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JUDAISM

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.

HOW MANY TYPES OF JUDAISM ARE THERE?

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.

HOW DO YOUNG BOYS COME OF AGE?

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.

TORAH

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.

IS THE TORAH JUDAISM’S ONLY SCRIPTURE?

The Hebrew Bible (known to Christians as the Old Testament) consists of the Torah and two other books: The Prophets and The Writings. The Talmud, which contains Jewish law and writings of the ancient rabbis, is also important.

HOLY DAYS

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.

LIGHTING THE MENORAH

The eight-day celebration of Hanukkah, or festival of lights, is marked by lighting one extra candle each night on the menorah (a nine-branched candlestick).

WHAT IS THE SABBATH?

The Sabbath (Shabbat in Hebrew) is the Jewish holy day. It begins at sunset on Friday and lasts until sunset on Saturday. It is a day of rest when no work—not even cooking—may be done. It honors the belief that God rested on the seventh day of Creation.

Copyright © 2007 Dorling Kindersley

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