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Judaism is one of the ancient world religions. It originated 3500 years ago in the Middle East. Today, Judaism has approximately 13 million followers in various parts of the world (BBC, 2014). Judaism is a monotheistic religion that is rooted in the Torah. The Torah is one of the major sacred texts of Judaism. It refers to the first five books of the Hebrew Bible (Young, 2013). The Jews believe that God revealed the Torah to Moses on Mount Sinai.
It also contains laws about how the Jews ought to worship God and relate with one another. Therefore, the daily practice of the laws in the Torah is crucial to the Jewish religion. This paper examines the history of Judaism, its important aspects and central beliefs as well as the pressing challenges facing Judaism.
History of Judaism and its Sacred Texts
The history of the Jewish people can be traced back to Abraham. He is considered as the first Hebrew; hence, the father of the Jewish people (BBC, 2014). Due to Abraham’s faith, God promised to give him a son whom he would call Isaac. God also promised to give Abraham many descendants through his son Isaac. “Later, the descendants of Isaac were enslaved in Egypt” (BBC, 2014).
After several years of slavery in Egypt, God sent Moses to deliver the Israelites from the Egyptians. Moses was to guide the Israelites into the land that God had promised their father Abraham. During their journey to the Promised Land, God revealed Himself to Moses on Mount Sinai and gave him the Torah (BBC, 2014).
According to God’s instructions to Moses on Mount Sinai, the Israelites were to obey all the laws contained in the Torah (BBC, 2014). Thus, the Torah has remained to be one of the major sacred texts in Judaism.
Apart from the Torah, other sacred Jewish texts include the Tanak, the Oral Torah, and the Talmud. The Tanak refers to the Jewish sacred writings that consist of the Torah, prophetic messages and other sacred poetic writings (Young, 2013). The Oral Torah refers to the unwritten Jewish traditions, which God gave Moses on Mount Sinai. Later, the Oral Torah was recorded in a document called the Mishnah in order to preserve it from extinction.
On the other hand, the Talmud is a compilation of the Mishnah and the Gemara (Young, 2013). The Gemara comprises the commentaries of the Jewish spiritual leaders known as Rabbis. The Gemara emerged in Palestine as well as Babylon, which were renowned centers for Jewish scholarship (Young, 2013). Consequently, this led to the development of Palestine and Babylon Talmud.
The Central Beliefs of Judaism
The Jews believe in one supreme God known as Yahweh. They believe that Yahweh is the only true God who should be worshipped. According to the Jews, the name of God symbolizes holiness (Young, 2013). Therefore, God’s name can be substituted with other names such as Adonai, Jehovah Jireh and the Holy One of Israel (Young, 2013).
The Jews also believe that they have a covenant with God, which they keep by observing God’s laws. One major reason for obeying God’s laws is to enable them to attain holiness. They also believe that all human beings are created in God’s image and have free will (Young, 2013).
Questions about Judaism
A number of questions have been raised about Judaism and its central beliefs. Some of the most pertinent questions about Judaism are centered on the Torah and the Talmud. For instance, “is the Torah superior to the Talmud?” This question arises from the belief that the Torah is a divine text that God gave Moses directly on Mount Sinai (BBC, 2014). This is contrary to the Talmud that consists of additional laws developed by the Rabbis.
Thus, the Torah should be the supreme law that the Jews should observe (BBC, 2014). The opponents of the Talmud argue that it acts as a hindrance to practicing the teachings in the Bible. They consider the Talmud as a text with several additional laws that were not part of Judaism at its inception.
Therefore, the opponents of the Talmud view it as a sacred text that mainly aims at controlling the Jews. On the other hand, the proponents of both sacred texts argue that the Talmud aimed at protecting the Oral Torah from being corrupted by men (BBC, 2014).
Other questions have also been raised about Judaism’s central beliefs. For instance, one of the central beliefs of Judaism is that human beings have free will (Young, 2013). Therefore, one possible question that can arise from this belief is, “why did God give a man a free will if He did not want him to sin?”
In a number of instances, human beings have a natural tendency to satisfy their desires. Thus, a free will provides human beings with a chance to sin against God. Moreover, the laws act as a hindrance to the free will.
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Reason for Selecting Judaism
One of the major reasons for opting to research on Judaism is because it is one of the ancient monotheistic religions (BBC, 2014). Additionally, a lot of information has been documented about it. This provides any researcher interested in Judaism with adequate information about religion.
Consequently, one can be able to analyze various texts and information about Judaism in order to understand its different aspects. Additionally, Judaism has evolved into several branches. Thus, one can easily compare and contrast the different branches of Judaism.
Important Aspects of Judaism
Judaism is one of the religions with a number of fascinating beliefs, teachings, and culture. First, religion is centered on the belief that human beings should strive to attain a moral lifestyle. Thus, in order to achieve this goal, the Jews have several laws that are contained in the Torah as well as the Talmud. These laws address all aspects of social life; hence, they act as a guide to enable the Jews to be moral.
Second, the Jews consider themselves as a chosen nation. Thus, their mission is to draw closer to God by living righteously. They are also supposed to serve as an example to other nations. Third, Judaism is anchored on the belief that there is only one supreme God. According to the Jews, God is omnipresent and omnipotent. Fourth, the Jews practice several festivals as a form of worship to God (Chabad Organization, 2014).
These festivals include the Passover, Festival of Weeks, Festival of Booths, New Year, Day of Atonement, Feast of Dedication and Feast of Lots (Chabad Organization, 2014). The festivals often occur in different months of the year. During the festivals, the Jews commemorate different occurrences in their history.
Additionally, the Jews observe the Sabbath on every seventh day of the week. During the Sabbath, they refrain from work in order to keep Sabbath day Holy (BBC, 2014).
Challenges to Judaism
Today, Judaism still faces a number of pressing challenges. First, intra-Jewish relations have been a major challenge to Judaism. Over the years, the Orthodox and the non-Orthodox Jews have had disagreements among themselves (Chabad Organization, 2014). For instance, this has been characterized by regular clashes between Israel and American Jews.
The American Jews have often accused the Israel Jews of ignoring non-Orthodox views about Judaism (Chabad Organization, 2014). Second, increased inter-marriage between the Jews and non-Jews acts as a major threat to the future vitality of Judaism. For instance, this is rampant in America, which is an open and progressive society. Thus, the mixed marriages between the Jews and non-Jews might alter some of the Jewish beliefs and practices.
However, in some instances, the non-Jews often convert to Judaism. Third, Judaism still faces the challenge of reconciling tradition and modernity. For instance, Orthodox Jews have continued to reject modernity in their daily lifestyle. On the other hand, the non-Orthodox Jews have embraced modernity. Hence, these differences have been the genesis of conflicts between the Orthodox and non-Orthodox Jews.
From the above discussion, it is evident that Judaism is one of the ancient monotheistic religions that have distinct practices, beliefs, and teachings. However, other forms of religion have also emerged because of modernity. Consequently, this may lead to the loss of its traditional teachings, beliefs, and practices.
BBC. (2014). Judaism-An Introduction. Retrieved from BBC: http://www.bbc.co.ok/schools/religion/judaism/index.shtn
Chabad Organization. (2014). Jewish Holidays and Festivals. Retrieved from Chabad Organization: http://www.chabad.org/holidays/default_cdo/jewish/holidays.htm
Young, W. A. (2013). The World’s Religions: Worldviews and Contemporary Issues. Upper Saddle River: Pearson Education, Inc.