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"Traditional view of the development of Judaism"

Pre-Torah history

Duraeuropa

Scenes from the Book of Esther decorate the Dura-Europos synagogue dating from 244 CE

At its core, the Bible is an account of the Israelites' relationship with God from their earliest history until the building of the Second Temple (c. 350 BCE). This relationship is often a contentious one, as the Israelites struggle with their faith in God and attraction to other gods. Among the larger-than-life figures we meet in the Bible are the Patriarchs — Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who wrestled with their beliefs —- and Moses, who led the Israelites out of Egypt.

Abraham, hailed as the first Hebrew and the father of the Jewish people, rejected the idolatry that he saw around him and embraced monotheism. As a reward for this act of faith in one God, he was promised many offspring: "Look now toward heaven and count the stars/So shall be your progeny." (Genesis 15:5) Abraham's first child was Ishmael and his second son was Isaac, whom God said would continue Abraham's work and inherit the land of Israel (then called Canaan), after having been exiled and redeemed. God sent the patriarch Jacob and his children to Egypt, where after many generations they became enslaved. God later commanded Moses to redeem the Israelites from slavery, leading to the Exodus from Egypt. The Israelites gathered at Mount Sinai in 1313 BCE (Jewish Year 2448) and received the Torah - the five books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. These books, together with Nevi'im and Ketuvim are known as Torah Shebikhtav: literally the "Written Torah," as opposed to the Oral Torah, which refers to the Mishna and the Talmud. Eventually, God led them to the land of Israel.

God designated the descendants of Aaron, Moses' brother, to be a priestly class within the Israelite community. They first officiated in the tabernacle (a portable house of worship), and later their descendants were in charge of worship in the Temple in Jerusalem.

Once the Israelites had settled in the land of Israel, the tabernacle was planted in the city of Shiloh for over 300 years during which time God provided great men, and occasionally women, to rally the nation against attacking enemies, some of which were sent by God as a punishment for the sins of the people. This is described in the Book of Joshua and the Book of Judges. As time went on, the spiritual level of the nation declined to the point that God allowed the Philistines to capture the tabernacle in Shiloh.

The people of Israel then told Samuel the prophet that they had reached the point where they needed to be governed by a permanent king, as were other nations, as described in the Books of Samuel. Samuel grudgingly acceded to this request and appointed Saul, a great but very humble man, to be their King. When the people pressured Saul into going against a command conveyed to him by Samuel, God told Samuel to appoint David in his stead.

Once King David was established, he told the prophet Nathan that he would like to build a permanent temple, and as a reward for his actions, God promised David that he would allow his son to build the temple and the throne would never depart from his children (David himself was not allowed to build the temple because he had been involved in many wars, making it inappropriate for him to build a temple representing peace). As a result, it was David's son Solomon who built the first permanent temple according to God's will, in Jerusalem, as described in the Books of Kings.

Western wall jerusalem night

The Western Wall in Jerusalem is a remnant of the wall encircling the Second Temple. The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism.

After Solomon's death, his Kingdom was split into the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah. After several hundred years, because of rampant idolatry, God allowed Assyria to conquer Israel and exile its people. The southern Kingdom of Judah, whose capital was Jerusalem, home of the Temple, remained under the rule of the House of David, however, as in the north, idolatry increased to the point that God allowed Babylonia to conquer the Kingdom, destroy the Temple which had stood for 410 years, and exile its people to Babylonia, with the promise that they would be redeemed after seventy years. These events are recorded in the Book of Isaiah and the Book of Jeremiah.

After seventy years the Judahites were allowed back into Judaea under the leadership of Ezra, and the Temple was rebuilt, as recorded in the Book of Ezra and the Book of Nehemiah. The Second Temple stood for 420 years, after which it was destroyed by the Roman general (later emperor) Titus. The Israelite temple is to remain in ruins until a descendant of David arises to restore the glory of Israel and rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem.

Oral Law period

Rabbinic tradition holds that the details and interpretation of the law, which are called the Oral Torah or oral law, were originally an unwritten tradition based upon what God told Moses on Mount Sinai. However, as the persecutions of the Jews increased and the details were in danger of being forgotten, these oral laws were recorded by Rabbi Judah haNasi (Judah the Prince) in the Mishnah, redacted circa 200 CE. The Talmud was a compilation of both the Mishnah and the Gemara (Aramaic for tradition), rabbinic commentaries redacted over the next three centuries. The process of "Gemara" took place in the two major centers of Jewish scholarship, Palestine and Babylonia. Correspondingly, two bodies of analysis developed, and two works of Talmud were created. The older compilation is called the Jerusalem Talmud. It was compiled sometime during the fourth century in Israel. The Babylonian Talmud was compiled from discussions in the houses of study by the scholars Ravina I, Ravina II, and Rav Ashi by 500 C.E., although it continued to be edited later.

Hillel the Elder

Spreading diaspora

During the period of world history when the Greek and Romans were a dominant force...

Middle or dark ages

Development of rabbinic network, ghettos, laws restricting Jewish occupations, restrictions on Christian occupations (e.g., money lending), locations and land ownership; golden age in Moorish Spain, crusades, Moses Maimonides, School of Toledo, Mishneh Torah

Age of Enlightenment

"new world"; witch hunts/blood libel, black death, expulsions

Eighteenth century

Hasidic movement, Yisrael Ben Eliezer (Baal Shem Tov), pogroms

Nineteenth century

reform movement, Isaac Mayer Wise

Twentieth century

more denominations, Holocaust, Israel, social movements

Twenty-first century

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