Judaism: The Basics

Judaism: The Basics

Judaism: The Basics

Judaism: The Basics


The oldest of the world's major faiths, Judaism as practiced today represents a tradition that goes back nearly 6,000 years. Accessible and wide-ranging, Judaism: The Basics is a must-have resource covering the stories, beliefs and expressions of that tradition.

Key topics covered include:

  • the Torah
  • Israel - the state and its people
  • Passover
  • Reform Judaism, Orthodox Judaism and Zionism
  • the impact of the Holocaust.

With a glossary of terms and extensive suggestions for further reading, Judaism: The Basics is an essential guide through the rich intricacies of the Jewish faith and people.


This book provides a simple and concise account of the basics of the religion Judaism, its narratives, beliefs, practices, contemporary expressions, as well as its secular history and a glimpse into its vital present. Here Judaism speaks in its own voices through its classical writings and contemporary representatives.

How are we to identify what is basic in such a complex religious tradition? Answering that question is not easy, because Judaism has had a long history, from the religion of ancient Israel set forth in the Hebrew Scriptures (Christianity’s “Old Testament”) to our own day. It is a history that exhibits much diversity, but the norms of conviction and conduct, which permit us to speak of “Judaism” and not just varieties of Judaism or “Judaisms,” do make themselves known. These are four.

First, from ancient times to the present day, the same sacred calendar of Sabbaths and festivals and holy time has governed in nearly all communities of Judaism. All keep the Sabbath day, though each has its own rules of what is permitted and prohibited on the holy day. All celebrate Passover, “the season of our freedom,” celebrating the Exodus from Egypt. All observe Rosh Hashanah, the New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. What is basic to Judaism, then, is a universal calendar, a single mode of celebration of holy time.

Second, told for all time and touching hearts through the ages, specific narratives such as we meet in Chapters 1 through 5 convey the meaning of those and other celebrations and common convictions . . .

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