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It has been said that Judaism is not a religion, but a way of life.

The Jews are a nation directly descended from the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and matriarchs Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah. (They are also referred to as "Bnei Yisrael"-"the children of Israel"- Jacob's second name.)

In his youth, Abraham (about 3800 years ago) rediscovered "Monotheism"- the belief in one supreme G-d of the universe. He introduced and popularised this concept, and G-d's moral code of life, to a world rife with idolatry and immorality. G-d told Abraham that his children would become a great nation, with their home being in that land (then Canaan, later named the land of Israel), but only after many years of slavery and later redemption.

This was fulfilled when Abraham's great grandchildren, the 12 tribes of "Bnei Yisrael", were freed from slavery in Egypt 400 years later. Their leader was Moses, the greatest prophet of all times, who led them to Mt. Sinai to receive G-d's law- the Torah (see Sacred Text).

The Ten Commandments were heard directly from G-d by the entire Jewish nation of 2-3 million people, an unique act of national revelation never since repeated.

The Jews went on to wander the desert for 40 years, and then entered the promised land of Israel under Joshua, fulfilling G-d's promise to Abraham. Thus began an un-interrupted Jewish presence in their home country, Israel, for over 3200 years, until present day.

The period of the first and second holy temples, built in Jerusalem, ended in the year 70CE with their destruction by the Roman Empire. Since that time, the majority of Jews have lived in the Diaspora, or in "exile" (outside Israel), and still pray 3 times daily for the return of the exiles to Israel and Jerusalem.

Sacred Text

The sacred text for the Jews is the "Torah" - teaching - which consists of the written law (5 books of Moses), and the Oral law. The 5 books were dictated to Moses by G-d. The Oral law is an explanation of the (relatively) brief written law, and was also taught to Moses by G-d. It was then passed down orally to Joshua, the elders, and to the prophets etc., until it was eventually written down (2nd century CE). This part of text is called the Mishna, and Talmud. Both of these texts form the basis of Jewish belief and practice until today.

The period of prophecy - divine communication with man - extended from Joshua until the destruction of the first temple by the Nebuchadneztar of Babylon (597BCE). This period of Jewish history and prophecy are recorded in the books of the prophets - "Nevi'im", and Writings "Ketuvim". The written part of the Torah is thus 3 fold - the 5 books (Torah), prophets (Nevi'im), and writings (Ketuvim) = T a-Na-CH.


Monotheism (see above), that the "Torah" is the word of G-d, and its commandments eternal, a moral way of life, justice, equality, each person's freedom of choice, (not pre-destination-hence-) reward and punishment, "world to come" (life for souls after death), and the coming of a messiah. He will usher in an era of worldwide peace, and build the third temple in Jerusalem, returning the Jews from the Diaspora to their homeland.


  • Observance of the Sabbath ("Shabbat"- from Friday sundown until Saturday nightfall) and festivals
  • The event of the Sabbath brings Jewish families and communities together all across the world for a day of rest, prayer, and special celebratory food.
  • "kashrut" - kosher dietary laws (based on Leviticus 11)
  • prayer 3 times a day
  • education of children/young adults is stressed in the bible, and has been central to Jewish life and the transmitting of tradition since then.



High holy days (New Year and "Day of Atonement") and Succot (tabernacles) - autumn; Chanukah - winter; Purim and Passover - spring; Shavuot - early summer; 6 public fast days (including "Day of atonement" above).

To find out more visit: www.mychaplaincy.co.uk