Expanding Your Spiritual Horizons: 7 Facts About Judaism Worth Knowing

Expanding Your Spiritual Horizons: 7 Facts About Judaism Worth Knowing

With Chanukah just around the corner, there is no better time to broaden your spiritual horizons and learn about one of the world's most intriguing ancient religions. Judaism is one of the oldest and most established religions on earth, yet most people only have a fleeting understanding of its customs and beliefs.

Here are 7 fact everyone should know about Judaism.

Judaism began in 2,000BC

Judaism can trace its roots back to 2,000BC. However, during the Roman period and other ancient civilisations, those practicing the religion were often marginalised and persecuted for their beliefs.

Today there are over 14 million practicing Jews

The world hosts more than 14 million Jews, with more than 6 million of them residing in Israel. After Israel, the United States hosts the second largest number of Jews, with a population of 5.7 million.

Jews believe non-Jews can get into heaven

Unlike many other religions, Jews don't believe that only Jewish people can get into heaven. The Jewish faith dictates that anyone will be able to enjoy the ethereal afterlife providing they have a "close" relationship with G-d. As a result, the entire Jewish mission is to become closer to G-d.

There are even seven commandments which outline the ways a non-Jew can serve G-d and get into heaven. The responsibility of studying and living by the words of the Torah only fall on those who are Jewish.

Judaism is always evolving

Reconstructionist congregations are committed to evolving with the demands of modern society. Rabbi Jacob Staub said, "we believe in ongoing evolution and the imperative to adapt to ever emerging needs and to not apply old strategies to new circumstances".

For example, the introduction of a Bat Mitzvah ceremony for women was only introduced in 1922.

Judaism encourages healthy living

Not many religions demand that believers live a healthy and active life. But Judaism does. In the Mishne Torah it states, "Since maintaining a healthy and sound body is among the ways of God- for it is impossible to have any understanding and knowledge of the Creator when one is sick, it is a person's duty to avoid whatever is injurious to the body and to cultivate habits that promote health and vigor".

It is not simply enough to serve G-d, Jews must also look after their own bodies and build healthy and sanitary habits. This includes regular exercise. The Torah says, "whoever is idle and does not exercise… he will be full of pain for all his days and his strength will fade away".

Jews believe the Messiah is yet to come

The world's Jews believe that a Messiah will one day arrive on earth and will bring peace and harmony to the world and all of human civilisation. This Messiah will be a descendent of King David and will usher in a golden era for Judaism and all of mankind.

Jewish Pirates Existed

During the Spanish and Portuguese inquisition, many Jews took to piracy to fight against the brutalities of the host nations.

The most famous Jewish pirate was Abraham Henriques Cohen. He was a Portuguese Jew who was captured and tortured for his beliefs in 1605. He would go on to seek revenge by working for the Dutch Navy in Jamaica as a privateer (state-sponsored pirate) and attacked Spanish and Portuguese ships in the New World.

Cohen once captured a Spanish ship off the coast of Cuba and took more than 11 million guilders from the vessel, around $1 billion in today's money. It was the largest ever theft from a Spanish fleet at the time.

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