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Judaism is one of the world’s oldest and authoritative religions that originated about four millenniums ago and gave foundation to such religions as Christianity and Islam. It belongs to the group of Abrahamic religions and actually it was the first Abrahamic religion that originated on the territory of modern Israel. The place of its origin was called Canaan, which is now located in the Holy Land. The Old Testament figures Abraham, Isaac, Moses and Jacob belong to the figures that are supposed to be the founders of the religion. However, it is not quite so, because Judaism as a religion does not have an exact person who founded it but is actually based on Pharisee tradition.
Judaism has one God whose name is usually not mentioned, and even the very word God cannot be spelled. The number of Judaists is relatively small in the world compared to other major religions, about 15 million. More than 80 percent of them live in Israel and the USA, the rest in European countries. The name of Judaism comes from Judas who was the founder of one of twelve Israeli tribes from which Jews are considered to have originated. One of the founders was a sage called Hillel who belonged to Pharisee and lived in about 1st century B.C.E. His approach which was a good combination of the spiritual and the material made a great impact on the future philosophy of Judaism and formed a rabbinic religious school that exists in Israel today.
As each religion, Judaism has its sacred scriptures named Torah. It is based on Hebrew Bible that includes five books. Initially Torah was a product of narrative tradition that covered about 800 years of Jewish history that was written down to be memorized. Besides, the holy scriptures in Judaism include twenty-four other books that also serve as instruction for public and private life. Besides, they describes lives and revelations of many of Hebrew prophets- the concept that plays an important role in Judaism.
Speaking about Judaist main belief, it is worth speaking about the concept of God first of all. In Judaism, God is the only deity and it does not have any other faces or representations like in other religions. God is creator of life and of humans who are his favorite creation. It took six days to create the Earth and he had rest on the seventh day, which was Saturday. For this reason Saturday (Shabbat) is a day which shoud be devoted to spiritual practice only. It is worth saying that because God created Man according to his image, it is a person’s ultimate goal to remember and reflect this divinity by practicing his virtues and being in close connection with God. He gives humans freedom of choice and an opportunity to live in his love and support.
It is also interesting to consider how Judaism treats the duality of human nature:
They are unlike heavenly creatures whose bodies and souls are both divine, and they are also unlike earthly creatures whose bodies and souls come from the earth. Instead, human beings are the only creatures whose souls are from heaven and whose bodies are from earth. Subsequently, if Jews obey God's commandments, then they act as heavenly creatures, and if not, they act like the creatures below them.( Judaism Human Nature and the Purpose of Existence, Pantheos)
So, each person has to face the two sides of his or her nature during the lifetime including the temptation to pertain to the animal aspects which are in many cases more luring. It is meaningful that a person has freedom of choice because in this case his conscious choice of God is more valuable. When speaking about duality of the world as God’s plan for human beings, the question about the place of the evil has to be discussed. In the context of the above mentioned freedom of choice the evil represented by the devil is part of God’s plan to contribute to growth and maturing of people. “The Torah's single most important teaching about God, who creates the world, gives the Torah, and redeems humanity at the end of days, is that humanity is like God, so Genesis 1:26: "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness." God and the human being are images of one another. That is why the angels could not discern any physical difference whatever between man-Adam-and God” (Neusner, and Avery-Peck 32
Jewish religious rituals and tradition s is an interesting subject to be explored. Observation of Shabbat is an aspect that is known to non-Jewish world as well. Celebration begins on Friday evening and lasts for twenty-four hours. Holiday meals are prepared, ritual candles are lit, scriptures are read while families worship God on Shabbat. No work is allowed on these days, an exception is that when people have work related to saving human lives. "The Sabbath is protected by negative rules. One must not work. One must not pursue mundane concerns. But the Sabbath is also adorned with less concrete, but affirmative laws: One must rejoice; one must rest" (Neusner 27). Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot are the most significant religious holidays of the year, to which similar prohibitions and recommendations as to Shabbat are applied. Pesach is celebrated in spring during seven days and symbolizes Jews’ Exodus from Israel and later return of national independence.
Speaking about my personal vision of Judaism, I would like to mention that I was impressed by the attitude of the religion to serving God. Thus, observance of Shabbat illustrates that even in a rush of today’s life these people know their priorities well, and follow the rule: "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's”. They are able to unite in a family on a regular basis and devote their time to worshiping God. Personal relationship between a person and God is what looks very interesting about Judaism. Although like other religions it has numerous rituals, it is daily life and daily connection what matters most. Human commitment to God results in God’s assistance in all human deeds. “The relationship of the Jews to God is a very special one. In theory it is a relationship of mutual love, and a mutual commitment formally embodied in a binding legal agreement, known as 'the covenant'. In other words, it is very much like a human marriage, and in fact the language of marriage pervades the biblical passages which touch on the relationship” (Lange 155)
Overall, Judaism is one of the most significant religions in the world today. Despite the fact that it does not include so many believers as the world’s major religions, it nevertheless is very stable and influential. The secret about Judaism probably lies in people’s commitment and devotion to their ancient traditions that they have observed for thousands of years. It is important that religious life is not limited to attending a synagogue but penetrates daily existence of every family. This absence if separation between the spiritual and the material is what makes Judaism outstanding. This feature reflects the concept of duality of human nature and human’ s mission on Earth. Judaism focuses on private connection between humans and God, and on freedom of choice. All these aspects make Judaism unique and worth close studying.