It is thought that a belief in angels is a relic of Babylonian and Hellenistic philosophy from the time when Jews were under its influence while in exile in Babylonia. Angels have various functions; for instance, Michael is the Jewish angel who protects, and death is believed to occur when the Angel of Death strikes with his sword. There are good angels, but also evil ones, whose leader is Satan, and Jewish mysticism refers to both.
Jews believe that the Torah, that is all of the first five Books of the Old Testament, was God’s revelation. Research into texts and history indicates that the oldest texts in the Torah were composed in the 13th century BCE, and took their final form in the 6th century BCE, while the last texts were compiled in the 2nd century CE. These scriptures were regarded as the Word of God, and the affiliation of the Tanach was proclaimed by Rabbis in the year 70 CE.
Moses is acknowledged to be the greatest of all the Prophets. The writings of other great prophets are contained in the Old Testament.
In the Torah, there is no mention of the immortality of the soul, life after death, judgement, or heaven and hell, which are concepts thought to have arisen under the influence of Zoroastrians. Originally the belief was that after death, both good and evil people would go to a place called Sheol, the abode of the dead. Later, however, the belief emerged that Yahveh gave rewards and punishments in both this world and the next. Eden was the name given for Heaven and Gehenna for Hell. In the Talmud particularly, heaven and hell are frequently written of. On the return of the Messiah, the dead would be resurrected, the evil thrown into torment, and the good transported to eternal bliss in heaven. There is a belief among Jews within Indian cultural environs, that a spirit passes from one body to another and another, not finding rest until at last, all sins are paid for. Pythagoras, the Ancient Greek philosopher and mathematician also believed this, as do Buddhists and also Kabbalists.
Judaism harbours the idea that there is a “Realm of God“, where no personal and social injustices exist. This Realm would be established through the guidance of God, with the help of man, the Messiah. Among Zoroastrians there is belief in the ‘Son of Man’ who comes as a saviour. Jewish belief in the Messiah is thought to have arisen during the Jews’ exile and captivity in Babylonia. Originally, the saviour was expected to be a king of David’s line, but later developed into the concept of the mystic Messiah. Maimonides, who denied the supernatural powers of the Messiah, but claimed that he came only to implement the Body of Laws, also opposed the Christian belief in Jesus Christ as the Messiah. Faith in the Messiah was a source of hope and comfort to Jews during their hard times and helped them to overcome their difficulties. Various so-called Messiahs have made their appearances from time to time, the most famous of whom was Shabbetai Zevi, who proclaimed himself to be the Messiah in 1665, but whose movement disintegrated when later he was converted to Islam.
The Sabbath is the only day of the week to be given a name in Hebrew: the others are just called the first, second and so on, the Sabbath being the seventh. This holy day of rest in reckoned from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday, since Jews count the days from evening to evening. On Fridays, enough food for two days is prepared because on Saturdays no cooking is done, lights or fires are not lit, tools are not used and animals are not made to work. Eastern Jews usually eat fish on the Sabbath. Bread and wine are the two most important items of the Sabbath Day service, as symbols of the fertility of the soil, and these two elements were among the offerings made in the Temple. Sabbath Day rites are performed to commemorate Creation and in memory of the flight of the Children of Israel out of Egypt. The ceremony at home commences at sunset and when prayers and chants have been said, food is served. Service in the synagogue takes place on Saturday morning. The State of Israel keeps the Sabbath as an official holiday.
In Judaism, nothing can intervene between God and His servant, no one can forgive sins, nor worship on behalf of another. After the destruction of Jerusalem, Judaism recognised no hereditary privilege or class, and every member of the community is equal. When the Temple no longer existed, the custom of slaughtering animals for sacrifice, once part of worship, was discontinued.