One of the world's four great monotheistic religions is Judaism. It is the religious culture of Jewish people and constitutes the cultural system of Jewish law, tradition and customs. It is the smallest religion with around 15 million people following it worldwide and is linked by a system of beliefs. Judaism started in the Middle East and has spread its popularity all over the world. It is believed that the Patriarchs of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, are the founders of Judaism. They were considered as the physical and spiritual ancestors of Judaism. Jews have their historical backing from the written Torah, Talmud, Midrash and other sources. Judaism is the first religion to be based on ethical monotheism. It also inspired the early development of Christianity and Islam with a major force on western civilization. The main faith is about the reality of a single God who made the world and persists to rule it. It is also being said that God exposed himself to the Israelis at Mount Sinai. The 'Torah' is the matter of the revelation. Another element is the covenant between God and the Israelis. The Jews would follow and salute God and God would in turn concede the Jewish people as his selected one. (Judaism: www.surfindia.com)
Jews trust that Christ was a prophet like others who appeared before him and God is yet to convey them the promised deliverer of Humanity, who will also promote Justice and Peace to all people in a messianic age. The holy book of the Jews is the Torah. For the Jews to study the Torah is an act of worship. The Torah is read devotedly on each Sabbath and festivals. In the Jewish year, important festivals are Passover, Shabuoth, Sukkoth, Rosh Hashanah, and Yom Kippur and less popular ones are Hanukkah and Purim. Synagogues or temples are a prominent institution of the Jews as it is used for community prayer, studying and praying. Synagogues may differ in chic and design but have the same regular components like the ceaseless flame burning only in front of the ark. The spiritual leaders of the Jewish community are the Rabbis. A Rabbi is a properly educated teacher in Jewish Law and he teaches the community to resolves quarrels and replies questions concerning the Jewish law, but cannot do ceremonies. (Judaism: www.surfindia.com)
A majority of the Jewish people in the world are residing in Israel or the U.S.A. France has the major Jewish community and in UK there are 285,000 Jews. Only 85,000 of them strictly follow their faith, but the rest still consider being Jewish as an essential part of their identity. Judaism does not ask for conversion. Those who change to Judaism must accept the adherence of Torah, and men should undergo circumcision. The spirit of being Jewish is that one is division of a Jewish community, and lives a life as per Jewish law and traditions. Judaism is a way of life inextricably intertwined with a system of beliefs. The basic beliefs of Judaism are: There is an only, all-powerful God, who made the universe and everything in it. God has a special affiliation with the Jewish people, paved by the convention that God made with Moses on Mount Sinai, 3500 years ago. Synagogue is the Jewish place of worship. The Jewish holy day, or Sabbath, begins at sunset on Friday and prolongs until sunset on Saturday. During the Sabbath, observant Jews will not do anything that might be accounted as work. (Judaism: www.bbc.co.uk/)
Jews are classified according to their beliefs and customs and according to their racial origins, as either having heredity links in central Europe or Spain and the Middle East. The main divisions of belief and practice are as follows: Orthodox Jews follow the initial teachings and traditions of the faith strictly. They consider that God gave the Torah and the Talmud straight to the Jewish People in, and so they hold these documents as being God's genuine words and of the utmost authority, in fixing down the customs and laws of Judaism. Orthodox Jews are the largest group in most countries other than USA. Ultra-Orthodox Jews follow religious laws very rigorously. They live in remote communities and obey their own traditions. To certain level they keep aloof from the world around them. The Ultra-Orthodox are one of the greatest budding groups of the Jewish people. Jews don't like the word Ultra-Orthodox and prefer using the term Haredi to refer them. Conservative or Masorti Jews are in between Orthodox and Reform Jews. Hasidic Jews are a sub-group of Haredi Jews, but the two terms are not the same. The main rudiments of Hasidic Judaism are the high significance given to mysticism rather than learning, and the respect given to the leader of each of the many divisions within the movement. In the 18th century, Hasidism started in Poland. Hasidic Jews were almost entirely erased from Europe in the Holocaust.
Reform Jews have modified their faith and traditions to modern life, and included the findings that modern learning has made about the primitive Jews. In Germany, in the 19th century, the Reform movement began. They do not consider the Torah and Talmud as the original words of God, but as words written by human beings enthused by God. Reform Jews think that as God did not straightforwardly present the words of these texts, they can be decoded to fit the environment of a particular time and place. For instance, men and women can sit jointly in a Reform synagogue, while they would be strictly separated in an Orthodox synagogue.
But, there are still many factors of Judaism that Reform Jews think as unalterable, even though they may be less followed in many other areas of belief. A specific aspect of Reform Judaism is a strong faith in the significance of forming an honest society, and many Reform Jews have been in the vanguard of political activism. Reform Jews are the biggest group in the U.S.A., where there is presently a mild movement to the reverse of traditional practices in worship. Reform Judaism is powerful in Britain, where it is much more traditional than the U.S.A. version. The next British equivalent to U.S. Reform Judaism is the Liberal movement. Reconstructionist and Humanistic Judaism are recent American movements. They are mostly appealing to those Jews who are not at ease with the supernatural factors of the other types of Judaism. (The various types of Judaism: Introduction)
FEASTS AND FESTIVALS:
A festival or feast is a day or series of days particularly and openly set apart for religious observances. Whether its incidence is informal or episodic, whether its ceremony is serious or gay, carnal as the orgies of Baal and Astarte, or spiritual as the worship of a Puritan Sabbath, it is to be considered as a festival or holy day as long as it is apparently done in the name of religion. To map out the festivals of the world through all their differences would be to map out the complete history of human religion and human civilization. There will be no banquet where there is no religion; and without civilization any effort at festival keeping must essentially be erratic and fairly ineffective. But as religion improves, festivals expand with it, and presume their unique character; and a developing civilization, at least in its former stages, will usually be found to increase their number, develop their ritual, set more accurately the time and order of their reappearance, and broaden the area of their observance. (Feasts and Festivals)
The three main festivals in Judaism are: Shauvot which is the festival of Weeks, though it was initially a festival to rejoice the summer yield. Shauvot was related to the giving of the law to Moses on Mount Sinai. Jews consider the Torah as God's biggest gift to them. During the initial festival all the farmers would bring their first fruits to the temple, where they present them as a symbol of their gratitude to God. Sukkot or Succoth is living in shelters. In olden days Israel there were three pilgrimage festivals, which attracted the spread Jews together to the temple in Jerusalem. The autumn harvest festival of Sukkot is one among these. The festival of Sukkot commemorates the years that the Jews exhausted strolling in the wilds, and together with Shauvot and Pesach tells the entire story of the Exodus until the return to the Promised Land. Simhat Torah: The festival of Simhat Torah takes place instantly at the completion of the festival of Sukkot. It is on this day that the yearly cycle of readings from the Torah concludes and a new cycle commences. The final reading of the Torah is the last chapters of Deuteronomy and the first chapters of Genesis to explain that the Torah has no beginning and no end, but is everlasting. (Judaism - Shauvout, Succoth and Simchat Tora -- Notes) Jews also celebrate other festivals other than these major festivals. They are:…