The first Israelites were not monotheists. They are what is called
The Israelites were always beset by conquerors. Eventually, the Romans arrived on the scene. The Romans occupied Judea for many years. Jesus Christ lived during the Roman occupation. Jerusalem was destroyed in A.D. 70 in one episode in a culture history that is called the Diaspora, the Greek word for “dispersion.” The foundation of the state of Israel in 1948 was the first Jewish homeland in almost two millennia. The generations of being a culture without a home, wandering and living in other lands where they were treated with prejudice that often exploded into violent persecution, did much to shape Judaism and the Jewish philosophy.
The Torah and Talmud
The Torah is the foundation of Jewish religion, tradition, and law and is Hebrew for “doctrine.” Part of the Torah is the Pentateuch that comprises the first five books of what Christians call the Old Testament. Because Jews do not embrace the teaching of the New Testament, they do not call their spiritual scriptures “old.” The term Torah is also used to cover the whole body of Jewish scriptures and the various commentaries written by scholars and rabbis over the centuries.
Talmud is another phrase that includes the entire body of Jewish religious and civil law — the Pentateuch, the Torah, and the commentaries on the Torah. There are two versions of the Talmud: the Jerusalem Talmud and the Palestinian Talmud.
The Chosen People
The Jewish tradition maintains that they are the “chosen people.”This was revealed to Moses by Yahweh. The irony is not lost on them that they have had to endure a great deal of hardship for those “chosen” by God. The Book of Job in the Old Testament tells the story of the hapless Job who endures one trial after another as tests from God because he is God's favorite.
Jewish tradition espouses the belief in one God who created and presides over the universe. God's design for living is presented through the Ten Commandments, which were given to Moses on Mount Sinai. Judaism is based on a contract, or covenant, made between God and the Jewish people. The people acknowledge God as their ultimate king and lawgiver, and God singles out the Jews as his chosen people. The fates that befell the Israelis were often interpreted as signs of God's displeasure, which would indicate that, in Yahweh's estimation, the Jewish people did not always live up to their end of the covenant, given the trials and tribulations they have had to endure over the centuries.
The God of the Old Testament is, in His own words, an angry and a jealous God, quick to punish, and demanding in his devotion. Hence, Judaism is replete with rituals that must be performed and laws that must be obeyed. The Book of Leviticus is a lengthy list of laws, some of which are quite sound (a man should not have sexual relations with his daughter) while others (a man should kick his wife out of their tent for the duration of her period) simply will not be tolerated in this day and age.
The suffering of the Jewish people at the hands of oppressors over the generations gave birth to a belief that a Messiah would come to save the day. Contemporary Jews believe this day has yet to come. However, many people believe that he arrived on the scene some 2,000 years ago and a religion was formed about his birth, teachings, death, and for believers, resurrection. The new religion is, of course, Christianity.