A Brief History of the Jewish People
The title of this article is horribly misleading.
The history of the Jewish people is far from brief, but to understand the Jews of today, we must understand some critical moments. Here's a very, very abridged history of the Jewish people.
The Time of the Pentateuch
We'll need to start thousands of years ago, in the time of Moses and the Pentateuch. Interpretations of these stories are numerous and controversial. There are countless debates about their facts and fictions, but they ultimate provide a platform upon which Judaism is constructed.
- In the Book of Genesis (the first book of the Pentateuch), God tells Abraham that Jews are his Chosen People.Here, chosen means they have been selected by God to spread his commandments by interacting with the world.
- Later , the prophet Moses communicates with God atop Mount Sinai. He is given the Ten Commandsments and the words of the oral Torah. Moses then tells his people that, should they deviate from the word of the Torah (the spiritual doctrine), they will forsake God's blessings and hardships will follow.
The Temple Periods
The Temple's Construction
The Temples of Jerusalem were of particular importance to Jews. These works of architectural splendor served as a locus for ritual sacrifice and worship. They were a site of direct communication with God, and for a time, it was thought that God would reside in the midst of the people.
The First Temple was built around the 10th century BCE, during the reign of King Solomon. The Temple walls housed the Ark of the Covenant, and it would remain here for nearly four hundred years.
The First Temple's Destruction, and the Exile to Babylon
In 586 BCE, a Chaldean ruler named Nebuchadnezzar II swept in from Babylon and conquered the land of the Jews. This resulted in the destruction of the Temple and an exile of Jewish leaders to Babylon.
During the following 70 year exile, the Jews were scattered, and though divided by distance, they united themselves in tradition. They were only allowed back into Jerusalem when Cyrus the Great conquered Mesopotamia and freed them from exile.
The Second Temple Period
After freeing the Jews, Cyrus ordered a Second Temple to be built. The worship continued in a temple much grander than the first, and it seemed the Jews had finally regained God's blessings.
However, during the mid-1st Century, the Roman Empire captured the lands in Israel. During the Siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE, the Second Temple was devastated, and once again,. the Jews lost their most holy of sites. The event is mourned to this day with prayer.
Rabbinic Judaism And On to the Present
A Return to Roots
With the Temple in shambles, the Jews had lost their political sovereignty and instead united in the study of Torah. What followed was a period of great Jewish teachers and widespread Rabbinic education. These teaching were later condensed into the works of the Talmud.
With Talmud, the Jews could maintain law and tradition, and although cast into the world, they remained close in their studies. However, since 70 CE, they've prayed to return to Israel and unite once again, both in spirit and proximity.
An Israeli Homecoming
As of the early 1900's, Jews have been trickling back Israel. The world hopes for peace between the modern Israelis and the Palestinian-Arabs living there.
Politics aside, Judaism has ultimately shaped the course of the world. Their long and colorful history, albeit fraught with conflict, continues to flourish worldwide.