Traditional Rabbinic Judaism

Judaism emerged in Palestine in a time before written records and distinguished itself from its neighbors by the development of a belief in monotheism. Under King David, Jerusalem was established as the capital of Israel, with Judaism being its established religion. Worship became focused in the temple built by David's successor Solomon. Under Solomon's successor, Rehoboam, the kingdom divided into Israel and Judah. Israel was destroyed and ceased to exist after being overrun by the Assyrians c.722 BCE. Judah continued to exist until it was overrun by the Babylonians c.587 BCE. At that time, the temple in Jerusalem was leveled and with the deportation of the Jewish religious elite, Judaism underwent significant changes.

Following its conquest of Babylon in 539 BCE, the Persians allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem and to rebuild the Temple, completed c. 515 BCE. Judaism again underwent significant changes and would continue to evolve as its land became a prize for competing monarchs century by century. Eventually, the Romans leveled the city and destroyed the temple again in 70 CE. The Roman action destroyed a variety of groups that had emerged in Israel--Sadducees, Zealots, etc. The history of modern Judaism really began after the dispersion of the community and the end of temple-centered worship.

After 70 CE, Jews were scattered around the Mediterranean Basin, but two particularly important communities eventually gathered on the Iberian Peninsula and in northeastern Europe from Germany to Poland and Lithuania to Russia.

The traditional Jewish community, defined by its allegiance to the Hebrew Bible and its following of the old Oral law as written in the Talmud and Misash, would be challenged on two sides in the nineteenth century by a liberalizing movement influenced by the Enlightenment (Reform) and by the most strict of traditionalists (Hiradi movement). What has emerged is modern Orthodoxy, which attempts to stay true to tradition while also attempting to engage the modern world.

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