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This lesson discusses Judaism from a historical and religious standpoint, tracing its origin in the ancient world to the present day, while introducing its main divisions and sects.

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Welcome to this tutorial on Judaism. Judaism is a religion that teaches strict monotheism under one god, often written like this. Or you might see the divine name, the divine tetragrammaton, written Y-H-W-H, or Yahweh. Sometimes it can be pronounced as Yahweh.

Judaism is a religion founded by Abraham. And if you're interested in the story, you can read it in Genesis 12 in the Bible. The book of Genesis is more or less the same in both Christian and Jewish bibles. Sometimes the Jewish bible is referred to as the Tanakh, which is a sort of anagram for Torah, prophets, and writings.

So God told Abraham to start walking south to the land that God would show him, and indeed he did. And that began the Jewish religion. Other important events are the Passover and the Exodus, when the Jewish people were in slavery in Egypt and Moses led them out of slavery. These are events that are still celebrated today in the Jewish holidays.

The first three patriarchs of the Jewish religion were Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And this is a refrain that is repeated throughout the Hebrew scriptures, "I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." God gave Jacob a new name, and that new name was Israel. Israel means "Who has striven with God" or "Who has been blessed by God." Jacob famously wrestled with the angel and he said, "I'm not going to let go you until you bless me." And Jacob's name, Jacob's new name, Israel, became the name of the entire Jewish people. And is still the name for the modern state of Israel.

There are three branches within Judaism today. There's also a fourth branch called Reconstruction, but for our purposes there's three main branches. Orthodoxy. This is the branch of Judaism that is the most observant in keeping all of the ritual laws. There's also a branch of orthodoxy, a sect actually, called Hasidism. The Hasids have a distinctive style of dress and generally are a somewhat isolated enclave that is somewhat separated from the rest of society. But the Orthodox believe that they are practicing the same form of Judaism that has always been practiced, and that the other branches of Judaism have departed from that traditional way.

Conservative Judaism, not to be confused with political conservatism. But the conservative synagogues believe that the law should adapt to the times. It should change. Not in its essence, but it's OK for the law to mold itself. And moving on, we're getting a little bit more progressive with each one of these. Reform Judaism believes in integration with society. And you may even see reform Jews who perhaps consider themselves to be ethnically Jewish. Perhaps they are not as observant. But they still consider themselves to be Jews.

The term Jew, I mean, is an open term. You could consider yourself to be ethnically Jewish. So is Judaism an ethnicity? Is it a religion? Is it something that you choose? Especially in Reform Judaism, you can convert to Reform Judaism. And these other branches, perhaps some people convert, but normally through marriage. But in Reform you could just become a Reform Jew.

So is it something that you choose? Is it a religion? Is it an ethnicity? Well, in a way it's all of those. And it means different things to different people. Strongly connected to family traditions passed through the mother's side of the family.

So that is a little bit about Judaism. And I hope that you'll take some time to learn a little bit more about this very important world religion. Thank you for watching this tutorial on Judaism. Judaism is a monotheistic faith that claims status as the chosen people of God. Judaism claims a historical lineage going back over 3,000 years, making it one of the oldest monotheistic religions.

Judaism and its practitioners, known as Jews and or Hebrews, claim lineage going back to Abraham and his descendants, Isaac and Jacob. Jacob received the new name from God, Israel, which also became the name for the entire Jewish nation. Jews today may be broken down into three primary groups, Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform.

Terms to Know

In Judaism, a descendent of Abraham.


The name given by God to Jacob; the name of the Jewish nation.


A practitioner of Judaism; one descended from practitioners of Judaism.


Believing that only one god exists.