The founder of Judaism is usually considered to be the biblical patriarch Abraham, who is considered by almost all Jewish sources to be the first Jew in history. Truth be told, there is no one clear founder of Judaism, because it is a tradition that grew slowly and over many centuries. In the biblical book of Genesis, Abraham was visited by God and told to travel to the land of Canaan, far from his own family, where he would have descendants more numerous than the stars in the sky or the grains of sand on the earth. In Jewish tradition, Abraham is believed to have been chosen by God to spread the idea of monotheism, or the belief in a singular God who is all-powerful. There are many midrashim, or Jewish rabbinic myths, about how Abraham came from a prominent idolatrous family, and the various arguments he used to convince his father and others about why idolatry was wrong. Monotheism is a central aspect of Jewish theology today, and Abraham’s belief in one God is considered to be one of the main reasons he is considered the first Jew in history.
In the Jewish tradition, many rituals and practices are believed to originate with Abraham, including the rules of hospitality and the requirement for Jewish men to be circumcised. Abraham, as the first of the three patriarchs, also figures prominently in Jewish prayers and liturgy. Abraham is considered to be an especially beloved figure by God, not only because he was the first to proclaim his faith, but also because he passed several extreme tests of this faith. In one of the most extreme tests of his faithfulness to God, Abraham is asked to sacrifice what was at that time his only son, Isaac. While he was prepared to do so, in the end, God stopped him from actually slaughtering his son. Nonetheless, his willingness to sacrifice his own son is considered to have gained Abraham merit in the eyes of heaven, and Abraham is often included in Jewish prayers as a reminder for God to show mercy on his people who come from such great faith.
While Abraham is usually considered the first Jew in history, the start of the Jewish people as a nation is often credited to the time following the biblical Exodus from Egypt. In the Book of Genesis, the Jewish people are more like a single family, where the tradition gets passed down from father to son. When the Jews emerged from Egypt (as recorded in the Book of Exodus), they were a nation with their own identity, but they did not yet have the law of God. During this period, it is the teacher and prophet Moses who led the Jewish people from Egypt, through the desert, to the reception of the Torah, and eventually to the land of Israel. Moses is therefore considered to have overseen the process by which the Jewish people received the Torah, the law of God, and became a nation bound (in a new way) to God and the Jewish laws He had given. In this way, one could also say that Moses could be considered the founder of Judaism as it operated in religious covenant.
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