Judaism definition/Origin and history/types/Symbols/Rituals

Judaism, the religion of the Jews , is one of the oldest monotheistic religions. Jews believe in only one God, as the creator of the Universe and all divine laws. Judaism definition

Even though it is one of the oldest monotheistic religions, the number of followers of Judaism is one of the lowest compared to other religions, such as Christianity, for example.

Currently, there are about 14 million Jews in the world, most of them in the United States of America and Israel.

Judaism was founded by Abraham , about 2,000 years ago BC or approximately 4,000 years ago, in the Middle East. In addition to Abraham, a very important prophet for Judaism was Moses , considered the liberator and lawgiver of the Jewish people.

The Jews’ relationship with God is based on a covenant. They call themselves “the people chosen by God” and live according to the laws transmitted by Him to Moses. Judaism definition

These laws and commandments appear in their texts and sacred books, the main one being the Torah , which makes up the first 5 books of the Hebrew Bible, also equivalent to the Pentateuch, the first five of the Christian Holy Bible. Are they:

  • (Genesis);
  • (Exodus);
  • (Leviticus);
  •  (Numbers);
  •  (Deuteronomy).

Another holy book of the Jews is the Talmud , which contains the commentaries and instructions of the spiritual leaders of Judaism on how to follow the laws of the Torah.

Judaism is also a religion that directly influences the way of life of Jews and is very connected to the sense of community and family, where all people participate in the same rituals and religious customs together.

The services and meetings are held in the synagogues , a temple used for prayers and learning of the sacred scriptures, with the presence of spiritual leaders, the rabbis. Judaism definition

The main beliefs and characteristics of Judaism are :

  • It is monotheistic, that is, it believes in only one God, who is called the creator of the universe and divine laws;
  • It follows the 10 commandments and other laws that appear in its sacred texts, sent by God to the prophets, such as Abraham and Moses;
  • It is not a missionary or universal religion, so there is no intention on the part of the Jews to propagate Judaism;
  • They believe that they are the “people chosen by God”;
  • They believe that Abraham is the father of all Jews and that Moses is the deliverer and lawgiver sent by God to the Jews;
  • Depending on the Jewish line, they do not believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Messiah promised in the Torah texts;
  • A person is only considered Jewish if his mother is Jewish. Judaism definition

Origin and history of Judaism

Tradition tells that Judaism emerged in the year 2000 BC and its founder is Abraham, the first patriarch of the people of Israel and also titled the first Jew.

It is stated in the Torah that God called Abraham and commanded him to lead his people towards Canaan, the promised land, which is now the territory of Palestine.

In this calling, if Abraham fulfilled his promise, God would make all his descendants the great nation in the promised land. According to Jewish traditions, this was the first covenant made between God and the Jewish people.

Years later, famine ravaged the territory of Canaan, driving the Jews to Egypt in search of more fertile lands, where they were enslaved for over 400 years. Judaism definition

It was then that the prophet Moses, in the 12th century BC, received instructions from God to free them and take them back to the promised land, in a move that became known historically as the Exodus .

It is during this period that the famous episodes of the giving of the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai and the parting of the Red Sea take place.

The return to Canaan made the Jewish people a powerful nation in the Middle East during the reign of its first kings: Saul, David and Solomon. But other forces in the East, such as the Assyrians and Babylonians, gained more power and ended up occupying the territory, which starts the Diaspora , which was the dispersion of the Jewish people to several other nations.

The Jews would only return to the Middle East region after World War II, with the creation of the State of Israel, which shares with the Palestinians the territory that in antiquity was known as the promised land.

types of Judaism

Orthodox Judaism

Orthodox Judaism, the oldest and most conservative line of Judaism , believes that the Savior Messiah promised by God is yet to come. Unlike Christians, they do not believe that Jesus Christ (Yeshua) is the messiah.

This strand is known for keeping and faithfully following the most traditional and oldest customs, rituals and rules, opposing more modern and liberal Jewish lines. Judaism definition

For Orthodox Judaism there is only one God, considered eternal, disembodied and indivisible, to whom they faithfully follow the stipulated laws contained in the sacred texts of the Torah and Talmud.

Orthodox Judaism also does not accept into its order people who are not children of Jewish mothers and who, consequently, are not considered Jews.

Nazarene Judaism

Nazarene Judaism was created 2,000 years ago through Jesus Christ and comes from the first Jewish disciples of Yeshua (Jesus).

This Jewish lineage believes that Jesus is the messiah sent by God, but that his spirit is the very incarnation of God .

The basis of Nazarene Judaism is that Jesus was not the founder of Christianity, but rather God himself who came incarnate as a man to teach how to follow the teachings of the Torah, and who will return to earth.

This line of Judaism does not believe that there is a trinity, namely the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. For this group, there is only God. Judaism definition

Messianic Judaism

Messianic Judaism is a new Jewish current, created in 1970, and not recognized by the State of Israel.

It is a branch that was born in the United States of America, recognizing the figure of Jesus Christ as Messiah and accepting that He is the son of God and came to save and teach the Jewish people and the Gentiles (non-Jews).

However, they define Judaism as a religion with teachings and commandments for Jews and Christianity for Gentiles. In this case, Jews must follow Torah and Gentiles, the so-called “7 Noahic Laws”, a covenant made between God and Noah after the flood.

Messianic Jews believe in the existence of the Holy Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit).

Symbols of Judaism


The kippa is a kind of hat used by Jews to show their fear and respect for God . By using the hat, the Jews seek to represent the separation between the human being and God, recognizing that God is above all things.

Women also wear a scarf or hat to represent the same aspects of the kippa. Judaism definition

Star of David

It is one of the main symbols of Judaism, present even in the flag of Israel. The Star of David, also called Magen David, has several meanings for Jews.

As it is formed by two large triangles, for example, Jews often say that the union of both represents the Jewish people’s relationship with God.

The Star of David was also used by King David on his shield during battles. Therefore, it also symbolizes for the Jews the kingship and presence of God in the ancient biblical wars won by the Jewish people.


The menorah is a candelabrum with 7 candles, which in the books of the Torah, were lit by the high priest, Jewish leaders who took care of the synagogues, the temples.

These candles could never be extinguished. Therefore, they were lit with oil and cleaned daily.

For Judaism, the Menorah means the 7 knowledges, known as the 7 orifices that are in the face of the human being: the two eyes, two ears, two nostrils and the mouth. Judaism definition

In this sense, it represents the illumination of what is heard, what is said, what is seen and what is breathed .


The shofar, a musical instrument, represents for the Jews the ram that was sacrificed by the prophet Abraham in place of his son Isaac.

This instrument is used in festivities, mainly to represent the reverence of the Jews to God and the remembrance of the 10 Commandments sent by God to Moses.

The Rituals of Judaism

Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah

One of the main rituals of the Jewish people is the Bar Mitzvah , which is the initiation of a boy into adulthood, around the age of 13. Upon turning 13, a ceremony is held where the child starts to follow all the precepts of Judaism. For girls, the name of the ritual is Bat Mitzvah . Judaism definition


Circumcision is the act of removing the skin, called the foreskin, which covers the male’s genital organ and must be done on the eighth day of the child’s life.

This ritual that appears in the Torah and was a pact made between God and Abraham, who at the age of 99 made his own circumcision and that of his children.

Jews believe that circumcision maintains the covenant with God, opening paths to spirituality .

the Shabbat

The Sabbath , or Sabbath, known as the Sabbath day, is the Jewish day of rest. It is a period of gratitude and contemplation in which one should not work, starting at sunset on Friday and ending at dusk on Saturday.

The traditional festivals of Judaism

Jewish festivals have movable dates and follow the solar calendar, the main ones being:

  • Pesach (Passover) commemorating the liberation of the Jewish people from Egypt
  • Rosh Hashanah , the Jewish New Year;
  • Yom Kippur , the Day of Atonement, is the last day on which Jews obtain divine forgiveness for their sins of the previous year;
  • Chanukah , which marks the end of the Assyrian rule over the land promised to the Jews and the restoration of the temple at Jerusalem; Judaism definition
  • Simchat Torah which represents the day that God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses.

Difference between Judaism and Christianity

The religious practices of Judaism and Christianity have several similarities, such as the belief in the same God . But the big difference lies in the belief in Jesus Christ, which will also vary according to the Jewish current.

The Jews follow the ten commandments, the same ones of Christianity that were given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai.

Judaism does not share with Christians the belief in original sin, that is, that we all pay for the sin committed by Adam and Eve and which made them leave the Garden of Eden, considered paradise.

Christianity primarily follows what is written in the New Testament of the Christian Bible , the new covenant made with God through Jesus Christ, while Jews consider and follow only the ancient texts, the Torah, as the basis for their faith and practices. Judaism definition

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