Background Information

The number of Jewish people, in the world, is about  13.4 million. It is the oldest surviving monotheistic religion, spanning back to around 3000 years ago. It was founded by Father Abraham.

The Life of Father Abraham

Father Abraham's story is a long one. He was born around 1812 B.C. under the name of Abram. His father was Terah and his brothers were Nahor and Haran. Haran fathered Lot, and he died in Ur of the Chaldees. Abram married Sarai who was barren. Later in time, Terah, Abram, Sarai and Lot departed for Canaan, but settled in a place named Haran instead. Terah died here at the age of 205. Afterwards, God told Abram to leave Haran and travel to a land that God would make known to him. God also told Abram that he would make of him a great nation. At the age of 75, Abram, Sarai and Lot, along with their wealth and servants, traveled to Canaan. He passed through this land and went unto the plain of Moreh. God told Abram he would give this land to his heirs. After building an altar to God, Abram journeyed toward the Negeb, in the south. There was a famine in the land, so Abram took Sarai and Lot and all his possessions and servants, to the land of Egypt. Sarai was a fair woman, so Abram told her to say that she was his sister, so the Egyptions would not kill him. The Pharaoh took her into his house and gave Abram provisions, but God afflicted Pharaoh and his household with plagues. He discovered Sarai was Abram's wife and told them to leave immediately.  When they came back to Bethel and Hai, Abram's and Lot's livestock were great in numbers, and because of this, their herdsmen began to have conflicts with one another. Abram suggested that he and Lot should go separate ways. Lot chose to go east, and Abram south to Hebron, where he built an altar to God.  Several cities began to war with one another, in the area. Lot was taken prisoner, so Abram and his servants went to rescue him. After this God told him, once again, that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars. Later, Sarai told Abram to go unto her handmaid, Hagar, so that she may bear a son for her. Abram took her as a wife and she bear him a child. Hagar grew to despise Sarai, so Sarai grew angry. After a harsh encounter with her, Hagar fled toward Shur. An angel of the Lord appeared unto her. The angel instructed her to return to Sarai, and also told her that she would bear a son, whose name was to be called Ishmael. She did as she was told. At the age of 99, Abram received a covenant from God that his name was now to be called Abraham. His wife's name was to be called Sarah. He also received instructions from God that every male in his house, from now on, was to be circumcised. 
Soon afterwards, three visitors, in the presence of the Lord, appeared unto Abraham. They told him that this time next year, Sarah would bear a son. Sarah overheard this and laughed, saying that she was too old. After the visitor said that nothing was too hard for God, she was frightened and denied laughing. After this Abraham and the three visitors began to discuss the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah. Because Lot lived in Sodom, God revealed to Abraham that he was going to destroy the cities if they were evil in their ways. Two visitors left. Abraham turned to the third visitor and pleaded unto the Lord that if there be just ten righteous people found there, would not God spare the city. God told him if there were just ten he would spare it. In the morning of the next day, God destroyed the cities, after letting Lot escape with his wife and daughters. However, Lot's wife looked back at the city and turned into a pillar of salt. When Abraham awoke, he saw that the cities had been destroyed. Abraham settled in the land of the Philistines after all this had happened. While living in the city of Gerar, Abraham said that Sarah was his sister. Upon hearing this, King Abimelech had her brought to him. Later, God told him that she was Abraham's wife and he let her go. Later on, Abimelech's troops seized Abraham's well, and afterwards, they made a pact of peace. After all this, Sarah bore a son whose name was Issac. She could no longer stand the sight of Ishmael, her other son. Abraham sought the advice of God, after Sarah told him that Ishmael was not to share in Issac's inheritance. God told him that it was allright because Ishmael would, like Isaac, become a great nation. The next day, Abraham sent Hagar and Ishmael away. At some point in Isaac's childhood, God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. Abraham took Isaac upon a mountain, but as he was about to kill Isaac, an angel of the Lord spake unto him, telling him not to. God provided a ram instead. As a reward for his obedience, Abraham received another promise of numerous descendants and great prosperity. Abraham, instead of going back to Sarah, went to Beersheba. It his here that Abraham's servant would later bring a wife for Isaac.
Sarah died at the age of 127, and she was buried by Abraham in the Cave of the Patriarchs. After her death, Abraham took another wife, Keturah, who bore him six sons. Abraham died at the age of 175, in 1637 B.C. He was buried by his sons, Ishmael and Isaac, in the same place as Sarah.

Beliefs of the Jewish Religion

In general the Jews do not eat certain meats, such as pork. Many believe circumcision is a requirement if one wants to go to Heaven. Just believing in God does not get one into heaven, but one must live a good, moral life and obey all of The Ten Commandments. 
Traditionally, Jews recite prayers three times daily, with a fourth prayer added on Shabbat and holidays.  The basis of Jewish law comes from The Torah, the five books of Moses, which they believe one should read every year.

Three pilgrimage festivals

  • The Passover is a week-long holiday beginning on the evening of the 14th day of Nisan (the first month in the Hebrew calendar). It commemorates the Exodus from Egypt (when to Angel of Death passed over the houses with lamb's blood above the door, but killed the first born in the homes that didn't). Outside Israel, Passover is celebrated for eight days.  Homes are thoroughly cleaned to ensure no bread or bread by-products are in the house, and a symbolic burning of the last vestiges of chametz is conducted on the morning of the Seder. Matzo is eaten instead of bread.
  • Shavuot celebrates the revelation of the Torah to the Israelites on Mount Sinai. In biblical times, it coincided with the wheat harvest. Shavuot customs include all-night study marathons, eating dairy foods, reading the Book of Ruth, decorating homes and synagogues with greenery, and wearing white clothing, symbolizing purity.
  • Sukkot commemorates the Israelites' forty years of wandering through the desert on their way to the Promised Land. It is celebrated through the construction of temporary booths that represent the temporary shelters of the Israelites during their wandering. It happens at the same time as the fruit harvest, and marks the end of the agricultural cycle. The occasion is celebrated with singing and dancing with the Torah scrolls.

The Ten Commandments

6 I am the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.

7 Thou shalt have none other gods before me.

8 Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath the earth:

9 Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me,

10 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.

11 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain: for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

12 Keep the sabbath day to sanctify it, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee.

13 Six days thou shalt labour, and do all thy work:

14 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; that thy manservant and thy maidservant may rest as well as thou.

15 And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the LORD thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day.

16 Honour thy father and thy mother, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee; that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee, in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.

17 Thou shalt not kill.

18 Neither shalt thou commit adultery.

19 Neither shalt thou steal.

20 Neither shalt thou bear false witness against thy neighbour.

21 Neither shalt thou desire thy neighbour's wife, neither shalt thou covet thy neighbour's house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or any thing that is thy neighbour's.

The above is from the KJV version of the Bible from Deuteronomy chapter 5. 

The Ten Commandments were given to Moses by God and serve as a moral code for the Jews.