Judaism Information

Judaism is a set of beliefs and practices originating in the Hebrew Bible, also known as the Tanakh, and explored in later texts such as the Talmud. Jews consider Judaism to be the expression of the covenantal relationship God developed with the Children of Israel—originally a group of around a dozen tribes claiming descent from the Biblical patriarch Jacob—and later, the Jewish people. According to most branches, God revealed his laws and commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai in the form of both the Written and Oral Torah. However, Karaite Judaism maintains that only the Written Torah was revealed, and liberal movements such as Humanistic Judaism may be nontheistic.

Judaism claims a historical continuity spanning more than 3000 years. It is one of the oldest monotheistic religions, and the oldest to survive into the present day. Its texts, traditions and values have inspired later Abrahamic religions, including Christianity, Islam and the Baha'i Faith. Many aspects of Judaism have also directly or indirectly influenced secular Western ethics and civil law.

Jews are an ethnoreligious group that includes those born Jewish and converts to Judaism. In 2007, the world Jewish population was estimated at 13 million, of which about 40% reside in Israel and 40% in the United States. The largest Jewish religious movements are Orthodox Judaism, Conservative Judaism and Reform Judaism. A major source of difference between these groups is their approach to Jewish law. Orthodox and Conservative Judaism maintain that Jewish law should be followed, with Conservative Judaism promoting a more "modern" interpretation of its requirements than Orthodox Judaism. Reform Judaism is generally more liberal than these other two movements, and its typical position is that Jewish law should be viewed as a set of general guidelines rather than as a list of restrictions whose literal observance is required of all Jews. Historically, special courts enforced Jewish law; today, these courts still exist but the practice of Judaism is mostly voluntary. Authority on theological and legal matters is not vested in any one person or organization, but in the sacred texts and the many rabbis and scholars who interpret these texts.

Wikipedia, Judaism, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judaism (as of Apr 1, 2010)

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