Judaism

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Hebrew religion began to give rise to Judaism after the destruction of the temple and the exile of Judah in 586 BC. The term "Jew," in its biblical use, is almost exclusively postexilic. The Jewish religion of the biblical period evolved through such historical stages as the intertestamental, rabbinic, and medieval to the modern period of the nineteenth century with Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform Judaism. Along the way Jewish religion took on new teachings and practices. But with the lengthy development of Judaism and its many changes it is incorrect to posit, as some have done, that Jewish history produced two separate religions: an OT religion of Israel and the postexilic religion of Judaism. Despite the shifting phases of its history, the essence of the religious teaching of Judaism has remained remarkably constant, firmly rooted in the Hebrew Scriptures (OT). Judaism is a religion of ethical monotheism. For centuries many Jews have sought to distill its essential features from one biblical verse that calls Israel "to act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God" (Mic. 6:8). The Babylonian exile brought certain modifications in Jewish religious life. Deprived of land, temple, and cultic priestly ministrations, Judaism began to adopt a nonsacrificial religion. Jews began to gather in homes for the reading of Scripture, for prayer and instruction. Here may be traced the earliest roots of the synagogue. Now "lip sacrifice" (prayer and penitence) rather than "blood sacrifice" (sheep and goats) became central to the life of piety. There was one thing Israel carried to Babylon and clung to dearly. It was the law, the Torah, for by it Israel was assured of its divine calling and mission. In the fifth century the "f... ... middle of paper ... ...ldliness" is a distinguishing mark of Judaism. The Hebrew Scriptures focus more on earth and man than upon heaven and God. Hence, lengthy speculation about the afterlife and otherworldy realities has never occupied a major position in Jewish thought. (5) All of life must be regarded as sacred. Man is to seek to imitate God in sanctifying his every action. Time must be imbued with the seeds of eternity. (6) Man is to pursue peace, justice, and righteousness. Salvation is dependent upon the betterment of society through good deeds. Historically, Jews have seen the Messiah as God's anointed human representative (not a God - man) who would usher in a golden age of societal and spiritual redemption. Today, however, Reform Judaism teaches that the Messianic Age will appear when humankind collectively, by its acts, reaches a level of true enlightenment, peace, and justice.

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