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Briant Gerould Mrs. Laughrea & Mrs. Healy A.P. European History/English 10 October 3, 1998 JUDAISM- An Eventful History "Judaism, the religion of the Jews, is a monotheistic religion that God's presence is experienced in human actions and history. It is the expression of a set of beliefs and values that is discerned in patterns of action, social culture" (Britannica 638). Judaism has braved four millennia of slavery, persecution, and anti-Semitism to become a vibrant and intellectual religion. Its people have stood up for what they believe in and have had a great impact on society. With one of the oldest religions on earth, their beliefs are destined to be around for ages. Judaism is one of the oldest religions on earth, having existed for around 4000 years. "Judaism is based on the belief that there is only one god. Unlike other faiths, Judaism is centered not on a prophet or savior but on the idea of a chosen people" (Man, Myth, & Magic). Judaism beliefs are based less on the teachings of Jesus and other prophets and more on the single god. "…A single, transcendent god created the universe and continues to govern it" (Encarta). Jewish people believe that their god created the universe and continues to govern the world. The Israelites did not always think in a monotheistic way, contrary to popular belief. "Earliest Israel was not monotheistic, but henotheistic: Worshipping only one god for themselves, the Israelites did not deny the existence of other gods for other nations" (Encarta). The Jewish deity was known as "Yahweh", the god of the patriarchs. The Jews depended on Yahweh to support them with favorable seasons and plentiful rainfall. To please Yahweh, the Jews often performed animal sacrifices. Judaism began in the Middle East. Abraham, the founder of Judaism, traveled from Mesopotamia to Canaan in search of land. His descendents and twelve other Hebrew families migrated to Egypt sometime between 1694 and 1600 BC. After the new dictator expelled the Semitic (Jewish) rulers there, the Hebrews were persecuted and forced into slavery. Moses led the exodus to Canaan, rescuing the Hebrews from slavery. "The exodus is viewed by many historians as the successful effort of the Hebrews in Egyptian bondage to be reunited with other Hebrew tribes…" (Encarta) The exodus gave the Hebrews a chance to join together and form a strong nation in Canaan. The Exodus played a larger role in history than just the freedom of the Hebrews. Returning to Canaan from Egypt, Moses received the covenant from God on Mt. Sinai. Even though the covenant was only a small part of the Jewish religion, it was the roots of Judaism. One of the most significant events in the history of Judaism was the Babylonian exile. During the sixth century BC the Babylonian Empire had grown in strength. When Nebuchadnezzar II confronted the kingdom of Judah, the Jewish people would not back down. In response, the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem. After a revolt, Nebuchadnezzar and his armies destroyed Judah and razed Jerusalem. During the destruction of the Jewish homeland, many of the Jewish people were deported to Babylon. In 539 BC Cyrus the Great, leader of the Persian Empire, conquered the Babylonian Empire and emancipated the Jews. "About 42,000 members of the Babylonian community prepared to return to Palestine…" (Encarta). When the Jews returned to Palestine, their homeland was in ruins. The time of the Babylonian exile in context was fairly short, but it built strength in the Jewish society. Many Jews saw the Babylonian exile as a lesson from Yahweh. "The prophets Ezekiel and Deutro-Isaiah believed that Yahweh had used the Babylonian Empire to punish the Israelites for their sins, and he therefore had the power to redeem them from captivity if they repented. From these thoughts, Judaism became more monotheistic as Yahweh was seen as ruling the universal history of all the nations. The Jewish religion continued to grow, but a new religious force rose: Christianity. The birth of Jesus and his teachings spurred a series of new religious thoughts. Christianity grew quickly soon became the official religion of Europe. Even though Jesus was a born Jew, his teachings and claims brought forth centuries of harm and bigotism. Two of the most brutal acts against the Jews were the Crusades and the Holocaust of World War II. The Crusades were a religious movement during the Medieval Ages shortly before the Renaissance. At first an effort remove the threatening Muslim presence from the world, the Christians saw the Crusades as an opportunity to also rid themselves of the Jewish people. The Christians would use violent acts in order to convert the Jews to Christianity. The Holocaust is a more recent reminder of the horrors and injustices of anti-Semitism. Germany after World War I was devastated and humiliated as a nation. The Great Depression of the United States, as a contributing factor, left the world's economy in ruins. Germany was desperate for a change, and that change came in the form of a radical new leadership. The new leadership, the Nazis, supported anti-Semitic ideals, blaming the Jews for all their misfortunes. What followed was one of the worst cases of genocide known to man. By 1945 nearly 6 million Jews and probably as many others (Poles, Gypsies, and Magyars especially) had died in concentration camps like Auschwitz, Buchenwald, and Dachau. The extermination camps remain the ultimate nightmare of modern history (Western Civilization 972). Judaism features many important people of history. Abraham, Moses, and David are all well-known biblical figures. Jesus is an important figure in most western religions. In modern times Albert Einstein is the world famous scientist who developed the theory of relativity. People who practice Judaism follow a covenant thought to have been given to Moses by Yahweh at Mt. Sinai. "Hebrews would acknowledge God as their sole ultimate king and legislator, agreeing to obey his laws; God, in turn would acknowledge Israel as his particular people and be especially mindful of them" (Encarta). The laws set by the Israelite God are known as the Torah (or revealed instruction). The Torah states many limits on life, such as dietary restrictions. The Torah is the main tenant of the Jewish religion. Judaism celebrates main holidays, including Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. "Passover is in celebration of the Exodus from Egypt…" (Man Myth and Magic). Passover is traditionally celebrated by the eating of unleavened bread. "Pentecost is a celebration of the giving of the Torah… on Mt. Sinai" (Man Myth and Magic). As a celebration of this event, many Jews read the Ten Commandments in a synagogue service. "Tabernacles celebrates the dwelling of the Israelites in booths in the wilderness after they had gone out of Egypt" (Man Myth and Magic). During the seven days of Tabernacles celebration many Jews build a booth in their garden and eat their meals there. Judaism has had great social, political, economical, and intellectual impacts on history. Over the time of history Jewish people have often been associated with money and banks. A great example is in the Shakespeare play Merchant of Venice. The Jewish character in the play, Shylock, is the moneylender. During the course of the play, one of his financial deals fails to be completed, and when he tries to receive justice, the court treats him as if he is completely different from all of them. In a memorable quote: …I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means… If you prick us do we not bleed? … (Shakespeare 98&99) In this statement Shylock shows his resentment of the Christians and his bewilderment of how they persecute the Jews for no real apparent reason. During the Middle Ages Jewish peop

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