Judaism 2449

because the Torah was given to them after
other peoples turned it down, have an obliga
tion to be a light unto the world. The Torah is
also referred to as the holy scriptures. It is the
first five books (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus,
Numbers, and Deuteronomy) of what Chris
tians refer to as the Old Testament. In Hebrew,
the word Torah means teaching. In a larger
sense the Torah consists not only of the five
books, but includes all of Jewish tradition. The
belief in monotheism is affirmed in the Shema,
the first line and essence of which comes from
Deuteronomy 6:4, and is translated as Hear, O
Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.
Judaism does not claim to be the only true
religion, but rather teaches that there are dif
ferent ways of reaching God.
Some sources define Judaism as the religion
of the Jews, but this then raises the question of
how to define Jews. The definition has changed
throughout history, and continues to change
even until today. This situation exists largely
because Jews also have been considered a race,
an ethnic group, a culture, a civilization, or a
nation. Today, a person born of a Jewish mother
is considered Jewish even if he or she does not
practice Judaism, unless there is a deliberate
rejection of Judaism. Reform and Reconstruc
tionist Judaism accept a child born of either a
Jewish mother or father if the child is raised to
accept Judaism. But until about 2,000 years ago
the religion followed the father instead of the
mother. In Israel today the issue of who is a Jew
continues to be a hotly debated topic which
changes according to the internal political situa
tion and influences from the Diaspora.
Abraham (ca. 1600 BCE) is considered the
first patriarch and the founder of Judaism. He
was born and raised in Ur (present day Iraq),
and afer rejecting the idols of his culture and
accepting the belief in monotheism, he migrated
to Canaan. As with much of ancient history,
researchers today question whether this is legend
or fact, or a mixture of both, but Abraham is
viewed as the founder of Judaism.
The initials used above, BCE, refer to Before
the Common Era, and CE refers to the Common
Era. They frequently are used by Jews instead
of BC and AD, which are based on the birth and
death of Jesus, and hence are viewed by some as
Christian markers. However, the years are the
same as in the Christian (Gregorian) calendar,
so that one could, for example, say 2007 CE,
which would be the same as AD 2007. However,
within the Jewish community, and with Jewish
calendars, the years differ, and one does not use
any initials after the year. Because Judaism, like
Islam, the Chinese culture, and others, uses a
lunar calendar instead of a fixed calendar, the
Jewish year does not begin on January 1, but on
the Jewish holiday, Rosh Hashanah (the head
of the year), which usually occurs in Septem
ber or early October. The Jewish calendar adds
3,761 years to the Christian calendar, so that,
for example, the Christian year of 20002001
was the Jewish year of 57605761. Judaism uses
this system to date the beginning of the world
with Adam and Eve. Abraham, and the begin
ning of Judaism, go back only about 3,600 or
3,700 years, but the Jewish calendar goes back
1,946 years before Abraham. The number of
years is based on the 19 generations listed inclu
sively from Adam to Abraham (Abram) in Gen
esis 5:332 and Genesis 11:1026. The Jewish
day begins at sundown instead of at midnight.
While all of the Torah is very important to
Judaism, the Ten Commandments (Exodus
20:117), revealed to Moses at Mount Sinai in
the thirteenth century BCE, are viewed in Juda
ism as the basis of all legislation. About two
centuries after Moses, King David (1010970
BCE) made Jerusalem the center of the govern
ment and of Judaism. Davids son Solomon
built the first Temple, making Jerusalem the
physical center of worship for Jews. But the
strengthening of Jerusalem strained relations
with the tribes outside of Jerusalem, leading
to major effects on the future of Judaism.
Like most religions, Judaism has changed
over time and has developed divisions with
different definitions, degrees of traditionalism,
and practices. The first major division was in
721 BCE when the ten northern tribes, known as
Israel, were conquered by the Assyrians and
sent into exile (becoming known as the Lost
Tribes), while the two southern tribes, known
as Judah and centered in Jerusalem, continued.
In 2 Kings 17:7 it is said that Israel fell because
the people of Israel had sinned against the
Lord their God. But in 586 BCE Judah also
fell, victim of the large Babylonian Empire to
the east. Solomons Temple was destroyed and
much of the population, especially much of the
religious leadership, was deported to Babylonia.