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Judaism Basics

What do Jews believe? What are the different movements in Judaism? How are they similar and different? What are some of the daily practices, like kashrut, that shape Jewish life? This section has information about all the basics of Jewish living.


What happens after we die? All of us ask that question at one point or another. Though Judaism does not have a definitive answer, over the centuries a few possible responses have emerged.


What Do Jews Believe?
When learning about a religion one of the first questions people ask is: What do members of that religion believe? This article talks about what Jews, in general, believe.



All About Judaism
Ten of the most common questions asked about Judaism. From questions about Jewish beliefs to our most sacred text, this article is a great place to begin learning about Judaism.

Jewish Bedtime Rituals for Children
Add a Jewish element to your child's bedtime routine with these books, songs and simple bedtime ritual ideas.

What Is the Torah?
The Torah is Judaism's most important text. It contains the Five Books of Moses and is the source of the Ten Commandments and the 613 mitzvot.

Resurrection
Resurrection was an important part of Rabbinic Jewish belief. The ancient rabbis believed the dead would be brought back to life at the end of days.

What is Gehenna Like?
Rabbinic texts describe Gehenna as a place of fire, brimstone and darkness. Learn more about this realm of postmortem punishment.

What Is Olam Ha Ba?
Though Judaism does not have definitive conception of the afterlife, Olam Ha Ba is one rabbinic response to the question of what happens after we die.

What Is a Kippah?
After the Star of David, a kippah is one of the most recognizable symbols of Jewish identity.

Blessing the Children on Shabbat
In many Jewish homes a special blessing is said over the children on Friday evening as Shabbat begins. Learn how to say these blessings and why they are said.

Judaism 101
What do Jews believe? What are the different movements in Judaism? What are some of the daily practices, like kashrut, that shape Jewish life? This section has information about all the basics of Jewish living.

What Is "Jewish"?
Is Judaism a race, a religion or a nationality?

Do Jews Believe in Satan?
Satan is a character that appears in the belief systems of many religions, including Christianity and Islam. In Judaism “satan” is not a sentient being but a metaphor for the evil inclination – the yetzer hara – that exists in every person and tempts us to do wrong.

What is Teshuvah?
Teshuvah is a key Jewish concept that involves repentance and new beginnings.

What Is a Chai?
What does the Jewish symbol "Chai" mean?

Does the Star of David Have Religious Significance in Judaism?
Learn more about the origin and meaning of the Star of David.

What Is a Hamsa?
A hamsa is an amulet shaped like a hand, with three extended fingers in the middle and a curved thumb or pinky finger on either side. It is thought to protect against the evil eye and is a popular motif in both Jewish and Middle Eastern jewelry.

How to Be a Mensch
How to Be a Mensch

What Does It Mean to Be the Chosen People?
A look at different interpretations of what it means for Jews to be the Chosen People.

What are Judaism's Basic Beliefs?
What do Jews believe? Read this article to discover more about the basic beliefs of Judaism.

What Are the Different Branches of Judaism?
Jewish movements, often referred to as denominations, branches or sects of Judaism, differ from each other in some beliefs and in the way they observe Judaism. Learn more about the four branches of Judaism: Reconstructionist, Reform, Conservative and Orthodox.

What Is the Torah?
Torah, which means "teaching", is God's revealed instructions to the Jewish People. It teaches Jews how to act, think and even feel about life and death.

How to Light Yahrzeit (Memorial) Candles
A Yahrzeit (Yiddish for "a year’s time") is the anniversary of the death of a loved one. Learn more about Yahrzeit candles, when to light them and how to use them.

Why Do Some Jews Spell "God" G-d?
An explanation of why some Jews write G-d instead of writing out the word "God."

Who Was Jesus?
Learn more about the Jewish view of Jesus.

Why Do Some Jews Spell "God" G-d?
An explanation of why some Jews write G-d instead of writing out the word "God."

The Five Books of Moses
The Five Books of Moses are the biblical books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.

Do Jews Believe in Sin?
The Hebrew word for "sin" is "chet," which literally means "missing the mark." Jews believe that every person is responsible for their own actions and that a "sin" occurs when someone does something wrong.

What Is the Mishnah?
The Mishnah is the first written recording of the Oral Torah of the Jewish people.

What Is a Rabbi?
The rabbi is the spiritual leader of a Jewish community. He or she is responsible for leading services, conducting life cycle events and serving as a counselor and role model.

Judaism and the Environment
With a strong foundation in Jewish law, Judaism and environmentalism go together like apples and honey.

The Jewish Synagogue
Learn about common aspects of the Jewish synagogue, from the bimah where the rabbi and cantor conduct services, to the aron kodesh where the torah scrolls reside.

Hair Covering in Judaism

The Difference: Menorah versus Chanukiyah
Many know the chanukiyah as a menorah, but there's actually a large difference in the two pieces of Judaica.

What are the 613 commandments?

What Are the Noahide Laws?
Many who are considering conversion to Judaism opt to commit to the seven Noahide Laws, the minimum moral duties required by the Torah for everyone.

Passover: The Four Cups of Wine
The reasons for drinking four cups of wine as the Passover seder are many, and here are just a few of them!

Passover: The Three Matzot
During the Passover seder, Jews have on the table a seder plate with three matzot placed one on top of the other. But why?

Passover: The Forbidden Foods
For many, Passover means one thing: no bread. However, with words like kitniyot and gebrokts, confusion abounds. Get to know Passover prohibitions!

Passover: Picking the Right Haggadah
The Passover seder can be a lengthy and daunting experience, so having the right haggadah can make or break the holiday. Having a haggadah chock full of fascinating facts, insights, and graphics can provide you, your guests, and your children with endless possibilities.

Passover: Matzah 101

What is Shomer Negiah?
Curious why she won't shake your hand? A foreign concept in a modern, tactile world, shomer negiah is a basic observance of Orthodox Jews everywhere.

What is Bikur Cholim?
The mitzvah (commandment) to visit and help take care of the sick is one of the most important that a Jew can observe. Learn how bikur cholim works!

Tikkun Leil Shavuot
On Shavuot, many Jews participate in all-night Torah study as part of their celebration of the holiday that God gave the Five Books of Moses to the Jews.

The Shalosh Regalim
Known as the shalosh regalim, the three pilgrimage festivals include Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot.

The Best of Basic Judaism Books
There are dozens of "how to" and "about guides" to Judaism out there, so how do you know which one is right for you? Check out these Judaism 101 books!

Jewish Women and Tefillin
Books like Rashi's Daughters have muddied the truth behind whether women have historically or religiously worn tefillin. What's the ruling?

What is a shtreimel?
If you've seen a religious Jewish man walking around with a relic of furry, colder days in Russia, you might be curious about the shtreimel!

What is a Kittel?

Going to Mikvah
The mikvah can be daunting and overwhelming the first time around, but it shouldn't be! Here's your first-timers "how to" guide for visiting mikvah!

What is the Mikvah?
A mikvah is so critical to a Jewish community that the Talmud prioritizes building a mikvah over a synagogue! How much do you know about mikvah?

The Shmita Year
Every seven years, farmers who own land in Israel fulfill the mitzvah of shmita by taking a year off from working their land. What is this ancient and rare mitzvah (commandment)?

What is Tzom Tammuz?
Tzom Tammuz is probably one of the lesser known of Judaism's many fast days. Occuring in the summer, it kicks off the "three weeks" in Judaism.

Jewish Hand Washing Rituals

How To: The Three Weeks
The Three Weeks in Judaism, which start on the 17th of Tammuz with a fast and culminate with the fast of Tisha b'Av. Do you know the laws?

Finding Your Bashert
You may have heard a Jewish friend talk about the dating game and finding their bashert, but have you ever heard someone mention finding their zivug?

The Western Wall: A Quick History
The Kotel has stood as a symbol of Judaism for thousands of years, but have Jews always been able to pray there?

What is the Western Wall?
Although many think that the Kotel was an actual wall of the Second Temple, it was actually a retaining wall of the greater Temple Mount area.

Falling in Love on Tu b'Av
Often called the Jewish Valentine’s Day, Tu b’Av is not a very well known holiday in the Jewish calendar but it has a very rich history.

Judaism's View on Suicide
Suicide is a difficult reality and has plagued mankind since the times of the Tanakh. But how does Judaism address suicide?

Jews and Shoes
One of the more peculiar Jewish traditions involves the wearing -- or not wearing -- of shoes while praying. So what does Jewish law say about shoes?

The Top 5 Most Misunderstood Things About Judaism
If a rabbi blessed it, it must be kosher, right? Check out this and four other popular misunderstandings about Jews and Judaism.


If you’ve ever been to Israel or spotted a Kabbalah-loving celebrity, chances are you’ve seen the ever-popular red thread. Do you know its origins?

Top 5 Myths About Jews and Judaism
Horns? Sex through a hole in the sheet? These myths and urban legends about Jews and Judaism could fill a library!

Shaving in Judaism
Shave and a haircut? If you’re Jewish, you have to think twice. The laws about shaving in Judaism are diverse and different communities observe different customs.

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