The tenth largest religion in the world, Judaism isn’t just a religion, but a culture and a way of life. With the Torah as their major religious text, Judaism is one of the oldest monotheistic (one god) religions in the world. The Torah is very akin to the original Old Testament of the Christian Bible. Originating in the Middle East, the Jewish lineage is passed down through mother’s line, though in Reform Judaism and Reconstructionist Judaism, it’s passed down through the patrilineal line as well.
Jewish belief holds that there is one true God and while they recognize that Jesus existed, they state that he was a prophet rather than the son of God. Their house of worship is called a synagogue and acts as both a house of prayer and a community area. Jewish people also follow a dietary restriction known as the kosher where the only meat they are allowed to eat has to have split hooves and chew their cud. Seafood wise, the food must have fish and scales and a list of kosher birds are listed in the Torah. When a girl turns twelve and a boy turns thirteen, they celebrate their bar mitzvah, or the traditional coming of age ceremony.
A Few Holidays
The celebration of Hanukkah takes place over eight nights during the month of December. Originating from the time when the Jews were under the rule of the Assyrian empire, it celebrates a miracle during the reconsecration of their temple. The Syrians had invaded the city of Judea and sacked the Holy Temple, outlawing the practice of Judaism. The Syrians ordered a temple to Zeus to be built where the Jewish temple was, and the Jews revolted. When the Hebrews had managed to recapture the temple, the first thing they needed to do was rededicate the temple. In order for this to be done, the Hebrews needed to burn kosher oil blessed by a high priest. However, the temple only had enough oil for one night, where as it would take eight days to make more oil. The miracle that is celebrated during Hanukkah is the fact that, against all odds, the oil lasted all eight nights.
Passover is another important holiday in Jewish tradition, harkening back to their enslavement by the Egyptians. While Moses was trying to free his people from the Pharaoh’s rule, he called down ten plagues on the Egyptians. The final plague was the death of the firstborn Egyptians. Calling upon the angel of death, all the Jewish people were instructed to place lamb’s blood on the top of their door frame. This was a sign to the angel that it should pass over these homes and move on to other ones. Thus, the celebration of Passover is in reference to this event.
Sabbats (or Shabbats) are the traditional holy day for those who follow the Jewish tradition. Starting at sundown on Friday, it carries through the entirety of Saturday. The beginning is marked by the lighting of Shabbat candles and reciting the Kiddush over a glass of wine. During the Shabbat, the daily prayers are read, as is the weekly section of the Torah.
Jewish people have been persecuted throughout history for their religious beliefs. This persecution goes back to the medieval era, and even before. For instance, during the Black Death of the mid 14th century, many Jews were persecuted and even murdered. The Jewish people were a minority in a very Catholic Europe and were blamed for the Black Death. Many believed that the Jewish people, by not being Catholic, had angered God and that their sins were the source of the bubonic plague. As such, they hunted down and murdered Jews in an effort to appease God. But, obviously, the Jewish people were not the source of the Black Death. The source was actually a bacteria that lived in the fleas that fed on rats, and since rats were so common in the densely packed and unsanitary European towns, the disease spread like wildfire. The most well-known event caused by Antisemitism was the Holocaust of the 1930s and 1940s. Somewhere between six million and eleven million people, most of whom were Jewish, were slaughtered by Hitler and his Nazi Party. Many of these deaths could have been prevented if more countries, including the US, had allowed more Jewish refugees into the country. And, disgustingly enough, Antisemitism continues to this day. There are people who still believe that the Jewish people are taking jobs from “more deserving” Christians, and many others that believe that the Jewish people are somehow in control of the world and need to be removed from power. Some powerful families may be Jewish, but nothing could be farther from the truth. The Jewish people have been persecuted for their beliefs since the very beginning and only continue to be harassed, threatened, and killed by groups like the Neonazis, who idolize the worst genocidal murderer in history.
~Victoria and Elyce