Judaism is more than a religion; it is a culture, philosophy and way of living for the more than 13 million Jewish people spread across the globe. The origin of Judaism traces back to the days of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, known as the Patriarchs.
Abraham was the first to denounce idol worship and preach of the existence of one creator. He sired two sons, Ishmael, the ancestor of the Arabs, and Isaac, the ancestor of the Jews. Isaac eventually had two sons of his own, Jacob and Esau. Jacob was eventually given the name Israel by God.
Jacob spawned 12 sons who became the namesakes for the tribes of Israel. Jacob’s favorite, Joseph, made his way to Egypt where he sat in the Pharoah’s court. Over time, the descendants of Israel found themselves enslaved in Egypt, but were eventually saved by Moses.
The children of Israel were eventually led to Mount Sinai where God revealed the Torah to them, a book that continues to guide the faith of the people today.
Judaism vs. Christianity
What do Jews believe when it comes to other religions? Since Christianity emerged from Judaism, there are some similarities between the two faiths, although there are many more differences.
Judaism beliefs begin and end with the monotheistic approach that there is one God. Although they do not dispute the existence and legacy of Jesus, they do not recognize him as the son of God or the messiah, nor do they acknowledge the Holy Trinity.
Jews do not believe in original sin as they do in the Christian religions. They believe instead of being born with sin on the soul, everyone is born with the ability to for good or bad and the free will to choose between the two.
Many religious faiths, including Christianity, believe that their faith is the only true faith and those who do not believe as they do will never realize salvation. The Jewish faith, on the other hand, is tolerant of all religions, and believes that how a person lives his life is what will determine their everlasting fate.
Christians are often obsessed with the hereafter, and the paths to heaven, hell and purgatory. Judaism takes a much simpler approach, focusing on living a spiritual and ethical life rather than what will happen after death.
There are several different items of Jewish clothing worn to follow religious traditions. Men wear a beanie on the sabbath and Jewish holidays known as a “yarmulke” in Yiddish or a “kippah” in Hebrew. During prayer services, men wear a prayer shawl sporting four tzitzits, or knotted fringe, on each corner. Who wears the prayer shawls and when may differ slightly by sect, where one religious group may mandate it for any male who has been bar mitvahed, while others reserve it only for married men.
A kittel is a white knee-length garment that is worn on special occasions. Prayer leaders wear these on the high holidays, and the male head of each household dons them to lead the seder on Passover. Many grooms also wear a kittel on their wedding day.
Judaism Facts and Figures
- Almost one-half of the world’s Jewish population lives in the Americas, with the majority in North America. Just over one-third live in the homeland of Israel.
- The city with the largest concentration of Jews is Tel Aviv, followed by New York City, Haifa, Los Angeles, Jerusalem and the region of South Florida.
- Over 5.5 million Jews were slaughtered between 1933 and 1945 during the Holocaust.
- Judaism beliefs and traditions are most extreme in the Jewish Orthodox population. The largest concentration of Orthodox Jews resides in Israel.