Abraham and Moses are considered to be the founding fathers of Judaism.
Abraham is regarded as the First Patriarch of the Jewish people and is recognized as the first "chosen" one because he is the person that God chose to act as an example of goodness and holiness for the rest of the world to follow. The story of Abraham and his descendents is found in the book of Genesis.
Abraham was born under the name Abram in the city of Ur in Babylonia, an ancient cultural region in central-southern Mesopotamia, which is the present day Iraq. The traditional Jewish dates stipulated that he lived from 1812 BCE to 1637 BCE, or around the time of the Bronze Age, a polytheistic age, when people believed in and worshipped many gods.
Abram was the son of Terach, a merchant that sold idols of various gods. At an early age, Abram begin to question the belief system of his father and of the people at that time. This questioning and seeking led him to a monotheistic belief system, that is, the entire universe was the work of a single Creator.
The Beginning of Judaism
In the Genesis, it is said that Abram's awareness of the reality of there being one true God has brought God to him. God asked Abram to leave his home and country, and in return, he makes Abram three promises: the promise of a relationship with God, numerous descendents and land. Abram accepted this offer, and the b'rit (covenant or contract), a two-way relationship between God and the Jewish people was thus established.
Abram was subjected to ten tests of faith to prove his worthiness for this covenant, and leaving his home is but one of these trials.
It is believed that God later changed Abram's name to Abraham, meaning "the father of the people" or "the father of many nations" and Abraham died at the age of 175.
Some believe that Moses is the true founder of Judaism, while Abraham merely the direct ancestor of all present day Jews. Jewish scholars approximate Moses to have lived from 1391 BCE to 1271 BCE. According to the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible, Moses was a religious leader, lawgiver, and prophet, to whom the authorship of the Torah is attributed.
By the time around the birth of Moses, the descendents of Abraham have multiplied significantly in numbers and the Egyptian Pharaoh was worried that the Jewish might help Egypt's enemies, and so he ordered all newborn Hebrew boys to be killed. Moses's mother hid Moses to protect him from this tragedy. Moses was found and adopted by the Egyptian royal family.
Role of Moses in Judaism
After killing an Egyptian slave-master, Moses flees across the Red Sea to Midian where he has his encounter with the God of Israel. God sends Moses to request the release of the Israelites.
After the Ten Plagues, Moses leads the Exodus of the Israelites out of Egypt and across the Red Sea, after which they base themselves at Mount Sinai, where Moses receives and lays down the Ten Commandments. After 40 years of wandering in the desert, Moses dies aged 120, within sight of the Promised Land.
It is believed that it was Moses who shaped Judaism as a structural and unified doctrine. However, the people who Moses led out were already known as Jews by that time, and the earliest doctrine of Judaism was laid down by Abraham. In this light, it is more accurate to say that the founder of Judaism is Abraham.