1. The religion of the Jewish or Hebrew people which may be traced back to the Exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt.
a. It is closely bound up with a divine revelation, and with the commitment of the people to obedience to God's will.
b. The connection between religion and peoplehood gives Judaism a unique character which is not shared by its daughter religion, Christianity.
2. Over its history of 3,000 years, Judaism has changed both in theology and in practice.
a. The Jewish People have been called the "People of the Book", which does not mean that their religion is determined literally and exclusively by the contents of the Bible, but that the book has been the authority, guide, and inspiration of all the many forms the religion has taken in different periods and in different lands.
b. It has its roots in the Hebrew Bible (the Greek word for book is Biblica) which was written over a period of nearly 1,000 years and established in its full canonical form by the end of the First Century A.D.
3. The Hebrew Bible is divided according to Jewish Tradition into three sections.
a. The Torah or the Pentateuch -- the first five books:
1. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.
2. These were believed to have been written by Moses from divine instruction on Mt. Sinai.
b. The Prophets were are subdivided into:
1. The Earlier Prophets: Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings.
2. The Later Prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and twelve "minor" prophets.
c. The Writings:
o Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Chronicles.
4. The Bible is a record of the Hebrews' aspiration to understand God and his way both in relation to the natural world and humanity.
a. The name Hebrew (Ivri) is derived perhaps from the root meaning "to cross", and refers to the people who came to Cannan from the eastern side of the Euphrates.
b. It is also associated with the name Ever, grandson of Shem -Shem is the root word meaning "Semite".
1. God's existence and power are taken for granted -- the question (delemma) for the Hebrews is to understand how he acts in the world, and what he requires of Man.
2. Genesis: the natural world is a manifestation of God's glory - The fate of nations and the experience of individuals reflects the power of God in the affairs of human beings.
3. The Bible moves from a restrictive view of God as a national deity to a more universal conception of him as a the God of all nations which are but instruments in his own hands.
4. There are several names of God found in the scriptures:
o Ranging from Shaddai, which seems to signify storm-god, or god of power, Elolah, Yah, and Adonai, to the more common Elohim, and Yaweh.
o Yaweh becoming the most sacred divine name (usually translated "Lord") which was not pronounced by the Jews.
o The name "Jehovah" is a medieval misreading and does not occur in the Hebrew Bible.
5. Dual (Paradoxical View of God:
a. God is both a remote and transcendent being, imposing his awe upon the universe, demanding absolute obedience under the sanctions of severe penalties.
b. God is also a loving and compassionate father, who has a close and personal relationship with those who believe in Him.
c. This paradox is a reflection of the ambivalent attitude that the Hebrews had towards a world which appeared to be both stern and bountiful.
6. From a ritualistic point of view, the religion of the Hebrews was centered around a sanctuary or a shrine.
a. At first is was movable, and then finally established in Jerusalem -- first the Tabernacle and later the Temple.
b. Animal sacrifices and offerings were made by the priests.
c. The Priests, a special hereditary class descended from Aaron, the first high priest and elder brother of Moses.
d. Offerings were made upon the alter daily, and special offerings on Holy Days.
e. Offerings were made as atonements for sins or as thanksgiving on special occasions (such as childbirth).
1. Institutionalized Religion can become automatic losing its spiritual awareness among believers.
2. Among the Hebrews individuals arose who denounced the insincere practice of Hebrew ritual -- these were the Prophets.
3. The prophet was a man who believed he was called by God to preach his message.
a. The Hebrew word for prophet, navi, comes from a root meaning "to well up, to gush forth", as if the prophet was a passive instrument for the expression of God's Will.
b. The main purpose of their message concerned a righteous life, whether it was the life of an individual or the life of a nation.
4. The Bible reflects an overriding consciousness of the religious purpose of the Hebrew People.
a. The early narratives of the Patriarchs (fathers) were to instill the doctrine of the close relationship that existed between God and the Hebrews.
b. This relationship was emphasized in the experience of the Exodus which has been viewed as a necessary preliminary to divine revelation at Sinai.
c. The main burden of the prophetic exhortation was a special responsibility to fulfill a divine mission.
"Ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, a holy nation." (Exodus XIX:6)
d. This special relationship was a covenant or agreement (brit) between God and the Hebrews.
From Hebraism to Judaism
1. The period from the completion of biblical writing (ca. 150 B.C.) to the compilation of the Mishnah (A.D. 200) was one of transition in the history of Judaism.
a. A long and slow transformation took place, at the end of which biblical Hebraism emerged as Rabbinic Judaism.
b. There are many unanswered questions about this period, but it is clear that the religion of the Jews was not yet the stable, codified system that it would later become.
2. Rabbinic Tradition maintains there were a number of sects during this period (some being beyond the scope of "normative" Judaism).
a. Disputes between the Sadducees and the Pharisees:
1. The Sadducees claimed to be descended from Zadock, the priest and belonged to the priestly, aristocratic class.
2. The Pharisees (meaning "separated ones") were devoted to the study and practice of the Torah.
3. These disputes concerned such questions as the resurrection of the body and the date of the Festival of Pentecost.
o Shabuoth: seven weeks after Passover commemorating the giving of the Torah to Moses.
b. The Samaritans rejected rabbinic interpretation of Scripture and confined themselves to the literal application of the Pentateuch -- they became more removed from the center of Jewish tradition.
c. From the testimony of Josephus (b. A.D. 37/38) and archaeological discovery provide evidence that during this period there existed organized Jewish Communities which shunned urban life and constituted a more ascetic, almost monastic society.
o Such were the Essenes and the community at Qumran (if these two are not in fact identical).
3. The literature discovered among the Dead Sea Scrolls especially that dealing with the "Wars of the Sons of Light against the Sons Darkness" and the "Teacher of Righteousness", must be considered along with the Apocrypha and other literature as Pseudepigraphic (falsely inscribed) -- these did not become part of the Jewish cannon of Scripture.
o These writings deal with the "end of days". (Eschatological)
a. These eschatological ideas proliferated in this period (especially in the Hebrew Enoch) which was a reflection of the emotion released at a period of spiritual disorientation and political breakdown.
b. The influence of Persian and Hellenistic ideas and practices had its impact (although the attempt, in 168 B.C., by Antiochus Epiphanes to destroy the Jewish religion was prevented by the Maccabees.
c. The Hashomonean dynasty also fell victim to oriental influence (conception of monarchy) with disastrous results on the faith and people.
d. This was followed by the oppression of Roman Rule which resulted in a proliferation of new religious movements and concepts.
o Some of these were later to form the foundation of Jewish mysticism (Kabbalah), while others would find a home in Christianity.
The Rise of Christianity
1. Messianic speculation in religious movements is usually at its height when anti-religious pressures are at their strongest.
2. The Jews looked forward to the coming of a Messiah (lit. "anointed one") who would be descended from the House of David who would bring an end to political oppression, re-establish Jewish national sovereignty, and usher in a period of peace establishing the Kingdom of God.
3. From the Gospels: Jesus of Nazareth considered himself, and by many Jews, to be the Jewish Messiah.
a. From this point of view he was acting within Jewish Tradition, and there is little in his teachings that contradicts the established Jewish ideology of his time.
b. He probably would not have thought of himself as belonging to any other religion but Judaism.
4. Jesus' Death
a. It was encouraged by those Jews (mainly Sadducees) who saw in his preaching a danger (threat) to the established Temple practice -- their position of power.
b. It was supported by Roman Authorities who considered him to be a potential national leader (rebel).
ie. because of his messianic claims.
c. His execution marked the end of his influence for the majority of Jews because his death proved he was not the Messiah.
5. Followers and Opponents of Jesus:
a. It became more than an internal Jewish struggle with the Pauline Interpretation of the life of Jesus -- this interpretation became the basis of the new religion of Christianity.
b. When large numbers of Gentiles became converted -- new elements were introduced by St. Paul: divine incarnation, vicarious atonement (done for another), the abrogation of the law, and the doctrine of the basically sinful nature of Man could not be accepted by one who wanted to remain a Jew.
6. The Expansion of Christianity had a lasting impact on Jews and Judaism.
a. It assumed the role that Judaism had previously played in the conversion of Gentiles.
b. In Christian (and later in Moslem) lands, Jewish proselytism became a capital offence.
c. For centuries Jews were considered, by Christians, to be guilty of deicide, and an accursed race (people), their very existence and the practice of their faith was a testimony to their blindness for not recognizing the true Messiah.
The Pharisaic Achievement
1. The Tannaim (ca. 100 B.C. - A.D. 200) -- a period in which rabbis because of changing circumstances with spiritual creativity and sensitivity were able to reshape the biblical core, laying the foundations of Modern Judaism.
2. The destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70 was the single overriding factor that led to this transformation.
o DISCUSS: the Diaspora, the Chaldeans, 586 B.C., the role of Titus in the Jewish Revolt, and the significance of the Iudaicus Fiscus
a. The religion of the Jews had been based in matters of worship and ritual on a sacrificial system, and the official representatives of the people before God were the priestly caste, the cohanim.
b. The sacrificial system disappeared, since it was forbidden according to priestly legislation to offer sacrifice in any other place than the central sanctuary of the Temple -- with the end of the sacrificial system, the over all domination of the priestly caste ended.
c. Jewish religious leadership became more open and democratic depending for its worth on learning rather than birth.
d. The main place of worship for the Jews was no longer the Temple in Jerusalem but the synagogue of the locality.
o The priestly class continued, however, in traditional Judaism, to occupy a special place in synagogue ritual, marriage law, and some other fields.
3. This transformation was evolutionary -- the synagogue as an institution had been founded long before the Roman Era.
a. Jewish Scholars (of Jewish) of Law described in the tannaitic period as scribes or rabbis flourished side by side with the Temple Cult for many years.
b. The dividing line for practical purposes came in A.D. 70 -the place for sacrifice would henceforth be taken by deeds of charity.
4. Rabbis were able to reconcile these changes with the eternal un-changing authority given by God at Mt. Sinai.
a. Moses was given the written law (torah she-bi-khtav) -- the Pentateuch.
b. An equally authoritative oral law was also given: (torah she-be-alpeh) which was an interpretation of the former.
c. This oral tradition was committed to writing by Rabbi Judah ha-Nasi in the Mishnah (lit. repetition) ca. A.D. 200.
5. Midrash, or biblical interpretation, was originally of two types.
a. halakhic - ie. legal.
b. aggadic - homiletic (moral, ethical, advising, urging) or anecdotal.
o These two types existed side by side for centuries, so that Judaism possesses a rich anthology of biblical interpretation.
1. It was a systemization of previous attempts to summarize the mass of custom, concept and legislation which had grown up among the Jews.
2. The Purpose: was to formulate Jewish law for posterity, and shield it from the destruction threatened by political upheaval and persecution.
3. The Mishnah comprises six orders (sedarim) and each order is subdivided into a number of tractates (massekhtot) on individual subjects.
4. The Six Orders
a. Zeraim (Seeds) - mainly agricultural legislation, but including an important tractate on the liturgy.
b. Moed (Festivals)
c. Nashim (Women)
d. Nezikin (Dangers) - ie. civil law, but containing also a collection of moral and theological statements.
e. Kodashim (Sacred Things) - legislation connected mainly with the Temple.
f. Tohorot (Cleanness)
5. Besides the Mishnah there existed in this period other legal traditions, called baraitot, which were taken into account by later rabbis when they attempted to standardized Jewish tradition.
6. The Mishnah reflects many different opinions and often does not make a firm decision in matters where rabbinic authorities are in conflict.
7. Because of the emergence of new traditions, it became necessary for the Mishnah to be subjected to intensive study and commentary.
o This examination formed the basis of the two versions of the Talmud -- the Palestinian (or Jerusalem) Talmud, and the Babylonian Talmud.
a. Each Talmud (lit. teaching) consists of the Mishnah together with comments on it called the Gemara (lit. "completion")
b. The Babylonian Talmud (completed ca. A.D. 500) is more comprehensive than the Palestinian and has served as the foundation for Jewish Law and practice since that time.
c. The Talmuds contain not only law but also a great deal of theological and ethical discussion, as well as historical and anecdotal material
ie. Conflict between freedom and divine foreknowledge, the question of evil, immortality and life after death, the nature and destiny of man, the will of God.
Development of Law
1. After the completion of the Babylonian Talmud, Jewish Law continued to develop in two major areas.
a. First, new legal decisions had to be made in those circumstances which were not covered by earlier legislation.
b. Second, the unwieldy mass of rabbinic law needed to be arranged in a way which would enable a student to consult it with comparative ease.
2. The first requirement was met by the growth of responsa (lit. replies) literature.
a. Questions on Jewish practice were addressed to the Geonim, as leaders of Babylonian Jewry, and to other acknowledged rabbinic authorities.
b. The questions together with the replies have often been preserved -- the result was a body of legal decisions which were to act as a guide and a precedent for future discussion.
3. The second problem of unmanageable size of rabbinic law was solved by the codification of law.
a. The Mishneh Torah (Repetition of Law) was the first systematic code produced by the Spaniard Moses Maimonides (1135 - 1204).
o Maimonides was accused of giving his own opinions unsupported by argument, of failure to quote sources, and also of introducing philosophical matters which were not part of the original legal system.
b. The Shulchan Arukh (Prepared Table): was written by Rabbi Joseph Karo (1488-1575).
1. Karo was born in Toledo, but grew up in Asia Minor, and later settled in Safed in Palestine.
2. After an exhaustive study of two earlier codes: Maimonides and the Arbaah Turim of Jacob ben Asher (1270 -1343), he published his own code.
3. It was criticized by the Ashkenazim (ie. Jews from northern and eastern Europe) who claimed the code was based on Sefardim practice (Mediterranean Jews), and could not be accepted by the totality of world Jewry.
4. After the Polish rabbi Moses Isserles (1525-1572) added his own comments to the code, which included references to Ashkenazi ritual and practice, the code was accepted as authoritative (and has remained so for traditional Jews to the present day).
1. While internal developments were taking place in the field of halakhah (Jewish Law), disputes with Jewish sects, as well as relationships with other peoples and faiths compelled rabbis to rethink their theology, and study their traditions from a new point of view.
2. The Samaritans remained an ever-diminishing group whose links with Judaism became more tenuous.
3. A new sect emerged in 8th Century Persia, called the Karasites - more exactly the benei mikra - adherents to (lit. children of) the Scripture.
a. They denied the validity of the rabbinic oral tradition, and based its ideas and its practices solely on the written word of Scripture, as communicated by God to Moses.
b. They refused to allow any lighting during the Sabbath; they did not observe the post-biblical feast of Chanukkah; and were more restrictive in their dietary laws and marriage regulations.
4. The growth of the Karasites threatened to undermine the very unity of Jewish thought and practice which the Geonim were endeavoring to preserve.
5. The Rabbanites (opponents of the Karasites) did all they could in polemical writing (arguments against some opinion or doctrine) and in legal ordinances to counter this threat.
6. Rabbinite arguments had to be based on Scripture to counter the Karasites, so it entailed a new objective study of the Torah.
a. From the 9th - 13th Centuries, commentaries were written of the Bible, and even comments on them.
b. The purpose was to clarify the word of God for successive generations of Jews.
7. The Karasites grew in numbers gradually throughout the Middle Ages, reaching as far West as Spain and as far North as Lithuania.
a. Their numbers were drastically reduced as a result of the Nazi Persecution in World War II and only a few thousand remain today.
b. Their direct influence on modern Judaism has been only minimal.
The Rise of Jewish Philosophy
1. Arguments with Christianity and Islam, caused the Jews to reexamine their theology, and to review it in light of contemporary philosophy.
2. It was more than an argument over the interpretation of crucial scriptural verses.
3. The Issue: the validity of a revealed religion when challenged by the revelations claimed by other Faiths.
4. Judaism saw itself threatened from three sources: Christianity, Islam and man-centered philosophy.
5. There was no systematic attempt to present a reasoned Jewish theology until the Middle Ages.
6. Sefer Emunot ve Deot (Book of Beliefs and Opinions) by Sa'dia (882-942) was the first major Jewish philosophical treatise.
a. Religious truths may be arrived at by reason alone -- maintaining it is the religious duty to use one's reason to verify those truths.
b. It is the mark of God's love that he granted Man the immediate awareness of those truths through revelation.
c. Sa'dia proceeds to discuss creation, the nature of God, divine justice and foreknowledge, repentance and immortality.
7. Moreh Nevukhim (Guide for the Perplexed) by Moses Maimonides.
a. This book had immense impact on subsequent Jewish thinkers (and on some Christians including Thomas Aquinas) -- it is characterized by rationalism which was considered extreme by many of his contemporaries.
b. He attempted to show that Jewish Theology could be reconciled with the prevailing Aristotelian philosophy of his day.
c. To do this-he reinterpreted both biblical and rabbinic texts in a rationalistic way, maintaining miracles were not an interruption in the natural process
d. Prophecy could be accorded to anyone who prepared for it both intellectually and morally -- maintaining that the human scriptural encounter with the divine took place in a vision or dream.
e. He went so far as to say that if it could be proved rationally that God created the world from pre-existent matter the Bible would have to be reinterpreted.
8. Philosophy of the Middle Ages shows that Judaism was not concerned only with the minutiate of the law (as has been commonly supposed).
9. This impression (of concern for only the law) has been given for a number of factors.
a. The Jew was to perform the mitsvot (commandments) -- ie. to fulfill the word of God as revealed in the Torah.
o This could be accomplished more tangibly, in practical matters, regulated by the law than by philosophical or dogmatic assertions.
b. Law regulated moral and ethical life, as well as ritual practices -- though ritual has appeared to be the dominant feature.
c. For the purpose of Jewish identity with the Community -- the practice of Judaism had a more objective basis than a theological state of mind.
10. Various attempts have been made to formulate a Jewish Creed -- this (imposition of a system of beliefs as distinct from practice) has been resisted.
o This freedom of thought has existed until recent times.
1. Kabbalah (lit. tradition) is the word usually used for this aspect of Judaism -- it assumed many forms in different communities of Europe and the Mediterranean.
2. Purpose of Mysticism
a. It seeks a personal union with God, achieved through spiritual exercise, meditation and contemplation.
b. There is also what might be called a social messianic purpose behind this desire for union -- the belief that the mystic can influence God in his way with the word, and thus hasten the time of redemption.
3. The origins of Jewish Mysticism can be found in the first chapter of Genesis and the first chapter of Ezekiel -- the creation and the chariot.
4. The mystery of creation is based primarily on the problem of how a transcendent incorporal God can create a temporal physical world.
a. This was resolved by the construction of a system of divine emanation (origin, source -- to flow from) -- by which the world emerges through successive stages, each one further removed from the Godhead.
b. These stages or spheres (sefirot) were also accorded the status of divine attributes.
5. The mystery of the chariot was concerned with the nature of God himself, and human contemplation of God.
a. The "ascent of the chariot" consisted of the journey of the soul of the mystic through various celestial places to the throne of God.
b. Preparation for such a journey involved prayer and meditation, especially on the letters of the Torah as well as bodily exercise.
6. Literature of Jewish Mysticism: it is extensive but a few can be singled out.
a. Sefer Yetsirah (Book of Creation) -- written before the sixth century describing how the world was created by means of the twenty-two letters and ten numbers of the Hebrew language.
b. Sefer Hasidim (Book of the Pious) -- written by Judah the Pious (d. 1217) which is a compilation of mystical thought, legend, and homiletical material, reflecting the inner life of the Jews of the Rhineland which is marked by a penitential character.
c. Sefer ha-Zohar (Book of Splendor) -- a collection of writing, the core of which is a mystical commentary of different parts of the Bible composed mainly by Moses de Leon at the end of the 13th Century in Spain (but attributed to the 2nd Century Rabbi, Simon ben Yohai.
1. The Zohar became the fundamental work of Kabbalah, and future mystical literary creativity was an extension and interpretation of it.
2. A distant mystical school grew up in Safed in Palestine around Joseph Caro, Moses Cordovero, and particularly Isac Luria (1534-1572) and his pupil Hayyim Vital.
1. The emergence of Hasidim of central Europe at the end of the 18th Century was a result of this mystical tradition.
2. The founder of the hasidic movement was Israel ben Eliezer (d. 1760) known as Baal Shem Tov (or Besht).
3. Based on Lurianic Kabbalah, hasidism preaches the striving for communion with God through the cultivation and experience of joyful fervor in prayer, study, and the natural world.
4. It emphasized the traditional Jewish concept of simple delight in the service of God.
o It particularly appealed to those Jews in Eastern Europe who were unable to participate in the legal traditional study of the Torah.
5. The leader of each hasidic community, known as the tsaddik (the righteous one) was credited with the possession of a special relationship to the divine spirit, and often with the power of working miracles.
6. The movement was opposed by traditional rabbis who saw in it a danger of pantheism and the discouraging of learning in favor of ignorant piety.
7. This movement has flourished even with the destruction of countless hasidic communities by the Nazis.
o It is particularly strong in the United States and Israel.
Jewish Belief: major beliefs and practices of Judaism which have remained (for the most part) unchanged since the codification of the Shulchan Arukh in the 16th Century.
1. Judaism holds that there is one eternal God, who created the Universe, and who remains master of it.
a. God is both omnipotent and all-loving -- he created man with free will, the ability to choose between good and evil.
b. God communicates with man through revelation, and Man can communicate with God through prayer and meditation.
2. God (through revelation) has given Man a divine law, the Torah - the fulfillment of which will hasten the establishment of God's Kingdom on Earth.
a. This kingdom will be announced through and by the arrival of a personal Messiah who will be human and descended from the House of David.
b. The Jewish People have a special role in this divine scheme since it was to them that God revealed the Torah through Moses on Mount Sinai.
3. Obedience to the Torah is central to Judaism -- it is done through the fulfillment of the commandments.
a. The Torah: traditionally there are 248 positive and 365 negative commandments.
b. Attempts have been made to explain the reasons for, and purposes of the mitsvot (commandments).
c. No rationalization can equal in effect the original conception of the mitsvah as being simply the expression of God's Will.
4. Jews have a duty in the sight of both people and God to lead a life in accord with divine will -- to bear witness to God and his purpose in the world.
5. Judaism believes in the equality of man -- Rabbinic Tradition: "The first man was created alone, so that none of his descendants would be able to say to another, my father was greater than your father.
a. Each human being is precious and has dignity simply because he or she was created by God in his image.
b. This points out the Jewish conception of each person's relationship to his or her fellows -- it is a relationship based on love, respect and understanding.
6. Free Will of Man: he has the ability to become the master over his evil inclinations.
a. Man is born with the ability to do both good or evil, and does not inherit the burden of sin.
b. The world is good being created by God, and Judaism requires the Jews to enjoy the bounty of this world, and to use its gifts for the betterment of mankind and the service of God.
c. Judaism is a world affirming, not a world denying faith - salvation is achieved in this world and through this world.
7. Belief in the physical resurrection of the dead and the immortality of the soul has been a cardinal tenant of Judaism.
a. Yet -- far more emphasis is placed on the care of the body and soul in this world than on the preparation for eternity.
b. One of the most frequent images of heaven, is that of the righteous sitting with crowns on their heads, studying the Torah, with the Holy One as their master.
Summary of Moral Duties: from the Mishnah Peah, chapter one which is included for reading in the traditional morning service.
o "These are the things, the fruits of which a man enjoys for the world to come: honoring father and mother, the practice of charity, timely attendance at the house of study, morning and evening, dowering the bride, attending the dead to the grove, devotion to prayer, and making peace between man and his fellow; but the study of the Torah leads to them all."
The Life of the Jew
1. The welfare of society depends to a great extent on the welfare of the individual unit of the society - the family.
2. The family and home, even more than the synagogue, is the chief center of Jewish religious life.
3. The festivals are celebrated mainly in the home, and the many distinctive features of Jewish family life help to ensure its cohesiveness.
4. Parents educate their children in the study of the Torah, a knowledge of which is indispensable for correct observance of the mistvot.
a. Male children are circumcised at the age of eight days, a rite which derives from the command given to Abraham (Genesis XVII) to circumcise himself and his son Ishmael.
1. The ritual is called the "covenant of circumcision" (brit milah), since the child is brought into the covenant which God made with "Abraham, our father".
2. The operation is performed by a mohel (or circumciser), and the prayer is offered that the child "may commit himself to the Torah, to marriage, and to good deeds.
b. Formal education begins at the age of five or six, when they are brought to the religion school (chedar, lit. room) attached to the local synagogue.
1. During the Middle Ages this would have been the focus of their entire education -- for most Jewish Children today the chedar is regarded as an adjunct to their daily secular education.
2. Both in the United States and Europe, there is a growing movement to establish Jewish-day schools, many of which have already been founded.
c. The age of majority for girls, according to talmudic tradition is twelve years and one day, and for boys it is thirteen years and one day.
1. The boy becomes bar-mitsvah (son of the commandment) -- he is regarded as entirely responsible for his religious acts and liable to fulfill all the commandments of the Torah.
2. In Talmudic Times the technical term that was used for him was bar-onshin (son of punishment) meaning that he was liable for punishment for any violation of a commandment.
d. The ceremony associated with Bar-Mitsvah (originated later than the talmudic period).
1. The boy is "called up" to read the Torah from the Hebrew text, and sometimes the prophetic portions too (in the synagogue).
2. This symbolizes his graduation to adult status in the eyes of the Law and the congregation.
e. Since the study of the Torah is an essential, ongoing process for the Jew, bar-mitsvah represents only one stage in Jewish education and not its culmination.
6. Marriage (kiddushin) is one of the most important of the practical mitsvot.
a. Rabbis emphasized that the first commandment in the Torah was "bear fruit and multiphy" (Genesis I:28), and that it was God's will that the first man would be provided with a helpmate.
b. Marriage is for the Jew the "natural state", and celibacy existed only in sects which were on the periphery of Judaism, such as the Essenes.
c. A marriage may be contracted between two Jews (a Jew being defined as a child of a Jewish mother).
1. A marriage between a cohen (priest) and a divorcee or a convert is prohibited.
2. Blood relationships are also obstacles except -- that a marriage between cousins and uncle and niece are permitted.
d. Jewish marriage is essentially a legal contract between two consenting individuals in the presence of valid witnesses.
e. The main element of the marriage ceremony is the giving of an object of value, usually a ring, to the bride by the bridegroom.
1. This is followed by the bridegroom declaring: "Behold, you are betrothed to me by this ring according to the law of Moses and Israel."
2. The bride and groom share a cup of wine, and the groom breaks a glass to symbolize the destruction of the Temple.
f. The marriage takes place under a canopy called a chuppah (this word has come to signify the ceremony as a whole) which is a symbol of the couple's first home and God's spirit which hovers over them.
o The groom gives the bride a marriage document (ketubah), duly witnessed, in which she is granted certain property rights should he die before her or divorce her.
g. Divorce: In the divorce procedure, the husband gives his wife, in the presence of witnesses, a "bill of divorcement" (get), in which he states that she is free to be married to another.
7. Mourning: these rites are detailed and specific.
a. The dead body is washed and clothed in a white burial shroud -- burial occurs as soon as possible after death.
o cremation is prohibited.
b. Shivah is the prescribed seven day period of mourning which begins after the funeral.
c. The mourners remain at home, sit on low tools (a custom derived from the biblical rite of sitting on the ground as a sign of mourning), and are comforted by visitors.
1. Evening prayers are said in the home on each evening except the Sabbath when mourners attend the Synagogue.
2. During the prayers the mourners' Kaddish (Aramaic for sanctified) is recited.
d. Less rigorous periods of mourning follow up to eleven months after the funeral.
1. It is then customary to consecrate a head-stone in the cemetery in memory of the dead.
2. The anniversary of the death is marked each year, and relatives visit the graves of the dead in the period preceding the High Holy Days.
Festivals and Holy Days
1. Jewish festivals and holy days present a phenomenon that one might call "creative assimilation".
a. Their origins are often pre-Hebraic, being based on Canaanite or Babylonian prototypes.
b. The Hebrews transformed them over a period of time into indigenous Jewish celebrations with the removal of their former pagan elements.
2. The Jewish calendar is lunar, consisting of twelve months, each starting with the new moon, of 29 or 30 days each.
o To ensure that the agricultural festivals are celebrated during the correct season of the year an additional month is added -- approximately every three years.
3. Traditional Jews outside of Israel observe the festivals (except the Day of Atonement) for one day longer than the period prescribed by the Torah.
a. Because communities at a distance from Jerusalem could not be sure that the messenger, who came from Jerusalem to announce the advent of the new month, would arrive in time.
o The extra day has been discontinued by Reform Jews.
b. Every Festival (Yom Tov, lit. "a good day") and the Sabbath begins and ends at dusk, following the biblical pattern.
ie. "There was evening and there was morning, the first day."
4. The Sabbath
a. (Shabbat, day of rest) is the most important day in the Jewish calendar, it begins on Friday evening (the eve of the seventh day).
b. It commemorates God's completion of creation of the universe, and his rest after his labors (Exodus XXXI: 12-17).
c. It is instituted in the home by the lighting of the Sabbath candles, and the saying of the Kiddush (sanctification), the benediction over the wine and bread and the Sabbath Day itself.
d. Parents customarily bless their children -- one does not work and it is a day to study the Torah.
e. The havadalah (division) is a ceremony that ends the Sabbath. It involves the dousing of a candle in the wine and the smelling of sweet spices.
ie. This symbolizes the beauty of the Sabbath as it departs.
5. The Days of Awe (Yamin Noraim)
a. The first ten days of Tishri:
1. The first two days comprise the New Year (Rosh ha-Shanah) and the tenth day is the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur).
2. The whole period is known as the Ten Days of Penitence (Aseret Yemei Teshuvah).
b. The new year festival was originally called "a memorial proclaimed with the blast of horns" (Leviticus XXIII: 24).
1. Apparently it was connected with the new year itself--a designation that does not occur in the Pentateuch.
2. When it became known as Rosh ha-Shanah, the emphasis was not on the new year but on the reaffirmation of the kingship of God and the inauguration of a period of penitence.
3. The day is distinguished by the blowing of a ram's horn in the synagogue (perhaps the idea of a trumpet fanfare accompanying the coronation of God) -- later it is interpreted as a call to repentance.
ie. It is a recollection of the fidelity of Abraham who, during the episode of the binding of Issace, sacrificed a ram (Genesis XXII: 13).
c. The Day of Atonement
1. It is the most solemn day in the Jewish calendar -- it is a day of fasting, this being the traditional interpretation of "affliction of the soul" (Leviticus: XVI:29, XXIII:27).
2. The Rabbis stress the importance of true contrition as an essential element with the fasting.
ie. fasting alone is insufficient to obtain atonement.
3. The service in the synagogue continues throughout the day, and it is characterized by a recital of the duties of the High Priest on the Day of Atonement in the Temple.
4. The blowing of the horn at the end of the service is accompanied with the communal affirmation "The Lord, He is God".
5. The priest asks for forgiveness both for himself and for the community of Israel.
ie. It is an opportunity for both personal and communal repentance.
6. The Eve of the Day is called Kol Nidrei (lit. all vows)-a prayer that asks for the nullification of all vows made under duress.
ie. It came to reflect those Jews who were forced to convert to other faiths by force.
6. Pilgrimage Festivals
a. On these festivals of Pesach, Shavot, and Sukkot, Jews were commanded to go to Jerusalem to participate in the worship at the Temple (Deuteronomy XVI:16).
o They have in common both agricultural and historical significance.
b. Pesach (Passover) is an eight-day festival beginning on the 15th of Nisan, the first two days and the last two days being full festival days (Yamin Tovim).
1. To celebrate the Exodus from Egypt, when the Israelites emerged from bondage to freedom.
ie. Another name in special kiddush is "the season of our freedom".
2. Two Main Features: abstaining from eating leaven during the whole period of the festival -- this being a reminder of the fact that the Israelites left Egypt so fast that the dough did not have time to rise, and secondly, the celebration of the sedar (lit. order) in the home on the first two nights.
3. The sedar is a festive meal at which the story of the Exodus is told by the head of the family to the children.
4. A special prayer book (haggadash-lit., narration) is used -- the story is introduced by questions from the children and illustrated by the use of symbolic foods.
5. The sedar meal emphasizes the role of God in history -- Judaism attributes achievement to the power of God and not of Man.
c. Shavuot (lit. weeks)
1. It is a two day festival beginning on the 6th of Sivan, seven weeks after the second day of Passover.
2. It is also known as Pentecost (fiftieth day) -- observed as the anniversary of the revelation of the Torah to Moses at Mt. Sinai.
ie. It is also known as the "Season of the giving of the Torah".
d. Sukkot (Tabernacles)
1. It is a nine-day festival beginning on the 15th of Tishri -- (like Passover) the first two days are full festival days.
2. It commemorates the autumn harvest -- it is a memorial of the way in which the Hebrews in the wilderness depended on the bounty of God.
3. It is observed in the home by the building of a sukkeh (a temporary structure) with a roof through which one can observe the stars -- it is an attempt to recreate the conditions which the Hebrews experienced in the desert.
4. The worshippers carry the arba' ah minim (four kinds). ie. specimens of palm, myrtle, willow, and citron in the synagogue.
o In accordance with rabbinic interpretation of Leviticus.
5. The ninth day of the festival is designated Simchat Torah (Rejoicing in the Torah).
o The annual cycle of the reading from the Torah begins again.
o It is a time of rejoicing -- singing and dancing in procession with the scrolls of the Torah.
o Another name for the festival is "The season of our rejoicing".
7. Other Festivals
a. The festival of Purim:
1. It occurs on the 14th of Adar, and it is based on the Book of Esther.
2. It is a festival for thanksgiving for the salvation of the Jews from the persecution of Haman -- he is viewed as the representation of all persecutors of the Jews through the ages.
b. Chanukkah (dedication) is post-biblical.
1. It is an eight day festival beginning on the 25th of Kislev -- since it is not designated in the Torah and not a Yom Tov, one is not prevented from working.
2. It commemorates the victory of the Maccabees over Antiochus Epiphanes who is 168 B.C. attempted to destroy the Jewish faith.
3. The observance of the festival is not based on the military victory, but on a legend which tells of how a one-day supply of consecrated oil which the Maccabees used for the rededication of the desecrated Temple lasted for eight days until more could be obtained.
4. In Jewish homes a candelabrum (menorah) is lit, consisting of eight candles (together with an additional "servant" candle), one candle being lit on the first night of the festival, two on the second, and so on.
c. The Tishah b'Av (Ninth of Av) is the most important day besides the Day of Atonement.
1. It commemorates the destruction of both the first and second Temples in 586 B.C. and A.D. 70.
2. The Book of Lamentations is read, and prayers are read for the end of the Exile and the restoration of the Temple.
3. In later years there has been a tendency to commemorate on this day the death at the hands of the Nazis of six million Jews during World War II.
1. To the traditional orthodox Jew, the ritual observance of Kashrut (lit. "that which is fitting" is the noun, kasher or kosher, fit -being the adjective) is of great importance.
2. Food that may be eaten:
a. Animals that both chew the cud and have cloven hooves.
b. Fish that have both fins and scales.
c. Birds that do not fall into the category of those prohibited in Leviticus XII.
3. Animals and birds must be slaughtered in a prescribed manner (shechitah).
4. Meat derived from other sources is terefah (lit. - torn) and may not be eaten.
5. Milk and meat products should be separated, and the utensils, etc. connected with them.
o Exodus XXIII: 19 - "You shall not boil a kid in its mother's milk."
6. The hind quarters of animals may not be eaten unless the sciatic nerve is first removed.
o Genesis XXXII: 33 - "The blood must be thoroughly drained away."
1. It is the center of public worship and social life for the Jewish Community.
a. The word "synagogue" is of Greek origin meaning "a place of assembly".
b. This is paralleled by the Hebrew, bet ha-knesset.
c. It is also designated: bet ha-tefillah (house of prayer) and bet ha-midrash (house of study).
o These names indicate the purpose of the synagogue.
2. The chief feature of the synagogue is the ark (aron ha-kodesh) which is a cupboard in which are housed the scrolls of the Torah (sifrei torah).
a. Each scroll contains the Hebrew Pentateuch, hand-written on parchment.
b. The ark, since medieval times, has been located on the wall facing Jerusalem.
3. In front of the ark is a perpetual light (ner tamid) which symbolizes the eternal presence of God, and also continues the idea of the perpetual altar-fire in the Temple precincts.
4. The conduct of the service proceeds from the bimah or almemar, a raised platform which apparently in earlier times was at the end of the synagogue, but which is now usually placed in the center.
5. A separation of the sexes is made either by a partition or by the construction of a "ladies gallery".
a. The original basis for Jewish prayer is found in the Bible, and a large part of the Jewish liturgy is composed of quotations from the Scriptures especially the Psalms.
b. There are three set times for prayer: morning (shacharit), afternoon (minchah) and evening (ma' ariv).
c. The basic Jewish prayer is the shema (hear - from its first word - Deuteronomy VI: 4-9).
1. This confession of God's unity is recited twice daily -it is the first prayer taught to children and the last to be said by a Jew in his or her lifetime.
2. It is the nearest formulation to a popular creed that Judaism possesses.
d. The amidah (lit. standing) also called tefillah (prayer), consisted originally of 18 benedictions, now nineteen said twice daily.
o It is a combination of praise and petition, and affords an opportunity of prayer of a private and personal nature.
e. The alenu ("it is our duty"), a third century prayer, said at the end of the service, is a strong affirmation of monotheism, and embodies the Jewish hope for the establishment on earth of God's Kingdom.
f. Private prayers may be said at any time and in any place -- communal prayers should be said traditionally in the presence of ten adult males (minyan - lit. numbers).
1. Male worshippers wear the tallit (prayer shawl) during morning service -- a smaller version tsitsit or arba kanfot) is worn always under the outer garments.
2. Tefillin, small boxes containing the paragraphs of the shema, are worn on the forehead and arms during morning weekday prayer to fulfill literally a command in Deuteronomy VI: 8.
3. For the same reason the shema is fastened to the doorposts of a Jewish home in a small receptacle called mezuzah.
o The head is covered during prayer, and orthodox Jews rarely go without some head-covering.
g. The prayer book for Sabbath and weekdays is called the siddur, and that for the festivals is called meachzor.
1. Traditional Judaism and the practice of it has exerted a great deal of influence on many Jews to this day -- yet, Judaism as prescribed in the Shulchan Arukh had to face many problems in the last two centuries and adapt to them.
2. These new circumstances had been caused by three main factors.
a. The emancipation of European Jewry and the Rise of Reform Judaism.
b. The resurgence of anit-semiticism culminating in the Nazi holocaust.
c. The establishment of the State of Israel.
The Emancipation and the Rise of Reform
1. During the Middle Ages, Jews experienced political, social, and academic discrimination.
2. In most Christian Countries:
a. Jews were banned from certain trades and professions.
b. They were prevented from participating in the normal educational system.
c. They were also compelled to live in specific areas.
o The term, "Ghetto", was not used until 1517 in Venice.
3. One result was that Jews became inward-looking, more concerned with their own religious traditions, and a deepening of their own Jewish spiritual awareness, than with the outside world.
4. The late 18th and early 19th Centuries saw liberal movements begin to emerge across Europe.
a. These movements brought about both political and social relief for many oppressed groups.
b. Jews also benefited from these liberal ideas especially in Germany, France, Britain and the United States.
c. Jews were now free to mix both socially and intellectually with non-Jewish neighbors, and were given some voice in political affairs.
d. Jews were also able, for the first time, to bring contemporary academic objective scholarship to bear upon sources of Jewish Tradition.
5. Unchallenged assumptions were now challenged, among them the Mosaic authorship of the Torah, the authenticity of the oral tradition, and thus the validity of the Talmud and the Codes.
6. With this new scholarship, a greater awareness began to grow of a need for a new expression of Judaism.
a. Early 19th Century Germany: there was a demand for the revision of the Jewish form of worship.
b. Traditionally, prayer had been said in Hebrew, with a sermon in Yiddish, and without instrumental accompaniment.
c. Over time, in some congregations, a sermon in the vernacular was introduced, the service was shortened, some prayers were said in German, and an organ was used.
d. This was the beginning of Reform Judaism (also called Liberal Judaism).
7. This movement led to more fundamental departures from tradition:
a. There was an emphasis on the more universal aspects of Judaism -- this involved an end to references in the liturgy to the Election of Israel, and to the restoration of the Temple and sacrificial worship.
b. It also led to the rejection of the idea of physical resurrection and the coming of a personal messiah, and an expression of the belief in the progressive revelation of God.
8. Greater emphasis came to be placed on the prophetic elements in Judaism instead of the Rabbinic Elements.
a. This resulted in a emphasis on the ethical above the ritual requirements of the Faith.
b. Equality of the sexes was also established in all aspects of Jewish life, including equal educational opportunities.
9. The Reform Movement did cause dissension, but it spread rapidly particularly in Germany and the United States.
a. There are now Reform or Liberal communities in nearly all countries with Jewish populations except the Communist Bloc.
b. The strong Conservative Movement in the United States represents a more moderate reform of Orthodox Judaism than Reform, while the newer Reconstructionist movement, theologically radical, emphasizes the wider aspects of Jewish culture and civilization.
The New Anti-Semitism
1. The Reform Movement brought with it a hope of universal love and human brotherhood coupled with the fact that the Age of Enlightenment was seemingly establishing a new era of harmony between Jew and non-Jew.
a. The Haskalah (Enlightenment) Movement had affected many European Jews especially in Russia during the first half of the 19th Century.
b. It proposed cultural assimilation where individuals lived, and encouraged the writing (in Hebrew) of works in imitation of contemporary literature of other peoples -- it was a hope for a revival of Hebrew as a living language.
2. The hopes of reformers and maskilim (intellectuals or rationalists) were soon qualified by the resurgence of anti-Semitism especially in Germany, Russia, and France.
a. This new persecution was based on concepts of racial superiority (and inferiority), supported by political and economic propaganda than on religious ideas.
b. European Jewry had been subjected to physical humiliation, torture, and death many times in their history especially during the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition.
c. 19th Century Persecution: resulted in large scale immigration from Continental Europe to Britain and the United States.
3. This new rise of anti-Semitism culminated in the Nazi Philosophy of Aryan Superiority, and of the concept of the Final Solution.
a. Six million European Jews were exterminated, whole communities vanished, academic and religious institutions were destroyed.
b. It was the greatest tragedy that had ever happened to the Jewish People.
The Growth of Zionism
1. One of the ideas of traditional Judaism which had been discarded by early Reformers was that of the Return to Zion.
a. The idea of a return from Exile for the dispersed Jews was very deep-seated in the Jewish consciousness.
b. Promises made to the patriarchs during the Babylonian Captivity and renewed after the Roman destruction of the Temple had been reflected in Jewish literature and philosophy.
2. Renewal of persecution of European Jewry at the end of the 19th Century brought a different focus to the hope for an end to exile and return to Zion.
a. In previous centuries the desire had been linked with a religious orientation, expressed in the hope that God would redeem his people by bringing them back to the Holy Lands.
b. 19th Century: this movement underwent a much more nationalistic and political transformation.
3. The Zionist movement was born at the First Zionist Congress of 1897, with Theodor Herzl (1860-1904) as its main inspiration.
a. This movement culminated in the founding of the state of Israel in 1948 -- Yet, its fundamental nationalistic direction aroused opposition among those Jews who saw their distinctiveness primarily in religious terms.
b. In later years, though, there have been very few Jews who have not supported their brother Jews in Israel.
4. In religious terms it would appear that a constructive tension is establishing itself between the Judaism of the Diaspora, especially in the United States, and the spiritual consciousness of the Israelis.