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Judaism the religious culture of the Jews claims over fourteen million followers throughout the world It is the oldest living religion in the Western world Historically Judaism served as the model for Christianity and Islam the other two great monotheistic religions which together with Judaism claims half the worlds population as followers The basic source of Jewish belief is the Hebrew Bible called the Old Testament by Christians especially its first five books called the Torah or the Pentateuch The Torah was traditionally regarded as the primary revelation of God and his law to humanity It is considered as valid for all time Its laws were clarified and elaborated in the oral Torah or the tradition of the elders and were eventually written down in the Mishnah and Talmud Thus Judaism did not stop developing after the bible was completed The traditional Jewish Prayer book is an important result of changing conditions The study of Torah is also considered an act of worship in rabbinic Judaism Passages from scripture Mishnah and Talmud are recited during daily morning services On Monday and Thursday mornings a hand written parchment scroll of the Torah is removed from the ark at the front of the synagogue and read with cantillation before the congregation The major liturgical Torah readings take place on Sabbath and festival mornings In the course of a year the entire Torah will be read on Sabbaths The annual cycle begins again every autumn at a celebration called Simhath Torah rejoicing in the Torah which falls at the end of the Sukkot festival Torah readings for the festivals deal with the themes and observances of the day Readings from the prophets with appropriate themes are read along with the Torah readings on Sabbaths and festivals The public reading of scripture thus constitutes a big part of synagogue worship In fact this appears originally to have been the primary function
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