, and way of life" of the Jewish people
. Originating in the Hebrew Bible
(also known as the Tanakh
) and explored in later texts such as the Talmud
, it is considered by religious Jews to be the expression of the covenantal relationship God
developed with the Children of Israel. According to Rabbinic Judaism
, God revealed his laws and commandments
on Mount Sinai
in the form of both the Written
and Oral Torah
. This was historically challenged by the Karaites
, a movement that flourished in the medieval period, retains several thousand followers today and maintains that only the Written Torah was revealed.
Mankind, East and West, Christian and Muslim, accepted the Jewish conviction that there is only one G-d. Today it is polytheism that is so difficult to understand, that is so unthinkable.
It is against their own insoluble problem of being human that the dull and base in humanity are in revolt in anti-Semitism. Judaism, nevertheless, together with Hellenism and Christianity is an inalienable component of our Christian Western civilization, the eternal "call to Sinai" against which humanity again and again rebels.
Throughout our history there have been weaker elements who have shirked the sacrifices which Judaism entailed. They have been swallowed, long since, in the great majority; only the more stalwart have carried on the traditions of their ancestors, and can now look back with pride upon their superb heritage. Are we to be numbered with the weak majority, or with the stalwart minority? It is for ourselves to decide.
Most firmly hold and never doubt that not only pagans, but also all Jews, all heretics, and all schismatics who finish this life outside of the Catholic Church, will go into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
, and way of life" of the Jewish people
. Originating in the Hebrew Bible
(also known as the Tanakh
) and explored in later texts such as the Talmud
, it is considered by religious Jews to be the expression of the covenantal relationship God
developed with the Children of Israel. According to Rabbinic Judaism
, God revealed his laws and commandments
on Mount Sinai
in the form of both the Written
and Oral Torah
. This was historically challenged by the Karaites
, a movement that flourished in the medieval period, retains several thousand followers today and maintains that only the Written Torah was revealed. In modern times, liberal movements such as Humanistic Judaism
may be nontheistic.
Judaism claims a historical continuity spanning more than 3,000 years. It is one of the oldest monotheistic
religions, and the oldest to survive into the present day. The Hebrews
/ Israelites were already referred to as "Jews" in later books of the Tanakh
such as the Book of Esther
, with the term Jews replacing the title "Children of Israel". Judaism's texts, traditions and values strongly influenced later Abrahamic religions
, including Christianity
and the Baha'i Faith
. Many aspects of Judaism have also directly or indirectly influenced secular Western
and civil law.
are an ethnoreligious group and include those born Jewish and converts to Judaism. In 2010, the world Jewish population was estimated at 13.4 million, or roughly 0.2% of the total world population. About 42% of all Jews reside in Israel
and about 42% reside in the United States
, with most of the remainder living in Europe
. The largest Jewish religious movements are Orthodox Judaism
(Hareidi Judaism and Modern Orthodox Judaism
), Conservative Judaism
and Reform Judaism
. A major source of difference between these groups is their approach to Jewish law
. Orthodox Judaism maintains that the Torah
and Jewish law are divine in origin, eternal and unalterable, and that they should be strictly followed. Conservative and Reform Judaism are more liberal, with Conservative Judaism generally promoting a more "traditional" interpretation of Judaism's requirements than Reform Judaism. A typical Reform position is that Jewish law should be viewed as a set of general guidelines rather than as a set of restrictions and obligations whose observance is required of all Jews. Historically, special courts
enforced Jewish law
; today, these courts still exist but the practice of Judaism is mostly voluntary. Authority on theological and legal matters is not vested in any one person or organization, but in the sacred texts and the many rabbis and scholars who interpret these texts.
Defining characterUnlike other ancient Near Eastern gods, the Hebrew God is portrayed as unitary and solitary; consequently, the Hebrew God's principal relationships are not with other gods, but with the world, and more specifically, with the people He created. Judaism thus begins with an ethical monotheism: the belief that God is one, and concerned with the actions of humankind. According to the Hebrew Bible, God promised Abraham
to make of his offspring a great nation. Many generations later, he commanded the nation of Israel to love and worship only one God; that is, the Jewish nation is to reciprocate God's concern for the world. He also commanded the Jewish people to love one another; that is, Jews are to imitate God's love for people. These commandments are but two of a large corpus of commandments
that constitute this covenant
, which is the substance of Judaism.
Thus, although there is an esoteric tradition in Judaism (Kabbalah
), Rabbinic scholar Max Kadushin
has characterized normative Judaism as "normal mysticism", because it involves every-day personal experiences of God through ways or modes that are common to all Jews. This is played out through the observance of the halakhot
and given verbal expression in the Birkat Ha-Mizvot, the short blessings that are spoken every time a positive commandment is to be fulfilled.
- The ordinary, familiar, everyday things and occurrences, we have constitute occasions for the experience of God. Such things as one's daily sustenance, the very day itself, are felt as manifestations of God's loving-kindness, calling for the Berakhot. Kedushah, holiness, which is nothing else than the imitation of God, is concerned with daily conduct, with being gracious and merciful, with keeping oneself from defilement by idolatry, adultery, and the shedding of blood. The Birkat Ha-Mitzwot evokes the consciousness of holiness at a rabbinic rite, but the objects employed in the majority of these rites are non-holy and of general character, while the several holy objects are non-theurgic.TheurgyTheurgy describes the practice of rituals, sometimes seen as magical in nature, performed with the intention of invoking the action or evoking the presence of one or more gods, especially with the goal of uniting with the divine, achieving henosis, and perfecting oneself.- Definitions :*Proclus...
And not only do ordinary things and occurrences bring with them the experience of God. Everything that happens to a man evokes that experience, evil as well as good, for a Berakah is said also at evil tidings. Hence, although the experience of God is like none other, the occasions for experiencing Him, for having a consciousness of Him, are manifold, even if we consider only those that call for Berakot.
Whereas Jewish philosophers
often debate whether God is immanent or transcendent, and whether people have free will or their lives are determined, Halakha
is a system through which any Jew acts to bring God into the world.
Ethical monotheism is central in all sacred or normative texts of Judaism. However, monotheism has not always been followed in practice. The Jewish Bible (Tanakh
) records and repeatedly condemns the widespread worship of other gods in ancient Israel. In the Greco-Roman era, many different interpretations of monotheism existed in Judaism, including the interpretations that gave rise to Christianity.
Moreover, as a non-creedal religion, some have argued that Judaism does not require one to believe in God. For some, observance of Jewish law is more important than belief in God per se. In modern times, some liberal Jewish movements do not accept the existence of a personified deity active in history.
Scholars throughout Jewish history
have proposed numerous formulations of Judaism's core tenets, all of which have met with criticism. The most popular formulation is Maimonides
' thirteen principles of faith, developed in the 12th century. According to Maimonides, any Jew who rejects even one of these principles would be considered an apostate and a heretic. Jewish scholars have held points of view diverging in various ways from Maimonides' principles.
In Maimonides' time, his list of tenets was criticized by Hasdai Crescas
and Joseph Albo
. Albo and the Raavad
argued that Maimonides' principles contained too many items that, while true, were not fundamentals of the faith.
Along these lines, the ancient historian Josephus
emphasized practices and observances rather than religious beliefs, associating apostasy
with a failure to observe Jewish law and maintaining that the requirements for conversion to Judaism included circumcision
and adherence to traditional customs. Maimonides' principles were largely ignored over the next few centuries. Later, two poetic restatements of these principles ("Ani Ma'amin
" and "Yigdal
") became integrated into many Jewish liturgies, leading to their eventual near-universal acceptance.
In modern times, Judaism lacks a centralized authority that would dictate an exact religious dogma. Because of this, many different variations on the basic beliefs are considered within the scope of Judaism. Even so, all Jewish religious movements are, to a greater or lesser extent, based on the principles of the Hebrew Bible
and various commentaries such as the Talmud
. Judaism also universally recognizes the Biblical Covenant
between God and the Patriarch
as well as the additional aspects of the Covenant revealed to Moses
, who is considered Judaism's greatest prophet
. In the Mishnah
, a core text of Rabbinic Judaism
, acceptance of the Divine origins of this covenant is considered an essential aspect of Judaism and those who reject the Covenant forfeit their share in the World to Come
Jewish religious textsThe following is a basic, structured list of the central works of Jewish practice and thought.
- TanakhTanakhThe Tanakh is a name used in Judaism for the canon of the Hebrew Bible. The Tanakh is also known as the Masoretic Text or the Miqra. The name is an acronym formed from the initial Hebrew letters of the Masoretic Text's three traditional subdivisions: The Torah , Nevi'im and Ketuvim —hence...
(Hebrew BibleHebrew BibleThe Hebrew Bible is a term used by biblical scholars outside of Judaism to refer to the Tanakh , a canonical collection of Jewish texts, and the common textual antecedent of the several canonical editions of the Christian Old Testament...
) and commentaries
- MesorahMasoretic TextThe Masoretic Text is the authoritative Hebrew text of the Jewish Bible and is regarded as Judaism's official version of the Tanakh. While the Masoretic Text defines the books of the Jewish canon, it also defines the precise letter-text of these biblical books, with their vocalization and...
- TargumTargumTaekwondo is a Korean martial art and the national sport of South Korea. In Korean, tae means "to strike or break with foot"; kwon means "to strike or break with fist"; and do means "way", "method", or "path"...
- Jewish Biblical exegesis (also see MidrashMidrashThe Hebrew term Midrash is a homiletic method of biblical exegesis. The term also refers to the whole compilation of homiletic teachings on the Bible....
- Works of the Talmudic Era (classic rabbinic literature)
- MishnahMishnahThe Mishnah or Mishna is the first major written redaction of the Jewish oral traditions called the "Oral Torah". It is also the first major work of Rabbinic Judaism. It was redacted c...
- ToseftaToseftaThe Tosefta is a compilation of the Jewish oral law from the period of the Mishnah.-Overview:...
and the minor tractates
- TalmudTalmudThe Talmud is a central text of mainstream Judaism. It takes the form of a record of rabbinic discussions pertaining to Jewish law, ethics, philosophy, customs and history....
- The Babylonian Talmud and commentaries
- Jerusalem TalmudJerusalem TalmudThe Jerusalem Talmud, talmud meaning "instruction", "learning", , is a collection of Rabbinic notes on the 2nd-century Mishnah which was compiled in the Land of Israel during the 4th-5th century. The voluminous text is also known as the Palestinian Talmud or Talmud de-Eretz Yisrael...
- Midrashic literatureMidrashThe Hebrew term Midrash is a homiletic method of biblical exegesis. The term also refers to the whole compilation of homiletic teachings on the Bible....
- Halakhic MidrashMidrash halakhaMidrash halakha was the ancient Judaic rabbinic method of Torah study that expounded upon the traditionally received 613 Mitzvot by identifying their sources in the Tanakh , and by interpreting these passages as proofs of the laws' authenticity. Midrash more generally also refers to the...
- Aggadic Midrash
- Halakhic Midrash
- HalakhicHalakhaHalakha — also transliterated Halocho , or Halacha — is the collective body of Jewish law, including biblical law and later talmudic and rabbinic law, as well as customs and traditions.Judaism classically draws no distinction in its laws between religious and ostensibly non-religious life; Jewish...
- Major Codes of Jewish Law and Custom
- Mishneh TorahMishneh TorahThe Mishneh Torah subtitled Sefer Yad ha-Hazaka is a code of Jewish religious law authored by Maimonides , one of history's foremost rabbis...
- TurArba'ah TurimArba'ah Turim , often called simply the Tur, is an important Halakhic code, composed by Yaakov ben Asher...
- Shulchan AruchShulchan AruchThe Shulchan Aruch also known as the Code of Jewish Law, is the most authoritative legal code of Judaism. It was authored in Safed, Israel, by Yosef Karo in 1563 and published in Venice two years later...
- Mishneh Torah
- ResponsaResponsaResponsa comprise a body of written decisions and rulings given by legal scholars in response to questions addressed to them.-In the Roman Empire:Roman law recognised responsa prudentium, i.e...
- Major Codes of Jewish Law and Custom
- Jewish Thought and Ethics
- Jewish philosophyJewish philosophyJewish philosophy , includes all philosophy carried out by Jews, or, in relation to the religion of Judaism. Jewish philosophy, until modern Enlightenment and Emancipation, was pre-occupied with attempts to reconcile coherent new ideas into the tradition of Rabbinic Judaism; thus organizing...
- KabbalahKabbalahKabbalah/Kabala is a discipline and school of thought concerned with the esoteric aspect of Rabbinic Judaism. It was systematized in 11th-13th century Hachmei Provence and Spain, and again after the Expulsion from Spain, in 16th century Ottoman Palestine...
- HasidicHasidic JudaismHasidic Judaism or Hasidism, from the Hebrew —Ḥasidut in Sephardi, Chasidus in Ashkenazi, meaning "piety" , is a branch of Orthodox Judaism that promotes spirituality and joy through the popularisation and internalisation of Jewish mysticism as the fundamental aspects of the Jewish faith...
- Musar literatureMusar literatureMusar literature is the term used for didactic Jewish ethical literature which describes virtues and vices and the path towards perfection in a methodical way.- Definition of Musar literature :...
and other works of Jewish ethicsJewish ethicsJewish ethics stands at the intersection of Judaism and the Western philosophical tradition of ethics. Like other types of religious ethics, the diverse literature of Jewish ethics primarily aims to answer a broad range of moral questions and, hence, may be classified as a normative ethics...
- Jewish philosophy
- SiddurSiddurA siddur is a Jewish prayer book, containing a set order of daily prayers. This article discusses how some of these prayers evolved, and how the siddur, as it is known today has developed...
and Jewish liturgyJewish servicesJewish prayer are the prayer recitations that form part of the observance of Judaism. These prayers, often with instructions and commentary, are found in the siddur, the traditional Jewish prayer book....
- PiyyutPiyyutA piyyut or piyut is a Jewish liturgical poem, usually designated to be sung, chanted, or recited during religious services. Piyyutim have been written since Temple times...
(Classical Jewish poetry)
Jewish legal literatureThe basis of Jewish law and tradition (halakha) is the Torah
(also known as the Pentateuch or the Five Books of Moses). According to rabbinic tradition there are 613 commandments
in the Torah. Some of these laws are directed only to men or to women, some only to the ancient priestly groups, the Kohanim
(members of the tribe of Levi
), some only to farmers within the Land of Israel
. Many laws were only applicable when the Temple in Jerusalem
existed, and fewer than 300 of these commandments are still applicable today.
While there have been Jewish groups whose beliefs were claimed to be based on the written text of the Torah alone (e.g., the Sadducees
, and the Karaites
), most Jews believed in what they call the oral law. These oral traditions were transmitted by the Pharisee
sect of ancient Judaism, and were later recorded in written form and expanded upon by the rabbis.
Rabbinic Judaism (which derives from the Pharisees) has always held that the books of the Torah (called the written law) have always been transmitted in parallel with an oral tradition. To justify this viewpoint, Jews point to the text of the Torah, where many words are left undefined, and many procedures mentioned without explanation or instructions; this, they argue, means that the reader is assumed to be familiar with the details from other, i.e., oral, sources. This parallel set of material was originally transmitted orally, and came to be known as "the oral law
By the time of Rabbi Judah haNasi
(200 CE), after the destruction of Jerusalem, much of this material was edited together into the Mishnah
. Over the next four centuries this law underwent discussion and debate in both of the world's major Jewish communities (in Israel and Babylonia
), and the commentaries on the Mishnah from each of these communities eventually came to be edited together into compilations known as the two Talmud
s. These have been expounded by commentaries of various Torah scholars during the ages.
Halakha, the rabbinic Jewish way of life, then, is based on a combined reading of the Torah, and the oral tradition - the Mishnah, the halakhic Midrash
, the Talmud and its commentaries. The Halakha has developed slowly, through a precedent-based system. The literature of questions to rabbis, and their considered answers, is referred to as responsa
, Sheelot U-Teshuvot.) Over time, as practices develop, codes of Jewish law are written that are based on the responsa; the most important code, the Shulchan Aruch
, largely determines Orthodox religious practice today.
Jewish philosophyJewish philosophy refers to the conjunction between serious study of philosophy and Jewish theology. Major Jewish philosophers include Solomon ibn Gabirol
, Saadia Gaon
, Judah Halevi, Maimonides
, and Gersonides
. Major changes occurred in response to the Enlightenment
(late 18th to early 19th century) leading to the post-Enlightenment Jewish philosophers. Modern Jewish philosophy consists of both Orthodox and non-Orthodox oriented philosophy. Notable among Orthodox Jewish philosophers are Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler
, Joseph B. Soloveitchik, and Yitzchok Hutner
. Well-known non-Orthodox Jewish philosophers include Martin Buber
, Franz Rosenzweig
, Mordecai Kaplan
, Abraham Joshua Heschel
, Will Herberg
, and Emmanuel Lévinas
- Torah databaseTorah databaseA Torah database is an electronic collection of classic Jewish texts in electronic form, the kinds of texts which especially in Israel are often called "The Traditional Jewish Bookshelf" ; the texts are in their original languages...
s (electronic versions of the Traditional Jewish Bookshelf)
- List of Jewish prayers and blessings
Rabbinic hermeneuticsOrthodox and many other Jews do not believe that the revealed Torah
consists solely of its written contents, but of its interpretations as well. The study of Torah
(in its widest sense, to include both poetry, narrative, and law, and both the Hebrew Bible
and the Talmud
) is in Judaism itself a sacred act of central importance. For the sages of the Mishnah
, and for their successors today, the study of Torah was therefore not merely a means to learn the contents of God's revelation, but an end in itself. According to the Talmud,
- These are the things for which a person enjoys the dividends in this world while the principal remains for the person to enjoy in the world to come; they are: honoring parents, loving deeds of kindness, and making peace between one person and another. But the study of the Torah is equal to them all. (Talmud Shabbat 127a).
In Judaism, "the study of Torah can be a means of experiencing God". Reflecting on the contribution of the Amoraim and Tanaim to contemporary Judaism, Professor Jacob Neusner observed:
- The rabbi's logical and rational inquiry is not mere logic-chopping. It is a most serious and substantive effort to locate in trivialities the fundamental principles of the revealed will of God to guide and sanctify the most specific and concrete actions in the workaday world .... Here is the mystery of Talmudic Judaism: the alien and remote conviction that the intellect is an instrument not of unbelief and desacralization but of sanctification."
To study the Written Torah and the Oral Torah in light of each other is thus also to study how to study the word of God.
In the study of Torah, the sages formulated and followed various logic
al and hermeneutical principles. According to David Stern, all Rabbinic hermeneutics rest on two basic axioms:
- first, the belief in the omnisignificance of Scripture, in the meaningfulness of its every word, letter, even (according to one famous report) scribal flourish; second, the claim of the essential unity of Scripture as the expression of the single divine will.
These two principles make possible a great variety of interpretations. According to the Talmud,
- A single verse has several meanings, but no two verses hold the same meaning. It was taught in the school of R. Ishmael: 'Behold, My word is like fire—declares the Lord—and like a hammer that shatters rock' (Jer 23:29). Just as this hammer produces many sparks (when it strikes the rock), so a single verse has several meanings." (Talmud Sanhedrin 34a).
Observant Jews thus view the Torah as dynamic, because it contains within it a host of interpretations
According to Rabbinic tradition, all valid interpretations of the written Torah were revealed to Moses at Sinai in oral form
, and handed down from teacher to pupil (The oral revelation is in effect coextensive with the Talmud itself). When different rabbis forwarded conflicting interpretations, they sometimes appealed to hermeneutic principles to legitimize their arguments; some rabbis claim that these principles were themselves revealed by God to Moses at Sinai.
called attention to seven commonly used in the interpretation of laws (baraita
at the beginning of Sifra
); R. Ishmael, thirteen (baraita at the beginning of Sifra; this collection is largely an amplification of that of Hillel). Eliezer b. Jose ha-Gelili listed 32, largely used for the exegesis of narrative elements of Torah. All the hermeneutic rules scattered through the Talmudim and Midrashim have been collected by Malbim
in Ayyelet ha-Shachar, the introduction to his commentary on the Sifra
. Nevertheless, R. Ishmael's 13 principles are perhaps the ones most widely known; they constitute an important, and one of Judaism's earliest, contributions to logic
, hermeneutics, and jurisprudence
. Judah Hadassi
incorporated Ishmael's principles into Karaite Judaism in the 12th century. Today R. Ishmael's 13 principles are incorporated into the Jewish prayer book to be read by observant Jews on a daily basis.
Origin of the term "Judaism"The term Judaism derives from the Latin Iudaismus, derived from the Greek Ιουδαϊσμός Ioudaïsmos, and ultimately from the Hebrew
יהודה, Yehudah, "Judah
"; in Hebrew: יַהֲדוּת, Yahadut. It first appears as the Hellenistic Greek iudaismos in 2nd Maccabees in the 2nd century BCE. In the context of the age and period it held the meaning of seeking or forming part of a cultural entity, that of iudea, the Greek derivative of Persian Yehud, and can be compared with hellenismos, meaning acceptance of Hellenic cultural norms (the conflict between iudaismos and hellenismos lay behind the Maccabeean revolt and hence the invention of the term iudaismos). The earliest instance of the term in English, used to mean "the profession or practice of the Jewish religion; the religious system or polity of the Jews", is Robert Fabyan's The newe cronycles of Englande and of Fraunce a 1513. As an English translation of the Latin, the first instance in English is a 1611 translation of the Apocrypha
(Deuterocanon in Catholic
), 2 Macc. ii. 21 "Those that behaved themselues manfully to their honour for Iudaisme."
Distinction between Jews as a people and JudaismAccording to Daniel Boyarin
, the underlying distinction between religion and ethnicity is foreign to Judaism itself, and is one form of the dualism between spirit and flesh that has its origin in Platonic philosophy
and that permeated Hellenistic Judaism
. Consequently, in his view, Judaism does not fit easily into conventional Western categories, such as religion, ethnicity, or culture. Boyarin suggests that this in part reflects the fact that much of Judaism's more than 3,000-year history predates the rise of Western culture and occurred outside the West (that is, Europe
, particularly medieval and modern Europe). During this time, Jews have experienced slavery, anarchic and theocratic self-government, conquest, occupation, and exile; in the Diasporas, they have been in contact with and have been influenced by ancient Egyptian, Babylonian, Persian, and Hellenic cultures, as well as modern movements such as the Enlightenment (see Haskalah
) and the rise of nationalism, which would bear fruit in the form of a Jewish state in the Levant. They also saw an elite convert to Judaism (the Khazars), only to disappear as the centers of power in the lands once occupied by that elite fell to the people of Rus and then the Mongols. Thus, Boyarin has argued that "Jewishness disrupts the very categories of identity, because it is not national, not genealogical, not religious, but all of these, in dialectical tension."
In contrast to this point of view, practices such as Humanistic Judaism
reject the religious aspects of Judaism, while retaining certain cultural traditions.
Who is a Jew?According to traditional Jewish Law, a Jew is anyone born of a Jewish mother or converted to Judaism
in accordance with Jewish Law. American Reform Judaism
and British Liberal Judaism
accept the child of one Jewish parent (father or mother) as Jewish if the parents raise the child with a Jewish identity. All mainstream forms of Judaism today are open to sincere converts, although conversion has traditionally been discouraged since the time of the Talmud. The conversion process is evaluated by an authority, and the convert is examined on his or her sincerity and knowledge. Converts are given the name "ben Abraham" or "bat Abraham", (son or daughter of Abraham).
Traditional Judaism maintains that a Jew, whether by birth or conversion, is a Jew forever. Thus a Jew who claims to be an atheist or converts to another religion is still considered by traditional Judaism to be Jewish. According to some sources, the Reform movement has maintained that a Jew who has converted to another religion is no longer a Jew, and the Israeli Government has also taken that stance after Supreme Court cases and statutes. However, the Reform movement has indicated that this is not so cut and dry, and different situations call for consideration and differing actions. For example, Jews who have converted under duress may be permitted to return to Judaism "without any action on their part but their desire to rejoin the Jewish community" and "A proselyte who has become an apostate remains, nevertheless, a Jew". (p. 100-106).
The question of what determines Jewish identity in the State of Israel was given new impetus when, in the 1950s, David Ben-Gurion
requested opinions on mihu Yehudi ("who is a Jew") from Jewish religious authorities and intellectuals worldwide in order to settle citizenship questions. This is still not settled, and occasionally resurfaces in Israeli politics
Jewish demographicsThe total number of Jews worldwide is difficult to assess because the definition of "who is a Jew" is problematic; not all Jews identify themselves as Jewish, and some who identify as Jewish are not considered so by other Jews. According to the Jewish Year Book (1901), the global Jewish population in 1900 was around 11 million. The latest available data is from the World Jewish Population Survey of 2002 and the Jewish Year Calendar (2005). In 2002, according to the Jewish Population Survey, there were 13.3 million Jews around the world. The Jewish Year Calendar cites 14.6 million. Jewish population growth is currently near zero percent, with 0.3% growth from 2000 to 2001.
Rabbinic JudaismRabbinic Judaism (or in some Christian traditions, Rabbinism) (Hebrew: "Yahadut Rabanit" - יהדות רבנית) has been the mainstream form of Judaism since the 6th century CE, after the codification of the Talmud
. It is characterised by the belief that the Written Torah (Law) cannot be correctly interpreted without reference to the Oral Torah
and by the voluminous literature specifying what behavior is sanctioned by the law (called halakha
, "the way").
The Jewish Enlightenment of the late 18th century resulted in the division of Ashkenazi (Western) Jewry into religious movements or denominations, especially in North America and Anglophone countries. The main denominations today outside Israel (where the situation is rather different) are Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform.
- Orthodox JudaismOrthodox JudaismOrthodox Judaism , is the approach to Judaism which adheres to the traditional interpretation and application of the laws and ethics of the Torah as legislated in the Talmudic texts by the Sanhedrin and subsequently developed and applied by the later authorities known as the Gaonim, Rishonim, and...
holds that both the Written and Oral TorahOral TorahThe Oral Torah comprises the legal and interpretative traditions that, according to tradition, were transmitted orally from Mount Sinai, and were not written in the Torah...
were divinely revealed to MosesMosesMoses was, according to the Hebrew Bible and Qur'an, a religious leader, lawgiver and prophet, to whom the authorship of the Torah is traditionally attributed...
, and that the laws within it are binding and unchanging. Orthodox Jews generally consider commentaries on the Shulchan AruchShulchan Aruch
(a condensed codification of halakha that largely favored Sephardic traditions) to be the definitive codification of Jewish law. Orthodoxy places a high importance on Maimonides' 13 principles as a definition of Jewish faith.
- Orthodoxy is often divided into Modern Orthodox JudaismModern Orthodox JudaismModern Orthodox Judaism is a movement within Orthodox Judaism that attempts to synthesize Jewish values and the observance of Jewish law, with the secular, modern world....
and Haredi JudaismHaredi JudaismHaredi or Charedi/Chareidi Judaism is the most conservative form of Orthodox Judaism, often referred to as ultra-Orthodox. A follower of Haredi Judaism is called a Haredi ....
. Haredi JudaismHaredi JudaismHaredi or Charedi/Chareidi Judaism is the most conservative form of Orthodox Judaism, often referred to as ultra-Orthodox. A follower of Haredi Judaism is called a Haredi ....
is less accommodating to modernity and has less interest in non-Jewish disciplines, and it may be distinguished from Modern Orthodox JudaismModern Orthodox JudaismModern Orthodox Judaism is a movement within Orthodox Judaism that attempts to synthesize Jewish values and the observance of Jewish law, with the secular, modern world....
in practice by its styles of dress and more stringent practices. Subsets of Haredi JudaismHaredi JudaismHaredi or Charedi/Chareidi Judaism is the most conservative form of Orthodox Judaism, often referred to as ultra-Orthodox. A follower of Haredi Judaism is called a Haredi ....
include: Hasidic JudaismHasidic JudaismHasidic Judaism or Hasidism, from the Hebrew —Ḥasidut in Sephardi, Chasidus in Ashkenazi, meaning "piety" , is a branch of Orthodox Judaism that promotes spirituality and joy through the popularisation and internalisation of Jewish mysticism as the fundamental aspects of the Jewish faith...
, which is rooted in the KabbalahKabbalahKabbalah/Kabala is a discipline and school of thought concerned with the esoteric aspect of Rabbinic Judaism. It was systematized in 11th-13th century Hachmei Provence and Spain, and again after the Expulsion from Spain, in 16th century Ottoman Palestine...
and distinguished by reliance on a RebbeRebbeRebbe , which means master, teacher, or mentor, is a Yiddish word derived from the Hebrew word Rabbi. It often refers to the leader of a Hasidic Jewish movement...
or religious teacher; and Sephardic Haredi Judaism, which emerged among Sephardic (Asian and North African) Jews in Israel.
- Conservative JudaismConservative JudaismConservative Judaism is a modern stream of Judaism that arose out of intellectual currents in Germany in the mid-19th century and took institutional form in the United States in the early 1900s.Conservative Judaism has its roots in the school of thought known as Positive-Historical Judaism,...
, known as MasortiMasortiThe Masorti Movement is the name given to Conservative Judaism in Israel and other countries outside Canada and U.S. Masorti means "traditional" in Hebrew...
outside the United States and Canada, is characterized by a commitment to traditional Jewish laws and customs, including observance of ShabbatShabbatShabbat is the seventh day of the Jewish week and a day of rest in Judaism. Shabbat is observed from a few minutes before sunset on Friday evening until a few minutes after when one would expect to be able to see three stars in the sky on Saturday night. The exact times, therefore, differ from...
and kashrutKashrutKashrut is the set of Jewish dietary laws. Food in accord with halakha is termed kosher in English, from the Ashkenazi pronunciation of the Hebrew term kashér , meaning "fit" Kashrut (also kashruth or kashrus) is the set of Jewish dietary laws. Food in accord with halakha (Jewish law) is termed...
, a deliberately non-fundamentalist teaching of Jewish principles of faith, a positive attitude toward modern culture, and an acceptance of both traditional rabbinic and modern scholarship when considering Jewish religious texts. Conservative Judaism teaches that Jewish law is not static, but has always developed in response to changing conditions. It holds that the Torah is a divine document written by prophets inspired by God and reflecting his will, but rejects the Orthodox position that it was dictated by God to Moses. Conservative Judaism holds that the Oral LawOral TorahThe Oral Torah comprises the legal and interpretative traditions that, according to tradition, were transmitted orally from Mount Sinai, and were not written in the Torah...
is divine and normative, but holds that both the Written and Oral Law may be interpreted by the rabbis to reflect modern sensibilities and suit modern conditions.
- Reform JudaismReform JudaismReform Judaism refers to various beliefs, practices and organizations associated with the Reform Jewish movement in North America, the United Kingdom and elsewhere. In general, it maintains that Judaism and Jewish traditions should be modernized and should be compatible with participation in the...
, called LiberalLiberal JudaismLiberal Judaism , is one of the two forms of Progressive Judaism found in the United Kingdom, the other being Reform Judaism. Liberal Judaism, which developed at the beginning of the twentieth century is less conservative than UK Reform Judaism...
or Progressive JudaismProgressive JudaismProgressive Judaism , is an umbrella term used by strands of Judaism which affiliate to the World Union for Progressive Judaism. They embrace pluralism, modernity, equality and social justice as core values and believe that such values are consistent with a committed Jewish life...
in many countries, defines Judaism as a religion rather than as a race or culture, rejects most of the ritual and ceremonial laws of the TorahTorahTorah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five books of the bible—Genesis , Exodus , Leviticus , Numbers and Deuteronomy Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five...
while observing moral laws, and emphasizes the ethical call of the ProphetsNevi'imNevi'im is the second of the three major sections in the Hebrew Bible, the Tanakh. It falls between the Torah and Ketuvim .Nevi'im is traditionally divided into two parts:...
. Reform Judaism has developed an egalitarian prayer service in the vernacular (along with HebrewHebrew languageHebrew is a Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Culturally, is it considered by Jews and other religious groups as the language of the Jewish people, though other Jewish languages had originated among diaspora Jews, and the Hebrew language is also used by non-Jewish groups, such...
in many cases) and emphasizes personal connection to Jewish tradition.
- Reconstructionist JudaismReconstructionist JudaismReconstructionist Judaism is a modern American-based Jewish movement based on the ideas of Mordecai Kaplan . The movement views Judaism as a progressively evolving civilization. It originated as a branch of Conservative Judaism, before it splintered...
, like Reform Judaism, does not hold that Jewish law, as such, requires observance, but unlike Reform, Reconstructionist thought emphasizes the role of the community in deciding what observances to follow.
- Jewish RenewalJewish RenewalJewish Renewal , is a recent movement in Judaism which endeavors to reinvigorate modern Judaism with mystical, Hasidic, musical and meditative practices...
is a recent North American movement which focuses on spirituality and social justice, but does not address issues of Jewish law. Men and women participate equally in prayer.
- Humanistic JudaismHumanistic JudaismHumanistic Judaism is a movement in Judaism that offers a nontheistic alternative in contemporary Jewish life. It defines Judaism as the cultural and historical experience of the Jewish people and encourages humanistic and secular Jews to celebrate their Jewish identity by participating in Jewish...
is a small non-theistic movement centered in North America and Israel that emphasizes Jewish culture and history as the sources of Jewish identity.
Jewish movements in IsraelMost Jewish Israelis classify themselves as "secular" (hiloni), "traditional" (masorti), "religious" (dati) or Haredi
. The term "secular" is more popular as a self-description among Israeli families of western (European) origin, whose Jewish identity may be a very powerful force in their lives, but who see it as largely independent of traditional religious belief and practice. This portion of the population largely ignores organized religious life, be it of the official Israeli rabbinate (Orthodox) or of the liberal movements common to diaspora Judaism (Reform, Conservative).
The term "traditional" (masorti) is most common as a self-description among Israeli families of "eastern" origin (i.e., the Middle East, Central Asia, and North Africa). This term, as commonly used, has nothing to do with the official Masorti
(Conservative) movement. There is a great deal of ambiguity in the ways "secular" and "traditional" are used in Israel: they often overlap, and they cover an extremely wide range in terms of ideology and religious observance. The term "Orthodox" is not popular in Israeli discourse, although the percentage of Jews who come under that category is far greater than in the diaspora
. What would be called "Orthodox" in the diaspora includes what is commonly called dati (religious) or haredi (ultra-Orthodox) in Israel. The former term includes what is called "Religious Zionism
" or the "National Religious" community, as well as what has become known over the past decade or so as haredi-leumi (nationalist
haredi), or "Hardal", which combines a largely haredi lifestyle with nationalist ideology. (Some people, in Yiddish, also refer to observant Orthodox Jews as frum, as opposed to frei (more liberal Jews)).
Haredi applies to a populace that can be roughly divided into three separate groups along both ethnic and ideological lines: (1) "Lithuanian" (non-hasidic) haredim of Ashkenazic origin; (2) Hasidic haredim of Ashkenazic origin; and (3) Sephardic haredim.
Alternative JudaismKaraite Judaism
defines itself as the remnants of the non-Rabbinic Jewish sects of the Second Temple
period, such as the Sadducees
. The Karaites ("Scripturalists") accept only the Hebrew Bible and what they view as the Peshat
("simple" meaning); they do not accept non-biblical writings as authoritative. Some European Karaites do not see themselves as part of the Jewish community at all, although most do. The Samaritan
s, a very small community located entirely around Mount Gerizim
in the Nablus
region of the West Bank
and in Holon, near Tel Aviv
in Israel, regard themselves as the descendants of the Israelites of the Iron Age kingdom of Israel. Their religious practices are those of Judaism, but they regard only the written Torah
as authoritative scripture (with a special regard also for the Book of Joshua
Jewish ethicsJewish ethics may be guided by halakhic traditions, by other moral principles, or by central Jewish virtues. Jewish ethical practice is typically understood to be marked by values such as justice, truth, peace, loving-kindness (chesed
), compassion, humility, and self-respect. Specific Jewish ethical practices include practices of charity (tzedakah
) and refraining from negative speech (lashon hara
). Proper ethical practices regarding sexuality and many other issues are subjects of dispute among Jews.
, and Ma'ariv with a fourth prayer, Mussaf
added on Shabbat
. At the heart of each service is the Amidah
or Shemoneh Esrei. Another key prayer in many services is the declaration of faith, the Shema Yisrael
(or Shema). The Shema is the recitation of a verse from the Torah (Deuteronomy
6:4): Shema Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad—"Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God! The Lord is One!"
Most of the prayers in a traditional Jewish service can be recited in solitary prayer, although communal prayer is preferred. Communal prayer requires a quorum
of ten adult Jews, called a minyan
. In nearly all Orthodox and a few Conservative circles, only male Jews are counted toward a minyan; most Conservative Jews and members of other Jewish denominations count female Jews as well.
In addition to prayer services, observant traditional Jews recite prayers and benedictions throughout the day when performing various acts. Prayers are recited upon waking up in the morning
, before eating or drinking different foods, after eating a meal
, and so on.
The approach to prayer varies among the Jewish denominations. Differences can include the texts of prayers, the frequency of prayer, the number of prayers recited at various religious events, the use of musical instruments and choral music, and whether prayers are recited in the traditional liturgical languages or the vernacular. In general, Orthodox and Conservative congregations adhere most closely to tradition, and Reform and Reconstructionist synagogues are more likely to incorporate translations and contemporary writings in their services. Also, in most Conservative synagogues, and all Reform and Reconstructionist congregations, women participate in prayer services on an equal basis
with men, including roles traditionally filled only by men, such as reading from the Torah
. In addition, many Reform temples use musical accompaniment such as organs and mixed choirs.
Religious clothingA kippah
(Hebrew: כִּפָּה, plural kippot; Yiddish: יאַרמלקע, yarmulke) is a slightly rounded brimless skullcap worn by many Jews while praying, eating, reciting blessings, or studying Jewish religious texts, and at all times by some Jewish men. In Orthodox communities, only men wear kippot; in non-Orthodox communities, some women also wear kippot. Kippot range in size from a small round beanie that covers only the back of the head, to a large, snug cap that covers the whole crown.
(Hebrew: צִיציִת) (Ashkenazi pronunciation
: tzitzis) are special knotted "fringes" or "tassels" found on the four corners of the tallit
(Hebrew: טַלִּית) (Ashkenazi pronunciation: tallis), or prayer shawl
. The tallit is worn by Jewish men and some Jewish women during the prayer service. Customs vary regarding when a Jew begins wearing a tallit. In the Sephardi community, boys wear a tallit from bar mitzvah age. In some Ashkenazi communities it is customary to wear one only after marriage. A tallit katan (small tallit) is a fringed garment worn under the clothing throughout the day. In some Orthodox circles, the fringes are allowed to hang freely outside the clothing.
(Hebrew: תְפִלִּין), known in English as phylacteries (from the Greek word φυλακτήριον, meaning safeguard or amulet), are two square leather boxes containing biblical verses, attached to the forehead and wound around the left arm by leather straps. They are worn during weekday morning prayer by observant Jewish men and some Jewish women.
(Yiddish: קיטל), a white knee-length overgarment, is worn by prayer leaders and some observant traditional Jews on the High Holidays. It is traditional for the head of the household to wear a kittel at the Passover seder in some communities, and some grooms wear one under the wedding canopy. Jewish males are buried in a tallit and sometimes also a kittel which are part of the tachrichim
Jewish holidaysJewish holidays are special days in the Jewish calendar, which celebrate moments in Jewish history, as well as central themes in the relationship between God and the world, such as creation, revelation
, and redemption
, the weekly day of rest lasting from shortly before sundown on Friday night to nightfall Saturday night, commemorates God's day of rest after six days of creation. It plays a pivotal role in Jewish practice and is governed by a large corpus of religious law. At sundown on Friday, the woman of the house welcomes the Shabbat by lighting two or more candles and reciting a blessing. The evening meal begins with the Kiddush, a blessing recited aloud over a cup of wine, and the Mohtzi, a blessing recited over the bread. It is customary to have challah
, two braided loaves of bread, on the table. During Shabbat Jews are forbidden to engage in any activity that falls under 39 categories of melakhah
, translated literally as "work". In fact the activities banned on the Sabbath are not "work" in the usual sense: They include such actions as lighting a fire, writing, using money and carrying in the public domain. The prohibition of lighting a fire has been extended in the modern era to driving a car, which involves burning fuel, and using electricity.
Three pilgrimage festivals
- PassoverPassoverPassover is a Jewish holiday and festival. It commemorates the story of the Exodus, in which the ancient Israelites were freed from slavery in Egypt...
(Pesach) is a week-long holiday beginning on the evening of the 14th day of NisanNisanNisan is the first month of the ecclesiastical year and the seventh month of the civil year, on the Hebrew calendar. The name of the month is Babylonian; in the Torah it is called the month of the Aviv, referring to the month in which barley was ripe. It is a spring month of 30 days...
(the first month in the Hebrew calendar), that commemorates the Exodus from Egypt. Outside Israel, Passover is celebrated for eight days. In ancient times, it coincided with the barley harvest. It is the only holiday that centers on home-service, the SederPassover SederThe Passover Seder is a Jewish ritual feast that marks the beginning of the Jewish holiday of Passover. It is conducted on the evenings of the 14th day of Nisan in the Hebrew calendar, and on the 15th by traditionally observant Jews living outside Israel. This corresponds to late March or April in...
. LeavenedLeavening agentA leavening agent is any one of a number of substances used in doughs and batters that cause a foaming action which lightens and softens the finished product...
products (chametzChametzChametz, also Chometz, and other spellings transliterated from , are leavened foods that are forbidden on the Jewish holiday of Passover. According to Jewish law, Jews may not own, eat or benefit from chametz during Passover...
) are removed from the house prior to the holiday, and are not consumed throughout the week. Homes are thoroughly cleaned to ensure no bread or bread by-products remain, and a symbolic burning of the last vestiges of chametz is conducted on the morning of the Seder. MatzoMatzoMatzo or matzah is an unleavened bread traditionally eaten by Jews during the week-long Passover holiday, when eating chametz—bread and other food which is made with leavened grain—is forbidden according to Jewish law. Currently, the most ubiquitous type of Matzo is the traditional Ashkenazic...
is eaten instead of bread.
- ShavuotShavuotThe festival of is a Jewish holiday that occurs on the sixth day of the Hebrew month of Sivan ....
("Pentecost" or "Feast of Weeks") celebrates the revelation of the TorahTorahTorah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five books of the bible—Genesis , Exodus , Leviticus , Numbers and Deuteronomy Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five...
to the IsraeliteIsraeliteAccording to the Bible the Israelites were a Hebrew-speaking people of the Ancient Near East who inhabited the Land of Canaan during the monarchic period .The word "Israelite" derives from the Biblical Hebrew ישראל...
s on Mount Sinai. Also known as the Festival of Bikurim, or first fruits, it coincided in biblical times with the wheat harvest. Shavuot customs include all-night study marathons known as Tikkun Leil Shavuot, eating dairy foods (cheesecake and blintzes are special favorites), reading the Book of Ruth, decorating homes and synagogues with greenery, and wearing white clothing, symbolizing purity.
- SukkotSukkotSukkot is a Biblical holiday celebrated on the 15th day of the month of Tishrei . It is one of the three biblically mandated festivals Shalosh regalim on which Hebrews were commanded to make a pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem.The holiday lasts seven days...
("Tabernacles" or "The Festival of Booths") commemorates the Israelites' forty years of wandering through the desert on their way to the Promised Land. It is celebrated through the construction of temporary booths called sukkot (sing. sukkahSukkahA sukkah is a temporary hut constructed for use during the week-long Jewish festival of Sukkot. It is topped with branches and often well decorated with autumnal, harvest or Judaic themes...
) that represent the temporary shelters of the Israelites during their wandering. It coincides with the fruit harvest, and marks the end of the agricultural cycle. Jews around the world eat in sukkot for seven days and nights. Sukkot concludes with Shemini AtzeretShemini AtzeretShemini Atzeret is a Jewish holiday. It is celebrated on the 22nd day of the Hebrew month of Tishrei. In the Diaspora, an additional day is celebrated, the second day being separately referred to as Simchat Torah...
, where Jews begin to pray for rain and Simchat TorahSimchat TorahSimchat Torah or Simḥath Torah is a celebration marking the conclusion of the annual cycle of public Torah readings, and the beginning of a new cycle...
, "Rejoicing of the Torah", a holiday which marks reaching the end of the Torah reading cycle and beginning all over again. The occasion is celebrated with singing and dancing with the Torah scrolls. Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah are technically considered to be a separate holiday and not a part of Sukkot.
High Holy Days
- Rosh HashanahRosh HashanahRosh Hashanah , , is the Jewish New Year. It is the first of the High Holy Days or Yamim Nora'im which occur in the autumn...
, (also Yom Ha-Zikkaron or "Day of Remembrance", and Yom Teruah, or "Day of the Sounding of the ShofarShofarA shofar is a horn, traditionally that of a ram, used for Jewish religious purposes. Shofar-blowing is incorporated in synagogue services on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.Shofar come in a variety of sizes.- Bible and rabbinic literature :...
"). Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year (literally, "head of the year"), although it falls on the first day of the seventh month of the Hebrew calendarHebrew calendarThe Hebrew calendar , or Jewish calendar, is a lunisolar calendar used today predominantly for Jewish religious observances. It determines the dates for Jewish holidays and the appropriate public reading of Torah portions, yahrzeits , and daily Psalm reading, among many ceremonial uses...
, Tishri. Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of the 10-day period of atonement leading up to Yom Kippur, during which Jews are commanded to search their souls and make amends for sins committed, intentionally or not, throughout the year. Holiday customs include blowing the shofar, or ram's horn, in the synagogue, eating apples and honey, and saying blessings over a variety of symbolic foods, such as pomegranates.
- Yom KippurYom KippurYom Kippur , also known as Day of Atonement, is the holiest and most solemn day of the year for the Jews. Its central themes are atonement and repentance. Jews traditionally observe this holy day with a 25-hour period of fasting and intensive prayer, often spending most of the day in synagogue...
, ("Day of Atonement") is the holiest day of the Jewish year. It is a day of communal fasting and praying for forgiveness for one's sins. Observant Jews spend the entire day in the synagogue, sometimes with a short break in the afternoon, reciting prayers from a special holiday prayerbook called a "Machzor". Many non-religious Jews make a point of attending synagogue services and fasting on Yom Kippur. On the eve of Yom Kippur, before candles are lit, a prefast meal, the "seuda mafseket", is eaten. Synagogue services on the eve of Yom Kippur begin with the Kol Nidre prayer. It is customary to wear white on Yom Kippur, especially for Kol Nidre, and leather shoes are not worn. The following day, prayers are held from morning to evening. The final prayer service, called "Ne'ilah", ends with a long blast of the shofar.
: Pûrîm "lots
") is a joyous Jewish holiday that commemorates the deliverance of the Persian Jews
from the plot of the evil Haman
, who sought to exterminate
them, as recorded in the biblical Book of Esther
. It is characterized by public recitation of the Book of Esther, mutual gifts of food and drink, charity
to the poor, and a celebratory meal (Esther 9:22). Other customs include drinking wine, eating special pastries called hamantashen, dressing up in masks and costumes, and organizing carnivals and parties.
Purim is celebrated annually on the 14th of the Hebrew month of Adar
, which occurs in February or March of the Gregorian calendar.
also known as the Festival of Lights, is an eight day Jewish holiday that starts on the 25th day of Kislev
). The festival is observed in Jewish homes by the kindling of lights on each of the festival's eight nights, one on the first night, two on the second night and so on.
The holiday was called Hanukkah (meaning "dedication") because it marks the re-dedication of the Temple after its desecration by Antiochus IV Epiphanes
. Spiritually, Hanukkah commemorates the "Miracle of the Oil". According to the Talmud, at the re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem
following the victory of the Maccabees
over the Seleucid Empire
, there was only enough consecrated oil
to fuel the eternal flame in the Temple for one day. Miraculously, the oil burned for eight days - which was the length of time it took to press, prepare and consecrate new oil.
Hanukkah is not mentioned in the Bible and was never considered a major holiday in Judaism, but it has become much more visible and widely celebrated in modern times, mainly because it falls around the same time as Christmas and has national Jewish overtones that have been emphasized since the establishment of the State of Israel.
Other holidaysTisha B'Av
( or , "the Ninth of Av") is a holiday of mourning and fasting commemorating the destruction of the First and Second Temple
s and the expulsion of the Jews from Spain
The modern holidays of Yom Ha-shoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) and Yom Ha'atzmaut
(Israeli Independence Day) commemorate the horrors of the Holocaust and the achievement of Israel independence, respectively.
Torah readingsThe core of festival and Shabbat
prayer services is the public reading of the Torah
, along with connected readings from the other books of the Tanakh
, called Haftarah
. Over the course of a year, the whole Torah is read, with the cycle starting over in the autumn, on Simchat Torah
Synagogues and religious buildings
- The arkArk (synagogue)The Torah ark or ark in a synagogue is known in Hebrew as the Aron Kodesh by the Ashkenazim and as the Hekhál amongst most Sefardim. It is generally a receptacle, or ornamental closet, which contains each synagogue's Torah scrolls...
(called aron ha-kodesh by AshkenazimAshkenazi JewsAshkenazi Jews, also known as Ashkenazic Jews or Ashkenazim , are the Jews descended from the medieval Jewish communities along the Rhine in Germany from Alsace in the south to the Rhineland in the north. Ashkenaz is the medieval Hebrew name for this region and thus for Germany...
and hekhal by SephardimSephardi JewsSephardi Jews is a general term referring to the descendants of the Jews who lived in the Iberian Peninsula before their expulsion in the Spanish Inquisition. It can also refer to those who use a Sephardic style of liturgy or would otherwise define themselves in terms of the Jewish customs and...
) where the TorahTorahTorah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five books of the bible—Genesis , Exodus , Leviticus , Numbers and Deuteronomy Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five...
scrolls are kept (the ark is often closed with an ornate curtain (parochetParochetParochet is the curtain on the front of the Aron Kodesh in a synagogue that covers the Sifrei Torah...
) outside or inside the ark doors);
- The elevated reader's platform (called bimahBimahA bimah A bimah A bimah (among Ashkenazim, derived from Hebrew בּמה , almemar (from Arabic al-minbar) or tebah (among Sephardim) is the elevated area or platform in a Jewish synagogue which is intended to serve the place where the person reading aloud from the Torah stands during the Torah reading...
by Ashkenazim and tebah by Sephardim), where the Torah is read (and services are conducted in Sephardi synagogues);
- The eternal lightSanctuary lampA sanctuary lamp, altar lamp, everlasting light or eternal flame is a light that shines before the altar of sanctuaries in many denominations of Jewish and Christian places of worship. Prescribed in ] 27:20-21] of the Hebrew Bible, this icon has taken on different meanings in each of the religions...
(ner tamid), a continually lit lamp or lantern used as a reminder of the constantly lit menorah of the Temple in JerusalemTemple in JerusalemThe Temple in Jerusalem or Holy Temple , refers to one of a series of structures which were historically located on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, the current site of the Dome of the Rock. Historically, these successive temples stood at this location and functioned as the centre of...
- The pulpit, or amud, a lectern facing the Ark where the hazzanHazzanA hazzan or chazzan is a Jewish cantor, a musician trained in the vocal arts who helps lead the congregation in songful prayer.There are many rules relating to how a cantor should lead services, but the idea of a cantor as a paid professional does not exist in classical rabbinic sources...
or prayer leader stands while praying.
In addition to synagogues, other buildings of significance in Judaism include yeshiva
s, or institutions of Jewish learning, and mikvah
s, which are ritual baths.
Dietary laws: KashrutThe Jewish dietary laws are known as kashrut
. Food prepared in accordance with them is termed kosher
, and food that is not kosher is also known as treifah or treif. People who observe these laws are colloquially said to be "keeping kosher".
Many of the laws apply to animal-based foods. For example, in order to be considered kosher, mammals must have split hooves and chew their cud. The pig
is arguably the most well-known example of a non-kosher animal. Although it has split hooves, it does not chew its cud. For seafood
to be kosher, the animal must have fins
. Certain types of seafood, such as shellfish
, crustaceans, and eel
s, are therefore considered non-kosher. Concerning birds, a list of non-kosher species is given in the Torah
. The exact translations
of many of the species have not survived, and some non-kosher birds' identities are no longer certain. However, traditions exist about the kashrut status of a few birds. For example, both chickens and turkeys are permitted in most communities. Other types of animals, such as amphibians, reptiles, and most insects, are prohibited altogether.
In addition to the requirement that the species be considered kosher, meat and poultry (but not fish) must come from a healthy animal slaughtered in a process known as shechitah. Without the proper slaughtering
practices even an otherwise kosher animal will be rendered treif. The slaughtering process is intended to be quick and relatively painless to the animal. Forbidden parts of animals include the blood
, some fat
s, and the area in and around the sciatic nerve
Jewish law also forbids the consumption of meat and dairy products together. The waiting period between eating meat and eating dairy varies by the order in which they are consumed and by community, and can extend for up to six hours. Based on the Biblical injunction against cooking a kid in its mother's milk, this rule is mostly derived from the Oral Torah
, the Talmud
and Rabbinic law. Chicken and other kosher birds are considered the same as meat under the laws of kashrut, but the prohibition is Rabbinic, not Biblical.
The use of dishes, serving utensils, and oven
s may make food treif that would otherwise be kosher. Utensils that have been used to prepare non-kosher food, or dishes that have held meat and are now used for dairy products, render the food treif under certain conditions.
Furthermore, all Orthodox
and some Conservative
authorities forbid the consumption of processed grape
products made by non-Jews, due to ancient pagan practices of using wine in rituals. Some Conservative authorities permit wine and grape juice made without rabbinic supervision.
does not give specific reasons for most of the laws of kashrut. However, a number of explanations have been offered, including maintaining ritual purity, teaching impulse control, encouraging obedience to God, improving health, reducing cruelty to animals
and preserving the distinctness of the Jewish community. The various categories of dietary laws may have developed for different reasons, and some may exist for multiple reasons. For example, people are forbidden from consuming the blood of birds and mammals because, according to the Torah, this is where animal souls are contained. In contrast, the Torah forbids Israelites from eating non-kosher species because "they are unclean". The Kabbalah
describes sparks of holiness that are released by the act of eating kosher foods, but are too tightly bound in non-kosher foods to be released by eating.
Survival concerns supersede all the laws of kashrut, as they do for most halakhot
Laws of ritual purityThe Tanakh
describes circumstances in which a person who is tahor or ritually pure may become tamei or ritually impure. Some of these circumstances are contact with human corpses or graves
, seminal flux, vaginal flux, menstruation
, and contact with people who have become impure from any of these. In Rabbinic Judaism, Kohanim, members of the hereditary caste
that served as priests in the time of the Temple, are mostly restricted from entering grave sites and touching dead bodies.
Family purityAn important subcategory of the ritual purity laws relates to the segregation of menstruating women. These laws are also known as niddah
, literally "separation", or family purity. Vital aspects of halakha for traditionally observant Jews, they are not usually followed by Jews in liberal denominations.
Especially in Orthodox Judaism
, the Biblical laws are augmented by Rabbinical injunctions. For example, the Torah
mandates that a woman in her normal menstrual period must abstain from sexual intercourse
for seven days. A woman whose menstruation is prolonged must continue to abstain for seven more days after bleeding has stopped. The Rabbis conflated ordinary niddah with this extended menstrual period, known in the Torah as zavah
, and mandated that a woman may not have sexual intercourse
with her husband
from the time she begins her menstrual
flow until seven days after it ends. In addition, Rabbinical law forbids the husband
from touching or sharing a bed with his wife during this period. Afterwards, purification can occur in a ritual bath called a mikveh.
Traditional Ethiopian Jews keep menstruating women in separate huts and, similar to Karaite practice
, do not allow menstruating women into their temples because of a temple's special sanctity. Emigration to Israel
and the influence of other Jewish denominations have led to Ethiopian Jews adopting more normative Jewish practices.
Life-cycle eventsLife-cycle events, or rites of passage
, occur throughout a Jew's life that serve to strengthen Jewish identity and bind him/her to the entire community.
- Brit milahBrit milahThe brit milah is a Jewish religious circumcision ceremony performed on 8-day old male infants by a mohel. The brit milah is followed by a celebratory meal .-Biblical references:...
- Welcoming male babies into the covenant through the rite of circumcisionCircumcisionMale circumcision is the surgical removal of some or all of the foreskin from the penis. The word "circumcision" comes from Latin and ....
on their eighth day of life. The baby boy is also given his Hebrew name in the ceremony. A naming ceremony intended as a parallel ritual for girls, named zeved habatZeved habatZeved habat , is a Jewish naming ceremony for newborn girls.-Ashkenazi custom:In the Ashkenazi community, namegiving ceremonies for newborn girls were not widespread and often limited to the father announcing the baby's name in the synagogue on the Shabbat, Monday, Thursday or other occasion when...
or brit bat, enjoys limited popularity.
- Bar mitzvah and Bat mitzvah - This passage from childhood to adulthood takes place when a female Jew is twelve and a male Jew is thirteen years old among Orthodox and some Conservative congregations. In the Reform movement, both girls and boys have their bat/bar mitzvah at age thirteen. This is often commemorated by having the new adults, male only in the Orthodox tradition, lead the congregation in prayer and publicly read a "portion" of the Torah.
- Marriage - Marriage is an extremely important lifecycle event. A wedding takes place under a chupah, or wedding canopy, which symbolizes a happy house. At the end of the ceremony, the groom breaks a glass with his foot, symbolizing the continuous mourning for the destruction of the Temple, and the scattering of the Jewish people.
- Death and MourningBereavement in JudaismBereavement in Judaism is a combination of minhag and mitzvah derived from Judaism's classical Torah and rabbinic texts...
- Judaism has a multi-staged mourningMourningMourning is, in the simplest sense, synonymous with grief over the death of someone. The word is also used to describe a cultural complex of behaviours in which the bereaved participate or are expected to participate...
practice. The first stage is called the shiva (literally "seven", observed for one week) during which it is traditional to sit at home and be comforted by friends and family, the second is the shloshim (observed for one month) and for those who have lost one of their parents, there is a third stage, avelut yud bet chodesh, which is observed for eleven months.
Classical priesthoodThe role of the priesthood in Judaism has significantly diminished since the destruction of the Second Temple
in 70 CE, when priests attended to the Temple and sacrifices. The priesthood is an inherited position, and although priests no longer have any but ceremonial duties, they are still honored in many Jewish communities. Many Orthodox Jewish communities believe that they will be needed again for a future Third Temple and need to remain in readiness for future duty.
- KohenKohenA Kohen is the Hebrew word for priest. Jewish Kohens are traditionally believed and halachically required to be of direct patrilineal descent from the Biblical Aaron....
(priest) - patrilineal descendant of AaronAaronIn the Hebrew Bible and the Qur'an, Aaron : Ααρών ), who is often called "'Aaron the Priest"' and once Aaron the Levite , was the older brother of Moses, and a prophet of God. He represented the priestly functions of his tribe, becoming the first High Priest of the Israelites...
, brother of MosesMosesMoses was, according to the Hebrew Bible and Qur'an, a religious leader, lawgiver and prophet, to whom the authorship of the Torah is traditionally attributed...
. In the Temple, the kohanim were charged with performing the sacrifices. Today, a Kohen is the first one called up at the reading of the Torah, performs the Priestly BlessingPriestly BlessingThe Priestly Blessing, , also known in Hebrew as Nesiat Kapayim, , or Dukhanen , is a Jewish prayer recited by Kohanim during certain Jewish services...
, as well as complying with other unique laws and ceremonies, including the ceremony of redemption of the first-born.
- Levi (LeviteLeviteIn Jewish tradition, a Levite is a member of the Hebrew tribe of Levi. When Joshua led the Israelites into the land of Canaan, the Levites were the only Israelite tribe that received cities but were not allowed to be landowners "because the Lord the God of Israel himself is their inheritance"...
) - Patrilineal descendant of LeviLeviLevi/Levy was, according to the Book of Genesis, the third son of Jacob and Leah, and the founder of the Israelite Tribe of Levi ; however Peake's commentary suggests this as postdiction, an eponymous metaphor providing an aetiology of the connectedness of the tribe to others in the Israelite...
the son of JacobJacobJacob "heel" or "leg-puller"), also later known as Israel , as described in the Hebrew Bible, the Talmud, the New Testament and the Qur'an was the third patriarch of the Hebrew people with whom God made a covenant, and ancestor of the tribes of Israel, which were named after his descendants.In the...
. In the Temple in JerusalemTemple in JerusalemThe Temple in Jerusalem or Holy Temple , refers to one of a series of structures which were historically located on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, the current site of the Dome of the Rock. Historically, these successive temples stood at this location and functioned as the centre of...
, the levites sang PsalmsPsalmsThe Book of Psalms , commonly referred to simply as Psalms, is a book of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Bible...
, performed construction, maintenance, janitorial, and guard duties, assisted the priests, and sometimes interpreted the law and Temple ritual to the public. Today, a Levite is called up second to the reading of the Torah.
Prayer leadersFrom the time of the Mishnah
to the present, Judaism has required specialists or authorities for the practice of very few rituals or ceremonies. A Jew can fulfill most requirements for prayer by himself. Some activities—reading the Torah
and haftarah (a supplementary portion from the Prophets or Writings), the prayer for mourners, the blessings for bridegroom and bride, the complete grace after meals—require a minyan
, the presence of ten Jews.
The most common professional clergy in a synagogue
- RabbiRabbiIn Judaism, a rabbi is a teacher of Torah. This title derives from the Hebrew word רבי , meaning "My Master" , which is the way a student would address a master of Torah...
of a congregation - Jewish scholar who is charged with answering the legal questions of a congregation. This role requires ordination by the congregation's preferred authority (i.e. from a respected Orthodox rabbi or, if the congregation is Conservative or Reform, from academic seminaries). A congregation does not necessarily require a rabbi. Some congregations have a rabbi but also allow members of the congregation to act as shatz or baal kriyah (see below).
- Hassidic RebbeRebbeRebbe , which means master, teacher, or mentor, is a Yiddish word derived from the Hebrew word Rabbi. It often refers to the leader of a Hasidic Jewish movement...
- rabbi who is the head of a HasidicHasidic Judaism
- Hassidic Rebbe
- HazzanHazzanA hazzan or chazzan is a Jewish cantor, a musician trained in the vocal arts who helps lead the congregation in songful prayer.There are many rules relating to how a cantor should lead services, but the idea of a cantor as a paid professional does not exist in classical rabbinic sources...
(note: the "h" denotes voiceless pharyngeal fricativeVoiceless pharyngeal fricativeThe voiceless pharyngeal fricative is a type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is h-bar .-Features:Features of the voiceless pharyngeal fricative:...
) (cantor) - a trained vocalist who acts as shatz. Chosen for a good voice, knowledge of traditional tunes, understanding of the meaning of the prayers and sincerity in reciting them. A congregation does not need to have a dedicated hazzan.
Jewish prayer services do involve two specified roles, which are sometimes, but not always, filled by a rabbi and/or hazzan in many congregations. In other congregations these roles are filled on an ad-hoc basis by members of the congregation who lead portions of services on a rotating basis:
- Shaliach tzibur or Shatz (leader—literally "agent" or "representative"—of the congregation) leads those assembled in prayer, and sometimes prays on behalf of the community. When a shatz recites a prayer on behalf of the congregation, he is not acting as an intermediary but rather as a facilitator. The entire congregation participates in the recital of such prayers by saying amen at their conclusion; it is with this act that the shatz's prayer becomes the prayer of the congregation. Any adult capable of reciting the prayers clearly may act as shatz. In Orthodox congregations and some Conservative congregations, only men can be prayer leaders, but all ProgressiveProgressive JudaismProgressive Judaism , is an umbrella term used by strands of Judaism which affiliate to the World Union for Progressive Judaism. They embrace pluralism, modernity, equality and social justice as core values and believe that such values are consistent with a committed Jewish life...
communities now allow women to serve in this function.
- The Baal kriyah or baal koreh (master of the reading) reads the weekly TorahTorah
portion. The requirements for being the baal kriyah are the same as those for the shatz. These roles are not mutually exclusive. The same person is often qualified to fill more than one role, and often does. Often there are several people capable of filling these roles and different services (or parts of services) will be led by each.
Many congregations, especially larger ones, also rely on a:
- GabbaiGabbaiA Gabbai is a person who assists in the running of a synagogue and ensures that the needs are met, for example the Jewish prayer services run smoothly, or an assistant to a rabbi...
(sexton) - Calls people up to the Torah, appoints the shatz for each prayer session if there is no standard shatz, and makes certain that the synagogue is kept clean and supplied.
The three preceding positions are usually voluntary and considered an honor. Since the Enlightenment
large synagogues have often adopted the practice of hiring rabbis and hazzans to act as shatz and baal kriyah, and this is still typically the case in many Conservative and Reform congregations. However, in most Orthodox synagogues these positions are filled by laypeople on a rotating or ad-hoc basis. Although most congregations hire one or more Rabbis, the use of a professional hazzan is generally declining in American congregations, and the use of professionals for other offices is rarer still.
Specialized religious roles
- Dayan (judge) - An ordained rabbi with special legal training who belongs to a beth dinBeth dinA beth din, bet din, beit din or beis din is a rabbinical court of Judaism. In ancient times, it was the building block of the legal system in the Biblical Land of Israel...
(rabbinical court). In Israel, religious courts handle marriage and divorce cases, conversion and financial disputes in the Jewish community.
- MohelMohelA mohel is a Jewish person trained in the practice of brit milah "covenant of circumcision."-Etymology of the Hebrew and Aramaic term:...
(circumciser) - An expert in the laws of circumcision who has received training from a previously qualified mohel and performs the brit milahBrit milahThe brit milah is a Jewish religious circumcision ceremony performed on 8-day old male infants by a mohel. The brit milah is followed by a celebratory meal .-Biblical references:...
- ShochetShechitaShechita is the ritual slaughter of mammals and birds according to Jewish dietary laws...
(ritual slaughterer) - In order for meat to be kosher, it must be slaughtered by a shochet who is an expert in the laws of kashrut and has been trained by another shochet.
- SoferSofer (scribe)A Sofer, Sopher Sofer SeTaM, or Sofer ST"M is a Jewish scribe who can transcribe Torah scrolls and other religious writings such as those used in Tefillin and Mezuzot.By simple definition, a sofer is a copyist, but in their religious role in Judaism they...
(scribe) - TorahTorah
scrolls, tefillinTefillinTefillin also called phylacteries are a set of small black leather boxes containing scrolls of parchment inscribed with verses from the Torah, which are worn by observant Jews during weekday morning prayers. Although "tefillin" is technically the plural form , it is loosely used as a singular as...
(phylacteries), mezuzotMezuzahA mezuzah is usually a metal or wooden rectangular object that is fastened to a doorpost of a Jewish house. Inside it is a piece of parchment inscribed with specified Hebrew verses from the Torah...
(scrolls put on doorposts), and gittin (bills of divorce) must be written by a sofer who is an expert in Hebrew calligraphy and has undergone rigorous training in the laws of writing sacred texts.
- Rosh yeshivaRosh yeshivaRosh yeshiva, , , is the title given to the dean of a Talmudical academy . It is made up of the Hebrew words rosh — meaning head, and yeshiva — a school of religious Jewish education...
- A Torah scholar who runs a yeshivaYeshivaYeshiva is a Jewish educational institution that focuses on the study of traditional religious texts, primarily the Talmud and Torah study. Study is usually done through daily shiurim and in study pairs called chavrutas...
- MashgiachMashgiach ruchaniMashgiach ruchani or mashgiach for short, means a spiritual supervisor or guide. It is a title which usually refers to a rabbi who has an official position within a yeshiva and is responsible for the non-academic areas of yeshiva students' lives.The position of mashgiach ruchani arose with the...
of a yeshiva - Depending on which yeshiva, might either be the person responsible for ensuring attendance and proper conduct, or even supervise the emotional and spiritual welfare of the students and give lectures on mussarMussar movementThe Musar movement is a Jewish ethical, educational and cultural movement that developed in 19th century Eastern Europe, particularly among Orthodox Lithuanian Jews. The Hebrew term Musar , is from the book of Proverbs 1:2 meaning instruction, discipline, or conduct...
- MashgiachMashgiachIn Judaism, a Mashgiach is a person who supervises the kashrut status of a kosher establishment.A mashgiah may supervise any type of food service establishment, including slaughterhouses, food manufacturers, hotels, caterers, nursing homes, restaurants, butchers, groceries, or cooperatives...
- Supervises manufacturers of kosher food, importers, caterers and restaurants to ensure that the food is kosher. Must be an expert in the laws of kashrutKashrutKashrut is the set of Jewish dietary laws. Food in accord with halakha is termed kosher in English, from the Ashkenazi pronunciation of the Hebrew term kashér , meaning "fit" Kashrut (also kashruth or kashrus) is the set of Jewish dietary laws. Food in accord with halakha (Jewish law) is termed...
and trained by a rabbi, if not a rabbi himself.
s' relationship with God
from their earliest history until the building of the Second Temple
(c. 535 BCE). Abraham
is hailed as the first Hebrew
and the father of the Jewish people. As a reward for his act of faith in one God, he was promised that Isaac
, his second son, would inherit the Land of Israel
(then called Canaan
). Later, Jacob
and his children were enslaved in Egypt
, and God commanded Moses
to lead the Exodus
from Egypt. At Mount Sinai
they received the Torah
- the five books of Moses. These books, together with Nevi'im
are known as Torah Shebikhtav as opposed to the Oral Torah
, which refers to the Mishna and the Talmud. Eventually, God led them to the land of Israel
where the tabernacle was planted in the city of Shiloh
for over 300 years to rally the nation against attacking enemies. As time went on, the spiritual level of the nation declined to the point that God allowed the Philistines
to capture the tabernacle. The people of Israel then told Samuel the prophet
that they needed to be governed by a permanent king, and Samuel appointed Saul
to be their King. When the people pressured Saul into going against a command conveyed to him by Samuel, God told Samuel to appoint David
in his stead.
that he would like to build a permanent temple, and as a reward for his actions, God promised David that he would allow his son, Solomon
, to build the first permanent temple
and the throne would never depart from his children.
Rabbinic tradition holds that the details and interpretation of the law, which are called the Oral Torah
or oral law, were originally an unwritten tradition based upon what God told Moses on Mount Sinai. However, as the persecutions of the Jews increased and the details were in danger of being forgotten, these oral laws were recorded by Rabbi
(Judah the Prince) in the Mishnah
, redacted circa 200 CE. The Talmud
was a compilation of both the Mishnah and the Gemara
, rabbinic commentaries redacted over the next three centuries. The Gemara originated in two major centers of Jewish scholarship, Palestine
and Babylonia. Correspondingly, two bodies of analysis developed, and two works of Talmud were created. The older compilation is called the Jerusalem Talmud
. It was compiled sometime during the 4th century in Israel. The Babylonian Talmud was compiled from discussions in the houses of study by the scholars Ravina I
, Ravina II
, and Rav Ashi by 500 CE, although it continued to be edited later.
Some critical scholars oppose the view that the sacred texts, including the Hebrew Bible
, were divinely inspired. Many of these scholars accept the general principles of the documentary hypothesis
and suggest that the Torah
consists of inconsistent texts edited together in a way that calls attention to divergent accounts. Many suggest that during the First Temple period, the people of Israel believed that each nation had its own god, but that their god was superior to other gods. Some suggest that strict monotheism developed during the Babylonian Exile, perhaps in reaction to Zoroastrian dualism. In this view, it was only by the Hellenic period that most Jews came to believe that their god was the only god, and that the notion of a clearly bounded Jewish nation identical with the Jewish religion formed.
argues that the origins of biblical Yahweh
, El, Asherah
, and Ba'al, may be rooted in earlier Canaanite religion
, which was centered on a pantheon of gods much like the Greek Pantheon
AntiquityThe United Monarchy
was established under Saul
and continued under King David and Solomon
with its capital in Jerusalem. After Solomon's reign the nation split into two kingdoms, the Kingdom of Israel (in the north) and the Kingdom of Judah
(in the south). The Kingdom of Israel was conquered by the Assyria
n ruler Sargon II
in the late 8th century BCE with many people from the capital Samaria being taken captive to Media and the Khabur River
valley. The Kingdom of Judah
continued as an independent state until it was conquered by a Babylonian army in the early 6th century BCE, destroying the First Temple that was at the center of ancient Jewish worship. The Judean elite were exiled to Babylonia
and this is regarded as the first Jewish Diaspora. Later many of them returned to their homeland after the subsequent conquest of Babylonia by the Persians seventy years later, a period known as the Babylonian Captivity
. A new Second Temple
was constructed, and old religious practices were resumed.
During the early years of the Second Temple, the highest religious authority was a council known as the Great Assembly, led by Ezra of the Book of Ezra. Among other accomplishments of the Great Assembly, the last books of the Bible were written at this time and the canon sealed.
spread to Ptolemaic Egypt
from the 3rd century BCE. After the Great Revolt (66–73 CE), the Romans destroyed the Temple. Hadrian
built a pagan idol on the Temple grounds and prohibited circumcision; these acts of ethnocide provoked the Bar Kokhba revolt 132–136 CE after which the Romans banned the study of the Torah
and the celebration of Jewish holidays, and forcibly removed virtually all Jews from Judea. In 200 CE, however, Jews were granted Roman citizenship and Judaism was recognized as a religio licita
("legitimate religion"), until the rise of Gnosticism
and Early Christianity
in in the fourth century.
Following the destruction of Jerusalem and the expulsion of the Jews, Jewish worship stopped being centrally organized around the Temple, prayer took the place of sacrifice, and worship was rebuilt around the community (represented by a minimum of ten adult men) and the establishment of the authority of rabbis who acted as teachers and leaders of individual communities (see Jewish diaspora
Historical Jewish groupings (to 1700)Around the 1st century CE there were several small Jewish sects: the Pharisees
, Zealots, Essenes
, and Christians
. After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, these sects vanished. Christianity
survived, but by breaking with Judaism and becoming a separate religion
; the Pharisees
survived but in the form of Rabbinic Judaism
(today, known simply as "Judaism"). The Sadducees
rejected the divine inspiration
of the Prophets
and the Writings
, relying only on the Torah
as divinely inspired. Consequently, a number of other core tenets of the Pharisees' belief system (which became the basis for modern Judaism), were also dismissed by the Sadducees. (The Samaritans practiced a similar religion, which is traditionally considered separate from Judaism.)
Like the Sadducees who relied only on the Torah, some Jews in the 8th and 9th centuries rejected the authority and divine inspiration of the oral law
as recorded in the Mishnah
(and developed by later rabbis in the two Talmud
s), relying instead only upon the Tanakh
. These included the Isunians, the Yudganites, the Malikites, and others. They soon developed oral traditions of their own, which differed from the rabbinic traditions, and eventually formed the Karaite sect. Karaites exist in small numbers today, mostly living in Israel. Rabbinical and Karaite Jews each hold that the others are Jews, but that the other faith is erroneous.
Over a long time, Jews formed distinct ethnic groups in several different geographic areas — amongst others, the Ashkenazi Jews
and Eastern Europe
), the Sephardi Jews
(of Spain, Portugal
, and North Africa
), the Beta Israel
, and the Yemenite Jews
from the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula
. Many of these groups have developed differences in their prayers, traditions and accepted canons; however these distinctions are mainly the result of their being formed at some cultural distance from normative (rabbinic) Judaism, rather than based on any doctrinal dispute.
PersecutionsAntisemitism arose during the Middle Ages
, in the form of persecutions, pogrom
s, forced conversion
, expulsions, social restrictions and ghetto
This was different in quality to any repressions of Jews in ancient times. Ancient repression was politically motivated and Jews were treated no differently than any other ethnic group would have been. With the rise of the Churches, attacks on Jews became motivated instead by theological considerations specifically deriving from Christian views about Jews and Judaism.
HasidismHasidic Judaism was founded by Yisroel ben Eliezer
(1700–1760), also known as the Ba'al Shem Tov (or Besht). It originated in a time of persecution of the Jewish people, when European Jews had turned inward to Talmud study; many felt that most expressions of Jewish life had become too "academic", and that they no longer had any emphasis on spirituality or joy. His disciples attracted many followers; they themselves established numerous Hasidic sects across Europe. Hasidic Judaism eventually became the way of life for many Jews in Europe. Waves of Jewish immigration in the 1880s carried it to the United States.
The movement itself claims to be nothing new, but a refreshment of original Judaism. Or as some have put it: "they merely re-emphasized that which the generations had lost". Nevertheless, early on there was a serious schism between Hasidic and non-Hasidic Jews. European Jews who rejected the Hasidic movement were dubbed by the Hasidim as Misnagdim
, (lit. "opponents"). Some of the reasons for the rejection of Hasidic Judaism were the overwhelming exuberance of Hasidic worship, its untraditional ascriptions of infallibility and alleged miracle-working to their leaders, and the concern that it might become a messianic sect. Since then differences between the Hasidim and their opponents have slowly diminished and both groups are now considered part of Haredi Judaism
The Enlightenment and New Religious MovementsIn the late 18th century CE, Europe was swept by a group of intellectual, social and political movements known as the Enlightenment
. The Enlightenment led to reductions in the European laws that prohibited Jews to interact with the wider secular world, thus allowing Jews access to secular education and experience. A parallel Jewish movement, Haskalah
or the "Jewish Enlightenment", began, especially in Central Europe
and Western Europe
, in response to both the Enlightenment and these new freedoms. It placed an emphasis on integration with secular society and a pursuit of non-religious knowledge through reason. With the promise of political emancipation many Jews saw no reason to continue to observe Jewish law and increasing numbers of Jews assimilated into Christian Europe. Modern religious movements of Judaism all formed in reaction to this trend.
In Central Europe
, followed by Great Britain
and The United States, Reform Judaism
and Liberal Judaism
developed, relaxing legal obligations (especially those that limited Jewish relations with non-Jews), emulating Protestant decorum in prayer, and emphasizing the ethical values of Judaism's Prophetic tradition. Modern Orthodox Judaism
developed in reaction to Reform Judaism, by leaders who argued that Jews could participate in public life as citizens equal to Christians, while maintaining the observance of Jewish law. Meanwhile, in the United States, wealthy Reform Jews helped European scholars, who were Orthodox in practice but critical (and skeptical) in their study of the Bible and Talmud, to establish a seminary to train rabbis for immigrants from Eastern Europe. These left-wing Orthodox rabbis were joined by right-wing Reform rabbis who felt that Jewish law should not be entirely abandoned, to form the Conservative movement
. Orthodox Jews who opposed the Haskalah formed Haredi Orthodox Judaism. After massive movements of Jews following The Holocaust
and the creation of the state of Israel
, these movements have competed for followers from among traditional Jews in or from other countries.
Spectrum of observanceCountries such as the United States
, United Kingdom
and South Africa
contain large Jewish populations. Jewish religious practice varies widely through all levels of observance. According to the 2001 edition of the National Jewish Population Survey
, in the United States' Jewish community—the world's second largest—4.3 million Jews out of 5.1 million had some sort of connection to the religion. Of that population of connected Jews, 80% participated in some sort of Jewish religious observance, but only 48% belonged to a synagogue, and fewer than 16% attend regularly.
Birth rates for American Jews have dropped from 2.0 to 1.7. (Replacement rate is 2.1.) Intermarriage rates range from 40-50% in the US, and only about a third of children of intermarried couples are raised as Jews. Due to intermarriage and low birth rates, the Jewish population in the US shrank from 5.5 million in 1990 to 5.1 million in 2001. This is indicative of the general population trends among the Jewish community in the Diaspora
, but a focus on total population obscures growth trends in some denominations and communities, such as Haredi Judaism
. The Baal teshuva
movement is a movement of Jews who have "returned" to religion or become more observant.
Christianity and JudaismHistorians and theologians regularly review the changing relationship between some Christian
groups and the Jewish people; the article on Christian-Jewish reconciliation
studies one recent issue.
Islam and JudaismThe relationship between Islam
and Judaism is special and close. Both religions claim to arise from the patriarch Abraham
, and are therefore considered Abrahamic religions
. As fellow monotheists
s view Jews as "people of the book
", a term that Jews have subsequently adopted as a way of describing their own connection to the Torah
and other holy texts. In turn, many Jews maintain that Muslims adhere to the Seven Laws of Noah. Thus, Judaism views Muslims as righteous people of God. Jews have interacted with Muslims since the 7th century, when Islam
originated and spread in the Arabian peninsula
, and many aspects of Islam's core values, structure, jurisprudence and practice are based on Judaism. Muslim
culture and philosophy have heavily influenced practitioners of Judaism in the Islamic world.
In premodern Muslim countries, Jews rarely faced martyr
or forcible conversion
, and were mostly free in their choice of residence and profession. Indeed, the years 712 to 1066 CE under the Ummayad and the Abbasid
rulers have been called the Golden age of Jewish culture in Spain. Non-Muslim monotheists living in these countries, including Jews, were known as dhimmis. Dhimmis were allowed to practice their religion and to administer their internal affairs, but they were subject to certain restrictions that were not imposed on Muslims. For example, they had to pay the jizya
, a per capita tax imposed on free adult non-Muslim males, and they were also forbidden to bear arms or testify in court cases involving Muslims. Many of the laws regarding dhimmis were highly symbolic. For example, dhimmis in some countries were required to wear distinctive clothing
, a practice not found in either the Qur'an
or hadiths but invented in early medieval
and inconsistently enforced. Jews in Muslim countries were not entirely free from persecution—for example, many were killed, exiled or forcibly converted in the 12th century, in Persia and by the rulers of the Almohad
dynasty in North Africa and Al-Andalus
. At times, Jews were also restricted in their choice of residence—in Morocco
, Jews were confined to walled quarters (mellah
s) beginning in the 15th century and increasingly since the early 19th century.
In the late 20th century, Jews were expelled from nearly all the Arab countries. Most have chosen to live in Israel
. Today, antisemitic themes have become commonplace in the propaganda of Arab Islamic movements such as Hizbullah and Hamas
, in the pronouncements of various agencies of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and even in the newspapers and other publications of Refah Partisi.
Syncretic movements incorporating JudaismThere are some movements that combine elements of Judaism with those of other religions. The most well-known of these is Messianic Judaism
, which arose in the 1960s. It blends evangelical Christian
theology with elements of Jewish terminology and ritual. The movement states that Jesus
is part of the Trinity
, and salvation is only achieved through acceptance of Jesus as one's savior. Some members of the movement are ethnically Jewish, and some of them argue that Messianic Judaism is a sect of Judaism. Jewish organizations and religious movements reject this, stating that Messianic Judaism is a Christian sect. The most controversial of these groups is the American organization Jews for Jesus
, which actively proselytizes ethnic Jews through numerous missionary campaigns in major American cities.
Other examples of syncretism
include Judeo-Paganists, a loosely organized set of Jews who incorporate pagan or Wicca
n beliefs with some Jewish religious practices, like Messianic Judaism; Jewish Buddhists, another loosely organized group that incorporates elements of Asian spirituality in their faith; and some Renewal Jews
who borrow freely and openly from Buddhism
, Native American
religion, and other faiths.
The Kabbalah Centre
, which employs teachers from multiple religions, is a New Age
movement that claims to popularize the kabbalah
, the Jewish esoteric tradition.
- Anti-JudaismAnti-JudaismReligious antisemitism is a form of antisemitism, which is the prejudice against, or hostility toward, the Jewish people based on hostility to Judaism and to Jews as a religious group...
- FrankismFrankismFrankism was an 18th-century to 19th-century Jewish religious movement centered around the leadership of the Jewish Messiah claimant Jacob Frank, who lived from 1726 to 1791. At its height, it claimed perhaps 50,000 followers, primarily Jews living in Poland and other parts of Eastern Europe...
- Jewish views of religious pluralismJewish views of religious pluralismReligious pluralism is a set of religious world views that hold that one's religion is not the sole and exclusive source of truth, and thus recognizes that some level of truth and value exists in other religions...
- Judaism by country
- List of converts to Judaism
- Secular Jewish cultureSecular Jewish cultureSecular Jewish culture embraces several related phenomena; above all, it is the international culture of secular communities of Jewish people, but it can also include the cultural contributions of individuals who identify as secular Jews...
- United States military chaplain symbolsUnited States military chaplain symbolsReligious symbolism in the United States military includes the use of religious symbols for military chaplain insignia, uniforms, emblems, flags, and chapels; symbolic gestures, actions, and words used in military rituals and ceremonies; and religious symbols or designations used in areas such as...
- Judaism 101, an extensive FAQ written by a librarian.
- Judaism article from the 1901-1906 Jewish Encyclopedia
- Shamash's Judaism resource page
- Orthodox Judaism - The Orthodox Union: Official website
- Chabad-Lubavitch: Official website
- The Various Types of Orthodox Judaism
- Aish HaTorah
- Ohr Somayach
- The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism: Official website
- Masorti (Conservative) Movement in Israel
- United Synagogue Youth
- The Union for Reform Judaism (USA)
- Reform Judaism (UK): Official website
- Liberal Judaism (UK): Official website
- World Union for Progressive Judaism (Israel): Official website
- ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal: Official website
- OHALAH Association of Rabbis for Jewish Renewal: Official website
Jewish religious literature and texts
- Complete Tanakh (in Hebrew, with vowels).
- English Tanakh from the 1917 Jewish Publication Society version.
- The Judaica Press Complete Tanach with Rashi in English
- Torah.org. (also known as Project Genesis) Contains Torah commentaries and studies of Tanakh, along with Jewish ethics, philosophy, holidays and other classes.
- The complete formatted Talmud online. Audio files of lectures for each page from an Orthodox viewpoint are provided in French, English, Yiddish and Hebrew. Reload the page for an image of a page of the Talmud.
See also Torah database
for links to more judaism e-texts.
Wikimedia Torah study projects
Text study projects at Wikisource. In many instances, the Hebrew versions of these projects are more fully developed than the English.
- Mikraot GedolotMikraot GedolotThe Mikraot Gedolot "Great Scriptures," often called the "Rabbinic Bible" in English, is anedition of Tanakh that generally includes four distinct elements:...
(Rabbinic Bible) in Hebrew (sample) and English (sample).
- CantillationCantillationCantillation is the ritual chanting of readings from the Hebrew Bible in synagogue services. The chants are written and notated in accordance with the special signs or marks printed in the Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible to complement the letters and vowel points...
at the "Vayavinu Bamikra" Project in Hebrew (lists nearly 200 recordings) and English.
in Hebrew (sample) and English (sample).
- Shulchan AruchShulchan Aruch
in Hebrew and English (Hebrew text with English translation).