The homeland of Jews is Palestine in the Middle East, which was under the domination of others for more than 20 Centuries. In 70 CE, the Jerusalem temple was destroyed and the Jews were scattered throughout the world. It is said that there are about 5000 Jews in India. Out of these, 4000 reside in Thane and Mumbai and especially in Alibaug area.
Origin and Development of Judaism
Origin of Judaism may be attributed to a divine covenant between the God of the ancient Israelites and Abraham over 3500 years ago. The story of the origin and early development of the religion is given in the Old Testament itself. It is said that God chose Abraham and revealed Himself to him many times. In due course, he communicated his visions and the message of God to the people. This is how Judaism came into existence and is known to be a Revealed Religion.
History of Judaism
Abraham lived a nomadic life moving from one place to another. A terrible famine made his descendent Jacob and his people move to Egypt. Egyptians made them slaves and they had to struggle with the Egyptians. Moses was born later in the 13th Century B.C. Moses, led his people out of captivity in Egypt and received the Law from God. After Moses, there was a chain of Prophets who shaped and reshaped this religion amidst various ups and downs that it experienced from time to time. Joshua led them into the Promised Land where Samuel established the Israelite kingdom with Saul as its first king. King David established Jerusalem and King Solomon built the first temple there. Jerusalem is the Holy City for Judaism, Christianity as well as Islam.
Sacred Scriptures of Judaism
The Sacred text of Judaism is the Old Testament of the Bible, which is also called the ‘Torah’. In the Old Testament of the Bible, God has revealed his ways to his chosen people. This book has been divided into Prophets and Writings. It is referred to as the ‘Hebrew Bible’ and has 39 books.
The Law or Torah comprises the first 5 books of the Bible, namely Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy and together they are called the ‘Pentateuch’. They are also called as ‘5 Books of Moses’ or ‘5 Sefar Torah’. Torah is the divine revelation to His people through His servant Moses, at Mount Sinai. It is a complete religious and civil law for the whole nation. In Torah there are 613 precepts (do’s or don’ts) covering the whole life of man from his cradle to the grave. The Jews are required to obey Torah, which comprises the ‘Ten Commandments of God’ for their own welfare. The study of Torah was considered to be more important than the building of the temple.
Sects in Judaism
In the process of growth of Judaism after 1000 A.D., new centers of Jewish culture emerged in North Africa and in Muslim Spain. The Spanish Jews together with the oriental communities came to be known as ‘Sephardims’ and those of Christian Europe as ‘Ashkenazims’.