Who Found Judaism

Early Judaism

Judaism is a complex faith, with a multitude of components, beliefs, and practices. But who found Judaism? It is difficult to pinpoint one individual or group that can solely be credited with its establishment. Rather, the founding of Judaism is a tale of how the beliefs, practices and principles of its people evolved over thousands of years.
Judaism holds that a covenant between God and the Jewish people was reached at Mount Sinai. It is believed that after a substantial period of slavery in Egypt, the Jews were freed by Moses, and that in the Jewish bible known as the Torah, it was written that the Jews are God’s chosen people. The normative code of conduct established by the Torah is referred to as the ‘Hebrew Law’ or the ‘Divine Law’, and informs the shared religious culture of the Jews.
The early stages of Judaism’s formation began when the ancestors of the Jews, referred to as Hebrews, migrated from the east and settled in what is now known as the Middle East. The Hebraic culture developed over time and formed their own monotheistic religion – in this sense, the Hebrews could be said to be ‘founders’ of Judaism. So central to the practice of the religion, Hebrew is still the language of prayer within most Jewish communities.

Torah and Talmud

The practices of Judaism are largely determined by two works – the written Torah and the Oral Torah. The written Torah is the Hebrew Bible as traditionally written down on physical scrolls. It includes the first five books of the bible, which are known as the ‘5 Books of Moses’. The Oral Torah is a set of core commentaries and interpretations of the Written Torah, which is mentioned in traditional Jewish books, commentaries, and other texts.
The written and the oral Torahs together form the basis for the Talmud, which is a collection of commentaries, disputations and discussions of interpretations of the written Torah. The Talmud is the most important document of the Jews as it contains the collective wisdom of centuries of Rabbis and is used as the primary source of Jewish law.

Contributing Faiths and Philosophy

Over the centuries, Judaism has seen a wide range of influences and philosophies. During the Hellenistic period, after the conquests of Alexander the Great, there was a great influx of Greek culture, and the doctrines of Hellenism were adopted by many Jews. In particular, the Stoic school of philosophy had a great influence on Jewish thought.
Judaism also saw a major shift in thinking following the Muslim conquests of the 7th century. Many aspects of Arabic philosophy, such as Islamic law, were adopted and mixed with Jewish beliefs and practices. This influence lasted for over a thousand years, and much of the modern Rabbinical tradition of interpretation and debate is built on the foundation of Islamic law.

The Revival of Traditional Judaism

In the 16th century, a new movement of traditional Judaism was created. This was in response to the assimilation of many Jews into general Christian culture, and the movement wished to preserve Jews’ distinct cultural and political identity.
The most prominent and influential rabbi of the movement was Yitzhak Luria, known as the ‘Ari’. He believed that the soul experiences many reincarnations and he practiced forms of Mysticism, many of which were adopted by later Jews. The followers of the Ari went on to become known as ‘Lurianic Kabbalists’, and their impact can still be seen in modern Kabbalistic practice.

The Hebrew Bible and the Development of Rabbinic Judaism

Rabbinic Judaism is a main tradition of Judaism, and is largely the result of the scriptures of the Hebrew Bible, the teachings of the rabbis, and the interpretation and application of the laws contained therein. It is the most structured and ritualized version of Judaism and is still followed by the majority of Orthodox Jews today.
The development of Rabbinic Judaism is attributed to the Sages of the Tannaim, which also includes the famous rabbi Akiva. The teachings of the Tannaim were compiled in the Mishnah, which is the first major text on canonical Jewish law. While it is primarily composed of the ancient laws of the Torah and the Oral Torah, the Mishnah also incorporates principles from Post-Biblical Jewish literature.
The Mishnah is then further extended and clarified by the Gemara, which is a collection of commentaries. This combined body of literature is known as the Talmud and today it is at the core of Rabbinical Judaism.

The Messianic Age

The Messianic age is a term used to refer to the period when the Jewish people will experience a great spiritual rebirth and ultimately achieve the fulfillment of their national hopes. In Rabbinical Judaism, it is taught that the advent of the Messiah will be accompanied by spiritual cleansing of the entire world and will result in a perfect and eternal relationship between God and his people.
The Messianic age is also viewed as a time of peace, in which all nations will have true justice and equality. In the Messianic era, the Jewish enlightenment will prevail and the Gentiles living among the Jewish people will enjoy an increased sense of acceptance and inclusion.

Discovering the Diaspora: Exile and Re-birth

The Jewish Diaspora is the scattering of Jews across the world following the destruction of the Jerusalem temple and the subsequent exile. During this time, Jews were forced to leave their homeland and seek refuge in different parts of the world. Despite the struggles and persecutions they faced during this period, many Jews were able to forge strong communities in foreign countries and maintained their traditional religious and cultural practices.
The Jewish Diaspora led to a re-birth of traditional Judaism in many places. Even in some of the darkest corners of the world, Jews continued to practice their faith unceasingly and Jewish culture began to re-emerge in places where it had almost been forgotten. These communities often saw great religious and cultural flourishing in the host countries and spread the message of Judaism far and wide.

Judaism in the Modern World

Judaism has seen dramatic changes in the modern world. In recent decades, Judaism has been strongly shaped by Zionism, which is a modern nationalist ideology inspired by the Jewish return to the Land of Israel.
The event that marked the birth of the modern Jewish nation-state was the declaration of the state of Israel in 1948, and the return of Jews to the Promised Land. Since then, many Jews have migrated to Israel and established communities, while others have chose to stay in their former homes.
Today, Judaism is a vibrant and complex faith that is practiced in many different forms. While its practices vary from one community to another, the core values and beliefs remain the same. What started out as an ancient form of worship thousands of years ago has grown to become one of the most successful and influential monotheistic religions in the world.

Continuous Reform and Renewal

Judaism has evolved and adapted to the needs of its followers over the centuries, from the anti-assimilationist movement of the 16th century to the modern-day Zionist movement. Known for its embrace of intellectual inquiry and debate, Judaism has a long history of reform and renewal.
The commitment to continuous interpretation, re-examination, and refinement of religious tradition is often seen as one of the main reasons why Judaism has survived the test of time and remained relevant to so many. Gaining a better understanding and appreciation of this ongoing process is essential to unlocking the true essence and understanding of Judaism.

Spiritual Piety and Charitable Obligations

The core teachings of Judaism place a great emphasis on spiritual piety as well as charitable obligations. Traditional Jewish texts promote the idea that spiritual growth is attained through living a life of prayer, charity, and good deeds towards others.
It is commonly believed that by striving for righteousness one can come closer to achieving complete spiritual union with God. Furthermore, Judaism teaches its followers to perform acts of charity and selflessness, including visiting the sick, helping the poor, and providing food to the hungry.
This emphasis on spiritual piety and charitable obligations serves not only as a guide to living a fulfilled and meaningful life, but also as an example of how individuals can become a part of something greater.

The Soul of Judaism

The soul of Judaism lies in the deep history and stories of its people, a history of trials and tribulations, of perseverance, of struggles and triumphs. Judaism’s origin story contains such powerful moments of faith and resilience, that it continues to have a profound impact on those who embrace it.
At its essence, Judaism is a unique meeting point of faith and wisdom that offer timeless solace and guidance. It has a vast and eclectic range of beliefs and practices that run through its spiritual veins, and that encompass both the rational and the supernatural realms.
But more than anything else, Judaism is a means to become closer to the divine essence that binds us all. It is a path of action and truth, of justice and devotion, of reverence and respect. It is in this sense that one discovers the true beauty and vibrancy of Judaism.

Josephine Beck is a passionate seeker of religious knowledge. She loves to explore the depths of faith and understanding, often asking questions that challenge traditional beliefs. Her goal is to learn more about the different interpretations of religion, as well as how they intersect with one another.

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