Religion: Judaism or Judaisms?


It has been argued that Judaism can be seen not only as a single religion, but
as a group of similar religions. It has also been pointed-out that through all
the trials and tribulations that Judaism has suffered through, that there have
been common themes that have proven omni-pervasive. Any institution with roots
as ancient and varied as the religion of the Jews is bound to have a few
variations, especially when most of its history takes place in the political and
theological hot spot of the Middle East.

In this discussion, many facets of Judaism will be examined, primarily in the
three temporal subdivisions labeled the Tribal / Pre-Monarchy Period, the
Divided Monarchy, and the Hasmonean / Maccabean and Roman Era. Among all the
time periods where the religion has been split, these three seem to be the most
representative of the forces responsible.

As for a common thread seen throughout all Judiasms, the area of focus here is
the place associated with the religion : Jerusalem. This topic will be covered
in detail first, and then the multiple Judaism arguments will be presented. In
this way, it is possible to keep a common focus in mind when reading about all
the other situations in which the religion has found itself. A brief conclusion
follows the discussion.

A Place to Call Home

No other religion has ever been so attached to its birthplace as Judaism.
Perhaps this is because Jews have been exiled and restricted from this place for
most of their history. Jerusalem is not only home to Judaism, but to the Muslim
and Christian religions as well. Historically this has made it quite a busy
place for the various groups.

Jerusalem is where the temple of the Jews once stood; the only place on the
whole Earth where one could leave the confines of day to day life and get closer
to God. In 586 BCE when the temple was destroyed, no Jew would have denied
Jerusalem as being the geographic center of the religion. From that point on,
the Jewish people have migrated around the world, but not one of them forgets
the fact that Jerusalem is where it all began. It is truly a sacred place, and
helps to define what Judaism means to many people; a common thread to run
through all the various splinters of the religion and help hold them together.

Even today, as the Jewish people have their precious Jerusalem back (through the
help of other nations and their politics) there is great conflict and emotion
surrounding it. Other nations and people in the area feel that they should be
in control of the renowned city, and the Jews deny fervently any attempt to
wrestle it from their occupation. It is true that there is no temple in
Jeruslaem today, nor are all the Jews in the world rushing to get back there.
But it is apparent that the city represents more to the religion of Judaism than
a mere place to live and work. The city of Jerusalem is a spiritual epicenter,
and throughout Judaism\'s long and varied history, this single fact has never
changed.

Tribal / Pre-Monarchy

Judaism\'s roots lie far back in the beginnings of recorded history. The
religion did not spring into existence exactly as it is known today, rather it
was pushed and prodded by various environmental factors along the way. One of
the first major influences on the religion was the Canaanite nation. Various
theories exist as to how and when the people that would later be called Jews
entered into this civilization. But regardless of how they ultimately got there,
these pioneers of the new faith were subjected to many of the ideas and
prejudices of the time. Any new society that finds itself in an existing social
situation, can do no more than to try and integrate into that framework. And
this is exactly what the Jews did.

Early Judaism worshipped multiple gods. One of these gods was known as Ba\'al,
and was generally thought-of as a ‘statue god\' with certain limitations on his
power. The other primary deity was called YHWH (or Yahweh) and enjoyed a much
more mysterious and illusive reputation. He was very numinous, and one was to
have great respect, but great fear for him at the same time. Ba\'al was not ever
really feared, as his cycles (metaphorically seen as the seasons) were fairly
well known, and not at all fear-inducing.

The fact that the early Jews and Canaanites had these two radically different
representations of a deity active in their culture, basically assured that there
would