First and foremost, it is essential that we realize the word ‘Jew’ is used to identify someone who practices Judaism. The original name for the people that we now call Jews is Hebrews (according to Jewish tradition, the name derived from one of Abraham’s descendants). It is also possible that the term Hebrew comes from the word “ever,” which translates into “the other side.” This would make sense also, as it may refer to the fact that Abraham preached a message that was very different from the rest of Mesopotamian society (he preached monotheism as opposed to polytheism).
The word “Jew” itself is derived from the name “Judah,” who was one of Jacob’s sons (Jacob was the grandson of Abraham). The use of the term itself dates as far back as the 6th century BCE.
Today, a Jew is a person who is born Jewish or converts to Judaism. Jewish tradition is matrilineal, meaning that if a child’s mother is Jewish, then the child is born Jewish. Although the Torah does not explicitly state this fact, it is considered to be implied in various parts of the Torah. Today, some Jews consider a child Jewish if either one of the parents is Jewish.
As mentioned, if people are sincere about their beliefs, they can convert to Judaism in a process known as gerut. This is the only way a non-Jew can become a Jew. The conversion is marked by a formal oral or written examination.
Essentially, most believe that there are three basic principles of the Jewish faith: God, the Torah, and Israel (the promised land).
What Do Jews Believe About God?
Quite simply, Jews believe in one, all-powerful, all-knowing God. There is nothing that happens without God. Perhaps the best way to summarize this belief is in the statement, “God is One.”
The Torah is the Jewish sacred text. It is sometimes referred to as the Hebrew Bible. It includes the five books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy), the Ten Commandments, and the 613 mitzvoth (see below). The word ‘Torah’ means ‘to teach.’