Narratives and Myths

Primary Author
Chara Scroope,

Creation of the World

One of the main narratives of Judaism is the creation of the universe by God. According to Bereshit (Genesis) 1:1-2:3, the universe was created over a period of six days. In chronological order, the creation narrative begins with the creation of light, distinct from darkness (1). This was followed by the creation of sky (2), land and vegetation (3), the celestial lights of the sun, moon and stars (4), aquatic animals and birds (5), and lastly, land animals and humans (6). The seventh day was deemed as a holy day of rest by God (known as Shabbat or Shabbos). Today, many Jewish people observe Shabbat as a day primarily dedicated to rest and spiritual enrichment. In the Jewish tradition, Shabbat lasts from sunset on Friday to nightfall on the following day.

Human Nature

The primary narrative that explores human nature and the roots of evil are found in Bereshit (Genesis) 3-9. The first human beings, Adamah (Adam) and Hawwah (Eve), are convinced by a serpent to eat a forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge. The two humans are banished from the paradise known as the Garden of Eden, each receiving a different punishment (Genesis 3:16-19). This story marks the beginning of humans’ tendency to transgress from God.

Freedom and Exile from Egypt

The book of Shemot (Exodus) shares the narrative of how the Israelites were freed from slavery and exiled from Egypt. During this narrative, five divine promises are established between God and the Jewish people: to “bring out”, “free”, “redeem”, “take” and “bring” the Israelites from Egypt to the ‘Promised Land’ of Canaan (Exodus 6:6-8). The freedom from slavery and exile from Egypt is commemorated each year in the event of Pesach (Passover).

The Covenant

In the Torah, the ‘covenant’ refers to a formal agreement or commitment between the Israelites and God. The people of Israel are offered the divine protection and promises of God in exchange for adhering to the covenant. The covenant narrative is thought to describe the unique relationship between God and the Jewish people.

There are multiple stories recounting how different significant biblical figures who represent the Jewish people enter into a covenant with God. For example, the Torah details how God entered into a covenant first with Avraham (Abraham), followed by Yitzchak (Isaac), Ya'akov (also known by the anglicised name Jacob, later renamed to Israel), and finally, it was given in definitive form to Moshe (Moses).

One of the main stories detailed in the book of Shemot (Exodus) describes the encounter between God and Moshe on Mount Sinai. Here, the Jewish people enter into a conditional covenant based on ten divine commandments (Exodus 20:1-21). The interaction between Moshe and God in the books of Shemot (Exodus) and Vayikra (Leviticus) also details 613 laws and ordinances (mitzvot) for the Jewish people to observe. Thus, the narrative of the covenant forms the basis of many Jewish rituals. In addition, the Jewish event of Shavuot commemorates Moshe receiving of the covenant.

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