Study the role and impact of Jewish history and beliefs on society and culture with free online classes.
What is Judaism?
Judaism is an ancient, monotheistic religion with origins in Israel and other areas of the ancient Middle East, and centers around the philosophy of one true god and his chosen people. It's an Abrahamic religion with the Torah as its foundational spiritual text.
The Jewish people have been subject to persecutions throughout history, only recently establishing their ancient homeland of Israel as an independent country in 1948. Understanding Judaism, its place as the beginning of two other Abrahamic religions (Christianity and Islam), and the worldview of various Jewish traditions is an integral part of developing a well-rounded worldview.
While Israel may be the only majority Jewish nation in the world, the Jewish diaspora spreads out throughout the east and west. Once the ancient Israelites were scattered across the globe after conquests from Babylonian armies, the religion maintained a persistent foothold despite the rise of Christianity and Islam. It begins with Abraham and Moses as major spiritual leaders and eventually develops into several schools from orthodox to reform and liberal. Jewish history encompasses a large portion of both modern and ancient history from the ancient land of Israel to the modern Holocaust tragedy. The Jewish people have experienced struggles throughout their history while Judaism has contributed significantly to the philosophy of the contemporary world.
Harvard in partnership with edX offers a course on the foundations of this formative religion and people. You can learn about the books of Moses (including Genesis, an origin story shared among several modern religions), study the formation of the Hebrew Bible, build an understanding of Judaism's oral law, and understand Jewish beliefs about the world and the afterlife. You will also gain an understanding of Jewish customs, including Purim, Hanukkah, high holy days (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) and weekly practices such as observing the Sabbath (or Shabbat). Harvard can also help place Judaism in the context of world religions and the ways religion has contributed to both peace and conflict. The rabbinic traditions are examined alongside other world religions, exploring the interplay of these philosophies in creating our modern world. You can also study early Christianity in the context of Judaism, understanding what Jews thought of the Messiah and how Christianity built on this original idea using the original sacred texts of Israel. The Hebrew University of Jerusalem offers a Hebrew perspective on the concepts of early Christianity, the influence of Roman tradition, and why the new religion may have spread to Jews and non-Jews alike.
Understanding the World With Judaism Studies
The influence of Jewish beliefs on the modern world is all around us. The Jewish faith imprinted two of the modern world's most dominant religions. Understanding much of the world's current events involves an understanding of the Jewish people, Jewish religion, and the way which Jewish life has guided some of modernity's spiritual practices.