920 Franklin Road Roanoke, VA 24016 Phone: (540) 343-0289 | Fax: (540) 344-2846 (click here for contact form and map of directions)
Welcome to Beth Israel Synagogue, which serves approximately 160 families in Roanoke, VA. Beth Israel is dedicated to serving and nurturing the spiritual, educational, cultural and social needs of its members in an egalitarian environment framed by Conservative Judaism. Although we are committed to conserving and upholding Jewish traditions, we also believe in growth and change over the generations as tradition interacts with modern life. In this spirit, women have been full participants in our services for more than 25 years.
It is our goal to provide inspiring religious services in which every member may pray and transform their lives through spiritual growth, observance and mitzvoth. We are dedicated to supporting and fostering a community engaged in Jewish knowledge, learning and living. We celebrate life cycle events to create a warm, embracing and caring home for our extended congregational family, and perpetuate a positive Jewish identification for all our members.
We strive to extend the principle of tikun olam to the Roanoke community, Eretz Israel and the world at large.
We have a vibrant and active membership of all ages who find meaning and commitment to Conservative Judaism at Beth Israel Synagogue. Our doors and hearts are always open to our members and to visitors.
We believe that Beth Israel more than a Synagogue is a big and warm family.
We encourage those of you looking for a spiritual family to consider ours.
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Beth Israel Synagogue | A Conservative Jewish Congregation …
FRIDAY EVENING – Shabbat Services are at 5:30 PM from December through March; during the months of April, September, October and November, they are held at 6:30 PM. From May through August (Daylight Savings Time), services usually begin at 7:00 PM.
SATURDAY SERVICES – Services are held weekly at 9:30 AM.
WEEKDAY MINYANIM – Weekday Minyanim and breakfasts are held Mondays and Thursdays at 8:00 AM.
SUNDAY MORNING MINYAN AND BREAKFAST – Held at 8:30 AM. These services are geared for young adults and children; the congregation at large is welcomed as well. During this service, the rabbi will show you how to put on tefillin.
JUNIOR CONGREGATION SERVICES – Held once a month at 10:30 AM for children from third grade through Bar/Bat Mitzvah (September through May).
TOT SHABBAT SERVICES – Conducted once a month for the younger children.
Shabbat Times for Sep 11, 2015 Roanoke, VA US 27 Elul, 5775 Parshas Nitzavim / Candle Lighting Time: 7:14 PM Sunset Friday: 7:34 PM Sunrise: 6:58 AM Sunset Saturday: 7:34 PM Havdalah (72 min): 8:46 PM
Roanoke | Beth Israel Synagogue
Throughout the last several decades, the eyes of the world have frequently focused on the tiny nation of Israel. What is the significance of this nation and her religion?
The focus of this article is the religion of the Jews. When studying Judaism, however, we must understand that there is a distinction between the Jewish people and the religion of Judaism. Many Jews do not embrace Judaism, but consider themselves to be secular, atheistic, or agnostic.
The term Judaism is often used to identify the faith of modern Jews as well as Old Testament Jews. For our purposes, the term is used to refer to the religion of the rabbis established around 200 B.C. and crystallized in A.D. 70. At this time, developments in rabbinic Judaism took place that distinguished it from the Old Testament faith. New institutions arose such as the synagogue (the house of worship and study), the office of rabbi (a leader holding religious authority), and the yeshivot (religious academies for training rabbis). One of the greatest changes came with the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70. Sacrifices and the priesthood came to an end, and the rabbis became the authorities on spiritual and legal matters.
Since the eighteenth century, three main branches of Judaism developed: Orthodox, Reform, and Conservative. Orthodox Judaism upholds the divine inspiration of the Old Testamentgiving greater authority to the first five booksand recognizes the Talmud as authoritative for interpreting the Jewish law. This branch continues to observe the traditional Jewish laws as practiced for centuries. An ultra orthodox sect within this branch is the Hasidic movement. This sect adheres strictly to the Law of Moses, and is a separatist group.
Reform Judaism is the liberal wing. It was founded by Abraham Geiger in Germany in the eighteenth century (1810-1874). Geiger was influenced by the Enlightenment, and so viewed reason and science as authoritative. He rejected belief in revelation, messianic hope, and the promise of land. This branch seeks to modernize what are considered outmoded ways of thinking. The primary focus of Reform Judaism is the ethical teachings of the Jewish Law.
Conservative Judaism is considered the intermediate position between Orthodox and Reform. It was founded in the nineteenth century in Germany by Zacharias Frankel (1801-1875). Conservatives seek to practice the Law and the traditions, but cautiously reinterpret the Law and adapt their practices to contemporary culture.
The existence of these and numerous other sects means a wide variety of beliefs within Judaism. In addition, as a result of the Enlightenment and the Holocaust, secularization among the Jews is increasing rapidly. Because of the wide variety of beliefs within Judaism, it is difficult today to define what makes a person Jewish.
Nonetheless, according to the Old Testament, Jews are the descendants of Abraham. It is these people to whom God has made special promises and who will have a prominent role in redeeming the world.
Do Christians and followers of Judaism worship the same God? What is Judaisms understanding of Jesus? Lets take a look at some basic Jewish beliefs as compared with Christian ones.
Both religions believe in the Old Testament, the ethical teachings of the Law, and a hope in the coming of the Kingdom of God. However, they differ on some important fundamental doctrines.
Judaism rejects the Christian doctrine of the Trinity and teaches a unified monotheism based on Deuteronomy 6:4.
The main Scripture in Judaism is the Old Testament. Views of divine inspiration vary between the different branches. Orthodox and Conservative schools view the Pentateuch as the most inspired part, the Prophets and Writings less so. Another important book is the Talmud which includes the Mishnah and Gemara. The Mishnah consists of legal rulings, and was compiled around A.D. 200. The Gemara elaborates on the discussions of the Mishnah, and was compiled around A.D. 550. Most Jews, especially Orthodox Jews, consider the Talmud useful for giving instruction for life but not divinely inspired.
Judaism teaches that man is created in the image of God but without original sin. Study of the Torah can overcome our inclination to evil.
A proper relationship with God comes through repentance, prayer, and obedience to the Law. Jews do not feel they need salvation but assume a standing with God through their heritage. Conservative and Reform Jews view salvation as the betterment of self and society.
The Orthodox school holds to a bodily resurrection at death. The Conservative school teaches the immortality of the soul. The Reform school generally has no teaching regarding life after death.
Central to Jewish hope is the Messiah. Orthodox Jews anticipate a personal Messiah, while Reform and Conservative Jews view the messianic concept as the ideal of establishing justice by human effort. A key dividing point between Judaism and Christianity, of course, is their views of Jesus. Judaism recognizes Jesus as a moral teacher, but rejects His claims to deity as a creation of the early church. The New Testament teaches that without accepting Christ, even the sons and daughters of Abraham cannot inherit eternal life.
From our brief survey, then, it is clear that Judaism and Christianity differ significantly on major doctrines. The two do not worship the same God. They also differ in salvation theology. Judaism is works-oriented and rejects the atoning work of Christ and His divine nature. Christianity proclaims faith in the sacrificial work of Jesus on the cross. The New Testament teaches that without accepting Christ, even the sons and daughters of Abraham cannot inherit the hope of eternal life.
Jewish festivals and holidays are an integral part of Judaism. They memorialize key events in the history of the Jewish people and honor their unique heritage. Here are some important Jewish festivals.
The most significant is Passover, the first observance of which is recorded in Exodus 12. Jews continue to commemorate Gods deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt in the fourteenth century B.C. Passover is observed in March or April and lasts a week.
Seven weeks after Passover comes Pentecost, which observes the giving of the Law at Mt. Sinai.
The festival of Tabernacles occurs in the fall. This festival commemorates the forty years of wandering in the desert when the Israelites lived in tabernacles or booths. The ceremony includes prayer for rain and the reading of the Torah.
Rosh ha-Shanah is the celebration of the Jewish New Year. This joyful festival occurs in September or October and marks the beginning of a ten-day period known as the High Holy Days. Rosh ha-Shanah climaxes on the tenth day which is called Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. This is a solemn day when Jews fast, attend the synagogue, and recite prayers asking God for forgiveness of their sins.
Hannukah is celebrated in November or December and lasts eight days. It honors the victory of the Maccabees over the Syrian armies of Antiochus Epiphanes and the rededication of the second Jerusalem Temple in 165 B.C. The lighting of the eight-branched menorah is the main feature of this celebration. When Israel was reestablished as a nation in 1948, the menorah became a national symbol.
Purim is a minor holiday celebrated in February or March and commemorates the deliverance of the Jews by God told in the story of Esther.
Not only are the holidays important, but the celebration of events in the life cycle are as well. Circumcision on the eighth day for boys is one. Another is the Bar Mitzvah for boys and Bat Mitzvah for girls which celebrates the thirteenth birthday. Third is the Jewish wedding. Finally, there is the funeral service and mourning for seven days.
These Jewish practices, especially those surrounding the holidays, not only play a key role in the life of the Jewish people, but are significant to the church as well. Major events in the life of Christ and the church in Acts occurred on these days. Christ died on the Passover, and the Holy Spirit was given at Pentecost. Also, the symbolisms and rituals enacted at these festivals foreshadow what was fulfilled in the life of Jesus Christ.
How do we share Christ with our Jewish neighbors? Before preaching the gospel, it would be wise to first build friendships with Jews and learn from them. Second, we should understand the Jewish perception of Christians and Christianity. For a Jewish person there is often the misconception that to become a Christian means to reject his or her heritage and distinctiveness; in other words, many equate it to becoming a gentile. This is difficult, for many harbor resentment for mistreatment by Christians and gentile nations.
After building trust, encourage them to read their own Scriptures. Many grow up reciting passages of the Old Testament but not studying the Old Testament or the messianic prophecies.
There are many messianic passages to which one could refer. One frequently used passage is Isaiah 53 which describes the suffering servant who takes on the sins of the people. Most Jews have been taught that this is the nation of Israel. However, the context and content of the passage make it clear it is not. A careful study soon reveals that Jesus Christ fits the description of this servant.
Another passage is the prophecy of the seventy sevens in Daniel 9. When properly calculated, the prophecy predicts the Messiah to enter Jerusalem and be crucified in AD 33. Put this date together with Isaiah 53, and who else fits the description but Jesus? Here are two passages that can open the mind of a Jewish friend to begin investigating further the prophecies and the life of Jesus. As you continue to talk, encourage them to read the Gospel of Matthew which was written for the Jews.
There are also many images in the Old Testament and in Jewish festivals that point to Jesus Christ. The Passover lamb is a good example. The lamb was sacrificed and its blood was painted on the doorframe to identify and protect the Israelites from the Angel of Death. In Numbers 9, the Passover lamb was to be without blemish, and none of its bones were to be broken when sacrificed (Numbers 9:12). This is a foreshadowing of Christ, the unblemished Lamb of God who lived a sinless life. His blood was shed and covers the believer delivering us from sin and death. John 19:33 records that the Romans were about to break the legs of the criminals, but finding Christ already dead, they did not break his bones. In every way, Christ meets the requirements for the perfect sacrifice.
These passages and symbols reveal that Jesus is indeed the Messiah. Be sure to explain that not only must one acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah, but that one must put all ones faith in His atoning work of sacrifice to be brought into a right relationship with God.
Are the Jews Gods chosen people? What is their role in Gods plan for the world? To answer these questions, we must first look at the covenants God established with Israel which are the foundation of His redemption plan.
The first is the Abrahamic Covenant found in Genesis 12. This pledge includes the promises that Abraham will be a father of a great nation; that his descendents will own the land of Canaan forever; that those who bless Israel will be blessed, and whoever curses it will be cursed; and that the world would be blessed through Israel. Israel was to be a light to the world. Through their special relationship with God, and as they lived in obedience to His law, the nations would take notice of this people and come to learn about their God. However, Israel was not able to live in obedience to God and did not fulfill this call.
The second pledge is the Land Covenant in Deuteronomy 30. In this covenant, the promise of the land of Palestine is reaffirmed to Israel. Added to this is a warning that if the Israelites do not obey Gods law, they will be scattered from the land and regathered when they return to the Lord.
The third covenant is the Davidic Covenant in 2 Samuel 7:11. This promise states that a descendant of David would establish an eternal rule of peace and righteousness. This forms the basis of Israels hope in a future messiah who will deliver Israel from the rule of the gentiles and bring the Abrahamic Covenant to completion.
Finally, there is the New Covenant found in Jeremiah 31:31-34: The time is coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel . It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.
Israel was unable to obey Gods law because they depended on their strength to live the law. What was needed was a new heart and empowerment to live the law. This pledge provides this, and guarantees that there will be a time when Israel as a nation will turn to her Messiah.
Several aspects of these covenants have been fulfilled. Abrahams descendants have become a nation. Christ was a descendant of David and fulfilled the old law making it possible for all men to know God. However, other promises are yet to be fulfilled. Israel doesnt yet possess the promised land in peace, and a Davidic Kingdom hasnt been established in Jerusalem.
Despite Israels failure and rejection of their Messiah, however, God is faithful, and He will fulfill His promises at the appointed time.
Anderson, Norman. The Worlds Religions. Grand Rapids, MI.: Eerdmans Publishing, 1991.
Boa, Kenneth. Cults, World Religions, and the Occult. Wheaton, IL.: Victor Books, 1990.
Halverson, Richard. The Compact Guide to World Religions. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 1996.
Noss, John. Mans Religions. New York: Macmillan Company, 1968.
Parrinder, Geoffrey. World Religions. New York: Facts on File Publications, 1983
Pentecost, Dwight. Thy Kingdom Come. Wheaton, IL.: Victor Books, 1990.
Rosen, Ruth. Jesus for the Jews. San Francisco: Messianic Jewish Perspective, 1987.
Smith, Jonathan. The Harper Collins Dictionary of Religion. San Francisco: Harper and Collins, 1995.
Werblowsky, Zwi and Wigoder, Geoffrey. The Oxford Dictionary of the Jewish Religion. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.
2005 Probe Ministries
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Judaism | Bible.org
Judaism (jood-zm, -d-, -d-, joo-d-) n.
1. The monotheistic religion of the Jews, tracing its origins to Abraham and having its spiritual and ethical principles embodied chiefly in the Hebrew Scriptures and the Talmud.
2. Conformity to the traditional ceremonies and rites of the Jewish religion.
3. The cultural, religious, and social practices and beliefs of the Jews.
[Middle English Iudaisme, from Old French Judaisme, from Late Latin Idaismus, from Greek Ioudaismos, from Ioudaios, Jew; see Jew.]
Usage Note: The standard pronunciations for this word are (jood-zm) and (jood-zm). In our 2001 survey, the first was the preferred choice of 37 percent of the Usage Panel, and the second was favored by 40 percent. The less common variants (jood-zm) and (joo-dzm) were the choice of 19 percent and 7 percent of the Panel, respectively. Interestingly, each of these four variants was considered unacceptable by roughly one fifth of the Panelists.
1. (Judaism) the religion of the Jews, based on the Old Testament and the Talmud and having as its central point a belief in the one God as transcendent creator of all things and the source of all righteousness
2. (Judaism) the religious and cultural traditions, customs, attitudes, and way of life of the Jews
1. the monotheistic religion of the Jews, based on the precepts of the Old Testament and the teachings and commentaries of the rabbis as found chiefly in the Talmud.
2. belief in and conformity to this religion, its practices, and ceremonies.
3. this religion considered as forming the basis of the cultural and social identity of the Jews.
4. Jews collectively; Jewry.
an attitude or policy of hatred and hostility toward Jewish people. anti-Semite, n.
Hasidism, def. 2.
1. the principles or doctrines of the cabala, a system of theosophy, theurgy, and mystical Scriptural interpretive methods originated by rabbis about the 8th century and affecting later Christian thinkers. 2. an interpretation made according to these doctrines. 3. an extreme traditionalism in theological concepts or Biblical interpretation. 4. obscurantism, especially that resulting from the use of obscure vocabulary. cabalist, n. cabalistic, adj.
the scattering of the Jews after the period of Babylonian exile.
a student of or expert on the Gemara, or second book of the Talmud. Gemaric, adj.
the state or quality of being non-Jewish. gentile, n., adj.
1. the explanatory matter in rabbinic and Talmudic literature, interpreting or illustrating the Scriptures. 2. a book in which is printed the liturgy for the Seder service. haggadic, haggadical, adj.
1. a student of the Haggada. 2. a writer of the Haggada.
the entire body of Jewish law, comprising Biblical laws, oral laws transcribed in the Talmud, and subsequent codes altering traditional teachings. Halakist, Halachist, n. Halakic, adj.
1. the beliefs and practices of a mystical Jewish sect, founded in Poland about 1750, characterized by an emphasis on prayer, religious zeal, and joy. 2. the beliefs and practices of a pious sect founded in the 3rd century B.C. to resist Hellenizing tendencies and to promote strict observance of Jewish laws and rituals. Also Assideanism. Hasidic, adj. Hasidim, n. pi.
the thought, spirit, and practice characteristic of the Hebrews. Hebraist, n. Hebraistic, Hebraistical, adj.
1. the Jewish people collectively. 2. an area inhabited solely or mostly by Jews.
1. the Jewish religion, rites, customs, etc. 2. adherence to the Jewish religion, rites, etc. Judaist, n. Judaic, Judaistic, adj.
a hatred of Jews and of Jewish culture. Also called Judaeophobia.
a Jewish theology based on literal interpretation of the Old Testament and rejection of rabbinical commentary. Karaite, n.
the custom under the Mosaic code (Deut. xxv: 5-10) that required a widow to marry her dead husbands brother if she had no sons. levirate, leviratical, adj.
any of the Jewish scribes of the 10th century who compiled the Masora. Masoretic, Masoretical, adj.
1. a belief in a Messiah coming to deliver the Jews, restore Israel, and rule righteously, first mentioned by the Prophet Isaiah. 2. the Christian belief that Jesus Christ was the Messiah prophesied. 3. the vocation of a Messiah. Messianic, adj.
the condition of being rooted in Mosaic tradition.
1. the system of laws and rituals established by Moses. 2. devotion to the Mosaic laws. Mosaist, n. Mosaic, adj.
1. the beliefs and practices of an ancient Jewish sect, especially strictness of religious observance, close adherence to oral laws and traditions, and belief in an afterlife and a coming Messiah. Cf. Sadducecism. 2. (l.c.) the behavior of a sanctimonious and self-righteous person. Pharisee, pharisee n. Pharisaic, pharisaic, adj.
the philosophy of Philo Judaeus, lst-century B.C. Alexandrian, combining Judaism and Platonism and acting as a precursor of Neoplatonism. Philonian, adj. Philonic, adj.
the beliefs, practices, and precepts of the rabbis of the Talmudic period. rabbinic, rabbinical, adj.
the beliefs and principles underlying a strict observance of the Sabbath. Sabbatarian, n., adj.
the beliefs and practices of an ancient Jewish sect made up largely of the priestly aristocracy and opposing the Pharisees in both political and doctrinal matters, especially literal and less legalistic interpretation of the Jewish law, rejection of the rabbinical and prophetic traditions, and denying immortality, retribution in a future life, and the existence of angels. Cf. Phariseeism. Sadducee, n. Sadducean, adj.
the beliefs and actions of Jewish scribes during the life of Christ.
the study of Semitic languages and culture. Semitist, Semiticist, n.
1. the state or quality of being Jewish. 2. anything typical or characteristic of Judaism, as customs, beliefs, influence, etc.
Torah, def. 2.
1. the teachings of the collection of Jewish law and tradition called the Talmud. 2. the observance of and adherence to these teachings. Talmudist, n. Talmudic, adj.
1. the first flve books of the Old Testament; the Pentateuch. 2. a scroll of these scriptures in Hebrew used for liturgical purposes. Also called Sepher Torah. 3. the entire body of Jewish law and tradition as found in the Old Testament and the Talmud.
a writer of tosaphoth.
the explanatory and critical glosses made usually in the margins of Talmudic literature.
1. the worship of Yahweh (Jehovah). 2. the act or custom of naming Jehovah Yahweh.
the beliefs, activities, and spirit of an ancient radical group in Judea that advocated overthrowing Roman rule.
a worldwide Jewish movement for the establishment in Palestine of a national homeland for Jews. Zionist, Zionite, n. Zionist, Zionistic, adj.
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Judaism – definition of Judaism by The Free Dictionary
Judaism is the original and oldest monotheistic religion in the world – the foundation for all other religions that believe in one God. In practice, Judaism includes many texts and observances which are all are based upon the Torah in both it’s Written and Oral forms – all revealed through Moses, and given to the Jewish People on Mt. Sinai.
In order to speak about Judaism, we must speak about man and about life in general. Judaism is, first of all, a way of life, and its depth touches upon the very foundations of human existence. If you truly understand Judaism, you know the ultimate secret of life’s purpose.
One of the most important elements of life is purpose. There is an old song that asks, “Why was I born, why am I living? What do I get, what am I giving?” These [and other like-minded] questions has man been asking himself ever since [men and women] first began using their mind.
The most fundamental principle of Judaism is the realization that the universe is purposeful, and that man has a purpose in life. Our sages thus teach us, “A person must have the wisdom… to know why he is and why he exists. He must look back at his life, and realize where he is going.” Both man and nature have a purpose because they were created by a purposeful Being. We call this Being God View Book
Judaism.com – Jewish Books, Judaica, Jewish Gifts
Judaism (joo`dz’m, joo`d), the religious beliefs and practices and the way of life of the JewsJews [from Judah], traditionally, descendants of Judah, the fourth son of Jacob, whose tribe, with that of his half-brother Benjamin, made up the kingdom of Judah; historically, members of the worldwide community of adherents to Judaism. ….. Click the link for more information. . The term itself was first used by Hellenized Jews to describe their religious practice, but it is of predominantly modern usage; it is not used in the Bible or in Rabbinic literature and only rarely in the literature of the medieval period. The word TorahTorah [Heb.,=teachings or learning], Hebrew name for the five books of Mosesthe Law of Moses or the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. The Torah is believed by Orthodox Jews to have been handed down to Moses on Mt. Sinai and transmitted by him to the Jews. ….. Click the link for more information. is employed when referring to the divinely revealed teachings of Jewish law and belief. Judaism is used more broadly, including also the totality of human interpretation and practice. Thus, one may speak of “secular Judaism,” referring to an adherence to values expressed by Judaism but removed from any religious context. The most important holy days in Judaism are the weekly SabbathSabbath [Heb.,=repose], in Judaism, last day of the week (Saturday), observed as a rest day for the twenty-five hours commencing with sundown on Friday. In the biblical account of creation (Gen. 1) the seventh day is set as a Sabbath to mark God’s rest after his work. ….. Click the link for more information. , the major holidays of Rosh ha-ShanahRosh ha-Shanah [Heb.,=head of the year], the Jewish New Year, also known as the Feast of the Trumpets. It is observed on the first day of the seventh month, Tishri, occurring usually in September. ….. Click the link for more information. , Yom KippurYom Kippur [Heb.,=day of atonement], in Judaism, the most sacred holy day, falling on the 10th day of the Jewish month of Tishri (usually late September or early October). It is a day of fasting and prayer for forgiveness for sins committed during the year. ….. Click the link for more information. , Sukkoth (see Tabernacles, Feast ofTabernacles, Feast of, one of the oldest and most joyous of Jewish holidays, called in the Bible the Feast of Ingathering and today often called by its Hebrew name, Sukkoth [Heb.,=booth]. ….. Click the link for more information. ), Simhat Torah, PassoverPassover, in Judaism, one of the most important and elaborate of religious festivals. Its celebration begins on the evening of the 14th of Nisan (first month of the religious calendar, corresponding to MarchApril) and lasts seven days in Israel, eight days in the Diaspora ….. Click the link for more information. , and ShavuotShavuot [Heb.,=weeks], Jewish feast celebrated on the 6th of the month of Sivan (usually some time in May) in Israel and on the sixth and seventh days in the Diaspora. Originally an agricultural festival celebrating the end of the winter grain harvest (which began at Passover), ….. Click the link for more information. , and the minor holidays of HanukkahHanukkah , in Judaism, the Festival of Lights, the Feast of Consecration, or the Feast of the Maccabees; also transliterated Chanukah. According to tradition, it was instituted by Judas Maccabeus and his brothers in 165 B.C. ….. Click the link for more information. , PurimPurim [Heb.,=lots], Jewish festival celebrated on the 14th of Adar, the twelfth month in the Jewish calendar (Feb.March). During leap years it is celebrated in Adar II. According to the book of Esther (Esther 3.7; 9. ….. Click the link for more information. , and Tisha B’Av. The Early Period
The history of Judaism predates the period to which the term itself actually refers, in that Judaism formally applies to the post-Second Temple period, while its antecedents are to be found in the biblical “religion of Israel.” The Bible is no longer considered a homogeneous work; the many traditions represented in it demonstrate variance and growth. While the historicity of the patriarchs’ existence and of MosesMoses , Hebrew lawgiver, probably b. Egypt. The prototype of the prophets, he led his people in the 13th cent. B.C. out of bondage in Egypt to the edge of Canaan. The narrative in the Bible is the chief source of information on his life. ….. Click the link for more information. as the giver of all laws is under question, certain dominant themes can be seen developing in this early period that have importance for later Judaism.
Central to these themes is the notion of monotheism, which most scholars believe to have been the outgrowth of a process that began with polytheism, progressed to henotheism (the worship of one god without denying the existence of others), and ended in the belief in a single Lord of the universe, uniquely different from all His creatures. He is compassionate toward His creation, and in turn humans are to love and fear (i.e., stand in awe of) Him. Because God is holy, He demands that His people be holy, righteous, and just, a kingdom of priests to assist in the fulfillment of His designs for humankind and the world.
Israel’s chosenness consists of this special designation and the task that accompanies it. God promises the land of Canaan to Israel as their homeland, the place in which the Temple will be built and sacrificial worship of God carried out. The holy days were the Sabbath, Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkoth; and circumcision, dietary laws, and laws pertaining to dress, agriculture, and social justice characterized the structure of the biblical religion. Three types of leaders existed during this period: the priest (kohen), who officiated in the Temple and executed the laws; the prophet (navi), to whom was revealed God’s messages to His people; and the sage (hacham), who taught practical wisdom and proper behavior. There was developing already in this early period a belief in the ultimate coming of God’s kingdom on earth, a time of peace and justice. To this was added, after the destruction (586 B.C.) of the First Temple and the Babylonian captivity (which many saw as the consequence of idolatry and which may have been responsible for the final stage of the development from polytheism to monotheism), the expectation of national restoration under the leadership of a descendant of the Davidic house, the MessiahMessiah or Messias [Heb.,=anointed], in Judaism, a man who would be sent by God to restore Israel and reign righteously for all humanity. The idea developed among the Jews especially in their adversity, and such a conception is clearly indicated in Isaiah 9. ….. Click the link for more information. .
It was after the Babylonian captivity (not later than the 5th cent. B.C.) that a compilation of earlier texts and oral traditions was made, forming the canon of the Torah, the Five Books of Moses. Subsequently 34 other books were added to form the Hebrew Bible or Old TestamentOld Testament, Christian name for the Hebrew Bible, which serves as the first division of the Christian Bible (see New Testament). The designations “Old” and “New” seem to have been adopted after c.A.D. ….. Click the link for more information. , though the canon was not finalized until perhaps as late as the 2d cent. A.D. The Torah was traditionally attributed to Moses, and study of the Torah was accompanied by expositions and explanations in which the Oral Law, as distinct from the Written Law (the Torah text), is rooted. While it is widely held that the PhariseesPharisees , one of the two great Jewish religious and political parties of the second commonwealth. Their opponents were the Sadducees, and it appears that the Sadducees gave them their name, perushim, Hebrew for “separatists” or “deviants. ….. Click the link for more information. further developed the Oral Law, in opposition to the literalness of the SadduceesSadducees , sect of Jews formed around the time of the Hasmonean revolt (c.200 B.C.). Little is known concerning their beliefs, but according to Josephus Flavius, they upheld only the authority of the written law, and not the oral tradition held by the Pharisees. ….. Click the link for more information. , it is inconceivable that the latter group could have administered the biblical laws without reinterpreting them in accordance with a changing world, or in the face of a lack of specificity in the text.
The Babylonian exile had exposed the Israelites to new ideas, and it is to that period that the notions of identifiable angels (such as Michael and Raphael), of the personification of evil (Satan), and of the resurrection of the dead can probably be traced. The conquests of Alexander the Great once again brought the Jews into contact with new ideas, most significantly that of the immortality of the soul. Conflict arose within the community of Israel concerning the level of Hellenization acceptable, out of which came the revolt of the MaccabeesMaccabees or Machabees , Jewish family of the 2d and 1st cent. B.C. that brought about a restoration of Jewish political and religious life. They are also called Hasmoneans or Asmoneans after their ancestor, Hashmon. ….. Click the link for more information. against the Seleucid rulers of Syria and their Judean sympathizers. The resulting martyrdom of many gave added impetus to the belief in collective resurrection of the dead and the immortality of the soul after the body’s death. These concepts were wed in such a way that while the body awaited its resurrection, the soul was seen as living on in another realm. This new development in no way supplanted the earlier notion of earthly reward; life on earth, however, was viewed by many as preparatory for the next.
As the conditions of life deteriorated, apocalyptic beliefs grewnational catastrophe and the messianic kingdom were seen as imminent events. Some groups (see EssenesEssenes , members of a small Jewish religious order, originating in the 2d cent. B.C. The chief sources of information about the Essenes are Pliny the Elder, Philo’s Quod omnius probus liber, Josephus’ Jewish War and Antiquities of the Jews, ….. Click the link for more information. ; QumranQumran , ancient village on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea, in what is now the Israeli-occupied West Bank. It is famous for its caves, in some of which the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. Archaeological work at Qumran has yielded a profile of its history. ….. Click the link for more information. ) fled into the desert to lead righteous lives in anticipation, while others followed claimants to the mantle of Messiah (most notably Jesus). Out of these numerous ingredients came both Christianity and classical, or rabbinic, Judaism.
Developing over a period of five centuries (until c.A.D. 500), rabbinic Judaism completed the process already underway, which saw the replacement of the Temple by the synagoguesynagogue [Gr.,=assembly], in Judaism, a place of assembly for worship, education, and communal affairs. The origins of the institution are unclear. One tradition dates it to the Babylonian exile of the 6th cent. B.C. ….. Click the link for more information. (the Second Temple was destroyed in A.D. 70), of the priest by the rabbirabbi [Heb.,=my master; my teacher], the title of a Jewish spiritual leader. The role of the rabbi has undergone a number of transformations. In the Talmudic period, rabbis were primarily teachers and interpreters of the Torah. ….. Click the link for more information. , and of the sacrificial ceremony by the prayer service and study. Basic to these changes was the redaction and codification of the Oral Law (see MishnaMishna , in Judaism, codified collection of Oral Lawlegal interpretations of portions of the biblical books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy and other legal material. Together with the Gemara, or Amoraic commentary on the Mishna, it comprises the Talmud. ….. Click the link for more information. ; TalmudTalmud [Aramaic from Heb.,=learning], in Judaism, vast compilation of the Oral Law with rabbinical elucidations, elaborations, and commentaries, in contradistinction to the Scriptures or Written Laws. The Talmud is the accepted authority for Orthodox Jews everywhere. ….. Click the link for more information. ) and the MidrashMidrash [Heb.,=to examine, to investigate], verse by verse interpretation of Hebrew Scriptures, consisting of homily and exegesis, by Jewish teachers since about 400 B.C. ….. Click the link for more information. , which, as outgrowths of the biblical religion, centered on the relationships between God, His Torah, and His people, Israel. Emphasis was placed upon study of the Torah (in its broadest sense) as the most important religious act, leading to an understanding of the proper way of life; upon the growing need for national restoration in the face of continued Exile from the Promised Land; and upon the function of this world as preparatory for the World to Come (Olam ha-Bah), while not devaluing the importance of life in this world.
Daily life was sanctified by the emphasis in Jewish law (halakahhalakah or halacha [Heb.,=law], in Judaism, the body of law regulating all aspects of life, including religious ritual, familial and personal status, civil relations, criminal law, and relations with non-Jews. ….. Click the link for more information. ) on the ritual fitness of foods (kashrut), the recitation of blessings for a variety of mundane acts, and the daily, weekly, monthly and annual cycles of prayer. Rites for the personal life cycle came to include circumcision of male infants at the age of eight days, signifying their induction into the covenant between God and Israel; the recognition of thirteen years as the age of majority for religious responsibilities (see Bar MitzvahBar Mitzvah [Aramaic,=son of the Commandment], Jewish ceremony in which the young male is initiated into the religious community, according to tradition at the age of 13 years and a day. ….. Click the link for more information. ); marriage; and funeral rites. During the medieval period, these trends continued and were basic to the several important codifications of the legal material and to the many biblical and Talmudic commentaries that were composed at this time (most notably by RashiRashi , 10401105, Jewish exegete, grammarian, and legal authority, b. Troyes, France. The name he is known by is an acronym of Rabbi Solomon bar Isaac. He studied in Worms and Mainz, returning to Troyes c.1065. ….. Click the link for more information. and MaimonidesMaimonides or Moses ben Maimon , 11351204, Jewish scholar, physician, and philosopher, the most influential Jewish thinker of the Middle Ages, b. Crdoba, Spain, d. Cairo. ….. Click the link for more information. ).
The kabbalahkabbalah or cabala [Heb.,=reception], esoteric system of interpretation of the Scriptures based upon a tradition claimed to have been handed down orally from Abraham. ….. Click the link for more information. flowered during the Middle Ages, combining older trends in Jewish mysticism with Neoplatonism and other ideas. The kabbalists retained the idea that the totality of God’s nature is ultimately beyond human grasp (“Ein Sof” [Heb., literally,=without end] as the “Nothing”), yet, in keeping with tradition, held to a vision of a personal God who exists as the active, creative, and sustaining force within the cosmos (“Ein Sof” as the “Everything”). Spain was a major center of kabbalistic thought, which after the expulsions and forced conversion in 1492, spread and became more central to Jewish life in the Mediterranean world. Palestine then became the center of kabbalism, especially as it was developed by Isaac LuriaLuria or Loria, Isaac ben Solomon , 153472, Jewish kabbalist, surnamed Ashkenazi, called Ari [lion] by his followers, b. Jerusalem. In his 20s he spent seven years in seclusion, intensely studying the kabbalah. ….. Click the link for more information. and others.
A Jewish philosophy developed in answer to the questions raised by the exposure to Greek thought as distilled through the Islamic natural philosophy and metaphysics. Central to these issues was the conflict between reason and revelation: whether revelation was necessary if all could be ascertained through reason, or whether reason was imperfect and revelation was God’s assisting humans to know the truth. Maimonides argued that one can say nothing positive about the personal nature of God, which is beyond human comprehension; one can only indicate what He is not (thus, the statement that God is wise says only that God is not ignorant, not how wise He actually is).
While the Jewish Middle Ages is usually defined by scholars as extending at least into the 18th cent., there was a Jewish counterpart to the general European Renaissance of the 15th and 16th cent., and figures such as Judah AbravanelAbravanel or Abarbanel, Judah, c.1460c.1523, Jewish philosopher, physician, and poet, son of Isaac Abravanel, b. Lisbon; he is also known as Leone Ebreo. ….. Click the link for more information. were influenced by contemporary European philosophic currents. The expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492 led to the Jews of N Italy, S France, and the Levant coming under Sephardic influence (see SephardimSephardim , one of the two major geographic divisions of the Jewish people, consisting of those Jews whose forebears in the Middle Ages resided in the Iberian Peninsula, as distinguished from those who lived in Germanic lands, who came to be known as the Ashkenazim (see ….. Click the link for more information. ), and these events provoked much messianic and kabbalist speculation, culminating in the spectacular career of the self-proclaimed Messiah, Sabbatai ZeviSabbatai Zevi , 162676, Jewish mystic and pseudo-Messiah, founder of the Sabbatean sect, b. Smyrna. After a period of study of Lurianic kabbalah (see Luria, Isaac ben Solomon), he became deeply influenced by its ideas of imminent national redemption. ….. Click the link for more information. .
The Amsterdam community of Marranos (those Jews forced by the Inquisition to adopt Christianity, but who continued to practice Judaism in secret, and many of whom later emigrated and returned to the Jewish fold) often provided a liberalizing influence on Orthodox Judaism, most significantly in the person of Baruch SpinozaSpinoza, Baruch or Benedict , 163277, Dutch philosopher, b. Amsterdam. Spinoza’s Life
He belonged to the community of Jews from Spain and Portugal who had fled the Inquisition. ….. Click the link for more information. , a Jew excommunicated for his unsparing critique of Rabbinic Judaism. The reaction to Sabbatianism and philosophical liberalism caused a hardening of rabbinic orthodoxy, but the Jewish world of the 18th cent. remained turbulent. It produced both the great traditionalist rabbinic figure Elijah ben SolomonElijah ben Solomon, 172097, Jewish scholar, called the Gaon of Vilna, b. Lithuania. A leading Jewish scholar of his time, he opposed the spread of Hasidism in Lithuania and Poland because he feared that the creation of these new groups would weaken the Jewish community. ….. Click the link for more information. and the untraditional figures of Baal-Shem-TovBaal-Shem-Tov , c.16981760, Jewish founder of modern Hasidism, b. Ukraine. His life is the subject of many tales that circulated even before his death. Originally named Israel ben Eliezer, he is said to have been born of elderly, poor parents and to have been orphaned at ….. Click the link for more information. , the founder of HasidismHasidism or Chassidism [Heb.,=the pious], Jewish religious movement founded in Poland in the 18th cent. by Baal-Shem-Tov. Its name derives from Hasidim. Hasidism, which stressed the mercy of God and encouraged joyous religious expression through music and dance, spread ….. Click the link for more information. (which Elijah himself fought against), and Moses MendelssohnMendelssohn, Moses , 172986, German-Jewish philosopher; grandfather of Felix Mendelssohn. He was a leader in the movement for cultural assimilation. In 1743 he went to Berlin, where he studied and worked, becoming (1750) a partner in a silk merchant’s firm. ….. Click the link for more information. , the spiritual progenitor of later reformers whom Elijah’s spiritual descendants repeatedly condemned.
The emancipation of European Jews in the early decades of the 19th cent. brought with it the problem of maintaining claims of distinctiveness, of being “chosen,” and at the same time wishing to participate in the general society. First dealt with by the Reform leaders of Germany (most notably Abraham GeigerGeiger, Abraham , 181074, German rabbi, Semitic scholar and Orientalist, theologian, and foremost exponent of the Reform movement in Judaism. When he received his doctorate (1833) from the Univ. of Bonn, he was already a rabbi in Wiesbaden. ….. Click the link for more information. ), this problem was met directly in Eastern Europe, giving rise to the HaskalahHaskalah , [Heb.,=enlightenment] Jewish movement in Europe active from the 1770s to the 1880s. Beginning in Germany in the circle of the German Jewish philosopher Moses Mendelssohn and spreading to Galicia and Russia, the Haskalah called for increased secularization of Jewish ….. Click the link for more information. movement, whose members (e.g., Nachman KrochmalKrochmal, Nachman , 17851840, Jewish secular historian and writer, b. Galicia. He was a leader in the movement of the Jewish enlightenment and a pioneer of modern Jewish scholarship. ….. Click the link for more information. ) sought to revitalize Jewish life by recreating it along the lines of the best in European culture.
In the late 19th cent., ZionismZionism, modern political movement for reconstituting a Jewish national state in Palestine. Early Years
The rise of the Zionist movement in the late 19th cent. ….. Click the link for more information. promised a return to the Holy Land. This again created problems for the traditionalists whose religious ideas were rooted in the Diaspora, and many of whom opposed any movement to build a secular Jewish state in the Holy Land. Eventually, an Orthodox wing of Zionism did emerge. For many Jews still unanswered is the question of whether a full Jewish life is possible in exile, or whether residing in Zion is essential. Theologically, Zionism posed the problem of whether Jews can work for the messianic return or whether this would be counter to another traditional belief that saw humanity awaiting the divine intervention.
Ultimately, it was the halakah (the law) that divided Judaism in the 19th cent. The Orthodox hold both the written law (Scriptures) and the oral laws (commentaries on the legal portions of the Scriptures) as authoritative, derived from God, while the Reform do not see them as authoritative in any absolute sense, but binding only in their ethical content. While Orthodox Jews maintain the traditional practices, Reform Jews perform only those rituals that they believe can promote and enhance a Jewish, God-oriented life. In 1999, however, leaders of American Reform Judaism reversed century-old teachings by encouraging but not enforcing the observance of many traditional rituals. The “historical school,” or Conservative movement, attempts to formulate a middle position between Orthodox and Reform, maintaining most of the traditional rituals but recognizing the need to make changes in accordance with overriding contemporary considerations. Conservative Jews believe that the history of Judaism proves their basic assumptions: that tradition and change have always gone hand in hand and that what is central to Judaism and has remained constant throughout the centuries is the people of Israel (and their needs), not the fundamentalism of Orthodoxy nor what they consider the abandonment of traditions by Reform. The related Reconstructionist movement of Mordechai M. KaplanKaplan, Mordecai Menahem , 18811983, American rabbi, educator, and philosopher, b. Lithuania, grad. College of the City of New York, 1900, M.A. Columbia Univ., 1902. He came to the United States when he was eight years old. ….. Click the link for more information. holds Judaism to be a human-centered rather than a God-centered religious civilization.
Also part of contemporary Judaism are the several Sephardic traditions maintained in Israel, France, Canada, and the United States by immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa and by European Sephardim in Europe and the Americas; the several Hasidic groups in Israel and the United States; the religious and secular Zionists in Israel and the Diaspora; the unorganized secular Jews, who maintain an atheist’s or agnostic’s adherence to Jewish values and culture; and those unorganized Jews who seek a religious life outside the synagogue. These many positions represent the most recent attempts at defining the “essence of Judaism,” a process that has been continuous throughout the ages, variously emphasizing one of the three major components of Judaism (God, Torah, Israel) over the remaining two.
See J. L. Blau, Modern Varieties of Judaism (1966); M. M. Kaplan, Judaism as a Civilization (2d ed. 1957, repr. 1967); J. Neusner, There We Sat Down (1972); R. Seltzer, Jewish People, Jewish Thought (1980); A. Eisen, The Chosen People in America (1983); M. A. Meyer, Response to Modernity: A History of the Reform Movement (1988); G. Robinson, Essential Judaism (2000); J. R. Baskin and K. Seeskin, ed., The Cambridge Guide to Jewish History, Religion, and Culture (2010); M. Brenner, A Short History of the Jews (tr. 2010).
1.the religion of the Jews, based on the Old Testament and the Talmud and having as its central point a belief in the one God as transcendent creator of all things and the source of all righteousness
2.the religious and cultural traditions, customs, attitudes, and way of life of the Jews http://jewfaq.org/ http://judaism.about.com/
Theodore Herzls imaginative description of the future Zionist settlement in Palestine. [Jewish Hist.: Colliers, XIX, 79]
chooses Judaism even when renunciation would save him from execution. [Ger. Lit.: Feuchtwanger Power; Magill I, 773]
a religion that arose in Palestine during the first millennium B.C.; it is practiced among Jews. (There are no reliable statistical data on the number of practicing Jews; the majority live in Israel and the USA.)
According to biblical legend, certain Western Semitic (Hebrew) nomadic tribes fled from the Egyptian pharaoh into the desert in the 13th century B.C. At the time of their invasion of Palestine they were united by the common worship of Yahweh, a god of the tribal federation. The tribal federation, which took the name of Israel (god strives), took final shape by the 11th century B.C. The worship of Yahweh (the pronunciation of his name later became taboo and was replaced by the word Lord) did not exclude the worship of other deities, both of the Hebrews own tribes and of the local Canaanites. There were no images made of Yahweh and no temples built to him; a tabernacle, or tent, with a coffer, or ark, inside, devoted to Yahweh, was considered the earthly dwelling-place of the god, who was invisibly present throughout the world. The official rites were performed by a special tribal group, or caste, called Levites. After the establishment of the Kingdom of Israel and Judah in the late 11th century B.C., King Solomon (King Davids son) built a temple to Yahweh in Jerusalem. The worship of Yahweh thus became the basis of the official ideology of the state, which defended the interests of the slaveholders. When the kingdom was divided in the tenth century B.C. into the northern Kingdom of Israel proper and the southern Kingdom of Judah, centered on Jerusalem, the Temple retained its importance primarily for the southern kingdom; the northern kingdom had temples of its own. But even the southern kingdom officially retained other places of worship, both of Yahweh and of other gods.
The prophetic movement, which arose in the ninth and eighth centuries B.C., played the most important role in the gradual development of Judaism into a dogmatic religion. Sermons of the prophets were recorded beginning in the eighth century B.C. In the beginning the prophets did not insist on the universality of Yahweh but declared him a jealous god who did not permit his chosen people to worship other gods. There arose the concept of the covenant, or testament, between the tribes of Israel and Yahweh, according to which the former allegedly pledged not to worship other gods and to carry out Yahwehs wishes while Yahweh promised to give them authority over Palestine. Circumcision was declared the external sign of the covenant; actually circumcision was a rite practiced by many other peoples of the ancient East and a survival of the initiation rite that accepted a boy into the community of warriors. Some prophets protested against various manifestations of social injustice while continuing to defend the slaveholder ideology, which was universal at the time.
The destruction of the northern Kingdom of Israel in 722 B.C. and the deliverance of Jerusalem from the Assyrian siege in 700 B.C. were used by the prophets to spread their ideas among the inhabitants of the Kingdom of Judah.
The books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, which were ascribed to Moses, who, according to legend, led the Israelites during their nomadic period, were essentially composed in the ninth, eighth, and seventh centuries B.C. These books expounded the mythical past of the Israelites, in addition to their legal and ethical norms, in the spirit of the concepts of the covenant and the jealous god; the rituals and many elements of the mythological world view were taken from earlier religious traditions. The books interpreting the history of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah from the point of view of the fulfillment or nonfulfillment of Yahwehs conditions by the kings and the population also date from the eigthth, seventh, and sixth centuries B.C. By the eighth and seventh centuries B.C. the prophets already began to deny the existence of other gods except Yahweh, but there is evidence that the population continued to worship other gods as late as the fifth century B.C. A manuscript of Deuteronomy, which sums up the teachings of the prophets, was discovered when King Josiah rebuilt the Temple in Jerusalem in 622 B.C. In the early fourth century B.C., Deuteronomy, together with the other four books of Moses, became known as the Pentateuch, or Torah (Law), the part of the Holy Scripture, or Bible, most revered in Judaism. Subsequently all social ills that befell the ethnic groups practicing the Judaic religion were explained by deviations from the letter of the Torah. This made for the dogmatic character of Judaism and the great importance attached to the literally exact fulfillment of the rituals prescribed by the Torah.
In 587 B.C. the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II resettled a large part of the Judahites in Babylonia and the Temple of Jerusalem was destroyed. Among the resettled Judahites the prophet Ezekiel preached the restoration of Israel, but this time as a theocratic state with a new Temple in Jerusalem as its center. The state was to be founded by a descendant of King David, or the Messiah. The Iranian religion influenced the development of Judaism during the period of Babylonian captivity.
Under the Persian dynasty of the Achaemenids the Judahites were returned to Jerusalem, which had become a self-governing Temple city (sixth and fifth centuries B.C.), and a new Second Temple of Yahweh was built. But the leaders of the new religious community, Ezra and Nehemiah, did not accept into this community the Judahites who had not gone into captivity and the Israelites who had remained in Palestine, under the pretext that they had mixed with people who worshipped other gods. The rejected groups created a separate community, the Samaritans, who live in Palestine to this day. After Ezra, the isolation of the practicing Jewsunder the pretext that they are the chosen peoplebecame one of the most important dogmas of Judaism; later, however, circumcision and the fulfillment of the demands of the Torah were recognized as sufficient conditions for entering into the covenant with god, regardless of the converts origin.
In the third and second centuries B.C., a large number of Judahites were resettled by their Hellenic conquerors in Egypt, Syria, and Armenia. Judah itself, the site of a bitter class struggle, saw the rise of various currents within Judaismfor example, the Essenes, who condemned the official orientation of Judaism (the Pharisees) and preached asceticism and primitive social equality. Christianity too was originally a Judaic sect and only later became a separate religion, distinct from Judaism. However, the Christian Bible incorporated the Judaic holy books in their entirety (the Old Testament, or the ancient covenant, as distinct from the New Testament, or the Gospel).
The canon of the Holy Scriptures of Judaism was definitively established in about 100 B.C. The canon included the Torah, the Prophets (written records of religious and political speeches and historical books of a prophetic nature), and the Writings (books of a different nature recognized as conforming to the dogmas of Judaism, including the books of Ruth, Esther, and Job, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs). When the written canon was introduced, literacy became mandatory for all males of the Judaic religious community; this rule was retained throughout the Middle Ages.
After two uprisings against Roman rule (the Jewish War of A.D. 6673 and the Bar Kochba uprising of A.D. 132135), the Jews were banished from Jerusalem.
The most important ritual innovation of the Diaspora was the replacement of worship in the Temple, which, according to dogma, could be done only in Jerusalem, by prayer assemblies in synagogues under the leadership of rabbis, or teachers of the religious law, instead of priests; the rabbis also usually governed the civil and legal life of the members of the religious community. The religious teachings of Judaism were further elaborated by commentaries on the Bible (the Mishnah; completed by the third century A.D.) and the Gemara, a collection of legal (halakah) and folkloric (agadah) interpretations of biblical texts, often incredibly lapidary, nebulous in form, subjective, and contradictory; the Gemara and the Mishnah together form the Talmud (completed by the fifth century A.D.). The development of the religious and philosophical foundation of Judaism (especially monotheism) was influenced by Hellenistic idealist philosophy and early medieval (including Arabic) Neoplatonism and Aris-totelianism. In the 12th century Maimonides generalized the teachings of early medieval Judaism: the unity of an incorporeal and eternal god who is the creator of all things and who has revealed to man through Moses and the prophets the eternity of the Torah, the expectation of the Messiah, retribution after death for ones deeds, and resurrection of the dead.
Jews who lived in areas dominated by other dogmatic religions were subjected to legal restrictions and sometimes even to the cruelest persecution; this was true especially in the Christian countries, since Christianity blamed the Jewish religious community of the first century A.D. for the death of Jesus. At the same time the dogma of Judaism, which called for isolation of the Jews from those of other religions, made it easier for the authorities of the Christian states to create Jewish ghettos. Despite the artificial seclusion of adherents of Judaism, several medieval kingdoms, in an attempt to escape the political influence of the great Christian powers, adopted the religion (for example, the Khazar kingdom in the Volga region in the late eighth and early ninth centuries). The Karaite sect, which arose during the eighth century in Iraq, Syria, and Palestine, rejected the rabbinate and all rabbinical commentaries on the Bible. Mystical teachings spread among Jews, such as cabala, of which the most important work was the Zohar of Moses de Lon in the 13th century. The cabala also influenced later religious and philosophical Judaic literature, such as Joseph Caros Shulkhan Arukh in the 16th century, a code of ethics that regulated the life of believers down to the smallest detail.
In the 17th century a movement arose around the mystic and adventurer Sabbatai Zebi of Turkey, who had declared himself the Messiah; his movement found numerous followers among Jews of many countries, who mistakenly sought in Zebis teachings salvation from social oppression. The collapse of this movement and deterioration in the conditions of the Jews both in the ghettos of Europe and in Asia and Africa produced, on the one hand, still greater isolation from other peoples, and, on the other hand, Hasidism, a movement founded by the Baal Shem Tov in the middle of the 18th century that rejected the authority of the rabbis and preached the personal communion of the believer with god through the most pious, or zaddikim. Both movements contributed to the deprivation of civil rights of the Jews and their alienation from general democratic movements.
In the second half of the 19th century a movement for the reform of Judaism arose among Jews in Germany, the USA, and other countries. The reformers wanted to bring Judaism closer to Protestantism, in an attempt to adapt Judaism to the established bourgeois system and to place it in the service of capitalism. According to the reformers, messianism, the expectation of the restoration of the Temple, and the creation of a theocratic state in Jerusalem should be understood figuratively, as a future realization of the ethical ideals of mankind that are supposedly contained in Judaism. However, orthodox Judaism remained the dominant current among Jews, especially in the USA and in Eastern Europe.
Judaism does not recognize temples and has no ecclesiastical hierarchy; synagogues are maintained by contributions from believers (capitalists make large contributions to their maintenance). The Synagogue Council of America in the USA manages several educational institutions.
Judaism is the official religion of the state of Israel. The synagogues, like the organizations of other religions, are financed by the Ministry of Religious Affairs; the rabbinate has judicial functions in family matters, marriage, and other affairs concerning Jews.
The major holidays of Judaism are the Sabbath, when all work is prohibited, including the cooking of food and traveling; the tenth day after the lunar New Year (the day of purification, or Yom Kippur), a time of fasting and atonement; Pesach, or Passover, in the spring; Pentecost; the Festival of Booths in the fall, followed in seven or eight days by a holiday of rejoicing in the Torah. At the age of 13 a boy professing Judaism passes through the rite of bar mitzvah, which introduces him into the community of believers; at that time he must show his knowledge of the Holy Scriptures and make an appropriate speech in Hebrew. The life of people practicing Judaism is burdened by a multiplicity of archaic restrictions, rituals, and dietary taboos.
Judaism, as a religion, as well as Talmudic ritualism, prevents the Jewish working masses from understanding the true causes of social oppression. Judaism, like other religions, has always been a tool in the hands of the ruling and exploiting classes for the spiritual oppression of the working masses. Judaism has been taken over by Zionism, which is at present the official ideology of the state of Israel. Attempting to win over the masses of working Jews and to divert them from the world revolutionary labor and national liberation movements as well as to justify Israels expansionist policies, Zionism began to use the tenets of Judaism for its political aims (for example, messianism, which proposes the creation of a new, ideal Israel, with Jerusalem as its center, that would include the whole of Palestine). Since the second quarter of the 20th century Zionism has found support among the most reactionary Jews, especially in the USA. In its chauvinist and annexationist policy Zionism makes use of the Judaic dogma that the Jews are gods chosen people and employs Judaism to substantiate the concept of a worldwide Jewish nation and other reactionary positions.
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Judaism | Article about Judaism by The Free Dictionary
From Academic Kids
Judaism is the religious culture of the Jewish people. It is one of the first recorded monotheistic faiths and one of the oldest religious traditions still practiced today. The tenets and history of Judaism are the major part of the foundation of other Abrahamic religions, including Christianity and Islam. For all of these reasons, Judaism has been a major force in shaping the world.
Judaism does not easily fit into common Western categories, such as religion, race, ethnicity, or culture. This is because Jews understand Judaism in terms of its 4,000-year history. During this time, Jews have experienced slavery, anarchic self-government, theocratic self-government, conquest, occupation, and exile; they have been in contact, and have been influenced by ancient Egyptian, Babylonian, Persian, and Hellenic cultures, as well as modern movements such as the Enlightenment and the rise of nationalism. Thus, Daniel Boyarin has argued that “Jewishness disrupts the very categories of identity, because it is not national, not genealogical, not religious, but all of these, in dialectical tension.”
According to both traditional Jews and critical historical scholars, a number of qualities distinguish Judaism from the other religions that existed when it first emerged. The first characteristic is monotheism. This notion is derived directly from the Torah (the Hebrew Bible) where God makes it part of the Ten Commandments: “…I am the Lord your God. Do not have any other gods before Me. Do not represent [such] gods by any carved statue or picture of anything in the heaven above, on the earth below, or in the water below the land. Do not bow down to [such gods] or worship them. I am God your Lord, a God who demands exclusive worship”. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ten_Commandments#Exodus_20.2FDeuteronomy_5)
The Jewish understanding of this is that:
The significance of this idea lies in that Judaism holds that an omniscient and omnipotent God created humankind as recorded in the Book of Genesis, in the Creation according to Genesis starting with the very first verse of Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” While in polytheistic religions, the gods are limited by the preoccupation of personal desires irrelevant to humankind, by limited powers, and by the interference of other powers, in Judaism, God is unlimited and fully available to care for Creation.
Second, the Torah (i.e., The Hebrew Bible) specifies a number of laws, known as the 613 mitzvot, to be followed by the Children of Israel. Other religions at the time were characterized by temples in which priests would worship their gods through sacrifice. The Children of Israel similarly had a Temple in Jerusalem, priests, and made sacrifices but these were not the sole means of worshiping God.
As a matter of practical worship (in comparison to other religions) Judaism seeks to elevate everyday life to the level of the ancient Temples’ worship by worshipping God through the spectrum of daily activites and actions. It has traditionally maintained that this is how the individual would merit rewards in the afterlife, called gan eden (Hebrew: “Garden of Eden”) or olam haba (“World to Come”).
According to Orthodox Judaism and most religious Jews, the Biblical patriarch Abraham was the first Jew. Rabbinic literature records that he was the first to reject idolatry and preach monotheism. As a result, God promised he would have children. His first child was Ishmael and then he had Isaac, who God said would carry on his work and inherit the Land of Israel (then called Canaan), after having been exiled and redeemed. God sent the patriarch Jacob and his children to Egypt; after they eventually became enslaved, God sent Moses to redeem the Israelites from slavery. After the Exodus from Egypt, God led them to Mount Sinai and gave them the Torah, and eventually brought them to the land of Israel.
God set the descendants of Aaron, Moses’ brother, to be a priestly class within the Israelite community. They first officiated in the tabernacle (a portable house of worship), and later their descendants were in charge of worship in the Temple in Jerusalem.
Once the Jews had settled in the land of Israel, the tabernacle was planted in the city of Shiloh for over 300 years during which time God provided great men, and occasionally women, to rally the nation against attacking enemies, some of which were sent by God as a punishment for the sins of the people. This is described in the Book of Joshua and the Book of Judges. As time went on, the spiritual level of the nation declined to the point that God allowed the Philistines to capture the tabernacle in Shiloh.
The people of Israel then told Samuel the prophet that they had reached the point where they needed a permanent king like other nations had, and described in the Books of Samuel. God knew this was not best for the Jews, but acceded to this request and had Samuel appoint Saul, a great but very humble man, to be their king. When the people pressured Saul into going against a command conveyed to him by Samuel, God told Samuel to appoint David in his stead.
Once David was established as king, he told the prophet Nathan that he would like to build a permanent temple. As a reward for his actions, God promised David that he would allow his son to build the temple and the throne would never depart from his children. David himself was not allowed to build the temple because he had been involved in many wars, making it inappropriate for him to build a temple representing peace. As a result, it was David’s son Solomon who built the first permanent temple according to God’s will, in Jerusalem. This era is described in the Books of Kings.
After Solomon’s death, the kingdom was split into the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah. Israel had a number of kings, but after a few hundred years God allowed Assyria to conquer Israel and exile its people because of the rampant idolatry in the kingdom. The southern kingdom of Judah, whose capital was Jerusalem, home of the Temple, remained under the rulership of the house of David. However, as in the north, idolatry increased to the point that God allowed Babylonia to conquer it, destroy the Temple which had stood for 410 years and exile its people to Babylonia, with the promise that they would be redeemed after seventy years. These events are recorded in the Book of Isaiah and the Book of Jeremiah.
After seventy years the Jews were allowed back into Israel under the leadership of Ezra, and the Temple was rebuilt, as recorded in the Book of Ezra and the Book of Nehemiah. The Second Temple stood for 420 years after which it was destroyed by the Roman general (later emperor) Titus. This is the state in which it is to remain until a descendant of David arises to restore the glory of Israel (the current existence of the Islamic Dome of the Rock is not relevent to the rabbinical view.)
The Torah given on Mount Sinai was summarized in the five books of Moses. Together with the books of the prophets it is called the Written Torah. The details and interpretation of the law, which are called the Oral Torah or oral law were originally unwritten. However as the persecutions of the Jews increased and the details were in danger of being forgotten, rabbinic tradition holds that these oral laws were recorded in the Mishnah, and the Talmud, as well as other holy books.
Although monotheism is fundamental to Rabbinic Judaism, according to many critical Bible scholars the Torah often implies that the early Israelites accepted the existence of other gods. However, they viewed their God as the Creator and the one that mankind was morally bound to worship alone. But by the Hellenic period most Jews had come to believe that their God was the only God (and thus, the God of everyone), and that the record of His revelation (the Torah) contained within it universal truths. This attitude may reflect growing Gentile interest in Judaism (some Greeks and Romans considered the Jews a most “philosophical” people because of their belief in a God that cannot be represented visually), and growing Jewish interest in Greek philosophy, which sought to establish universal truths.
Jews began to grapple with the tension between the particularism of their claim that only Jews were required to obey the Torah, and the universalism of their claim that the Torah contained universal truths. The result is a set of beliefs and practices concerning both identity, ethics, one’s relation to nature, and one’s relation to God, that privilege “difference” the difference between Jews and non-Jews; the differences between locally variable ways of practicing Judaism; a close attention to different meanings of words when interpreting texts; attempts to encode different points of view within texts, and a relative indifference to creed and dogma.
The subject of the Hebrew Bible is an account of the Israelites’ (also called Hebrews) relationship with God as reflected in their history from the beginning of time until the building of the Second Temple (ca. 350 BCE). This relationship is generally portrayed as contentious, as Jews struggle between their faith in God and their attraction for other gods, and as some Jews (most notably and directly, Abraham, Jacob — later known as Israeland Moses) struggle with God. Modern scholars also suggest that the Torah consists of a variety of inconsistent texts that were edited together in a way that calls attention to divergent accounts (see Documentary hypothesis).
While Judaism has always affirmed a number of Jewish principles of faith, it has never developed a fully binding “catechism”. It is difficult to generalize about Jewish theology because Judaism is non-creedal; that is, there is no agreed-upon dogma (set of orthodox beliefs) that most Jews believed were required of Jews. While individual Jewish rabbis, or sometimes entire groups, at times agreed upon a firm dogma, other rabbis and groups disagreed. With no central agreed-upon authority, no one formulation of Jewish principles of faith could take precedence over any other.
This approach to religious doctrine dates back at least two thousand years. For example, the ancient historian Josephus emphasized practices and traditions rather than beliefs when he describes the characteristics of an apostate (a Jew who does not follow traditional customs) and the requirements for conversion to Judaism (circumcision, and adherence to traditional customs). Despite the above, in Orthodox Judaism some principles (e.g., the Divine origin of the Torah) are considered important enough that public rebellion against them can put one in the category of “apikoros” (heretic).
Over the centuries, a number of clear formulations of Jewish principles of faith have appeared; most of them have much in common, yet they differ in certain details. A comparison of them demonstrates a wide array of tolerance for varying theological perspectives. Generally, however, the thirteen principles of faith expressed by Maimonides are considered authorative descriptions of Jewish beliefs:
Jews are often called the “People of the Book,” and Judaism has an age-old intellectual tradition focusing on text-based Torah study. The following is a basic, structured list of the central works of Jewish practice and thought. For more detail, see Rabbinic literature.
The basis of Jewish law and tradition (“halakha”) is the Torah (the five books of Moses). According to rabbinic tradition there are 613 commandments in the Torah. Some of these laws are directed only to men or to women, some only to the ancient priestly groups, the Kohanim and Leviyim (members of the tribe of Levi), some only to those who practice farming within the land of Israel. Many laws were only applicable when the Temple in Jerusalem existed, and fewer than 300 of these commandments are still applicable today.
While there have been Jewish groups which claimed to be based on the written text of the Torah alone (e.g., the Sadducees, and the Karaites), most Jews believed in what they call the oral law. These oral traditions were transmitted by the Pharisee sect of ancient Judaism, and were latter recorded in written form and expanded upon by the rabbis.
Rabbinic Judaism has always held that the books of the Tanakh (called the written law) have always been transmitted in parallel with an oral tradition. To justify this viewpoint, Jews point to the text of the Torah, where many words are left undefined, and many procedures mentioned without explanation or instructions; this, they argue, means that the reader is assumed to be familiar with the details from other, i.e., oral, sources. This parallel set of material was originally transmitted orally, and came to be known as “the oral law”.
By the time of Rabbi Judah Ha-Nasi (200 CE), after the destruction of Jerusalem, much of this material was edited together into the Mishnah. Over the next four centuries this law underwent discussion and debate in both of the world’s major Jewish communities (in Israel and Babylon), and the commentaries on the Mishnah from each of these communities eventually came to be edited together into compilations known as the two Talmuds. These have been expounded by commentaries of various Torah scholars during the ages.
Halakha, the rabbinic Jewish way of life, then, is based on a combined reading of the Torah, and the oral tradition – the Mishnah, the halakhic Midrash, the Talmud and its commentaries. The Halakha has developed slowly, through a precedent-based system. The literature of questions to rabbis, and their considered answers, is referred to as responsa (in Hebrew, Sheelot U-Teshuvot.) Over time, as practices develop, codes of Jewish law are written that are based on the responsa; the most important code, the Shulkhan Arukh, largely determines Jewish religious practice up to today.
According to Jewish law, someone is considered to be a Jew if he or she was born of a Jewish mother or converted in accord with Jewish Law. (Recently, the American Reform and Reconstructionist movements have included those born of Jewish fathers and gentile mothers, if the children are raised practicing Judaism only.) All mainstream forms of Judaism today are open to sincere converts.
A Jew who ceases to practice Judaism is still considered a Jew, as is a Jew who does not accept Jewish principles of faith and becomes an agnostic or an atheist; so too with a Jew who converts to another religion. However, in the latter case, the person loses standing as a member of the Jewish community and becomes known as an apostate. In the past, family and friends were said to often formally mourn for the person, though this is rarely done today.
The question of what determines Jewish identity was given new impetus when, in the 1950s, David ben Gurion requested opinions on mihu Yehudi (“who is a Jew”) from Jewish religious authorities and intellectuals worldwide. The question is far from settled and occasionally resurfaces in Israeli politics.
Jewish philosophy refers to the conjunction between serious study of philosophy and Jewish theology. Early Jewish philosophy was influenced by the philosophy of Plato, Aristotle, and Islamic philosophy. Major Jewish philosophers include Solomon ibn Gabirol, Saadia Gaon, Maimonides, and Gersonides. Major changes occurred in response to the enlightenment (late 1700s to early 1800s) leading to the post-Enlightenment Jewish philosophers, and then modern Jewish philosophers such as Martin Buber, Franz Rosenzweig, Mordecai Kaplan, Abraham Joshua Heschel, Will Herberg, Emmanuel Levinas, Richard Rubenstein, Emil Fackenheim, and Joseph Soloveitchik.
Over the past two centuries the Jewish community has divided into a number of Jewish denominations; each has a different understanding of what principles of belief a Jew should hold, and how one should live as a Jew. Unlike Christian denominations, these doctrinal differences have not fundamentally split Jewish denominations, which continue to overlap on many issues. It would not be unusual for a Conservative Jew to attend either an Orthodox or Reform synagogue, for example.
Many religious Jews do not look at one’s denomination as a valid way of designating Jews; instead they view Jews by the level of their religious observance. According to most Orthodox Jews, Jewish people who do not keep the laws of Shabbat and Yom Tov (the holidays), Kashrut, and family purity are considered non-religious. Any Jew who keeps at least those laws would be considered observant and religious).
Even though all of these denominations exist in Israel, Israelis tend to classify Jewish identity in ways that are different than diaspora Jewry. Most Jewish Israelis classify themselves as “secular” (hiloni), “traditional” (masorti), “religious” (dati) or Haredi. The term “secular” is more popular as a self-description among Israeli families of western (European) origin, whose Jewish identity may be a very powerful force in their lives, but who see it as largely independent of traditional religious belief and practice. This portion of the population largely ignores organized religious life, be it of the official Israeli rabbinate (Orthodox) or of the liberal movements common to diaspora Judaism (Reform, Conservative).
The term “traditional” (masorti) is most common as a self-description among Israeli families of “eastern” origin (i.e., the Middle East, Central Asia, and North Africa). This term, as commonly used, has nothing to do with the official Masorti (Conservative) movement.
There is a great deal of ambiguity in the ways “secular” and “traditional” are used in Israel. They often overlap, and they cover an extremely wide range in terms of ideology and religious observance.
The term “Orthodox” (Ortodoxi) is unpopular in Israeli discourse (among both “secular” and “religious” alike). Nevertheless, the spectrum covered by “Orthodox” in the diaspora exists in Israel, again with some important variations. The “Orthodox” spectrum in Israel is a far greater percentage of the Jewish population in Israel than in the diaspora, though how much greater is hotly debated. Various ways of measuring this percentage, each with its pros and cons, include the proportion of religiously observant Knesset members, the proportion of Jewish children enrolled in religious schools, and statistical studies on “identity”.
What would be called “Orthodox” in the diaspora includes what is commonly called dati (religious) or haredi (ultra-Orthodox) in Israel. The former term includes what is called “Religious Zionism” or the “National Religious” community, as well as what has become known over the past decade or so as haredi-leumi (nationalist haredi), which combines a largely haredi lifestyle with nationalist ideology.
Haredi applies to a populace that can be roughly divided into three separate groups along both ethnic and ideological lines: (1) “Lithuanian” (non-hasidic) haredim of Ashkenazic origin; (2) Hasidic haredim of Ashkenazic origin; and (3) Sephardic haredim. The third group is the largest, and has been the most politically active since the early 1990s.
Unlike the above denominations, which were ideological reactions that resulted from the exposure of traditional rabbinic Judaism to the radical changes of modern times, Karaite Judaism did not begin as a modern Jewish movement. The followers of Karaism believe they are the remnants of the non-Rabbinic Jewish sects of the Second Temple period, such as the Saducees, though others contend they are a sect started in the 8th and 9th centuries. The Karaites, or “Scripturalists,” accept only the Hebrew Bible and what they view as the Peshat: “Plain or Simple Meaning”; and do not accept non-biblical writings as authoritative. Some European Karaites do not see themselves as part of the Jewish community, while most do. It is interesting to note that the Nazis did not consider Karaites as Jews, and therefore Karaite communities were spared in WWII and exist to this day even in places such as Lithuania where Jewish communities were completely deveastated.
The main article Jewish views of religious pluralism describes how Judaism views other religions; it also describes how members of each of the Jewish religious denominations view the other denominations.
There are three main daily prayer services, named Shacharit, Mincha (literally: “flour-offering”) and Maariv or Arvit. All services include a number of benedictions called the Amidah or the Shemonah Esrei (“eighteen”), which on weekdays consists of nineteen blessings (one was added in the time of the Mishna, but the name remains). Another key prayer in many services is the declaration of faith, the Shema which is recited at shacharit and maariv. Most of the prayers in a traditional Jewish service can be said in solitary prayer, but Kaddish and Kedusha require a group of ten adult men (or men and women in some branches of Judaism) called a minyan (prayer quorum). There are also prayers and benedictions recited throughout the day, such as those before eating or drinking.
There are a number of common Jewish religious objects used in prayer. The tallit is a Jewish prayer shawl. A kippah or yarmulke (skullcap) is a head covering worn during prayer by most Jews, and at all times by more orthodox Jews especially Ashkenazim. Phylacteries or tefillin, boxes containing the portions of the Torah mandating them, are also worn by religious Jews during weekday morning services.
The Jewish approach to prayer differs slightly between the various branches of Judaism, although all use the same set of prayers and texts, the frequency of prayer, the number of prayers recited at various religious events, and whether one prays in a particular liturgical language or the vernacular differs from denomination to denomination, with Conservative and Orthodox congregations using more traditional services, while Reform and Reconstructionist synagogues are more likely to incorporate translations, contemporary writings, and abbreviated services.
Shabbat, the weekly day of rest lasting from Friday night to Saturday night, celebrates God’s creation as a day of rest that commemorates God’s day of rest upon the completion of creation. It plays an important role in Jewish practice and is the subject of a large body of religious law. Some consider it the most important Jewish holiday.
The Jewish holy days celebrate central themes in the relationship between God and the world, such as creation, revelation, and redemption. Some holidays are also linked to the agricultural cycle.
Three holidays celebrate revelation by commemorating different events in the passage of the Children of Israel out of slavery in Egypt to their return to the land of Canaan. They are also timed to coincide with important agricultural seasons. They are also pilgramage holidays, for which the Children of Israel would journey to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices to God in His Temple.
There are many minor holidays as well, including Purim, which celebrates the events told in the Biblical book of Esther, and Chanukkah, which is not established in the Bible but which celebrates the successful rebellion by the Maccabees against the Seleucid Empire.
The core of festival and Sabbath prayer services is the public reading of the Torah, along with connected readings from the other books of the Jewish Bible, called Haftarah. During the course of a year, the full Torah is read, and the cycle begins again every autumn during Simhat Torah (?rejoicing in the Torah?).
The laws of kashrut (“keeping kosher”) are the Jewish dietary laws. Food in accord with Jewish law is termed kosher, and food not in accord with Jewish law is termed treifah or treif. From the context of the laws in the book of Leviticus, the purpose of kashrut is related to ritual purity and holiness. Reform and Reconstructionist Jews do not keep kosher, Orthodox Jews and some Conservative Jews do keep kosher, to varying degrees of strictness.
The laws of niddah (“menstruant”, often referred to euphemistically as “family purity”) and various other laws regulating the interaction between men and women (e.g., tzeniut, modesty in dress) are perceived, especially by Orthodox Jews, as vital factors in Jewish life.
The laws of niddah dictate that sexual cannot take place while the woman is having a menstrual flow, and she has to count seven “clean” days and immerse in a mikvah (ritual bath).
Life-cycle events occur throughout a Jew’s life that bind him/her to the entire community.
Judaism does not have a clergy, in the sense of full-time specialists required for religious services. Technically, the last time Judaism had a clergy was prior to the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, when priests attended to the Temple and sacrifices. The priesthood is an inherited position, and although priests no longer have clerical duties, they are still honored in many Jewish communities.
From the times of the Mishna and Talmud to the present, Judaism has required specialists or authorities for the practice of very few rituals or ceremonies. A Jew can fulfil most requirements for prayer by himself. Some activities — reading the Torah and haftarah (a supplementary portion from the Prophets or Writings); the prayer for mourners; the blessings for bridegroom and bride; the complete grace after meals — require a minyan, the presence of ten adults (Orthodox Jews and some Conservative Jews require ten adult men; some Conservative Jews and Reform Jews include women in the minyan).
The most common professional clergy in a synagogue are:
Jewish prayer services do involve two specified roles, which are often, but not always, filled by a rabbi and/or hazzan in many congregations:
Note that these roles are not mutually exclusive. The same person is often qualified to fill more than one role, and often does.
Many congregations, especially larger ones, also rely on a:
The three preceding positions are usually voluntary and considered an honor. Since the Enlightenment large synagogues have often adopted the practice of hiring rabbis and hazzans to act as shatz and baal koreh, and this is still typically the case in most Conservative and Reform congregations. However, in most Orthodox synagogues these positions are filled by laypeople.
Jewish history is an extensive topic; this section will cover the elements of Jewish history of most importance to the Jewish religion and the development of Jewish denominations.
Jews trace their religious lineage to the biblical patriarch Abraham through Isaac and Jacob. After the Exodus from Egypt, the Jews came to Canaan, and settled the land. A kingdom was established under Saul and continued under King David and Solomon with its capital in Jerusalem. After Solomon’s reign the nation split into two kingdoms, the Kingdom of Israel (in the north) and the Kingdom of Judah (in the south). The Kingdom of Israel was conquered by the Assyrian ruler Shalmaneser V in the 8th century BCE and spread all over the Assyrian empire, where they were assimilated into other cultures and become known as the Ten Lost Tribes. The Kingdom of Judah continued as an independent state until it was conquered by a Babylonian army in the early 6th century BCE, destroying the First Temple that was at the centre of ancient Jewish worship. The Judean elite was exiled to Babylonia, but later at least a part of them returned to their homeland after the subsequent conquest of Babylonia by the Persians seventy years later, a period known as the Babylonian Captivity. A new Second Temple was constructed, and old religious practices were resumed.
After a Jewish revolt against Roman rule in 66 CE, the Romans all but destroyed Jerusalem; only a single “Western Wall” of the Second Temple remained. Following a second revolt, Jews were not allowed to enter the city of Jerusalem and most Jewish worship was forbidden by Rome. Following the destruction of Jerusalem and the expulsion of the Jews, Jewish worship stopped being centrally organized around the Temple, and instead was rebuilt around rabbis who acted as teachers and leaders of individual communities. No new books were added to the Jewish Bible after the Roman period, instead major efforts went into interpreting and developing Jewish law.
Around the first century CE there were several small Jewish sects: the Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots, Essenes, and Christians. After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, these sects vanished. Christianity survived, but by breaking with Judaism and becoming a separate religion; the Pharisees survived but in the form of Rabbinic Judaism (today, known simply as “Judaism”).
Some Jews in the 8th and 9th centuries adopted the Sadducees’ rejection of the oral law of the Pharisees/rabbis recorded in the Mishnah (and developed by later rabbis in the two Talmuds), intending to rely only upon the Tanakh. These included the Isunians, the Yudganites, the Malikites, and others. They soon developed oral traditions of their own which differed from the rabbinic traditions, and eventually formed the Karaite sect. Karaites exist in small numbers today, mostly living in Israel. Rabbinical and Karaite Jews each hold that the others are Jews, but that the other faith is erroneous.
Over time Jews developed into distinct ethnic groups amongst others, the Ashkenazi Jews (of Central and Eastern Europe with Russia); the Sephardi Jews (of Spain, Portugal, and North Africa) and the Yemenite Jews, from the southern tip of the Arabian peninsula. This split is cultural, and is not based on any doctrinal dispute, although the distance did result in minor differences in practice and prayers.
Hasidic Judaism was founded by Israel ben Eliezer (1700-1760), also known as the Ba’al Shem Tov (or Besht). His disciples attracted many followers; they themselves established numerous Hasidic sects across Europe. Hasidic Judaism eventually became the way of life for many Jews in Europe. Waves of Jewish immigration in the 1880s carried it to the United States.
Early on, there was a serious schism between Hasidic and non-Hasidic Jews. European Jews who rejected the Hasidic movement were dubbed by the Hasidim as mitnagdim, (lit. “opponents”). Some of the reasons for the rejection of Hasidic Judaism were the overwhelming exuberance of Hasidic worship; their untraditional ascriptions of infallibility and alleged miracle-working to their leaders, and the concern that it might become a messianic sect. Since then all the sects of Hasidic Judaism have been subsumed into mainstream Orthodox Judaism, particularly Haredi Judaism.
In the late 18th century CE Europe was swept by a group of intellectual, social and political movements known as the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment led to reductions in the European laws that prohibited Jews to interact with the wider secular world, thus allowing Jews access to secular education and experience. A parallel Jewish movement, Haskalah or the “Jewish Enlightenment,” began, especially in Central Europe, in response to both the Enlightenment and these new freedoms. It placed an emphasis on integration with secular society and a pursuit of non-religious knowledge. The thrust and counter-thrust between supporters of Haskalah and more traditional Jewish concepts eventually led to the formation of a number of different branches of Judaism: Haskalah supporters founded Reform Judaism and Liberal Judaism, while traditionalists founded many forms of Orthodox Judaism, and Jews seeking a balance between the two sides founded Conservative Judaism. A number of smaller groups came into being as well.
While the Holocaust did not immediately affect Jewish denominations, its great loss of life caused a radical demographic shift, ultimately affecting the makeup of organized Judaism the way it is today. A Jewish day of mourning, Yom HaShoah, was inserted into the Jewish calendar, commemorating the Holocaust.
In most Western nations, such as the United States of America, Israel, Canada, United Kingdom and South Africa, a wide variety of Jewish practices exist, along with a growing plurality of secular and non-practicing Jews. For example, in the world’s largest Jewish community, the United States, according to the 2001 National Jewish Population Survey(http://www.ujc.org/content_display.html?ArticleID=83784), 4.3 million out of 5.1 million Jews had some sort of connection to the religion. Of that population of connected Jews, 80% participated in some sort of Jewish religious observance, but only 48% belonged to a synagogue.
Religious (and secular) Jewish movements in the USA and Canada perceive this as a crisis situation, and have grave concern over rising rates of intermarriage and assimilation in the Jewish community. Since American Jews are marrying at a later time in their life than they used to, and are having fewer children than they used, the birth rate for American Jews has dropped from over 2.0 down to 1.7 (the replacement rate is 2.1). (This is My Beloved, This is My Friend: A Rabbinic Letter on Intimate relations, p. 27, Elliot N. Dorff, The Rabbinical Assembly, 1996). Intermarriage rates range from 40-50% in the US, and only about a third of children of intermarried couples are raised Jewish. Due to intermarriage and low birth rates, the Jewish population in the US shrank from 5.5 million in 1990 to 5.1 million in 2001. This is indicative of the general population trends among the Jewish community in the Diaspora, but a focus on population masks the diversity of current Jewish religious practice, as well as growth trends among some communities, like haredi Jews.
In the last 50 years there has been a general increase in interest in religion among many segments of the Jewish population. All of the major Jewish denominations have experienced a resurgence in popularity, with increasing numbers of younger Jews participating in Jewish education, joining synagogues, and becoming (to varying degrees) more observant. Complementing the increased popularity of the major denominations has been a number of new approaches to Jewish worship, including feminist approaches to Judaism and Jewish renewal movements. There is a separate article on the Baal teshuva movement, the movement of Jews returning to observant Judaism. Though this gain has not offset the general demographic loss due to intermarriage and acculturation, many Jewish communities and movements are growing.
There are a number of articles on the relationship between Judaism and Christianity. These articles include:
Since the Holocaust, there has been much to note in the way of reconciliation between some Christian groups and the Jewish people; the article on Christian-Jewish reconciliation studies this issue.
Messianic Judaism (sometimes Hebrew Christianity) is the common designation for a number of Christian groups which include varying degrees of Jewish practice. These groups have attracted tens (and perhaps hundreds) of thousands of Jews and Christians to their ranks; members identify themselves as Jews. These groups are viewed highly negatively by all Jewish denominations, which typically see them as covert and deceptive attempts to convert Jews to Christianity, a view Messianic-Jewish groups strongly contest.
Some Jews have joined other faiths, such as Judeo-Paganism and neo-paganism. Some adherents to those movements identify themselves as Jews nonetheless.
Under Islamic rule, Judaism has been practiced for almost 1500 years and this has led to an interplay between the two religions which has been positive as well as negative at times. The period around 900 to 1200 in Moorish Spain came to be known as the Golden age of Jewish culture in Spain.
The 20th century animosity of Muslim leaders towards Zionism, the political movement of Jewish self-determination, has led to a renewed interest in the relationship between Judaism and Islam.
Other relevant material:
Judaism – Academic Kids
Question: To the best of your understanding, what is the Jewish perspective on the fate of an animal upon death? Are they considered to have a soul? Does a dog, who gave unconditional love and had been a loyal and brave companion, just disappear?
Answer: Animals are considered to have a nefesh, the lowest level of a soul. This is distinct from humans who have much more developed souls. Although animals can be loving, brave and loyal, we do not see them as having free will, but rather as acting instinctively. As such, they do not have the ability to earn merit and greater holiness for themselves as would a person who has the ability to use his or her free will in choosing right from wrong, good from evil.
Best Regards, Rabbi Azriel Schreiber
Question: I was reading in class about Jeremiah and it says that he was always really sad. What was his burden? What was wrong?
Answer: Jeremiah, of all the prophets, was the one who had to witness the actual destruction of the Temple and the Jewish kingdom. For centuries, prophets had been warning of the calamity that would occur if Israel continued to turn away from G-d. But Jeremiah was the one on the job when it happened. As he says in Lamentations (3(1)): I am the man who has seen affliction by the rod of His wrath.
Best wishes, Michoel Reach
Question: Generally speaking , What kind of vow cannot be annulled?
Answer:In Judaism, if a Jew makes a vow not understanding something about the vow he was making, AND, if he did understand he would never have made that vow, then, in general, it would be possible for such a vow to be annulled. That is the simple question to a not-so-simple subject.
Regards, Eliahu Levenson
Question: The Torah is filled with stories of the early Jews making war on the various locals as they enter the promised land, and killing every man, woman, and child in a given village. In some cases they even killed the animals. In one case Moses himself saw his men returning with some local women and children, and ran out and ordered them killed on the spot, lest they create impurities in the Jewish camp. In another case he ordered all locals killed, except young women who have known no man. These his men could keep.
How can we reconcile this mass murder ordered by Moses with his status among Jews as a prophet and holy person?? He appears to be a murderer on a grand scale. How can the Torah be filled with murder, rape, adultry, idol worship, conquest, etc., from front to back, and still be considered the Divine Word of God. Many of my Christian friends have the same questions, and never get a useful answer from priest or pastor. I believe in the one God, may his name be blessed, but I do have a problem with all this murder, rape, etc. in the Torah.
Answer: First of all, I am unaware of any reference in the Torah to any act of rape, adultery or idol worship that was sanctioned or encouraged by either Moses or the Torah itself. So that leaves killing and conquest. These references do exist and can easily and understandably cause discomfort.
Now, if someone were to consider the Torah to be a fraud which only claimed to be the word of God (see Deut. 31:24), but was really created by human beings, then these brutal acts are indefensible. Which moral human being could possibly order such acts? However, we believe that the Torah is actually a true record of Gods communication with Moses. Based on that assumption, Moses never ordered any violence nor did he initiate any conquest. Everything was Gods will (see Deut. 7:1).
What is morality? You might like to read my essay on subjectivity here, which discusses the inherent difficulties that exist in establishing absolute principles of good and evil from a secular perspective. Without God input, any values we adopt are always subject to debate and change. 500 years ago there werent many who questioned the moral right of the Spanish to virtually eradicate native populations in the Americas. Today, standards have changed. Tomorrow theyll change againand no one can say in which direction.
Jews (and others) who believe in a personal God who created this world and is its true master, will consider His definition of justice to be absolute. Even if we cant understand it, if God wills that one nation should conquer another then it isnt just His right, it is intrinsically moral.
I hope this is helpful.
With my best regards, Rabbi Boruch Clinton
Question: The death penalty does not fit under the commandment You shall not murder. I have understood that murder and killing are two different words in Hebrew, with the word murder being used in instances such as Cain and Abel, and when G-d is stating the punishments for such a crime. However, when G-d destroys Sodom and Gomorrah, for example, the word kill is used, not murder. If you could please explain the difference between the two, from the perspective of how the text differentiates, I would greatly appreciate it.
Answer: As in English there are two different words: retzichah for murder, and harigah for killing.
It is obvious that not all killing is murder, for the Bible itself imposes the death penalty for certain crimes! Jewish Law also says that if one sees person A about to murder person B, one is allowed to save B with lethal forceif necessary.
The modern death penalty is a complex issue, since the requirements are very different than those of Biblical law. Actually the Talmud says that a court that ordered the death penalty every seven years was called murderousand one opinion says not seven, but seventy! I wouldnt say the Bible comes down clearly on one side or the other, but in principle supports the concept that a death penalty is a valid deterrent.
Rabbi Azriel Schreiber
Question: Torah has valued human life above all and under every circumstances we should try to save human as it is said to save one human being is like to save entire entire mankind. On the other hand, the laws of war of Deuteronomy says that when we go to war with faraway nations we are to give people chance to surrender and if they wont we are to kill all the men in it. So how can we justify killing all the men just like that when we consider human life above all ? In self defense its proper to kill but for territorial expansion why should we shed blood? I am sure that G-D too wouldnt allow us to shed innocent blood.
Answer:Thanks for asking this important question. The first thing that needs to be said is that we think of all wars as equal. That is not true. We cannot equate a war that G-d commanded us to fight and a war that we choose to fight. If you learn the Torahs perspective on warfare you will see that warfare in Torah law is totally different from warfare in the non-Jewish world. That is not possible to understand unless you go very in depth into the Torahs perspective. To help you do that, here is a link that will describe the concept in great detail. I give this information over in a class format and I find that if you study it well it will give you a great overview of Jewish warfare. http://nleresources.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Shoftim-War.pdf
Next, let me just say that we are not talking about the modern concept of holy wars where people think that they know the will of G-d. The Torahs concept of war is that G-d commands the Jews to do certain things because in His wisdom this is what needs to happen to bring balance to the world. There is a commandment in the Torah to completely destroy the nation of Amalek. This nation, according to the Torah, is evil through and through. There is no way that anyone from that nation can survive and the world be a safe place. King Saul almost destroyed this nation once but left the king alive for one night. He was wrong and he lost his kingship over that. The results of that night were that the king had relations with a woman, the child grew up and his ancestor ended up being the evil Haman and, according to many Hitler was also a descendant of Amalek.
Be Well, Rabbi Litt
Question: Where does the Torah tell us that good friends are hard to find and are very valuable?
Answer: The statement A friend can be acquired only with great difficulty is found in the Midrash (Sifrei on Nitzavim; Yalkut Shimoni on Pinchas). Apparently the advice Acquire a friend for yourself in Mishnah Avos 1:6 (acquire, not find) implies that friends are hard to find. Many sources in the Bible and Talmud emphasize the contrast between good friends and bad friends (e.g., Mishlei 18:24; Ben Sira 6:14; Avos 2:9). In Burton Stevensons Home Book of Quotations, Laertius Anarcharsis (Sec.105) is cited for the statement It is better to have one friend of great value than many friends who are good for nothing; there doesnt seem to be a similar statement in the Jewish sources.
Best Regards, Rabbi Azriel Schreiber
Question: In Parshas Pinchas it states that Pinchas was the grandson of Aharon the Kohen. It further states that because of his courageous deeds espoused in the Parsha, he was to be rewarded with everlasting hereditary priesthood to include his descendants.In view of the fact that he was already a descendant of Aharon, did Pinchas not already have the blessing of hereditary priesthood? How could this be considered a reward?
Answer:Hi! Rashi here says from the Gemara that not all descendants of Aharon would have been priests, just the ones born after the bestowal of the blessing. Pinchas, having been born already, needed a special appointment.
Another answer is provided by a midrash on Tanach. It says that although the high priest could be any descendant of Aharon, from the time of Shlomo haMelech onward every kohein gadol would be descended only from Pinchas. This is called here bris Shalom, covenant of peace: a play on the name Shlomo.
Best wishes, Michoel Reach
Question: The beginning of the Torah Portion of Pinchas begins with a reference to a great deed that Pinchas did. What great deed did he perform?
Answer: Pinchas, the son of Elazar, the son of Aharon HaKohain, appeased My anger against the Bnai Yisroel by taking My revenge amidst them, and so I didnt have to destroy them with My vengeance. (Bamidbar 25:11)
The portion of Balak ends with the daughters of Moav enticing the young Jewish men to sin. This quickly led to idol worship, and many Jewish men served the idol of Baal Peor.
At the height of the debacle, Zimri, one of the heads oftribe ofShimon, took a Moabite princess and brought her into the encampment of the Jews, making a public spectacle of the act. Because he was a leader of the Jewish people, this was a grave threat to the survival of the nation. A plague broke out, and thousands of Jews died.
Pinchas saw what was happening and ran to Moshe for advice. Moshe directed him to take action. At the risk of his life and against all odds, Pinchas walked into the mob and miraculously killed both Zimri and the Moabite woman. No sooner did their dead bodies hit the floor than the plague stopped. It was a clear and obvious sign that Pinchas had acted correctly. By acting with courage and alacrity, he saved the Jews from destruction.
All the Best, Rabbi Meir Goldberg
Ask the Rabbi, JewishAnswers.org
The name of God in Judaism used most often in the Hebrew Bible is (YHWH), also known as the Tetragrammaton. Elohim (God, singular and plural form, depending on the context), and Adonai (master), are regarded by rabbinic Judaism not as names, but as epithets or titles reflecting different aspects of God. Elohim is the aspect of justice, and Adonai the aspect of mercy.
The name of God in Judaism used most often in the Hebrew Bible is the four-letter name (YHWH), also known as the Tetragrammaton (Greek for “four letters”). The Tetragrammaton appears 6,828 times in the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia edition of the Hebrew Masoretic Text. It first appears at Genesis 2:4 and is usually translated as the LORD in many English language Bibles, although Jehovah or Yahweh are employed in others.
The Hebrew letters are (right to left) Yodh, He, Waw and He (). It is written as YHWH, YHVH, or JHVH in English, depending on the transliteration convention that is used. YHWH is thought to be an archaic third person singular imperfect of the verb “to be” (meaning, therefore, “He is”). This interpretation agrees with the meaning of the name given in Exodus 3:14 where God is represented as speaking, and hence as using the first person (“I am”).
The name ceased to be pronounced in Second Temple Judaism, by the 3rd century BCE.Rabbinical Judaism teaches that the name is forbidden to be uttered except by the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) in the inner sanctum (Kodesh ha-Kadoshim, or Holy of Holies) of the Temple on Yom Kippur. Throughout the service, the High Priest pronounced the name YHWH (or Yehowah) “just as it is written” in each blessing he made. When the people standing in the Temple courtyard heard the name they prostrated themselves flat on the floor.
Passages such as: “And, behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said unto the reapers, YHWH [be] with you. And they answered him, YHWH bless thee.” (Ruth 2:4), indicates the name was still being pronounced at the time of the redaction of the Hebrew Bible in the 6th or 5th century BCE. The prohibition against verbalizing the name did not apply to the forms of the name within theophoric names (the prefixes yeho-, yo-, and the suffixes -yahu, -yah) and their pronunciation remains in use.
There is nothing in the Torah to prohibit the saying of the name, but modern Jews never pronounce YHWH, instead, Jews say Adonai (“Lord”). The Jewish Publication Society translation of 1917, in online versions, uses YHWH once at Exodus 6:3.
Ehyeh asher ehyeh (Hebrew: ) is the first of three responses given to Moses when he asks for God’s name (Exodus 3:14). The King James version of the Bible translates the Hebrew as “I Am that I Am” and uses it as a proper name for God. The Aramaic Targum Onkelos leaves the phrase untranslated and is so quoted in the Talmud (B. B. 73a.[clarification needed])
Ehyeh is the first-person singular imperfect form of hayah, “to be”. Ehyeh is usually translated “I will be”, since the imperfect tense in Hebrew denotes actions that are not yet completed (e.g. Exodus 3:12, “Certainly I will be [ehyeh] with thee.”). Asher is an ambiguous pronoun which can mean, depending on context, “that”, “who”, “which”, or “where”.
Although Ehyeh asher ehyeh is generally rendered in English “I am that I am”, better renderings might be “I will be what I will be” or “I will be who I will be”, or “I shall prove to be whatsoever I shall prove to be” or even “I will be because I will be”. Other renderings include: Leeser, I WILL BE THAT I WILL BE; Rotherham, “I Will Become whatsoever I please.” Greek, Ego eimi ho on ( ), “I am The Being” in the Septuagint, and Philo, and Revelation or, “I am The Existing One”; Lat., ego sum qui sum, “I am Who I am.”
“Jah” appears often in theophoric names, such as Elijah, Adonijah, or Hallelujah. Found in the King James Version of the Bible at Psalm 68:4.
Names of God in Judaism – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
This article is about historical and modern views of Jews. For the portrayal of women in the Bible, see Women in the Bible.
The role of women in Judaism is determined by the Hebrew Bible, the Oral Law (the corpus of rabbinic literature), by custom, and by non-religious cultural factors. Although the Hebrew Bible and rabbinic literature mention various female role models, religious law treats women differently in various circumstances.
Gender has a bearing on familial lines: in traditional Judaism, Jewishness is passed down through the mother, although the father’s name is used to describe sons and daughters in the Torah, e.g., “Dinah, daughter of Jacob”.
Relatively few women are mentioned in the Bible by name and role, suggesting that they were rarely in the forefront of public life. There are a number of exceptions to this rule, including the Matriarchs Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah, Miriam the prophetess, Deborah the Judge, Huldah the prophetess, Abigail who married David, Rahab and Esther. In the Biblical account these women did not meet with opposition for the relatively public presence they had.
According to Jewish tradition, a covenant was formed between the Israelites and the God of Abraham at Mount Sinai. The Torah relates that both Israelite men and Israelite women were present at Sinai, however, the covenant was worded in such a way that it bound men to act upon its requirements and to ensure that the members of their household (wives, children, and slaves) met these requirements as well. In this sense, the covenant bound women as well, though indirectly.
Marriage and family law in biblical times favored men over women. For example, a husband could divorce a wife if he chose to, but a wife could not divorce a husband without his consent. The practice of levirate marriage applied to widows of childless deceased husbands, but not to widowers of childless deceased wives. Laws concerning the loss of female virginity have no male equivalent. These and other gender differences found in the Torah suggest that women were subordinate to men during biblical times, however, they also suggest that biblical society viewed continuity, property, and family unity as paramount. However, men had specific obligations they were required to perform for their wives. These included the provision of clothing, food, and sexual relations to their wives.
Women also had a role in ritual life. Women (as well as men) were required to make a pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem once a year and offer the Passover sacrifice. They would also do so on special occasions in their lives such as giving a todah (“thanksgiving”) offering after childbirth. Hence, they participated in many of the major public religious roles that non-levitical men could, albeit less often and on a somewhat smaller and generally more discreet scale.
Women depended on men economically. Women generally did not own property except in the rare case of inheriting land from a father who didn’t bear sons. Even “in such cases, women would be required to remarry within the tribe so as not to reduce its land holdings.”
According to John Bowker (theologian), traditionally, Jewish “men and women pray separately. This goes back to ancient times when women could go only as far as the second court of the Temple.”
Classical Jewish rabbinical literature contains quotes that may be seen as both laudatory and derogatory of women. The Talmud states that:
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Women in Judaism – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia