2450 Judaism

Large numbers also went to Egypt. But only a
few decades later, in 538 BCE, under new Baby
lonian leadership, Jews were allowed to return
to Jerusalem. Some stayed in Babylonia and
some returned. The exile was interpreted as
punishment for sins, and the return was inter
preted as Gods forgiveness for the sins.
The Temple was rebuilt in Jerusalem (com
pleted in 516 BCE) and referred to as the Second
Temple. Rebuilding a Jewish life was not easy,
but eventually Judah was reestablished with
Judaism at its center and the Temple playing
a major role. The Greek empire was the next
threat to Judaism, partly by ruling over Judah,
but also by presenting other perspectives and
hedonistic philosophies. After 198 BCE the
Seleucids ruled Jerusalem, banned the practice
of Judaism, and raised an altar to Zeus in the
Temple. In 165 BCE the Maccabees, a Jewish
group, won independence for Judah and rees
tablished Judaism. Two groups arose during
this period: the Pharisees, who maintained the
Torah and the Oral Law and tried to adapt
Judaism to new conditions, and the Sadducees,
an aristocratic group who rejected the Oral Law
and interpreted the Pentateuch (Genesis, Exo
dus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy)
literally. Although they were frequently domi
nant in Temple worship, they disappeared as a
group with the destruction of the Second Tem
ple in 70 CE. Oral Law is the authoritative
interpretation of the Written Law (the Penta
teuch), and traditionally is considered as being
given to Moses at Mount Sinai along with the
Written Law.
The destruction of the Second Temple
resulted from Roman rule. Religious conflict
was dominant in Israel, partly leading to a
weakened condition, and by 47 BCE Israel was
ruled by the Roman Empire. This defeat
brought great soul searching, many individuals
claimed to be the promised Messiah who would
bring peace (Jesus, a rabbi, appeared in this
context), and conflicts between religious groups
were frequent. There were Jewish revolts
against the Romans, and as a result in 70 CE
the Second Temple was destroyed. In 135 CE a
second revolt was crushed and most Jews were
exiled from Israel.
Even by the end of the first century of the
Common Era, shortly after the life of Jesus, the
world Jewish population was about 7 million,
with about 2.5 million in Israel and almost two
thirds in the Diaspora, especially in Egypt,
Syria, Greece, Rome, and Babylonia. With a
Temple no longer existing as the major center
of Judaism, and with nearly all Jews expelled
from Israel in 135 CE, the worship of Judaism
would undergo major changes. Over a million
Jews had been killed during the revolts in
Israel, including rabbis and other scholars,
and many yeshivot ( Jewish academies) had
been destroyed. A religious need existed. Rab
binic Judaism, which emphasized interpreta
tions by rabbis, would become dominant. The
synagogue increased in importance, becoming
the focus of Jewish communal life. Because
nearly all Jews were now in Diaspora, living
in many countries, many interpretations of
how to believe in and practice Judaism devel
oped. The Babylonian Talmud was developed
between the early third and late fifth centuries
CE. It consists of Jewish history and customs,
and interpretations of Jewish law. The less
accepted Jerusalem Talmud was completed
around the fifth century CE. Halakhah refers
to the legal part of the Talmudic and later
Jewish literature, including Oral Law, and is
the traditionally accepted interpretation of the
Written Law.
From a cultural perspective, Jews today are
classified as Sephardic or Ashkenazic. Sepharad
comes from the Hebrew word referring to
Spain, and Sephardic Jews in a restricted sense
are those Jews from Spain or Portugal. How
ever, the term frequently is used also to refer to
Jews from the Near East, the Middle East,
North Africa, and a few other locations. A more
correct terminology is to refer to Jews from the
Eastern world as Mizrahim, mizrahi meaning
eastern in Hebrew. Ashkenazi comes from
the Hebrew word for Germany, but like
Sephardi, has been extended to cover a much
larger area. It includes all of Europe except a
few areas such as Spain and Portugal, and in a
larger sense, generally refers to those Jews who
have lived in Christian lands. Jews lived in
many of these areas long before the areas
became Christian. By contrast, most Sephardim
have lived in Islamic or Muslim lands since the
advent of Islam in the seventh century,
although most of these areas,, such as Iran,