Here are some facts about Judaism. Write a post about this ancient religion in your blog.
- 3,500 years old
- Founded by Abraham and Moses
- Jewish people are specially chosen by God.
- Followers worship in synagogues; their spiritual leaders are called rabbis.
- Has twelve million followers, most of whom are in Israel and the United States.
- Six million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust in an attempt to wipe out Judaism.
The history of the Jews goes back thousands of years. Below are some important events in the years before the Common Era (B.C.E.). Use your knowledge of Judaism and the history of the region to determine their correct order. Number them 1-10, with 1 as the earliest event.
a. Cyrus, king of Persia, allows the Jews to return to Judah.
b. The kingdom of Israel splits in two. The northern kingdom continues to be called Israel. The southern kingdom is called Judah.
c. Abraham, to whom the Jews trace their ancestry, is told to leave Mesopotamia and settle in Canaan, which is now Israel.
d. When King Antiochus tries to force Jews to worship idols, a group of rebels overthrows the king.
e. The kingdom of Israel is founded.
f. Judah comes under the control of Alexander the Great.
g. Moses leads the Israelites out of Egypt and receives the laws of God.
h. The Babylonians conquer the southern kingdom of Judah.
i. Persia conquers Babylonia.
j. The Assyrians conquer the northern kingdom of Israel.
Around 1700 B.C.E., famine forced the Israelites to migrate to Egypt. Over tie, the Israelites became like slaves in Egypt. Around 1200 B.C.E., the pharaoh, or ruler of Egypt, started to worry about the Israelites. He was afraid they might rebel against him. To keep them weak, he ordered that all boys born to the Israelites must be thrown into the river to drown.
One woman who ha a son hid the baby as long as she could. When he was about three months old, she took a basket and made it as waterproof as she could. Then she put the baby in the basket and left him near the river’s edge.
The daughter of the pharaoh found the basket. She guessed at once that the baby was an Israelite. But she was moved by pity for the baby. She arranged to have the baby nursed – by his own mother, though the princess didn’t know this. Later she adopted the boy as her son. She named him Moses, which means “one who was drawn out,” because, she said, “I drew him out of the water.”
What kind of person do you think would try to rescue someone she didn’t know and take him into her own home?
In the Book of Exodus in the Bible, Moses’ first meeting with god is described. God tells Moses to call the Israelites together and to lead them out of Egypt. Moses answered:
“But,” objected Moses, “suppose they will not believe me, nor listen to my plea? For they may say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you.’ (Exodus 4:1)
In response, God gave Moses a sign that would convince the Israelites that Moses had truly seen God.
If someone told you that he or she had seen God, would you believe them? What kind of sign would convince you?
According to the Bible, God promised to deliver the Jews from slavery in Egypt. Directed by God, Moses asked the pharaoh to release the Jews. The pharaoh refused. God then sent ten plagues to the Egyptians; Jews were not affected by the plagues.
First, the water in the Nile turned to blood. Then a wave of frogs covered the land. Next the dust of the earth was changed into gnats, which attacked people and animals. In the fourth plague, swarms of flies filled the air. Then came a disease that killed the Egyptians’ livestock. Next the Egyptians suffered from painful boils. In the seventh plague, severe hail killed people and animals. Then came locusts, which ate any crops that survived the hail. The ninth plague brought three days of utter darkness, so that people could not see to move around. In the tenth plague, the firstborn sons in all Egyptian homes died. Finally, the pharaoh agreed to let the Jews leave Egypt.
The pharaoh refused to let the Jews leave until the tenth plague. How do you think ordinary Egyptians felt about this? Imagine living through plague after plague. Would you want to keep the Jews in Egypt, or let them go?
The Jews were freed from slavery in Egypt after god sent ten plagues to the Egyptians. In the last plague, the firstborn son of every house in Egypt died. Speaking through Moses, God directed the Jews to do certain things. Death would pass over the house of anyone who obeyed theses directions. Jewish families were told to sacrifice a lamb and to mark their doors with its blood. They were then to roast the lamb, eating it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. They were to dress as if they were traveling, with sandals on their feet and staffs in hand. God also told them that they should celebrate this event in the future by performing the same rite every year.
Moses explained, “When your children ask you, ‘What does this rite of yours mean?’ you shall reply, ‘This is the Passover sacrifice of the Lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt; when he struck down the Egyptians, he spared our houses.” (Exodus 12 26:27)
Passover is still celebrated in Jewish homes today, 3000 years after the first Passover in Egypt. Why do you think this event is still celebrated?
The prophet Isaiah said to the Jewish people, “Be a light unto the nations.”
This is one of the responsibilities of being a Jew. To do this, Jews are directed to study and live by the laws of Moses. These laws are the very will of God.
What do you think it means to be a “light” to other nations? Describe someone or something that is a “light” to you.
Around the end of the 600s, Spain’s Christian rulers outlawed Judaism. Then, in 711, the Moors invaded, and Spain became part of a vast Islamic empire. Under Moorish rule, Spain became a centre of Jewish learning and culture, with Jewish poets, philosophers, and statesmen. This period was known as the Jewish Golden Age in Spain.
Two thinkers of this period were Moses Maimonides (1135-1204) and Moses ben Nachman (1194-1270).
Moses Maimonides was born in Spain and moved to Cairo in 1165. In Egypt, he spent a great deal of time studying the Talmud. Maimonides focused on the human intellect. He wrote about the importance of studying, the “work of the mind.”
Moses ben Nachman – also known as Nachmanides – spent most of his life in Spain, moving to Israel just a few years before his death. Like Maimonides, Nachmanides was both a physician and a Talmud scholar. However, Nachmanides wrote that the human soul and spirit were more important than intellect and studying.
Which is more important to you, the intellect or spirit?
The Pharisees were an important Jewish group at the time of Jesus. They wanted to change society by making Judaism strong again. They focused on Mosaic law – the laws that Moses gave the Jews. The Pharisees categorized certain things as clean or unclean, such as foods and the way they were prepared. People who didn’t follow these distinctions were also categorized as unclean. This meant that people who did certain jobs or who couldn’t afford to follow all the rules of the Pharisees, were seen as less worthy.
Jesus didn’t agree with this idea. He saw all people as worthwhile. Jesus was willing to talk with anyone, even those the Pharisees considered unworthy, such as sinners, prostitutes, lepers, poor people, and the mentally ill.
This attitude toward people caused conflict between the Pharisees and Jesus and his followers. Why do you think this might have caused conflict?