Judaism [Latin Juda: a son of Jacob] The religion of the Jewish people, which like most other world religions, has many variations.
Its core belief is monotheism. For believers, God created the world and delivered the chosen people, the Israelites, out of captivity in Egypt. God then revealed the holy law of the Torah to the Isaelites and ordained them to be the light of the world.
The Hebrew Bible is the source of orthodox Judaism, called the Tanakh. The term Tanakh is an acronym based on the first letters of the three distinct parts of the ancient scrolls: Torah (Teaching), Nevi’im (Prophets) and Ketuvim (Writings).
The family is important to Jewish religious practice but the synagogue has become more prominent in modern times.
The Sabbath, the day of rest, runs from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset. Synagogues contain the hand-written scrolls of the Pentateuch, known as the ark of the covenant made between God and his people.
Orthodox Judaism arose in the 19th century, maintaining what it sees as the core or ‘true’ Jewish religion from antiquity.
Reform Judaism, also from the 19th century, incorporates influences from contemporary scriptural scholarship.
Liberal Judaism has an open, debate-style format, based on diverse scholarly opinions and interpretations of Jewish scripture.
Conservative Judaism differs from orthodox Judaism with its concern for the historical and archaeological elements of the Jewish faith.
The Jews have long been a persecuted and marginalized people but not without periods of great financial prosperity. In medieval times Christians paradoxically borrowed money from Jews yet drove them out of towns for not practicing the Christian faith. Along these lines, Shakespeare‘s depiction of the character Shylock in The Merchant of Venice remains controversial. Shylock is both unmerciful but, at the same time, laments that Jews are just like anyone else. From this, Shakespeare has alternately been charged with racism but also lauded as humanizing Jews.
The powerful ancient Romans occupied Judea at the time of Christ, and more recently, the German Nazis persecuted the Jewish people on a scale and with a cold ruthlessness that boggles, nay scandalizes, the imagination.
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