELIGION

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PostSubject: JUDAISM RELIGION   Fri Apr 02, 2010 6:19 pm


Introduction




  • A Jewish service takes place inside a synagogue.
The religion of the Jewish people is known as Judaism. Judaism has more than 14 million followers throughout the world. Many Jews live in Israel, an independent state at the eastern edge of the Mediterranean Sea. Israel was established in 1948 as a homeland for the Jewish people.



Beliefs


Like Christianity and Islam, Judaism professes that there is only one God and that God created the world. God expressed what He expects of people in the Ten Commandments and other laws meant to regulate the daily life of the individual and the community. To purposely disobey these laws is to sin, and people have the ability to choose whether or not they will sin.
Jews believe that they have been chosen to have a special relationship with God. They must devote themselves to God and love one another because God selected them to bring knowledge of Him to the rest of the world. They believe that in return, God has promised to make the Jews (Israel) a great nation that will eventually draw other nations together in a worldwide community of justice and peace.
The sacred book of Judaism is the Hebrew Bible. Christians often refer to it as the Old Testament. (While Christians accept the Old Testament, they see it as incomplete without the New Testament, which talks about Jesus Christ.) Particularly important to Judaism are the first five books (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy). Together they are known as the Torah or the Books of Moses. These writings explain and interpret God's laws.



Practices


In Judaism the lives of individual people are closely connected to the larger community. The Jewish house of worship, which also serves as a gathering place for the community, is the synagogue. The leader of a synagogue is known as a rabbi. At the heart of synagogue worship is the public reading of the Torah.
An important time during each week is the Sabbath. Jews observe this period of holiness and rest from sunset on Friday to nightfall on Saturday.



  • Jewish children study the teachings of their religion. Jewish boys and men sometimes wear skullcaps …

Several ceremonies in Judaism mark the notable events of personal life. Infants are dedicated to God and named in special ceremonies. Young people show their individual responsibility for observing the laws of Judaism in a special ceremony called a Bar Mitzvah (for a boy) or a Bas (or Bat) Mitzvah (for a girl). Jewish marriages involve a double ceremony (performed together in modern times but separated in ancient times by a year). The engagement ceremony features the reading of the marriage contract and the giving of a ring. The marriage ceremony is performed under a canopy and is marked by vows, blessings and the groom breaking a glass under his foot at the end of the service.

Jewish holy days combine both synagogue worship and family ceremonies. Some of the holidays include Passover (marking the escape of Hebrews from slavery in Egypt); Shavuot, or the Feast of Weeks (marking the giving of God's law to Moses); Sukkoth, or the Feast of Tabernacles (a harvest festival); Purim, or the Feast of Lots (celebrating the survival of the Jews after they had been threatened in ancient Persia); Rosh Hashanah (beginning the Jewish new year); Yom Kippur, or Day of Atonement (asking for forgiveness); and Hanukkah, or Feast of Lights (remembering a successful war for independence in the 160s BC).



Divisions


As in other religions, Judaism has groups within the faith that differ in some beliefs and practices. Jews are often classified as Orthodox, Conservative, Reformed or Reconstructionist.
Orthodox Jews are the most traditional members of the religion. They tend to believe Judaism today should be practised in exactly the same way as it was in ancient times. They favour services in Hebrew rather than using their local language. Their food is kosher, meaning it has been prepared according to Jewish dietary laws.
By contrast, Reformed Jews see the need for the religion to adapt to new situations. This movement came about as Jewish people moved to places throughout the world instead of living together as a single nation. Reformed Jews do not participate in some of the rituals and ceremonies that are observed by Orthodox Jews.
Conservative Judaism may be thought of as somewhere between Orthodox standards and the Reform movement. Conservative Jews cling to many of the traditions of historic Judaism, but they can be open to ideas about changing the religion.
Reconstructionism was founded in the United States in the 1920s. The movement rejects the notion of an all-knowing God who made a covenant with His chosen people, and it does not accept the Bible as the inspired word of God. Its followers believe that Judaism is a religious civilisation, and its religious elements are expressions of a specific culture. They combine a respect for traditional Judaism with a sense of their role as members of the community of believers as well as the larger community in which they live.



History


Abraham


Judaism is a very old religion, thought to trace back to about 2000 BC. A man named Abraham is considered the founder of Judaism. According to Genesis, the first book of the Hebrew Bible, God told Abraham to leave his home in Mesopotamia (now Iraq) and take his people to Canaan (Palestine). God promised that Abraham and his offspring would become a great nation in this new land if Abraham obeyed the command to move. This agreement is known as the first covenant that God made with the Jewish people.
Abraham's son and grandson, Isaac and Jacob, were leaders after him. God changed Jacob's name to Israel, meaning ‘champion of God'. Jacob had 12 sons, and their families were called the 12 tribes of Israel.



Moses


Long after the days of Abraham a famine caused the Israelites to move from Canaan to Egypt. Although they were originally welcomed in Egypt, they were later turned into slaves. After more than 400 years, they were freed from slavery under the leadership of Moses in about the 1200s BC. As instructed by God, Moses led the Israelites back towards Canaan, their Promised Land. At a place called Mount Sinai, God gave Moses the Ten Commandments. In return for following these rules, God promised to look after the Israelites.



Rise and Fall of Israel


Over the next several centuries, Israel became a fairly powerful nation in the Middle East, particularly under its first three kings – Saul, David and Solomon. David conquered the city of Jerusalem and established it as the national capital. His son, Solomon, built the first great Temple of Jerusalem in the 900s BC.
After Solomon's death, the kingdom became divided into northern and southern parts. In the 700s BC, the Assyrian Empire captured northern Israel. The southern part, known as the nation of Judah, was conquered by the Babylonians early in the 500s BC. The Temple was destroyed, and some of the Jewish population was sent away into slavery. This event marked the beginning of the Diaspora, which means ‘scattering'. From that time onwards, the Jewish people were no longer all together in one place. This period was known as the Babylonian Captivity, or the Babylonian Exile.
When a new leader captured Jerusalem from the Babylonians later in the 500s, some Jews returned to their homeland and rebuilt their Temple. The region, however, was under the control of one foreign power after another. The Roman Empire took control of the region in about 60 BC. Attempts by the Jewish people to revolt against the Roman Empire were unsuccessful. In AD 70 the Romans destroyed the second Temple, which was the traditional centre of Jewish worship. In place of Temple worship rabbis then encouraged the Jewish people to concentrate on the study of God's law, prayer and good works.
Rabbis attempted to standardise religious practices for the scattered Jewish community. They put together the collection of writings that came to be known as the Hebrew Bible. They also compiled the Mishna, a large body of interpretation of God's law. Another important religious book, the Talmud, contains commentaries on the Mishna.



The Haskala


The 1700s was the time of the Haskala, or Jewish enlightenment, in central and eastern Europe. It was especially important in Russia, where it called for practical social and economic changes. Out of the Haskala came Jewish religious reform in the 1800s. Although some changes to religious practices were made in areas of Europe, the main place where the reform movement had success was the United States.



Establishment of Israel


Two events greatly affected Judaism in the late 1800s and early 1900s and led to the establishment of the state of Israel. In the late 1800s a movement called Zionism began in Europe. This was led by people who wanted to create a nation for the Jewish people in the region of Palestine. The movement gained popularity in the early 1900s as Jews escaping harsh conditions in certain European countries began moving to Palestine.
This Jewish immigration increased greatly when Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany in the early 1930s. Hitler and his Nazi Party disliked Jews and thought they were evil. First the Nazis came up with ways to make life hard for Jews, and later they decided to kill them. This planned massacre became known as the Holocaust. The Holocaust ended with the defeat of Germany in World War II. The war ended in 1945. Three years later the modern country of Israel was founded in Palestine.

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