Judaism is one of the oldest religions still existing today. It began as the religion of the small nation of the Hebrews, and through thousands of years of suffering, persecution, dispersion, and occasional victory, has continued to be a profoundly influential religion and culture.Today, 14 million people identify themselves as Jewish.
Modern Judaism is a complex phenomenon that incorporates both a nation and a religion, and often combines strict adherence to ritual laws with a more liberal attitude towards religious belief. Follow a link below to learn more about Judaism. Jews believe in one creator who alone is to be worshipped as absolute ruler of the universe. He monitors people's activities and rewards good deeds and punishes evil.
The Torah was revealed to Moses by God and can not be changed though God does communicate with the Jewish people through prophets. Jews believe in the inherent goodness of the world and its inhabitants as creations of God and do not require a savior to save them from original sin. They believe they are God's chosen people and that the Messiah will arrive in the future, gather them into Israel, there will be a general resurrection of the dead, and the Jerusalem Temple destroyed in 70 CE will be rebuilt.THINGS TO DO
The Sabbath begins at dusk every Friday when the woman of the house, her husband and children lights the traditional candles with the following blessing: "Blessed art thou O Lord our God King of Universe, Who hast sanctified us by Thy laws and commanded us to kindle Sabbath light." That is how the Orthodox families bless God. The Reform families do the following blessing: Let us praise God with his symbol of joy and thank him for the blessing of past week, for life, health and strength, for home, love and friendship, for the discipline of our trials and temptations, for the happiness that has come out of us from our labors." After the blessing everyone sips the wine and the head of the household slices the Sabbath loaf.
Jewish children living outside of Israel are traditionally given a Hebrew name for use in religious rituals, such as the calling up to the aliyah (benedictions) and the ketubah (marriage contract), and a secular name for purposes of civil birth records and daily use. The Hebrew name takes the form of "[child's name] bar [father's name]" for boys, or "[child's name] bat [father's name]" for girls. The name itself has no religious significance, and while it is often a Hebrew or Yiddish name, it can be a name from any language or culture. Ashkenazi Jews traditionally name their children after a recently deceased relative.
Circumcision is performed by a mohel, an observant Jew who has been trained in the relevant Jewish law and surgical techniques. It is a preferable to have a minyan present for the ritual, but it is not necessary. Only the father and the mohel must be present, but the mother and the godparents (kwater and kwaterin) are usually present as well. During the ceremony the child is held by a person designated as the sandek, who is usually a grandparent or family rabbi. An empty chair is set aside to symbolize the presence of the prophet Elijah, who rebuked those who had forsaken the ritual. He now presides over all circumcision ceremonies to ensure the continuation of the ritual. Before the procedure, the infant may be given a couple of drops of wine to ease the pain. The mohel recites benedictions of circumcision, and then the father offers the blessing. As he entered the covenant, may he enter into the study of Torah, into marriage and into the doing of good deeds. The procedure itself, which is very brief, then takes place with the sandek holding the infant in his lap. Afterwards, the child is bandaged, dressed, and given a name. The mother and father will often say a few words about the significance of the name. The event will usually be celebrated by a festive meal hosted by the family. Thus circumcision is considered as one of the essential ceremony to be done in a persons life soon as birth.
It is also customary for the youth to make a short speech, which usually begins with the words, "Today I have become a man [or woman]." The father then says a blessing, thanking God for removing from him the burden of responsibility for his child's sins. This ceremony is usually followed by a reception, which can be as elaborate as a wedding reception. In Orthodox and Hasidic communities, there is no Bat Mitzvah ceremony, as women do not participate in the religious service, but parties are sometimes held marking the occasion. In Reform and some Conservative synagogues, girls participate in just the same way as boys.
At the giving of the ring the groom makes a declaration "You are consecrated to me, through this ring, according to the religion of Moses and Israel." Traditionally there is no verbal response on the part of the bride. She accepts the ring on her finger, and closes her hand, signifying acceptance. Conservative and Reform Jews however, create new minhagim (customs) in the wedding ceremony. Today most non-traditional Jewish women respond by giving a ring to the groom, and recite an appropriate passage, such as the famous verse from the Song of Songs, Ani l'dodi v'dodi Li ("I am for my beloved, and my beloved is for me", Song of Songs 6:3). The ceremony reaches its climax with both the bride and groom drinking wine. The groom then steps on the wine glass to break it.
It is tradition when one of these family members learns of the passing of a family member they tear their shirt. A parent would tear the right side of the shirt as they are the one's who brought the deceased to this world. Other members tear the left side. After the burial the family is provided with the meal of condolence. Traditionally this would be a meal of eggs and bread. Eggs are the sign of life. This meal is for the family only. After the meal condolence calls are permitted. The next step is the Shiva. This is the formal seven days of mourning for the family. It is customary that the mourners stay in the same household together. They sit on stools or cushions that are low to the floor. They do not shave or cut their hair. They don't attend school or work. The doors of the home are left unlocked so visitors will not disturb the mourning by knocking or ringing doorbells. All the rules of Yom Kippur are followed as well. Mirrors in the house are all covered. Prayer services are conducted as well.
Unlike Christianity and Islam, Judaism has no official creed or universal doctrinal requirements for membership. In general, a person can be considered "Jewish" whether he adheres to a complete system of beliefs about God and the afterlife, holds only a few simple beliefs that give meaning to ritual, or even (at least in liberal Judaism) does not believe in God at all.
This diversity in Jewish belief arises in part because actions (good deeds and the mitzvot), not beliefs, are the most important aspect of Jewish religious life. In addition, the term "Jewish" can be used to describe a race and a culture rather than a religion, so some who identify themselves as Jewish may have little interest in the beliefs and practices associated with the religion of Judaism.