Jewish History, Jewish Religion

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The establishment of the Temple under David and Solomon c. The Temple, intended to be the official focal point for Israelite religion replacing the family shrines and cultic places of earlier periods, served as a primary place for sacrifices, worship, and regular pilgrimages. Despite this effort to centralize the Israelite cult, biblical and archaeological evidence indicates that traditional cultic sites and family shrines continued to exist throughout the monarchy c.

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The biblical prophets played a special role in Israelite religion. They fervently condemned religious infidelities, including the worship of foreign gods. They were also very vocal in their intolerance of social injustice, especially abuses of power committed by Israelite elites. The eighth-century BCE prophet Isaiah went so far as to declare that religious practices, including sacrifice and observance of festivals, were meaningless as long as social injustices remained.

The Babylonian exile had a grave impact on Israelite religion. Little is known about religious life during the exile except that solemn days were designated to mourn the loss of Israelite institutions. The prophets attempted to soothe the pain of these losses by promising a glorious restoration, the promise of which was never fully realized.

The return from exile witnessed efforts to unify the Jews by the likes of Ezra and Nehemiah early leaders of the Second Temple period including the canonization of scripture and reaffirmation of the covenant with YHWH. Such measures, however, were countered by growing discontent, as evident from the apocalyptic writings of the period and the emergence of numerous sects.

The real test facing both Israeli and diaspora Jews is the test of their self-criticism, which must include the critique of the Jewish past. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Jewish History, Jewish Religion. Related Products. The Torah—the first five books of the Tanakh—outlines laws for Jews to follow. The origins of Jewish faith are explained throughout the Torah.

According to the text, God first revealed himself to a Hebrew man named Abraham, who became known as the founder of Judaism. Jews believe that God made a special covenant with Abraham and that he and his descendants were chosen people who would create a great nation.


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Jacob took the name Israel, and his children and future generations became known as Israelites. More than 1, years after Abraham, the prophet Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt after being enslaved for hundreds of years. Around B. His son Solomon built the first holy Temple in Jerusalem , which became the central place of worship for Jews.

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The kingdom fell apart around B. Sometime around B. A second Temple was built in about B.

Jerusalem: Three religions, three families - Faith Matters

The destruction of the second Temple was significant because Jewish people no longer had a primary place to gather, so they shifted their focus to worshipping in local synagogues. While the Tanakh which includes the Torah is considered the sacred text of Judaism, many other important manuscripts were composed in later years. These offered insights into how the Tanakh should be interpreted and documented oral laws that were previously not written down.


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Around A. Later, the Talmud, a collection of teachings and commentaries on Jewish law, was created. The Talmud contains the Mishnah and another text known as the Gemara which examines the Mishnah.

A Crash Course in Early Jewish History

It includes the interpretations of thousands of rabbis and outlines the importance of commandments of Jewish law. The first version of the Talmud was finalized around the 3rd century A. The second form was completed during the 5th century A. Judaism embraces several other written texts and commentaries. One example is the 13 Articles of Faith, which was written by a Jewish philosopher named Maimonides. Shabbat is recognized as a day of rest and prayer for Jews. It typically begins at sunset on Friday and lasts until nightfall on Saturday.

Observing Shabbat can take many forms, depending on the type of Judaism that a Jewish family may follow. Orthodox and Conservative Jews, for example, may refrain from performing any physical labor, using any electrical device or other prohibited activities. Most observant Jews celebrate Shabbat by reading or discussing the Torah, attending a synagogue or socializing with other Jews at Shabbat meals.

Throughout history, Jewish people have been persecuted for their religious beliefs. Some well-known events include:.

New books by Simon Schama and Martin Goodman present very different approaches to their subject.

The group also kidnapped and crucified Joseph ibn Naghrela, the Jewish vizier to the Berber king. The First Crusade: In the first of the Crusades —a series of medieval holy wars involving Christians and Muslims—thousands of Jews were killed, and many were forced to convert to Christianity.

Experts estimate about , people were ousted and tens of thousands died while trying to reach safety. The Holocaust: In the Holocaust , the most infamous of modern-day atrocities, the Nazis murdered more than 6 million Jews.

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