especially its first five books called the Torah or the Pentateuch. The Torah was traditionally
were eventually written down in the Mishnah and Talmud. Thus Judaism did not stop developing
The study of Torah is also considered an act of worship in rabbinic Judaism. Passages from
Thursday mornings, a hand written parchment scroll of the Torah is removed from the ark at the
front of the synagogue and read, with cantillation before the congregation. The major liturgical
Torah readings take place on Sabbath and festival mornings. In the course of a year, the entire
Torah will be read on Sabbaths. The annual cycle begins again every autumn at a celebration
called Simhath Torah ( rejoicing in the Torah ) which falls at the end of the Sukkot festival.
Torah readings for the festivals deal with the themes and observances of the day. Readings from
festivals. The public reading of scripture thus constitutes a big part of synagogue worship. In fact,
this appears originally to have been the primary function of the synagogue as an institution.
Israelite tribes (of whom there were 12 descended from the twelve sons of Jacob, who was also
Israel existed first as a union of tribes and then as a kingdom, celebrating its formation when
the Israelites were freed from Egyptian bondage and conquered and settled the land of Canaan (the
land of Israel). Its God was Yahweh, the god of the patriarchs. Yahweh had redeemed the
itself as dependent on God for its livelihood and responded with sacrificial offerings of gratitude.
the northern sanctuaries at Bethel and Dan.
The exile of the Judeans to Babylonia in 586 BC was a major turning point in Israelite religion.
punish the Israelites for their sins, and He therefore had the power to redeem them from captivity
During the Maccabean period beginning with the conquests of Alexander the Great in 331 BC,
promised for the first time to those righteous Jews who had been slain in the conflict.
the Dead Sea Scrolls, believed that the Jerusalem temple had been profaned. The Jewish historian
Josephus also described two other groups, the Sadducees and the Pharisees. No identifiable first
hand sources have been found for this. The Sadducees an aristocratic priestly group disputed the
Pharisees who were the lineal forerunners of the rabbinic movement after AD 70. All religious
groups of this period particularly those opposed to the temple administration appealed to the
authority of Scripture to which each gave its own distinctive interpretation.
Judean political independence was brought to an end by Roman legions in the middle of the 1st
(Christianity began as one of these movements.)
Many 19th-century scholars held that monotheism gradually emerged out of Polytheism, the
the deliverance under Moses, and the Mosaic covenant and revelation at Sinai. Although some
Israelite religion was kept pure of paganism through the strenuous efforts of the prophets. Unlike
dietary laws, legislation guaranteeing support of the poor as a matter of right, and protection of
slaves and animals against cruelty. A loose tribal union was replaced by a national state under
prophet Samuel in the 11th century BC, they ceased to be mere soothsayers and became more and
century BC with the prophet Amos.
The beliefs of Judaism have never been formulated in an official creed. Judaism stresses
conduct rather than doctrinal correctness. Its followers have a considerable measure of latitude in
the belief that God is the Lord of history as well as of nature.