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Judaism is the religious culture of the Jewish People and is one of the world's oldest religions. Judaism makes up the cultural system of Jewish law, custom, and practice of the whole individual and community. It is a system in which everyone is under God's rule. Judaism originated in the Middle East and has spread throughout all parts of the world because of both voluntary migrations and forced exile or expulsions. The total world Jewish population is about 15 million, most of whom live in the United States, Israel, and the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republic.

Central Beliefs

With the many historical forms of Judaism, they all share similar characteristics. The most essential characteristic is the belief in one God who created the universe and continues to rule it. The God who created the world revealed himself to the Israelites at Mount Sinai. The content of that revelation makes up the Torah, God's will for humankind stated in his commandments. A second major concept in Judaism is that of the covenant, or agreement, between God and the Jewish people. The Jews would acknowledge God, agreeing to obey his laws. God, in turn, would acknowledge Israel as his chosen people. Jewish People believe that goodness and obedience will be rewarded and sin punished by God’s judgment after death. Then at the end of times, God will send his Messiah to redeem the Jews and deliver them to their Promised Land. Although all forms of Judaism come from the Hebrew bible, Judaism is mainly derived from the rabbinic movement during the first centuries of the Christian era. At the turn of the 3rd century, the rabbis, or Jewish sages, produced the Mishnah, the earliest document of rabbinic literature.


In Judaism, the Messiah or the Anointed One is the Hebrew name for the promised deliverer of humanity. Christians accept Jesus Christ as the Messiah. However, the Jewish religion contends that the Messiah is yet to come and Jesus Christ was just another prophet.


Jerusalem is the capital and largest city of Israel. It is located between the Mediterranean Sea and the Dead Sea. Jerusalem is considered the holiest city of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Because of this, Jerusalem has been the center of many battles for the rights of the city. Throughout history, the Persian, Syrian, Jewish, Roman, and Muslim Empires have controlled Jerusalem.

Worship and Practices

From tradition, Jewish pray in a congregation three times a day. The study of Torah, the revealed will of God, also is considered an act of worship. The Torah is read religiously each Sabbath. The Sabbath is spent in prayer, study, rest, and family feasting. Over the course of a year, the entire Torah will be read on Sabbath and festival days. The Jewish year includes five major festivals— Passover, Shabuoth, Sukkot, Rosh Hashanah, and Yom Kippur—and two minor ones— Hanukkah and Purim.


Synagogues are assembly houses for community prayer, study, and meeting. It’s the central institution of the community. Modern Jews sometimes use the word temple instead of synagogue. Styles of synagogues vary in design, but they all have these components in common: the ark where the Torah scrolls are held must face the wall facing Jerusalem and the Ner Tamid, the everlasting flame, must be lit in front of the ark.


A rabbi has no more authority to perform rituals than any other adult male member of the Jewish community does. A rabbi is simply a teacher, a person formally educated in halakhah (Jewish law). He instructs the community, answers questions and settles disputes regarding the Jewish law. When a person has completed the necessary course of study, he is given a written document known as a semikhah, which confirms his authority to make such decisions. Rabbis are the spiritual leaders of the Jewish community. They must minister to the community, lead community religious services and deal with many of the administrative matters related to the synagogue. It is important to note that the rabbi's status does not give him the authority to conduct religious services. Any Jew sufficiently educated to know what he is doing can lead a religious service. A service led by such a Jew is just as valid as a service led by a rabbi. It is not unusual for a community to be without a rabbi, or for Jewish services to be conducted without a rabbi.


The Torah is the foundation of Jewish religion and law and refers to the Five Books of Moses, the Pentateuch: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. But the word "torah" can also be used to refer to the entire Jewish bible. The body of scripture known to non-Jews as the Old Testament is considered the Jewish Torah. The text of the Torah is more or less the same in Jewish translations as the text in the Christian Bible. The differences in the translations are very minimal. Also, there are some occasional, slight differences in the numbering of verses between the two.


Sabbath is holy day of rest observed by the followers of Judaism on the seventh day of the week, Saturday. The Torah describes the Sabbath as a reminder of God's rest after the Creation. The Sabbath is also the celebration the Hebrews' liberation from Egypt. The specific kinds of work prohibited in scripture include the lighting of fire, plowing, harvesting, and cooking. During the Sabbath, Jews eat more elaborately and leisurely. The Sabbath is a day for the family to get together to enjoy each other’s company and to rest up for the upcoming week.

Bar Mitzvah

"Bar Mitzvah" literally means "son of the commandment." "Bar" is "son" in Aramaic, and "Mitzvah" means "commandment" in both Hebrew and Aramaic. Under Jewish Law, children do not need to observe the commandments, but are encouraged to do so to learn the obligations they will have as adults. At the age of 13 (12 for girls), children become obligated to observe the commandments. The Bar Mitzvah ceremony formally marks the crossing over from childhood to adulthood. At this age, they have right to take part in leading religious services, to count as a member of the synagogue, to form binding contracts, to testify before religious courts and to marry.

Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur is a holiday that falls on the tenth day of the month of Tishri in the Jewish calendar. (September or October on the American calendar.) It is the most important day of the Ten Penitential Days, which begins the New Year. Yom Kippur is the most sacred of all Jewish holidays. Yom Kippur is a day for confession, repentance, and prayers for forgiveness of wrongdoings committed during the year against God and His covenant. It is also the day in which a Jewish person’s fate is set for the upcoming year. Jewish people spend the day fasting and almost never ending prayer.


Hanukkah is an annual Jewish festival celebrated throughout eight consecutive days. It is celebrated on the 25th day in the Jewish month of Kislev, which usually falls in December. Hanukkah honors the rededication of the Jewish faith to God after years of being oppressed by the king of Syria and dictator of Palestine.