Judaism, one of the world's oldest monotheistic religions, was born around 1300 B.C. in the Middle East. Judaism shares characteristics with two other major monotheistic religions, Christianity and Islam. Its central beliefs include an allegiance to a single god and a recognition of a special relationship between Jews and God, who believe themselves to be God's chosen people. (See Reference 8)
Judaism advocates a personal relationship with a single deity. God created the universe and continues to work in it, affecting all events that occur. Jews believe certain facts about God: God exists, God is singular, omnipotent and ubiquitous, God doesn't have a body and God created the universe without any assistance. God also transcends human notions of time; God has always existed and will always exist.
Jews as the Choosen People
Jews believe they are God's chosen people; God chose them to act as an example for the rest of the world, and provides blessings to them; they, in turn, uphold his laws and accept the sacredness in every aspect of life. Most sects define a Jewish person as one whose mother is Jewish, though some accept people who have a Jewish father. Though non-Jews are able to convert to Judaism, the process is lengthy and difficult. People must undergo a year of study and convince a religious court of the sincerity of the conversion, of their knowledge of Jewish customs and prove they will be observant practitioners. Males must undergo circumcision, if not already circumcised. If they are, a drop of blood is extracted from the penis in a ritual circumcision.
An essential tenet of the Jewish faith is that the words of the prophets are true. The prophets served to instruct the Jewish people how to observe God's laws and the proper form of repentance for breaking them. Though prophets receive communications from God, an intermediary delivers the messages. The prophets receive these communications at night in dreams. The only exception is the Prophet Moses, the most revered prophet in the faith. Moses was able to see the image of God. Moses could communicate directly with God at any point; other prophets had to wait for the communications to come to them.
Jewish Festivals and Holy Days
Hanukkah predates Christianity by two centuries. The celebration takes place on the 25th day of Kislev, sometime in November or December, and commemorates the Jewish people's struggle for religious freedom. Rosh Hashanah marks the Jewish new year when God determines the events of the coming year. The ten days beginning with Rosh Hashanah are known as the Days of Awe, and people apologize to anyone they did wrong during the previous year. Yom Kippur is the day of atonement, and the most important day to attend synagogue services. On this day, God decides the fate of all people for the year, and writes the decisions in the Book of Life. Every week on Friday at sundown, the Sabbath, or holy day begins, and lasts until sundown on Saturday. Jews use the time to reflect. The practice comes from the Bible story of the creation, in which God rested on the seventh day. Families spend time together, drink wine and eat challah, a traditional Sabbath bread.
- Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images