Judaism is around 3500 years old and is one of the oldest of the world's monotheistic religions—religions with only one god. It's also the smallest, with only about 12 million followers around the world. In ancient times Jewish people were called Hebrews or Israelite. Abraham is believed to be the father of the Jewish people. The story of Abraham is told in the Torah or what Christians call the Old Testament. Jerusalem is their most holy city and the capital of Israel—the only nation where Jewish people are the majority of the population.
The most important person in Judaism is Moses. According to the Torah, Moses is the leader who freed the Jews from
slavery in Egypt. However, there is no written evidence of this enslavement story in Egyptian writing. According to Jewish writing, when Moses and the Hebrews left Egypt they traveled through
the Sinai Peninsula. One night he
climbed Mount Sinai and it is believe that God gave him the 10 Commandments
that eventually became part of the Old Testament. The 10 Commandments provided the Jewish
people guidelines of how to live their lives.
The most holy Jewish books are the Torah
(Old Testament), which is part of the TeNaKh--an acronym for Torah (teachings), Nevi'im (prophets), and Ketuvim (writings). Another book called the Talmud provides instructions on how to follow Jewish teachings.
Part of Jewish life revolves around eating the correct food. Kosher foods are those that follow Jewish law. This means no mixing of dairy and meat, no pork or pork products and no shellfish. Jews can eat meat from any animal that chews its cud and has a split hoof such as cows, goats, and sheep—rabbit, pig, horse, dog, and cat are not kosher. Jews may eat fish that have both fins and scales that are detachable from the skin.
Just like any religion, there are different levels and types of belief or different denominations such as Orthodox, Reform, and Liberal Jewish faiths. There are special ceremonies when Jewish boys (aged 13) and girls (aged 12) become adults. Bar mitzvah is for boys and Bat mitzvah is for girls. Traditionally, Jews say prayers three times daily, with a fourth prayer added on holidays. Yom Kippur is the most important Jewish holiday. Jews traditionally observe this holiday with a 25-hour period of fasting and intensive prayer, often spending most of the day in synagogue.
The Old Testament says the "Messiah" will come to Earth and save the Jewish people. Jesus was born into the Jewish religion. There were certain things about Judaism that he thought were wrong, so he began preaching new ideas. He was thought of as a rebel preacher, however some people thought he was the Messiah. After Jesus was killed, his followers went on to start a new religion called Christianity. That is why Christianity and Judaism share religious writing, characters, and beliefs.