What is Judaism about?

Hi folks and welcome to my latest offering in my series on the worlds’ top 5 religions. So, what is Judaism about?? Please join me here as we have a look into the faith of the Jewish people the world over. In this article we will examine this faith under the following sections :

Overview of Judaism

So, what is Judaism about?

The origin of Judaism

Key peoples in the story of Judaism

Core beliefs of Judaism

Festivals, Holy Days and Rituals

How can I connect with this faith?

Please do enjoy this read and don’t forget to add any of your questions/thoughts /comments on this article, below when you are done :))

Billy

Overview of Judaism

Judaism is the oldest monotheistic faith, estimated to be anything between 3,500 – 4,000 years old. The religion emerged amongst Israelites in the Southern Levant (Eastern Mediterranean) around the same time that the Mesopotamian civilization started. Israelites, also known as “children of Israel” derive the name from their forefather Jacob, who changed his name to Israel in obedience to God whom he struggled with for an entire night until he got a blessing from him (Genesis 32:22-31).

the western or "wailing" wall

So, what is Judaism about?

Well, the word Judaism is derived from Yehudah (Judah) a Hebrew word that literally means “The praised.” It is, therefore, not accurate to only think of Judaism as a religion. Judaism is entrenched in the culture, law and history of the Israelites. It has three important tenets – the people, their God and their nation (Israel).
When answering the question, what is Judaism about, one thing that comes out clearly is how important Judaism is to the major religions of the world.

Christianity and Islam are both considered Abrahamic faiths because they are both based on the story of Abraham. In fact, both the Quran and the Bible agree on the most important facts about the life of Abraham. The Jewish people believe that God called Abraham from his pagan background and took him on a journey from Ur of the Chaldeans to the land that he promised to give to his descendants – which is modern day Israel.

The origin of Judaism

The Torah (the first 5 books of the Bible) explains how the Israelites descended from Abraham, who lived around 2000 B.C.E. Abraham was raised during a time when people worshiped the moon and other natural things. Following his call, which is recorded in Genesis 12, Abraham abandoned all the other gods and believed in one God. As a result, God rewarded him by blessing him and making his name great.

a page of the Torah

God also promised to make Abraham a great nation and also to give Canaan to his descendants “for an everlasting possessing” (Genesis 17:1-8). God wanted to make Abraham’s descendants his chosen people and use them as a testament to other nations of the world.
Abraham cut a covenant with God which was sealed through the sign of male circumcision.

This covenant, which is often referred to as the Abrahamic covenant, God promised to bless Abraham and his descendants while Abraham promised to abandon idols and other gods and only worship him as the one and true God. The Israelites still observe the rite of circumcision to this day.
Isaac, the son of Abraham, took over the mantle from his father and continued with his father’s quest of raising a monotheistic nation.

Right from the onset, this made them unique because almost all their neighbors practiced idolatry which means they had many gods. Jacob, Isaac’s son, took over from his father upon his death. He got 12 sons who later on become the 12 tribes of Israel. The names of the sons of Jacob are Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph and Benjamin. Jacob had changed his name to Israel and this is where the term Israelites came from.

The Israelites settled near the Nile valley region around 1700 B.C.E and they lived a quiet and peaceful life until around 1580 B.C.E when the Pharaohs began persecuting them. The Hebrews were growing so fast that Pharaoh got threatened. They decided to persecute them because they didn’t want them to take over their nation.

For instance, one Pharaoh ordered for the immediate execution of any Hebrew baby boy that was born.
It was around this time that the mother of Moses came up with a plot to save her newborn baby from the infanticide. As soon as her baby was born, she hid him in a basket on the shores of the Nile. Pharaoh’s daughter, who used to come to the Nile often, saw the baby and took pity on him. She adopted him and raised him as a prince.

Years later, the God of the Hebrews appeared to Moses in a burning bush and called him to lead the Nation of Israel from their oppressors into the land that He had promised Abraham their forefather (Exodus 6:1-8). Moses obeyed and went ahead to lead the Israelites from Egypt, through the wilderness and later on, into Canaan in a journey that took 40 years. However, Moses and most of the people that left Egypt died in the desert but their children made it to the Promised Land nonetheless.

Key peoples in the story of Judaism

There are many important peoples in the history of Judaism, without whom the Jewish history would be incomplete. As we have already seen, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are the most important ones because they are the patriarchs that laid the foundation for Israel. But there are other noteworthy people as well. For instance, Moses played a huge role in Jewish history. He received and documented the Torah, which is the foundation for all Jewish rituals, beliefs and practices today.

Star of David in stained glass window

Joshua, the progeny of Moses, also played a huge role.
After Moses died, Joshua took over and led the Children of Israel into their promised land. Joshua not only offered leadership but served as a militant general who helped Israel to fight against nations that would rise against them on their journey to the Promised Land.

But long before Moses delivered the Israelites out of Egypt, Joseph had helped the Israelites to secure a good place to live and stay in Egypt. Even though his brothers had sold him as a slave into Egypt, God’s favor was upon him and he soon became the prime minister, second only to Pharaoh. Through Joseph, the Israelites found their way to Egypt which saved them from imminent death in the days of the great famine that swept across the globe. It was only after Joseph was dead that the Pharaohs began mistreating the Israelites.

Core beliefs of Judaism

The following are the main beliefs in Judaism:
Judaism teaches that there is only one true God who created the heavens, the earth and everything therein. This God is near each person and a direct personal experience with God is encouraged (e.g. by praying directly to him). Judaism believes that life is holy The Torah (Jewish holy scriptures) is the manual for living right and studying it is regarded as an important part of worship Judaism teaches the importance of community.

Communal worship and prayer are encouraged and the Jewish people have a sense of collective responsibility for one another. Judaism believes in the Abrahamic covenant, which stipulates that Israelites are God’s chosen people Judaism teaches the importance of keeping the Ten Commandments, which God gave to Moses when they were in the wilderness.

Judaism can be categorized into three broad categories: the orthodox Jews, the conservative Jews, and the reformist Jews. The orthodox Jews believe that strict adherence to the Torah is what God requires of all. They, therefore, preserve every ritual, tradition as well as the doctrine that was given in the Torah through Moses.

Orthodox Jewish men and boy

The orthodox Jew does not try to conform to modern conventions because obedience to God is their most important goal. The conservative Jews also believe in the importance of keeping the law of God but they are not as strict as the orthodox ones. However, unlike the orthodox Jews, the conservative ones allow for some adjustments to embrace the modern world we live in.

Reform Judaism teaches the importance of only keeping the parts of the Torah that make sense in the contemporary scenarios. Even though they accept the Torah as the word of God, it is left open to interpretation and study.

Festivals, Holy Days and Rituals

Brit Millah – this refers to circumcision. Every male is to be circumcised on their 8th day as a requirement of the Abrahamic covenant. (Genesis 17:10)

Brit Hayyim – the naming ceremony for girls which takes place on the bay’s 8th day

Bar Mitzvah – A ceremony that ushers Jewish boys into the community as adults. It happens on their 13th
birthday

Kiddushin – this refers to the ceremony of Marriage which takes place under a canopy and involves the ceremonial breaking of a glass underfoot to commemorate the destruction of the Jewish temple

Rosh Hashanah – it happens around September and October and it refers to the Jewish New Year.

Yom Kippur – This refers to the Day of Atonement. This is a day of fasting and prayer from sunset to sunset where the Jews repent for their actions in the previous year.

Sukkot – Also referred to as the feast of booths and it lasts 8 days. It is a festival of celebrating the harvest season and it happens in October.

Channukah – This festival is to celebrate the victory Maccabees had over Syria. It takes place in early December.

Purim – This festival commemorates the deliverance of Persian Jews from death. Jews fast on the day before Purim but the day of Purim is one of celebration

Pesach – this is the feast of Passover and it is meant to commemorate How God delivered them from slavery in Egypt. It comes in between March and April and lasts for 7-8 days.

Shavout – this is a 2 day festival that celebrates the gift of the Torah. It happens around May.

Today, Jews are scattered all over the world even though most of them are still in Israel. Additionally, most of the Jews today are not entirely sure which tribe they come from. The only tribe that has kept their tribal identity is the Levites. This could be due to the fact that Levites only married other Levites because they had been chosen to be the priests in the temple.

How can I connect with this faith?

There are multiple ways one can connect to Judaism in your community today. As we all know our world abounds in free information in this day and age. You can connect by :

searching, watching or reading online materials

just going along to any local synagogue

via family or friends that you know that maybe a part of Judaism in your local community today

In conclusion to my article on Judaism, I hope that you found this to be an informative and helpful article in helping you along on your spiritual journey as part of your own personal development. If you have any questions or thoughts on how this article was able to assist you, please do not hesitate to leave me a comment below. I will reply as soon as I can!”

I truly hope that this article was able to assist somebody, somewhere !!

Peace and blessings !!

Billy :))

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10 Comments on “What is Judaism about?”

  1. Thank you for your work.

    An excellent brief definition of Judaism relative to what Jews as humans beings believe and follow.

    My opinion about religions.

    Mysterious God is everywhere – it is illogical to say God would tell people to be in touch with “Him”. One can pray to Bhagavan, God, Allah, Jehovah in a church or a synagogue or a mosque.

    The kingdom of heaven we talk about is the country on Earth in which all people can live in harmony and ancient religions do not come into this as ancient books are outdated for our modern times.

    Have a nice day,

    Leo

    1. Hi Leo, thanks heaps for your thoughts here, much appreciated. I must say I don’t agree with your idea that ancient religions are outdated for our modern times. I think they are just as relevant today as they were years ago.People are still people with all of their issues today as they were in those ancient times.I think we can still find gems in those ancient teachings if we were to search for them.I do all the time,especially in the new testament gospels :))

  2. Your article about Judaism is very helpful. I have many Jewish friends and I know a lot about Judaism from them. I really like one thing about Judaism, that I can’t tell about any other religion. Their religion connects them. They help each other in life and this is very good. 

    You wrote about their Core Beliefs. This helps to understand more about the base of the religion. This was the most important part of your article. 

    Once again, I liked your post and I will read your other posts about other religions too. Congrats.

    1. Hi Gno, thanks so much for your comments here, much appreciated. I do agree that the Jewish faith is seen to connect their communities much more. I also know that Islam and Christianity also have their own personal and practiced ideas when it comes to making connections in the community via commerce and charity etc based on their own faith teachings.

  3. This is a great post! I read your other post on What IsThe Christian Faith About so I knew this would be a great one as well! is interesting that Christianity and Islam are considered Abrahamic religions as well. I know of the story of Abraham being called the father of many nations but I did not know that Islam told his story as well.

    Judaism is definitely an interesting religion and it seems there are also different levels of strictness but the Torah is definitely a big part of all of the variations of Judaism. I think that these laws have been passed through to other religions as most people can agree the 10 commandments are a good set of rules to guide your moral compass. 

    I think that it is great to understand other religions because it can give you perspective and helps you see that we are more similar than we are different. I guess that trying to understand people different to you is a way of loving your neighbour as you love yourself, right?

    One thing I wonder though is how come some Jews believe in Jesus and others do not?

    Thanks for sharing this!

    1. Hi Renton, thanks so much for your input here. Yes, this is just another addition on my series into the worlds top 5 religions. My primary intention in writing this series is to offer people different ideas for their own spiritual journey as part of their own personal development. I think the reason that some Jews would believe in Christ is varied. It could come down to personal belief of whether they are an orthodox Jewish person or not etc.

  4. Hi Billy, this is an interesting and educative piece. I mean l learnt new terminologies here. I was spell bound, reading from first paragraph down to the end of the article. Followed the narrative in a chronological order. I am familiar with Judaism but doesn’t really know the festive, holy days and rituals in Jewish terminology.I now know that Brit Millah refers to circumcision for boys, Brit Hayyim refers to naming ceremony for girls and a lot more. It is also interesting to know that Judaism can be categorized into Orthodox, Conservative and Reform Jews.Your article is truly interesting and engaging.

    1. Thanks very much, Grace for your input here. Yes, you are correct, Judaism is fascinating, isn’t it. We read and read the old testament but we forget that the first 5 books of the Bible make up the holy Torah, the point of reference for this faith. I am Christian and I learned as much researching and creating the article also!! 

  5. I live near some Orthodox Jews for some time now and I can vouch that they are some of the nicest people around. They are there for everyone in the community no matter what and their kindness extends to non-Jews as well. I know that their Torah teaches them how to behave too and you can see that in how they behave. I believe that there is one G-d and that the Jews are the way to go. Their religion is the oldest and most other religions are based on Judaism. 

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