This introductory chapter provides an overview of the Jews' transition into urban and skilled occupations. This transition was the outcome of a profound transformation of the Jewish religion after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, which shifted the religious leadership within the Jewish community and transformed Judaism from a cult based on ritual sacrifices in the temple to a religion whose main norm required every Jewish man to read and to study the Torah in Hebrew and to send his sons from the age of six or seven to primary school or synagogue to learn to do so. The implementation of this new religious norm during the Talmud era determined three major patterns in Jewish history: the growth and spread of literacy among the predominantly rural Jewish population, a comparative advantage in urban skilled occupations, and the voluntary diaspora of the Jews in search of worldwide opportunities in crafts, trade, commerce, moneylending, banking, finance, and medicine.
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