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Judaism – An Overview

Judaism is a set of beliefs and practices originating in the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh), as later further explored and explained in the Talmud and other texts. Judaism presents itself as the covenantal relationship between the Children of Israel (later, the Jewish nation) and God. It is considered either the first or one of the first monotheistic religions, and is among the oldest religious traditions still being practiced today. Many of its texts and traditions are central to the other Abrahamic religions, with Jewish history and the principles and ethics of Judaism having influenced Christianity and Islam, as well as some non-Abrahamic religions. As the foundation of Western Christianity, many aspects of Judaism also correspond to secular Western concepts of ethics and civil law.

Followers of Judaism, whether converts or born into the Jewish nation (including seculars), are called Jews. The Jewish collective is regarded as an ethnoreligious group, for reasons derived from the sacred texts that define them as a nation, rather than followers of a faith. In 2007, the world Jewish population was estimated at 13.2 million people, 41% of whom lived in Israel and 40% of whom lived in the United States. In modern Judaism, central authority is not vested in any single person or body, but in sacred texts, religious law, and learned rabbis who interpret those texts and laws.

According to Jewish tradition, Judaism begins with the Covenant between God and Abraham (ca. 2000 BCE), the patriarch and progenitor of the Jewish nation. Throughout the ages, Judaism has adhered to a number of religious principles, the most important of which is the belief in a single, omniscient, omnipotent, benevolent, transcendent god, who created the universe and continues to govern it. According to most branches, God established a covenant with the Israelites and their descendants, and revealed his laws and commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai in the form of both the Written and Oral Torah. However, Karaite Judaism holds that only the Written Torah was revealed. Judaism has traditionally valued Torah study and the observance of the commandments recorded in the Torah and expounded in the Talmud.

Videos

Fundamentals of Judaism – Rabbi Horowitz

Theology of Judaism

Judaism, Christianity, and the Dead Sea Scrolls

Special Topics

The Jewish History Resource Center – Project of the Dinur Center for Research in Jewish History, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Judaism 101

The Jewish Virtual Library

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