Copyright © 2007 Dorling Kindersley
Judaism is the world’s oldest religion based on belief in one God. Jews believe that God made them his chosen people and promised them a land of their own, Israel, in return for following his commandments. These are laid down in the sacred text of the TORAH.
Religious Jews are divided into two main groups: Orthodox and Non-Orthodox. Orthodox Jews unquestioningly obey the Torah and all its rules. Non-Orthodox Jews try to adapt Judaism to modern life. Both groups observe the Jewish HOLY DAYS.
At the age of 13, a boy is considered an adult and becomes bar mitzvah (“son of the covenant”) after a ceremony of the same name. This takes place in the place of worship, the synagogue, and is followed by a big party to celebrate the occasion.
The most sacred texts of Judaism are the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures, which are known as the Torah or Book of Law. Orthodox tradition believes that God spoke the words of the Torah directly to Moses. Every synagogue keeps a beautifully hand-written Torah scroll in an ark (cupboard) facing Jerusalem.
Jewish families come together to mark major festivals throughout the year, including Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), Pesach (Passover), and Rosh Hashanah (New Year). One of the most important commandments is to observe the Sabbath as a day of rest.