What is Judaism?
With about 15 million followers, known as Jews, Judaism is the worlds oldest Abrahamic religion (believe in the prophet Abraham and his descendants). It is also the oldest religion, in which its followers believe the existence of just one single God.
The way of Jewish life and the teachings of Judaism come from the Torah, which is the first five books of the Hebrew Bible. Some of these were first oral traditions and later written in the Mishnah, the Talmud, and other works.
The Torah is the most important holy book of Judaism. The Hebrew Bible is a collection of writings called the "Tanakh" (תנ”ך) in Hebrew. It is divided into three parts - Torah (תורה, Instruction), Nevi'im (נְבִיאִים, Prophets), and Ketuvim (כְּתוּבִים, Writings).
A Basic look at the beliefs of Judaism:
Above all, the most important teaching of Judaism is that there is just one God. This God demands its followers be just and compassionate. The religion it's self teaches that in order to serve God as a follower, you must learn the holy books and do as they teach, both in ritual actions and the ethics taught. Judaism also teaches that all people are made in the image of God and thus should treat each other with dignity and respect.
Jews believe that they, as people have been chosen by God himself to carry out the special job of repairing the world, and to make the world a better place with more good in it.
Why is Israel so important to Jews?
The Land of Israel is holy in Judaism.
A Jewish belief is that God created the Earth from Mount Moriah in Jerusalem in the Land of Israel. It is said that God is always closest to this land. Jews believe that this is where God told the Jewish people to build a society to serve him, and many mitzvot (commandments) in the Torah are about the Land of Israel.
The ways of Jewish life:
Jews who follow the religious rules of "kashrut" can only eat certain types of food that are prepared by specific rules. Foods that Jews can eat are called kosher food.
Examples of food that qualify as kosher are:
- Fresh fruit or vegetables that do not have any insects on or in them.
- Fish that have scales and fins. This includes fish like salmon and tuna. They cannot eat seafood like shrimp, lobster, or mussels.
- Meat of any animal that chews its cud (food which has already been partly digested), and has split hooves. For example, cows, sheep, deer, and goats. However to be kosher it must be slaughtered and prepared in a specific way.
- Many common birds such as chickens and turkeys and duck. The birds must also be slaughtered and prepared in a specific way.
- Foods sold in stores or restaurants must be checked by a Jew who is an expert in Kashrut. The name for this person is "mashgiach," or kosher overseer. He makes sure that the kosher rules were kept. Foods bought at the store often have a symbol called a hechsher on them to tell the customer that the food have been checked. Many everyday foods have a hechsher.
(for girls) a 'coming of age' ceremony when a girl turns 12 (13 for some Jews). Bat Mitzvah means "daughter of the mitvah" or "daughter of the commandments" in Hebrew. Once a girl turns 12 (or 13), she is considered a woman and is expected to follow Jewish law. A ceremony is not required. Bat Mitzvah not only refers to the ceremony, but also to the girl herself.
(for boys) a 'coming of age' ceremony when a boy turns 13. It includes reading the Torah and special prayers. Bar Mitzvah means "son of the mitzvah" or "son of the commandments" in Hebrew. Once a boy turns 13, he is considered a man and is expected to follow Jewish law. A ceremony is not required. Bar Mitzvah not only refers to the ceremony, but also to the boy himself.