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Judaism - General Information Print Page
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Sects & Divisions

  • Ashkenaz Hasidism
    From The New Encyclopedia of Judaism
    The term “Ashkenazi Hasidism” denotes several groups of Jewish scholars who flourished in Germany in the second half of the 12th century and the first half of the 13th and created new concepts in Jewish thought, mysticism, and ethics. MORE
  • Essenes: Topic Page
    Members of a small Jewish religious order, originating in the 2d cent. B.C. MORE
  • Hasidim (or Chassidim)
    From The Columbia Encyclopedia
    Term used by the rabbis to describe those Jews who maintained the highest standard of religious observance and moral action. MORE
  • Reform Judaism: Topic Page
    Liberal Jewish movement. Reform communities vary, but tend to question the authority of the Talmud (Jewish laws). MORE
  • Sephardim: Topic Page
    One of the two major geographic divisions of the Jewish people, consisting of those Jews whose forebears in the Middle Ages resided in the Iberian Peninsula. MORE
  • Zionism: Topic Page
    The rise of the Zionist movement in the late 19th cent. was influenced by nationalist currents in Europe, as well as by the secularization of Jewish life in Eastern Europe, which led many assimilated Jewish intellectuals to seek a new basis for a Jewish national life. MORE

Observances & Holidays

  • Bar mitzvah: Topic Page
    In Judaism, initiation of a boy, which takes place at the age of 13, into the adult Jewish community.MORE
  • Hanukkah: Topic Page
    In Judaism, an eight-day festival of dedication and lights that takes place at the beginning of December. It celebrates the recapture of the Temple in Jerusalem from Antiochus IV of Syria in 164 BC by Judas Maccabaeus, and its rededication. MORE
  • Passover: Topic Page
    An annual Jewish festival held 15-22 Nisan (in March or April), commemorating the deliverance of the Israelites from bondage in Egypt. MORE
  • Rosh Hashanah: Topic Page
    the Jewish festival of New Year, celebrated on the first and sometimes second of the month Tishri, which falls in September or October, at which, during the New Year’s service, a ram’s horn is blown as a call to repentance and spiritual renewal. MORE
  • Sabbath: Topic Page
    The seventh day of the week, commanded by God in the Old Testament as a sacred day of rest after his creation of the world; in Judaism, from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday; in Christianity, Sunday (or, in some sects, Saturday). Keeping the Sabbath is one of the Ten Commandments. MORE
  • Seder: Topic Page
    Ceremonial meal that begins the Jewish festival of Pesach (Passover), which celebrates the Exodus. MORE
  • Yom Kippur: Topic Page
    Jewish high holy day, or ‘day of awe’, held on the tenth day of Tishri (September-October), the first month of the Jewish year. It is a day of fasting, penitence, and cleansing from sin, ending the ten days of penitence that follow Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. MORE

Sacred Literature

  • Dead Sea Scrolls: Topic Page
    Ancient leather and papyrus scrolls first discovered in 1947 in caves on the NW shore of the Dead Sea. MORE
  • Deuteronomy: Topic Page
    Book of the Bible, literally meaning "second law," last of the five books (the Pentateuch or Torah) ascribed by tradition to Moses. Deuteronomy purports to be the final words of Moses to the people of Israel on the eve of their crossing the Jordan to take possession of Canaan. MORE
  • Isaiah: Topic Page
    Prophetic book of the Bible. It is a collection of prophecies from a 300-year period attributed to Isaiah, who may have been a priest. MORE
  • Old Testament: Topic Page
    Christian name for the Hebrew Bible, which serves as the first division of the Christian Bible (see New Testament). MORE
  • Pentateuch
    From The New Encyclopedia of Judaism
    The first five books of the BIBLE, known in Hebrew as the ḥumash (from the root ḥ-m-sh, meaning “five”) or the TORAH. It would appear that the division into these five books had already been made long before the destruction of the Second Temple. MORE
  • Sefer Torah: Topic Page
    In Judaism, elaborately decorated and dressed Torah scroll housed in the ark in every synagogue. The scrolls are handwritten in Hebrew on vellum (calf, lamb, or kid skin) by a scribe who has trained for seven years. MORE
  • Torah: Topic Page
    In Judaism, the first five books of the Tenakh, or Hebrew Bible (Christian Old Testament). MORE

The Oral Law

  • Aggadah
    From The New Encyclopedia of Judaism
    The non-legal elements in classical rabbinic writings. Rabbinic literature is divided into two main parts, called HALAKHAH and aggadah. The former includes all the legal discussion and decisions; the latter comprises the rest.MORE
  • Halakhah
    From The New Encyclopedia of Judaism
    The branch of rabbinic literature which deals with the religious obligations of members of the Jewish faith, both in their interpersonal relationships and in their ritual performances. MORE
  • Midrash
    From The New Encyclopedia of Judaism
    Rabbinic commentary on the Bible, clarifying legal points or deriving lessons by literary devices: stories, parables, legends. The word Midrash is also applied to the vast literature to which this gave rise. It derives from a Hebrew root meaning “to inquire, study, investigate,” and (by extension) “to preach.” MORE
  • Mishna: Topic Page
    In Judaism, codified collection of Oral Law—legal interpretations of portions of the biblical books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy and other legal material. Together with the Gemara, or Amoraic commentary on the Mishna, it comprises the Talmud. MORE
  • Talmud: Topic Page
    In Judaism, vast compilation of the Oral Law with rabbinical elucidations, elaborations, and commentaries, in contradistinction to the Scriptures or Written Laws. The Talmud is the accepted authority for Orthodox Jews everywhere. MORE
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