Difference between revisions of "Judaism"

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'''Judaism''' was the first monotheistic religion, dating back to around 2000 BC. Like Christianity and Islam, Judaism is an Abrahamic faith, tracing its origins to [[Abraham]]. However, the core of the Judaism as it exists today took shape when [[Moses]] led the Hebrews from Egypt and climbed Sinai, bringing back the [[Ten Commandments]].  
 
'''Judaism''' was the first monotheistic religion, dating back to around 2000 BC. Like Christianity and Islam, Judaism is an Abrahamic faith, tracing its origins to [[Abraham]]. However, the core of the Judaism as it exists today took shape when [[Moses]] led the Hebrews from Egypt and climbed Sinai, bringing back the [[Ten Commandments]].  
  
The five books of Moses (the [[Torah]]) are generally considered to be the core of the Jewish Scripture, and are supplemented by the works of the prophets and other writings which Christians call the [[Old Testament]]. Some Jews also consider the [[Talmud]] to be the recorded will of God, though within the Talmud there is extensive disagreement and lively discussion.
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The five books of Moses (the [[Torah]]) are generally considered to be the core of the Jewish Scripture, and are supplemented by the works of the prophets and other writings which Christians call the [[Old Testament]]. The [[Talmud]] is considered of Jews to contain traditions dating back to Moses himself, yet the Talmud also contains discussion by rabbis involving extensive disagreement and lively discussion, over interpretation of these traditions.
  
 
[[Jesus]] was one of many Jewish teachers who disagreed with the mainstream of Jewish practice. He founded a new school of thought, which flourished even after his death and eventually became [[Christianity]]. Christians consider him to be the [[Messiah]] and even consider him to be the [[Son of God]].   
 
[[Jesus]] was one of many Jewish teachers who disagreed with the mainstream of Jewish practice. He founded a new school of thought, which flourished even after his death and eventually became [[Christianity]]. Christians consider him to be the [[Messiah]] and even consider him to be the [[Son of God]].   

Revision as of 12:45, 21 May 2008

The Star of David, a symbol of Judaism

Judaism was the first monotheistic religion, dating back to around 2000 BC. Like Christianity and Islam, Judaism is an Abrahamic faith, tracing its origins to Abraham. However, the core of the Judaism as it exists today took shape when Moses led the Hebrews from Egypt and climbed Sinai, bringing back the Ten Commandments.

The five books of Moses (the Torah) are generally considered to be the core of the Jewish Scripture, and are supplemented by the works of the prophets and other writings which Christians call the Old Testament. The Talmud is considered of Jews to contain traditions dating back to Moses himself, yet the Talmud also contains discussion by rabbis involving extensive disagreement and lively discussion, over interpretation of these traditions.

Jesus was one of many Jewish teachers who disagreed with the mainstream of Jewish practice. He founded a new school of thought, which flourished even after his death and eventually became Christianity. Christians consider him to be the Messiah and even consider him to be the Son of God.

Sabbath

Yarmulke and Menorah

Jews observe a weekly day of rest (the Sabbath) that begins shortly before sundown on Friday and ends after sunset on Saturday. During this time no work may be done.

Denominations

There are different branches of Judaism. From the most literal to the most interpretive in their practice:

  • Ultra-orthodox
  • Orthodox
  • Conservative
  • Reconstructionist
  • Reform

Ethnicities

The Diaspora

"Diaspora" (Greek meaning "seeded throughout") is the term used to refer to the various dispersions of the Jews throughout the world through the eras of history. Its Hebrew linguistic forerunner is "Galut" meaning the "uncovering", betraying the understanding that being exiled from the Land of Israel is an exposing of Israel to vulnerability and danger. Some commonly known "Galuyot" (plural for Galut) are:

  • the forced exile and assimilation among other peoples of the Northern Tribes of Israel by the Assyrians in 721, 722. Modern israel has recognized among the ingathering of this exile (Kibbuts Galuyot) the Bnei Menashe (Sons of Manessaeh) of northern India. These members of the "Lost Tribe" are now allowed to freely immigrate to Israel under the Law of Return. They appear almost identical to Philippinos.
  • the Falashas of Ethiopia, among whom, like the Bnei Menashe, Jewish practices such as circumcision at 8 days and the keeping of Passover are maintained by those eligible for citizenship under the Israeli Law of Return. The are racially native African in appearance. They believe themselves to have become Jewish from the days of Solomon and the Queen of Ethiopia. That was the basis for the Ethiopian emperor Haile Selase (Holy Trinity) taking the title "Lion of the Tribe of Judah"
  • The Galut of Babylon, the so called "Iraqis" exiled by the Babylonians at the time of their conquest of Judah and Jerusalem (c. 538 B.C.) This Galut developed a rival to Palestinian Jewry of the first centuries and provided the second corpus of religous literature to the developing Talmud. This was in the common language of Babyon at the time - Aramaic. This corpus came to be called the Gemara ("completion"). The Gemara dates from about 200 A.D.to 500 A.D. The Gemara and the earlier Palestinian Hebrew corpus, the Mishna, dating from 200 B.C. to 200 A.D. comprise the Talmud, which regulated most of Jewish internal life, until the western European "emancipation" and assimilation of the Jews - starting in the 18th and 19th centuries. The Talmud is still regulatory for Orthodox Jews.
  • The Galut of the Jews by the Roman Titus after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 A.D. They were triumphantly displayed in Rome and dispersed in the lands along the Rhine Valley known in the Hebrew tongue as Ashkenaz - which is known now as Germany. There they learned the language of the land which developed into Modern German. The Jews called their language, the early stage of German, Yiddish. From the Rhine, many of the "Ashkenazis" moved (were moved) to Eastern Europe, many fleeing from there, to America, to Israel, to Latin America, etc. learning new languages, but also speaking their old language, not Hebrew, but Yiddish. This, with the common religion, enabled the fostering of unity and brotherhood.
  • the 1492 A.D. exile from Spain, where the Jews had previously settled in the time of the Moors and some attaining to high positions and appointments as physicians, prime ministers, poets. This was the Golden Age of Jewry in Spain. At their expulsion ("gerush") from Spain they settled mainly around the Mediterraenian basin - North Africa, Greece, Turkey, and also many going to Holland and from there to the America Colonies. The first synagogue in America was of this dispersion. These Jews soon were speaking the language of the their host countries - Arabic, Turkish etc. but also speaking the language of Old Spain. "Spain" in Hebrew is Sefarad, so the language is Sephardic and the dispersion is of the Sephardim.
  • the Yemenites (Teimanim). Yemen means "right (direction)" in Semitic languages. When facing the temple from the east, the "right" points south. Therefore, "Teiman" also means "south". This dispersion is the southerly dispersion to what is now Yemen, gaining momentum during the Himyaritic Kindom in Yemen which had adopted Judaism. With the founding of the Modern State of Israel, most Yemenite Jews have immigrated to Israel and speak Arabic as well as Hebrew.

The term "Mizrachi" means "easterner" and it covers a number of eastern dispersions as opposed to the Ashkenazi who were westerners - from Europe. Coming into Israel during Ottomon Turk rule, many immigrating Jewish families who were not European were given the name Mizrahi by the Turkish immigration authorities as they were all "lumped together" as Easterners.

The Return of the Jews to Israel is seen as a fulfillment of the Scriptures and is called Kibbutz Galuyot, the ingathering of the Exiles. Here are some ot he scriptures that both tell about the ingathering of the exiles and which have provided a major influence for the some ot the dispersions to return to the Land of Israel:

" I will bring your offspring from the east, and gather you from the west, To the north I will say 'Give them up', and to the south, 'Do not hold them'. Bring back my sons from far away, my daughters from the end of the earth. Isaiah 43: 5,6

"Those whom Yahweh has redeemed return, they come to Zion shouting for joy. everlasting joy in their faces, joy and gladness go with them, sorrow and lament are ended." Isaiah 51:11

"He who has scattered Israel, gathers him, He guards them as a shepherd guards his flook...they shall come back from the enemy country, There is hope for your descendants" Jeremiah 31: 10,16

"The Lord Yahweh says, says this: 'I am going to take the sons of Israel from the nations, where they have gone. I shall gather them together from everywhere and bring them home to their own soil. I shall make them into one nation and into My own land and on the mountains of Israel.'" . Exekiel 37:21,22

Main Holidays

Main article: Jewish holidays
  • Pesach--celebrating the liberation from Egyptian slavery. Observant Jews hold a special festive meal, called a Seder, on the eve of Passover and do not eat leavened bread for the duration of the festival.
  • Shavout-- Pentecost or Feast of Weeks. Traditionally celebrates God's giving the Ten Commandments at Mt. Sinai.
  • Yom Kippur--the Day of Atonement. Observant Jews consume no food or drink for the entire day.
  • Sukkot --Tabernacles or Feast of Booths. Observant Jews eat and sleep in temporary shelters shaded by cut vegetation.
  • Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah--The day after Sukkot is a separate holiday, known as the "Eighth Day Feast." It also marks the completion of the cycle of reading the Torah in synagogues. The end of Deuteronomy is read, followed by the first chapter of Genesis.
  • Chanukah (there are several English spellings)--celebrates the re-dedication of the Temple after the revolt against the Greeks recorded in the Books of Macabees. Jews light candles each night for eight nights, adding one candle each night.
  • Purim--celebrates the thwarting of a plot to kill all Jews recorded in the Book of Esther, which is read aloud in its entirety in the synagogue.
  • Tisha B'Av--a fast day that mourns the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.

Calendar

The Jewish calendar combines lunar and solar features. During Temple times, months began when the new moon was sighted in Jerusalem. An extra month was added when needed to keep the Pesach festival in the spring. Today a complex algorithm, over a thousand years old, is used to determine when months begin. As a result, the dates of the Jewish holidays in the civil calendar vary from year to year.

Jewish Scripture

Jewish Scripture consists of 24 books, broken down into three sections:

  • Nevi'im --The Prophets: Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the 12 minor prophets
  • Ketuvim---The Writings: Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Chronicles.

The Torah is divided into portions that are read during synagogue services over the course of the liturgical year. Jews refer to all 24 sacred books as the Tanakh, an acronym of the three sections. The Old Testament is the Tanakh, except with some different naming and a different ordering than the Jewish version.

Post Biblical Jewish Development and Literature

Yet while the Jewish canon of Scripture was being developed (to finally be defined at the Jamnia (Yavneh) on the Mediterraenean coast of Israel at 90A.D.), the Jewish literature called now the Intertestamental or Apocryphal made its appearance. Jews now also lived in great numbers outside of the Land of Israel, particularly in Mesopotamia (the Land between the Rivers of the Euphrates and the Tigris), and in Alexandria, Egypt. Mesopotamian Jewry, with its large core from the exile to Babylon continually added to, was mainly Aramaic speaking while Egyptian Jewry was Greek speaking. Aramaic Jewry began the translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Aramaic, this came to be known as the Peshitta ("simple" or common). This development was accelerated particularly when the queen of Adiabene, Helena (Shlomzion HaMalka, converted with others to Judaism. The Old Testament Peshitta (there is also the New Testament Peshitta as believers in Jesus translated the Greek New Testament into Aramaic) contains influence from the Jewish literature known as the Targum. Queen Helena was buried in Jerusalem around 70 A.D. The Aexandrian Jews also translated, even earlier, the Hebrew Scriptures into their language, Greek. This is known as the Septuagint (translated by 70 or 72 Jewish scholars). The Septuaginta was widely used by Greek speaking Jews and was naturally turned to by the Greek speaking believers in Jesus. As these believers in Jesus turned to various passages in the Old Testament that pointed to Jesus as the Messiah of Israel, the Septuagint gradually dropped out of general Jewish usage, and instead three translations, came into use, translations which were considered more literal - those of Symmachus, Aquilas, and Theodotios, all converts to Judaism. Around the same time of this process, the Rabbinical School at Jamnia (Yavneh) under Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai, decided that what was canonical for Judaism was only those books which had already been accepted as Scripture and were found in the Hebrew language. This eliminated most of the Apocrypha (but the book of Ecclesiasticus - "Ben Sirach" - has now been found in Hebrew and considered canonical by the Dead Sea community of Jews) as well as elevating the Hebrew Scriptures over just the Scriptures of Israel no matter in which language. Not only did the Septuagint drop out of Jewish usage, but so did the other Greek translations.

"Jamnia" and Protestantism

Though the connection of Jamnia and Protestantism is little known, it is a real one and one that exerted much influence on the developing Protestant Church and its outlook. The Hebrew canon of Scripture with its emphasis on Hebrew language originals sactioned at Jamnia, which would exclude the Jewish but Greek language books, we now know as Intertestamental or Apocryphal, would be the basis of a continuing textual study and ammendation according to the passing on of readings and comments by succeeding Jewish authorities, scholars, and rabbis. This work would be carried on through the fifth century, the time of the Masoretes - the "tradition (of Scripture) bearers". The receiving and handing on of how Scripture texts were to be read and sung, and what they meant.

When the Renaissance took hold in Europe, great interest was shown in the rediscovering both of the Greek classics, entailing the renewed study of Greek for this purpose, and the study of Hebrew language. Here now was the possiblity for many scholars, and the emerging Protestant ones among them, to study the Hebrew Scriptures directly in the original language instead of the necessity of working through the Greek (Septuagint) and Latin (Vulgate) translations. But the Hebrew source resorted to by these scholars was the Masoretic text - following the School of Jamnia - without the Apocrypha. From then on, the heritage and perspective of the Protestant Reformation churches was that the Bible excluded the Apocrypha, though some of the churches would use the Apocrypha as "secondary" readings.


The Talmud

In Israel, there arose a literature, mainly in the common Hebrew of the day. It is known as the Mishna ("secondary"). This was primarily the recordings of discussions of Biblical laws with view to application to the present life and experience of Jews in Israel and in the diaspora. Changing conditions required more current applications. The Mishna developed over four centuries (200 B.C. to 200 A.D.) and is divided into 6 orders, numerous tractates, and smaller units (mishnayot). The non legal aspects of the Mishna - the anecdotes, stories, remembrances of the rabbinic lives, etc. are called Aggada ("the telling").

The Palestinian Hebrew Mishna, having spread to Mesopotamia, came to be regulatory to the Babylonian Jews, and, as the Mishna had become a "commentary" on the Hebrew Bible, so the Babylonian Jews developed a commentary on the Mishna itself. This was called the Gemara ("completion") and is in their own language, Aramaic.The formation of the Gemara took from 200 A.D. to 500 A.D. The whole Talmud then was a work of 700 years. The Mishna and the Gemara together is called the Talmud ("the Learning"). The Talmud then became regulatory until modern times for Jewish life elsewhere with but a few exceptions (Karaite Jews who do not hold to oral tradition).

The process of God sanctioned and ordained commentary (the Talmud) on the Scriptures is a legacy of the one movement that survived the first century Roman detruction of the temple and Jewish authority in Israel. The Saduccees disappeared as did the Essenes and the Herodians. But not so the Pharisees. The Pharisees believed that with the written Torah given to Moses on Sinai, there was also an Oral Torah given to him, by which the written was to be interpreted and applied. This Oral Torah was transmitted to others - Joshua, then the seventy, the prophets, and then to certain pairs (Zugot) finally finding its exression through the discussions and decisions embodied in the Talmudic literature. Having a "portable" law and, so to speak, a "constituion" in the Talmud, Jews then were able to survive as Jews when they no longer had a land to live in.

Dietary laws

Orthodox Jews follow a strict and complex set of rules governing what they may eat and drink. Permissible foods are called kosher. Per Biblical commandments, only animals that chew their cud and have cloven hooves may be eaten and they must be properly slaughtered. Fish must have fins and scales. Dairy products cannot be mixed with meat from animals or birds. Additional rules apply during Pesach.

Life cycle

Jewish boys are circumcised eight days after birth. They become adults for religious purposes when they turn 13, and event marked by a ceremony called a Bar Mitzvah. Similar ceremonies for girls, called Bat Mitzvah, were introduced in in the 20th century.

Jewish law only recognizes marriages between Jews. Divorce is permitted, but there are exacting rules that must be followed for the divorce to be valid, including the husband presenting a bill of divorce (Get) to his wife.

Jewish law requires bodies to be buried promptly, preferably no later than the day after death. Cremation is not permitted. There are prescribed stages of mourning for the first year after the death of a close relative (parent, sibling, spouse of child). The anniversary of such a death is observed with gifts to charity and the recitation of a prayer, Kaddish, praising God's name.

See also

External links