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The origins, rituals and practices of Judaism – Part 1

Published:Saturday | December 31, 2016 | 12:00 AMPaul H. Williams

The stories of the origins of Judaism, one of the world's major monotheistic religions, are many, and Jews, the observers of Judaism, differ even among themselves when it was firmly established as a significant religious faith. It is the major religion of the state of Israel established in 1948.

Israel is located along the Mediterranean Sea in a geographical region called the Middle East and in a place that was the scene of many biblical events. The research says that Judaism began in that massive region in the Bronze Age and emerged out of ancient polytheistic Semitic religions. During the Iron Age, the Israelite religion became distinct from other Canaanite religions.

The research also credits Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as the patriarchs, the physical and spiritual ancestors of Judaism. It says that the history of Judaism begins with Abraham, who came to believe in one Supreme Being. His son was Isaac, the father of Jacob, also called Israel. Jacob's 12 sons formed the 12 tribes of Israel.

Over the centuries, Judaism has evolved into a major religious movement with its own sects, beliefs, prophets, and holy books. Its holiest book is the Torah, which consists of the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament, regarded as the word of God. According to Jewish religious traditions, God gave the Torah to Moses on Mount Sinai by way of dictation.

The Torah is accompanied by other holy texts such as the Talmud, an authoritative book of biblical interpretations and Jewish oral traditions. Another holy book is the Siddur, a prayer book that includes daily prayers for events such as holy days.

Other writings that are important to the practising of the Jewish faith include the Kashrut, or rules for Kosher dietary laws, which prohibits the mixing of dairy and meat products and the consumption of food such as pork and shellfish.

Jews worship in synagogues. Synagogue is a Greek word meaning assembly. They also worship at home. Within Judaism, it is believed that it is not the place of worship that is sacred; rather, it is what people do while they are in the place of worship. So, some people start their day by worshipping in the comfort of their home. And Shabbat is a very important day for worship.

According to the Halakha, Jewish holy law, Shabbat, also called the Sabbath and Shabbos, is observed from a few minutes before sunset on Friday evening until the appearance of three stars in the sky on Saturday night. It is ushered in by the lighting of candles 18 minutes before sunset and by reciting a special blessing. The candles should be placed near where the meals are eaten.

The Sabbath is a major part of Jewish life, a very important time for the shomer Shabbat (Sabbath-keeper). It is 24 hours of rest, prayer, feasting, and celebration, which is observed based on biblical references. In Genesis, the first book of the Torah, it is said that God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh.

It is also one of the 10 commandments God dictated to Moses on Mount Sinai several weeks after the exodus. Thus, for the Jews, the Sabbath commemorates the creation of the world and God's intervention in taking the Israelites out of bondage.

It is a period in which certain things such as the lighting of fires, cooking, driving, working, using electrical appliances phones may not be done. The Talmud lists 39 forbidden creative acts that may not be done on the Sabbath. Further, acts relating to the 39 are also forbidden.

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