The History Of The Jewish Religion

Abstract

The history of the Jews is quite long and its origin is gotten from Abraham and the Hebrews. Some of the practices that are carried out by the Jews today came as a result of the covenants that god made with people like Abraham and Moses. The history entails the covenant between Abraham and god, the covenant between god and Moses in Mount Sinai, conquest of the Canaan and the judges, etc. The prophet Samuel and the kings Saul, David, and Solomon also form the history of the Jewish religion. In the history of the Jewish religion are the destruction of the temple and the fall of Rome. The sufferings that the Jews endured in the early Middle Ages form the greatest contributions to the history of the Jewish religion. The harsh times in Europe and Germany that led to the immigration of the Jews especially to the United States led to the high population of the Jews in the United States. The crusades led to the loss of lives by the Jews in large masses and all the mistreatments that the Jews endured were blamed on the Jews themselves. The festivals and the practices that the Jews in the early days practiced form the practices that the Jews practice up to date.

Introduction

The history of the Jews religion entails the faith of the Jews and their culture.  Judaism is basically the beliefs and practices that the Jews practice. It is one of the oldest religions that remain and are still being practiced up to date. Judaism mainly explains the relationship that existed between God and the children of Israel. A Jewish is any individual whose mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, etc. in that line were of the religion of the Jewish. Also if an individual was converted to Judaism in a way that is accepted by the Israeli authorities, he or she and all his or her children qualify to be Jewish. The Jews religion has its roots back from the covenant between god and Abraham. The Jews believe in the existence of one God who provides for and maintains the Jews. The Jewish religion is also regarded as a waiting religion as its followers still wait for the coming of the messiah to liberate the world. The Jewish religion faced many resistances from the Christianity as it was being developed and very many Jews lost their lives in the process. The harsh conditions and severity that the Jews were exposed to in Europe led to the immigration of these Jews to many other parts of the world especially in the Europe in search of refuge. This paper will seek to explain the historical and religious context of Judaism and the biblical Jewish history up to today.

Historical and Religious Context

The history of the Jewish religion has its way back from the creation of mankind. Abraham and the Hebrews make the greatest contributions to the origin of the Jewish religion. Abraham used to live in north Mesopotamia but one time God commanded him to leave his homeland for Canaan a foreign land. The obedience of Abraham to his God is seen here when he leaves his own land for a place that he doesn’t know. The Hebrews also spent some time in Egypt where they were mistreated and served as slaves to the Egyptians under the reign of Pharaoh before returning to Canaan. Most of the Hebrew people were farmers and seminomadic herdsmen who were organized in small tribes. In their culture, there existed messengers, the literature of the Egyptian hymns and wisdom, the literature of the Canaanite language and methodology, Mesopotamian primitive history, etc. All the cultures of the Jews believed in the existence of a God who was the creator and the preserver. There also existed religious rituals and ethics that the Jews practiced with seasons.

Abraham and the Patriarchs

The bible begins with the book of genesis and this book recognizes the existence of an all-powerful God who creates the world in six days and rests the seventh day. The human being by the name Adam is the only creature created the sixth day and is created in the God’s own image and likeness. From the book of genesis to the book of chronicle, human beings sin against god several times until a time comes when god decides to punish the human kind using a flood. The only person who survived the flood was Noah and his family. After the blood, god made a covenant with Noah that he will never again destroy the world with water (John, 1).Abraham is believed to be the founder of the Jewish community. He didn’t discover god but he was called by the same God and a covenant between god and Abraham is made where Abraham is promised many descendants. Scholars have recently identified some differences between Abraham’s and the patriarchs’ religion and Moses’ religion. Abraham is seen to refer to god in generic terms other than in specific terms and the issue of idolatry in the religion of Moses is completely absent in the religion of Abraham. In the Abraham and the patriarchs’ religion, there was the belief that sacrifices and prayer was very essentials for the enhancement of the relationship between god and the people (Charles, & Jeremiah, 236). The prayers were offered in specific places such as a stone pillar, sacred tree, or a sacred alter. When Abraham made a covenant with God, there was a mark of circumcision which the community adopted and all male children in the community were to undergo it. Up to the present day, all male children undergo circumcision on the eighth day in the synagogues.

The Journey from Egypt to Sinai and the Covenant to Moses

The Hebrew tribes served as slaves in Egypt where they moved when a famine struck their region in Canaan. They cried to God to deliver them from the oppression that was being carried out on them. God called Moses and gave him the assignment to deliver his people from the land of oppression to the Promised Land. When Moses reached Egypt, the then king refused to release the Israelites but God had heard the cries and prayers of his people and infected the Egyptians with plagues which gave the king no options other than releasing the Israelites. When the Israelites left Egypt, the king ordered his army to follow them and when reached the red sea, God drowned all the army so that the Hebrews could escape (Stephen, 236).It took the Israelites a journey of about forty years to get to the Promised Land. The Jews at one blamed Moses of taking them to the wilderness so that they could die of hunger but along the journey, god provided the Hebrews with free food and water. When they reached Mount Sinai, Moses left them at the foot of the mountain and climbed the mountain to receive the commandments. Here, God the terms of the covenant between God and the Israelites was established and the Israel was established as God’s own nation. Through the forty years journey, God remained loyal tom the Israelites even when they turned to worship idols and blamed Moses for the hunger that they experienced. Moses emerged as a conqueror though he had refused the call when he was first told of his mission by God. He emerged as a great leader in religious matters, political issues, legislative issues, and military issues. In Mount Sinai, god gave Moses the Ten Commandments that were supposed to guide the Israelites in their day to day lives (Louis, 346). When Moses came back from the mountain, he found the Israelites worshipping idols and as a result of the anger that struck him, he dropped the commandments and they broke into pieces. The contents of the covenant included the loyalty that the Israelites needed to observe on god who saved them from bondage in Egypt, the prohibition of the worship of idols, and it also contained festivals and rituals that the Israelites needed to observe as a celebration of God’s provision to them (John, 1).

Conquest of Canaan and the Judges

When the Israelites reached their promised land, some leaders were appointed for them and these leaders were known as judges. Unfortunately, this period was dominated by the worship of idols and apostasy which the covenant between god and the Israelites was totally against. However, many alters were constructed for the God of Israel where the Israelites were supposed to make sacrifices and worship this God. Many priests were also appointed especially from the society of Levites and these Levites conducted sacrifices at the temples that were constructed for the God of Israel (John, 1).A house was also constructed for the Ark of the Covenant where this Ark of the Covenant was given maximum protection. Priest from the family of Eli acted as the staff members of this house that was constructed at the Shiloh Sanctuary.

Saul, David, and Solomon

Even after reaching the Promised Land, the Israelites still had enemies and thus a way of defending their community against these enemies was necessary. The solution turned out to be an authority that was centralized and an army that was organized so that they could give the right approach to dealing with external enemies. The Israelites had an option of taking God’s given way to protect the Israelites and another option of rejecting God’s kingship. Prophet Samuel appointed the first king of Israel. When Saul defeated the Ammonites, he was appointed the first king and he ruled the community of the Israelites from a small town called Gibeah which was to the north of Jerusalem. During the reign of Saul, many conflicts arose between him and the then prophet Prophet Samuel who had many powers over the kingship. Saul was succeeded by King David whose reign helped solve the differences that existed between Saul and the prophet Samuel. David combined both the political and religious authority to his house and the descendants and all other kings were to rule from Jerusalem (John, 1).Solomon the son of David succeeded his father at a very early age. David selected Solomon regardless of having other elder sons who had expected to succeed him. Solomon acted as king of Israel for about forty years and during this period, the monarchy of the Hebrews got the highest appraisal. Solomon’s kingship was very prosperous especially during the first half of his reign. Solomon was the person who was to build a temple for the God of the Israelites. In the second half of his leadership, idolatries dominated which resulted from his intermarriages. The bible says that Solomon had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines. Solomon married the daughter of Pharaoh form Egypt leading to a relation between the Israelites and their enemies-the Egyptians.

Divided Monarchy and the Exile

When Solomon’s role came to an end, the nation split into the northern kingdom known as Israel and the southern kingdom known as Judah. The northern kingdom was under the rule of the Assyrian ruler Shalmaneser while the southern region was under the rule of the Babylonian army. The Israelites split into smaller political-religious groups among them the Pharisees and the Sadducees (John, 1).

Destruction of the Temple

A number of reasons led to the development of the kingdom the Seleucid. Among them was the defeat of the Persians by Alexander the Great, the death of Alexander that Great, and the division of the empire of Alexander by the generals that he left. The relationship between the religious Jews and the Hellenized Jews kept on deteriorating and this led to the then king of Seleucid banning some Jewish religious traditions and rites. As a result of the bans, the orthodox Jews protested under the leadership of the Maccabees. The result of the revolution was the formation of the Hasmonaean Dynasty which was an independent Jewish religion (John, 1).A civil war led to the disintegration of the Hasmonaean Dynasty. Some people didn’t want to be led by the kings but by some theocratic clergy and these people sent their requests to the roman authorities. Judea was established as an independent roman kingdom at first but it later turned to be a brutal kingdom and really mistreated the Judean subjects. Many Judeans came out in lime light revolting against the leadership of the roman rulers of Judea. The roman emperors defeated the Judeans and much of the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed and most of the artifacts that were preserved in the temple including the menorah were also stolen. After the defeat, the members of the Judean community continued to live in their former land and were also allowed to practice some of their religious rites and practices. For a long period of time the Jews were not allowed to enter to the town of Jerusalem. However, during the seventh century when the Persians were reconstructing the destroyed city, many Jews were living in the same town regardless of the ban (John, 1).The roman rule was changed to integrate other issues such as preserving tradition in a better situation, combining with the Greek society and thought, etc. People from different regions could now live peacefully with each other regardless of their tribal groups.

The fall of Rome

A number of laws were passed by the eastern Roman Empire that took away all civil rights of any individuals who were unbelievers. The existence of such unbelievers was also complicated by the passed laws and most the unbelievers had no other options than running away to rescue their lives. When they were denied their civil rights, meant that most of their freedoms were curtailed and they lived like prisoners. The Jews really suffered in the hands of the iconoclastic emperors who were believed to be heretic with some Jews tendencies. In a bid to try and fight for their lives, the Jews found themselves in some very remote states which were being established such as the Slavs and the Tatars. Here, they found protection and refuge and they could now live their lives though in some foreign land. The East-Roman Empire grew stronger and stronger and the relationship between them and their neighbors continued to enhance (John, 1).Contrary, the Western Roman Empire grew weaker and weaker and the always feel victims of the barbarians. The Jews continued to peacefully practice their faith and they didn’t have any trouble in their lives.

The Early middle Ages

During the early days, the church laws didn’t recognize the non-believers as humans and their humanity was regarded with much discrimination. In the beginning of the ninth century, the church came up with some laws that clearly addressed the issue of the believers and their treatment to the non-believers. Earlier, the believers and the Jews could not interact in any way and this helped create a gap between the two religions that proved very hard to bridge. The hard time that the church experienced in conducting its financial operations led to the integration of the Jews in their believers circle. The church could only get some money through borrowed loan that was to be returned with some interest and this loan could only be found from people of different faiths. These experiences of the church led to the rapid acquirement of influence by the Jews. Any pleasures by the Jews were to be from their homes or in their own circles. Also, the only way they could acquire some knowledge was through their own compositions and their literature. However, the Jews made all the necessary sacrifices and were completely devoted with all their nature and strength to the success of their literature (John, 1).The Jews from the western region really experienced hard conditions which depended on the ever changing political conditions. Those Jews who were in Italy during the war wagged by Rugii experienced many dark days. Here, they experienced the hard time since the roman emperors laws were greatly observed and administered. The laws of the emperors could not tolerate the practices of the Jews unlike the catholic faith where the Jews made some influences. In some places like the Pyrenean peninsula, the Jews had lived peacefully in large numbers and for many years. The Jews also enjoyed the peace when the same land was occupied by the Alani, Suevi, Visigoths, and the Vandals. However, the peace condition came to an abrupt end when the kings of Visigothic picked on Catholicism and wanted to convert all their citizens to one faith. The Jews first persevered and accepted the faith hoping that the severe conditions were to remain for a short moment. Some of them were baptized by force so that they could be allowed to remain in the region. Later, the Visigothic insisted that even those who were baptized by force had no option than to remain true to the Christian faith.

Later, the Jews conquered peninsula and they welcomed the Arabs to the land. For the Jews who had been completely converted and they wished to keep the faith of the Christian religion, the church offered maximum protection to them and protected them from compulsory conversion. The pope once wanted to protect his kingdom and the temporal power and he called for the support of the Carolingians but there was no change in the policy of conversion. Charlemagne used the church in bringing together the elements of his kingdom that had fallen apart and he also used the church in transforming the Old Roman Empire into a Christian empire (John, 1).He also united all the German races that were there during his reign and helped them to settle. When he died, most of the restrictions in the church were not observed and the non-believers were greatly mistreated.

The Crusades

The Jews endured many trials and hard times while in different kingdoms which practiced Christianity and these were just some indications of the hard times that befell them during the time of the crusades. During the crusades, the peaceful Jews experienced real torture in the hands of those who claimed to be believers. The believers had no room for anyone who was not a member of their religion. The rights to worship didn’t exist by then and this led to the great suffering by the Jews. The first crusade of 1096 resulted to the destruction of all the Jewish communities that flourished in Rhine and Danube (John, 1).The second crusade took place in 1147 where Philip Augustus treated the Jews in France with extra severity. The third crusade of 1188 greatly affected the English Jews. Many trials took place in England and the end result was a ban for any Jew to be seen in England. After about three hundred and sixty five years the Jews were allowed to settle in the British Isles. The Jews also experienced other attacks and were greatly oppressed by the shepherd’s crusades of 1251 and 1320.

Persecution and Blood Libel

All the deeds that were conducted on the Jews were justified in the crimes laid against them. The Jewish were seen as being responsible for all the crime that was imputed to them all the years that they underwent the mistreatment. The Jews were also falsely accused of dishonoring the host which the believers believed to be representing the body of Christ. All the calamities that took place in this period were attached to the Jews and it was believed that were it not for them, there could have been great peace among the religions. The plundering raids of the Mongols were also laid on them. The Jews were also accused of poisoning the wells when the Black Death killed so many individuals in Europe. This was an invention meant to show how the Jewish were miserable. There existed only one court that claimed to be a protector to the Jewish and this was the Roman emperor of the German nation (John, 1).The emperor claimed that the Jews had the right to posses property and to be protected by the laws like any other individuals. The emperor could now present the Jews and all their property to cities or to princes. The court could now fight for the rights of the Jews and the greed, distrust, and envy that existed between communities could now be reduced. Also the undeserved suffering that the Jews went through could now be addressed and the innocent Jews could now escape prosecution. The court proceedings if well carried out could lead to the participation of different members of the community in communal work, help people leave like members of one family, and help reducing the harsh conditions that the Jewish were going through in the hands of the believers.

Expulsions

In all the countries in the western where Christianity was practiced, a gloomy of the Jews was portrayed and the Jews were viewed as the source of all evil. Many Jews were sent out of different places at different times. In 1290, almost all the Jews who resided in England were sent away, others were sent out of France in 1394. Also between 1350 and 1450, many Jews were sent out of large districts in Italy and Germany. These Jews who were driven out of the different places fled in different directions in search of peace and refuge (John, 1). They were looking for places where they could be tolerated and their faith could be respected. Most of them preferred the newly formed Slavic kingdoms. In the new Slavic kingdoms, their practices could be tolerated and many confessions were still tolerated. The rulers in these kingdoms made it possible for the Jews to enjoy true refuge and for a long time the Jews experienced great prosperity. The study of Talmud was very vigorous here and the Jews could now practice their faith without fear. The Jews learnt the language of the Germans and many of their customs and practices. However, they didn’t abolish their religion but continued to practice their faith. Up to date, the Jews practice the German customs that they learnt in the Slavic environment and they speak the German language whole heartedly. Also under Muslim rule especially in Pyrenean peninsula, the Jews received some good treatment where they were allowed to practice their faith with the required freedom

The efforts of the Jews to resist Christianity were faced with difficulties and although they made some advances, they couldn’t offer the real resistance to Christianity. The force of Christianity had advanced so much that the Jews efforts couldn’t have made great impact. The Arabic culture had greatly declined especially following the fall of the political power and the transformation of the Jews to the western cultures (John, 1).Most of the Jews who lived in the southern part o France and those who lived in the northern parts of Spain had accepted the western culture and this really weakened the Arabic culture. The Jews from Spain studied secular sciences with great vigor and eagerness to learn them just as they did with the bible and Talmud.

As the Jews continued to practice their faith, the church grew rapidly and with vigor to an extent that the Jews could no longer practice their faith with the full freedom. The church leaders were determined to transform all these Jews to the Christianity faith and they did all that they could to win them. The first step by the church to win these people was by offering religious writings to them and by religious disruptions on them. The attempt by the church to use writings and religious disruptions to weaken the Jewish faith did not prove very successful and due to the determination that the church had in weakening them, another option had to be adapted. This time round, the church made it really hard for the Jews to practice their civil rights. Many restrictions were made to the extent that the Jews were now completely separated from the Christians and they were to live in different parts in the cities (John, 1).Again, the Jews were required to wear some very embarrassing badges on their clothing. This led to great mistreatment of the Jews by their fellow citizens.

The Jews also became victims of hatred and scorn by their fellow citizens. Life for the Jews became harder and harder and in 1391, thirty thousands Jews were killed in Seville by a mob by the name the fanatical mob. In a bid to try and run for their lives, many Jews had no options other than to run for refuge in baptism. The Jews who were baptized however continued to practice their father’s faiths in secret. A severe interrogation was conducted where the rights and privacy of these Jews were greatly violated. This led to the discovery that some of the Jews who had been baptized still continued to practice their faith and were thus pretenders and not true Christians. Severe punishments were conducted on those who were discovered as being pretenders were taken to prison, tortured by the prison staff, and burnt to death (John, 1).This project continued for many years and was aimed at ensuring that there were no more unbelievers in Spain. In 1492, hundreds of thousands of the Jews were forced to leave Spain where they had spent their lives for over one thousand and five hundred years. After their departure from Spain, most of these Jews fled to Balkan Peninsula for refuge and here they enjoyed some peace. They also got an opportunity to practice the faith of their fathers without restrictions. Up to date, these exiles that were forced out of Spain still preserve the language that they learnt in Spain and surprisingly, these Jews in this land speak the Spanish language as their mother tongue.

The Enlightenment and Haskalah
During the revival period, a lot of learning and negotiations took place. Significant changes were especially found within the Jewish community. The enlightment was paralleled by the Haskalah movement where the Jews actively participated in seeing to it that the restrictive laws that were applied on then were abolished. These laws gave the Christian authorities total control over the Jews and this denied the Jews most of their civil rights. The movement also demanded that the Jews be integrated in the wider European community. The Jews students who attended classes got a chance to receive scientific and secular education in addition to the traditional religious education. Many Jews also got the opportunity to identify themselves with the Jewish religion as a result of the revival that took place in the study of the Jewish history (John, 1).Conservative movements and reform movements were born through the Haskalah and they all fought together in reviving the Jewish religion.  These movements also pushed for the assimilation of the Jewish culture in all the countries that the Jews lived. The process of reviving the Jewish religion wasn’t very smooth especially when some other movements started sprouting that preached completely the opposite of the Haskalah movement. The resistance amongst these movements led to the present divisions in the Jewish observance.
As numerous changes took place within the Jewish community, the outside world also experience equally important changes. The prosecution of the Jews had not been completely wiped in some European countries and in the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries, several hundreds of thousands of Jews were killed. The napoleon law by napoleon offered the Jewish refuge in regard to equality. Those Jews who used to live the Jewish ghettos in Europe were invited by napoleon to leave these ghettos for the newly created political regimes that were more tolerant to the Jewish religion (John, 1).Many Jews migrated to the United States form Europe due to the existence of economic and social opportunities in the United States. Here they formed a large community that was free from the restrictions that the Jews used to experience in Europe.
The Jews in the United States
The existence of the Jews in the United States dates back to the seventeenth century. However, the number of Jews in the United States by the seventeenth century was very small. The first Jews to settle in the United States were shepherds from Spain and Portugal. In the nineteenth century, many Jews arrived in the United States from Germany and here, the Jews became merchants and shop owners. Most of the Jews that migrated to the United States did it due to the discrimination and prosecution that took place in countries such as Germany, Europe, etc. (John, 1).The severity of the mistreatment of many Jews in the United States in regard to their religion was less and thus most of them opted to run to the United States for refuge. In the early twentieth century, many Muslims arrived in the New York City and built several synagogues. The holocaust in Europe led to immigration of the Jews to the United States in large numbers such that the United States became the largest home of the Jews (Israel, 40).
Napoleon and the Jews
Napoleon made great contributions to the liberation of the Jews of the Western Europe (John, 1). The civil code helped the Jews against discrimination from other communities and the severity that was put on them as a result of their religion. Napoleon decided to offer to the Jews, freemasons, and Protestants liberty, fraternity, and equality (Joseph, 52). Some churches that had been closed for years were also opened during his regime. The code was supposed to offer the freedom of worship to all regardless of ones cultural and ethnic background. Napoleon also said that the state was to pay the salaries of the priests to these communities. His mission to liberate the Jews began when he was in Ancona and some people passed around him wearing some yellow bonnets and arm bands. Napoleon was amazed and immediately asked his officers why these people wore the bonnets and the arm bands. The officers told him that these people were Jews and the bonnets and the arm bands were used to identify them so that in the evening, they could return to the ghettos. Napoleon ordered that the Jews remove the yellow bonnets and arm bands with immediate effect. Napoleon also ordered the closing of the ghetto and he said that the Jews should be allowed to live wherever they wanted to live and should also practice their religion with full freedom. Napoleon made rules that addressed the way that the businesses and credit by the Jews were to be conducted. Earlier, the Christians were not allowed by the laws to practice usury. In effect, an assembly of Jewish notables was appointed that was to represent the Jews community in the process of bringing the Jews over to his policies. All the debts that were owed to the Jews were annulled.
The Holocaust
The prejudice against the Jews due their ethnic and cultural background continued in Europe even in the 1920s and the 1930s. Adolf Hitler was one of the anti-fanatics who could not change their mind regarding the treatment given to the Jews. In Germany, the case was even harder. Back in 1933 the then Nazis organized a boycott that was to protest against all the businesses owned by the Jews in Germany (Max & Gustav, 23).This was a one day boycott aimed at eliminating all Jews from active businesses. This mission was accomplished in 1939 when all the remaining small enterprises in Germany were closed in Germany. In almost all the cities where the Jews resided, they were concentrated in a very small region and were separated from the rest of the members of the cities.
During the First World War, the Nazis in Germany formalized all the borders and restricted the movement of the Jews within the different areas. Also, some ghettos were created for the Jews and the Jews were required to be confined within these ghettos and could not live in other regions within the city. These ghettos were even worse than prisons because after a short period of time, the Jews who resided in these ghettos died of hunger and disease. Executions continued where the Nazis and their collaborators executed these Jews. Concentration camps were identified in Germany itself where many Jews lost their lives and others experienced the worst conditions that the human rights cannot tolerate today (George, 2009).
Mass killings of the Jews that lived in the soviet territory took place during the invasion of the Soviet Union. All the communities that lived in the region were thrown out of the region, robbed off all their property, and shot at the edge of the ditches. In the year 1941, Hitler made a decision to kill in mass all the Jews that existed in Europe and completely eliminate their existence. In 1942 however, several Nazis met to discuss the issue of the Jews and come with a final solution of the Jewish question. The general government came up with a plan to deport all the Jews that occupied the ghettos and the territories that were greatly concentrated. The Jews were to be taken to the extermination camps also known as the Vernichtungslager. These seven extermination camps included: Belzec, Auschwitz, Chelmno, Maly, Majdanek, Sobibor, Trostenets, and TreblinkaII (George, 2009).
Holocaust Aftermath and the State of Israel
Jews were killed in large numbers during the German Nazis regime between 1941 and 1945. Millions of refugees were left homeless by the holocaust and its aftermath. Most the refugees that were left homeless were the Jews amongst who had lost almost all if not all of their family members and possessions (John, 1).These Jews also faced persistent rejection in their home countries due to their ethnic and cultural background. The Jews were still interested in finding a place where they could live freely without discrimination and restrictions. In their efforts, most of them found themselves joining the Zionist movement. The Zionists argued that the Jews refugees who lived in Germany and the Nazi had been abandoned by other countries and this led to the mass killing that took place on those Jews that resided here. In fact, they argued that if there was a Jews state during this period, the extent of the holocaust couldn’t have been as severe as it was. Zionism grew rapidly and a post-holocaust displacement strategy was adapted that led to the immigration of many Jews to the land that is currently known as the state of Israel.

Judaism today

Geography

The Jews today are spread all over the world. However most of the Jews communities are today found in the USA with an approximate population of about 5.7 million people. Most of them came to the United States from Spain where they were being killed for the culture. Also anti-Semitism and the prosecution of the Jews in Europe contributed to the immigration to the United States (John, 1).Most of the Jews came to the United States in the nineteenth century and they built synagogues for their God. Many Jews are also found in Western Europe and the Western Europe. The African continent hosts between two hundred thousands and three thousands Jews. The Jews exist in many communities but most of the Jews belong to the communities of the Israel and Palestine. Many Jews live in states where there are different other communities except Israel which is a Jewish state (Mary, 47). Most parts of North Africa and the Middle East were previously homes of the Jews but when Israel was established, many of the Jews immigrated to this state. However, some countries like Iran, morocco, and turkey also have some notable number of Jews. When king Shalmaneser deported some Jews to Kurdistan, some new traditions were developed by the Jews and the residents converted many Kurds to Judaism. Here, the equality of all people was observed and women now enjoyed much freedom. In fact, it is in this very land that the first female leader emerged.

The Goal of the Jewish Religion, Practices and Beliefs

The Jews still believe that the promised messiah hasn’t been sent. It is therefore a religion of waiting where they are waiting for the messiah who will come on earth to liberate them and also bring security and justice to the world (John, 1). Several changes have occurred in regard to the issue of the messiah and some Jews have accepted the messiah as a symbol and not somebody that will practically be sent to liberate them. However, a group of the Jews still believe that god will send them the messiah and they are still waiting for his coming. The Jews use the torah as their sacred and this greatly corresponds to the Christian’s Old Testament. The Talmud which was completed in the fifth century contains the oral law and the interpretations of the law.

The Jews celebrate many festivals and among them is the weekly Sabbath that is celebrated from the afternoon of Friday to Saturday afternoon (Raymond, 25). The different Muslim communities celebrate the Sabbath in the same way but strictness differs where some communities allow for secular activities to take place while others don’t. Many other festivals are celebrated once a year. Some of them include: Yom Kippur which is the Day of Atonement, Chanukah which corresponds to the Christian’s Christmas. Other festivals designate the time when the Jews were allowed to leave Egypt and their exodus. Others are celebrated once in a lifetime such as the circumcision of the boy child when it is eight days old. This acts as a remembrance of the covenant that god made to Abraham. Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah marks a time when the boys enter adulthood at the age of thirteen and the girls at the age of twelve respectively. The burial of a dead Jew takes place with immediate effect from hi death and the family starts Shiva which is a seven day mourning period.

The Jews religion has some regulations and prohibitions that mainly cover on food (John, 1). These rules are seen by other communities as being complex. For example, the Jews are not allowed to eat pork and shellfish which all other communities do. Eating these diets is a sin according to the Jews laws and it is prohibited. Concerning the slaughtering of animals, any animal should be killed by a Shehitah where the accepted method is cutting the throat of the animal and leaving the conscious animal to bleed to death. Some types of food such as milk and meat shouldn’t be kept together.

Since time immemorial, the Jews are supposed to pray at least three times every day which are performed in remembrance of the times that sacrifices were made in the temple in Jerusalem (John, 1). Shaharith is the name given to the Morning Prayer, Minhah designates the afternoon prayer, while Maarib is the evening prayer. The Jews up to date believe that everything in the world has its origin with God. The Jews are therefore required to recite some benedictions before they take on any events. The torah is divided into sections such that within a year, it is possible for the individuals to have gone through the torah. The rabbi leads the congregation in reading each section of the torah everyday and after the reading, a prayer session follows from the prayer book.

Organization

The congregation of the Jews is led by a rabbi who closely relates to the priest in Christianity. This leader in elected by the congregation and except in orthodox where a woman cannot assume the position of a rabbi, the rabbi can be either a man or a woman. Prayers are led by a trained individual by the name cantor during the services. Many activities take place in the synagogue which is a holy place for the Jews. Religious activities, religious services, and community activities take place in the synagogue (John, 1). The orthodox is very strict on the way that activities in the synagogue are conducted and even in the synagogues, women are not supposed to sit on the same side with men. The Jewish religion allows its members to perform some rituals in their homes as well. Some yearly festivals, Sabbath rituals, and the daily prayers can be performed at home.

Holy Places

There were some discontinuations in Judaism especially during the Diaspora which led to little development of some holy places by the Jews. Even up to today, the Jewish who live in the European countries still feel in exile. They have a mentality of migration and they still migrate to the places where the Jews exist in large numbers. The dominating holy place for the Jews is Jerusalem and this is mainly formed by the temple that was destroyed (John, 1). The western wall that remained after the destruction is referred to as the most holy place in the world (Helen, 240). Another significant holy place for the Jews is Hebron in Palestine where the remains of Abraham were buried. The place in Mount Sinai where the Jews and God made a covenant is also important to their faith. The oldest synagogue is found in Tunisia in Africa and is regarded as a holy place.

Conclusion

The history of the Jewish religion dates its way back to the time of Abraham. Abraham is regarded as the fore father of the Jewish religion and although he did not discover God himself, he was called by this very God and sent to a foreign land which he didn’t know. God made a covenant with Abraham and promised him many descendants. The mark of the covenant was circumcision which the Jewish religion practices up to date

When the Hebrews cried to God to liberate them from slavery in Egypt, God heard their cry and sent Moses to guide them to the Promised Land. A long journey that took them forty years was successful though there were complications on diseases and hunger. In Mount Sinai, God made a covenant with Moses whose contents included the loyalty that the Israelites needed to observe on god who saved them from bondage in Egypt, the prohibition of the worship of idols, and it also contained festivals and rituals that the Israelites needed to observe as a celebration of God’s provision to them. In Canaan, the Israelites were led by judges though the region was at the moment dominated by the worship of idols. The congregation made many alters which were regarded as the holy places for God where the Israelites could make sacrifices and worship this God who liberated them from slavery. The tribe of the Levites produced many kings and a house was built for the maintenance of the Ark of the Covenant.

When they reached the Promised Land, the Israelites requested for a king to help them conquer their enemies. Prophet Samuel appointed Saul as the first king of Israel. Saul was succeeded by King David whose reign helped solve the differences that existed between Saul and the prophet Samuel. . David combined both the political and religious authority to his house and the descendants and all other kings were to rule from Jerusalem. Solomon who was a young son of David succeeded his father at the age of eighteen. Solomon acted as king of Israel for about forty years and during this period, the monarchy of the Hebrews got the highest appraisal. During the half of his leadership, Solomon made great achievements but in the second half, dominated which resulted from his intermarriages. The worst happened when he married the daughter of the Egyptian king Pharaoh.

When Solomon’s role came to an end, the nation split into the northern kingdom known as Israel and the southern kingdom known as Judah. The leadership of the roman rulers of Judea led to the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem by the Romans when they defeated the Judeans. Most of the artifacts that were preserved in the temple including the menorah were also stolen. A number of laws were passed by the eastern Roman Empire that took away all civil rights of any individuals who were unbelievers. The existence of such unbelievers was also complicated by the passed laws and most the unbelievers had no other options than running away to rescue their lives.

The Jews experienced the harshest conditions in the early middle ages. This was as a result of the church laws that didn’t recognize the non-believers as humans and regarded their humanity with much discrimination. In Europe and Germany, many Jews lost their lives and those who remained had to immigrate to different regions where they could be rescued. During the time of the crusades the Jews were tortured and falsely accused and blamed for the sufferings that they endured. Today, the Jews are spread different parts of the world but the largest population is found in the United States. Most of the festivals that that were practiced by the Jews in the early days are still practiced today. A few holy places for the Jews also exist.

references

John, G. (2009), 1. History of Judaism-Religion facts. Retrieved from http://www.religionfacts.com/judaism/history.htm on 07-August-2009.

Israel, S. (2000). Jewish History Jewish Religion: The Weight of Three Thousand Years. Pluto: Pluto press, 12-89.

Louis, J. (1995). The Jewish Religion: A Companion. New York: Barnes & Noble Publishers, 341-356.

Raymond, P. S. (2000). A Short History of the Jewish People. India: Karen. A Publishers, 23-26.

Stephen, C. R. (1993). A Jews Archive from Old Cairo. Israel:  Jewish Publication Societies, 231-245.

Max, N & Gustav, G. (1996). Zionism and Anti-Semitism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 23-34.

Mary, A. (1912). The Promised Land. Israel: National Yuddish Book Centre, 45-48.

Charles, F. K & Jeremiah, W. J. (1002). The Beginning of Israel History. New York: Scribner’s Sons, 231-237.

Helen, C. N. (2004). Israel: A Country Study. Washington: Federal Research Division. 238-243.

Joseph, S. L. (1996). Napoleon and His Rule. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 45-67.

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