According to tradition, Judaism originated in the ancient Near East roughly four thousand years ago. In the course of its history it has traveled over several continents and experienced much change, development, and diversity, while remaining surprisingly consistent in some ways. Jews believe in one God who created the universe and continues to be involved with human affairs. Because God created all humans, they must be treated with respect and love.
Judaism’s roots are in the Torah, given to Moses by God on Mount Sinai. The Torah is traditionally divided into written and oral parts. The written Torah includes the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible), Prophets, and Writings. The oral Torah was eventually compiled and recorded; it sets forth the laws and traditions of Jewish civil and religious life. Judaism adapts to changing political and social circumstances as the Jewish community discusses and interprets the Torah. In this sense, Judaism is not a static system but is perpetually changing and regenerating itself.
Jews believe that all their souls were present when God revealed the Torah to the Jewish people, so that each individual has a personal responsibility to follow the Torah’s laws. These commandments and obligations, or mitzvot, regulate human relations with God and with other human beings, and encompass practices, rules, and laws regarding every aspect of religious, legal, civic, and ethical life. Additional rules or customs, known as minhag, cover almost every aspect of cultural life, even culinary practices and music. Indeed, all of life ultimately relates to the Torah and a personal involvement with God and his teaching.