IslamicJewish relations started in the 7th century CE with the origin and spread of Islam in the Arabian peninsula. The two religions share similar values, guidelines, and principles. Islam also incorporates Jewish history as a part of its own. Muslims regard the Children of Israel as an important religious concept in Islam. Moses, the most important prophet of Judaism, is also considered a prophet and messenger in Islam. Moses is mentioned more in the Quran than any other individual, and his life is narrated and recounted more than that of any other prophet. There are approximately forty-three references to the Israelites in the Quran (excluding individual prophets), and many in the Hadith. Later rabbinic authorities and Jewish scholars such as Maimonides discussed the relationship between Islam and Jewish law. Maimonides himself, it has been argued, was influenced by Islamic legal thought.
Because Islam and Judaism share a common origin in the Middle East through Abraham, both are considered Abrahamic religions. There are many shared aspects between Judaism and Islam; Islam was strongly influenced by Judaism in its fundamental religious outlook, structure, jurisprudence and practice. Because of this similarity, as well as through the influence of Muslim culture and philosophy on the Jewish community within the Islamic world, there has been considerable and continued physical, theological, and political overlap between the two faiths in the subsequent 1,400 years.
The term Semitic is due to the legendary derivation of the peoples so called from Shem, son of Noah (Gen. x, 1).Hebreaic and Arabian peoples are generally classified as Semitic, a concept derived from Biblical accounts of the origins of the cultures known to the ancient Hebrews. Those closest to them in culture and language were generally deemed to be descended from their forefather Shem, one of the sons of Noah. Enemies were often said to be descendants of his cursed nephew Canaan, grandson of Noah, son of Ham. Modern historians confirm the affinity of ancient Hebrews and Arabs based on characteristics that are usually transmitted from parent to child, such as genes and habits, with the most well-studied criterion being language. Similarities between Semitic languages (including Hebrew and Arabic) and their differences with those spoken by other adjacent people confirm the common origin of Hebrews and Arabs among other Semitic nations.
Around the 12th century BCE, Judaism developed as a monotheistic religion. According to Jewish tradition, the history of Judaism begins with the Covenant between God and Abraham, who is considered a Hebrew. (The first Hebrew being Eber, a forefather of Abraham.) The Hebrew Bible occasionally refers to Arvi peoples (or variants thereof), translated as “Arab” or “Arabian” deriving from “Arava” plain, the dwellers of plains. Some Arabs of the Arabian Peninsula are considered descendants of Ismael, the first son of Abraham. While the commonly held view among historians, most Westerners and some lay Muslims is that Islam originated in Arabia with Muhammad’s first recitations of the Qur’an in the 7th century CE. In Islam`s view, the Qur’an itself asserts that it was Adam who is the first Muslim (in the sense of believing in God and surrendering to God and God’s commands). Islam also shares many traits with Judaism (as well as with Christianity), like the belief in and reverence for common prophets, such as Moses and Abraham, who are recognized in all three Abrahamic religions.
Judaism and Islam are known as “Abrahamic religions”. The first Abrahamic religion was Judaism as practiced in the wilderness of the Sinai peninsula subsequent to the Exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt and continuing as the Hebrews entered the land of Canaan to conquer and settle it. The kingdom eventually split into the kingdoms of Israel and Judah prior to the Babylonian Exile, at the beginning of the 1st millennium CE. The firstborn son of Abraham, Ishmael, is considered by Muslims to be the Father of the Arabs. Abraham’s second son Isaac is called Father of the Hebrews. In Islamic tradition Isaac is viewed as the grandfather of all Israelites and the promised son of Ibraham from his barren wife Sarah. In the Hadith, Muhammad says that some forty thousand prophets and messengers came from Abraham’s seed, most of these being from Isaac, and that the last one in this line was Jesus. In the Jewish tradition Abraham is called Avraham Avinu or “Our Father Abraham”. For Muslims, he is considered an important prophet of Islam (see Ibrahim) and the ancestor of Muhammad through Ishmael. Ibraham is called the Friend of God in Islam and is regarded as one of the prophets of Islam alongside Noah, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad, among others. The narrative of his life in the Quran is similar to that seen in the Tanakh 
In the course of Muhammad’s proselytizing in Mecca, he initially viewed Christians and Jews (both of whom he referred to as “People of the Book”) as natural allies, sharing the core principles of his teachings, and anticipated their acceptance and support. Ten years after his first revelation in Mount Hira, a delegation consisting of the representatives of the twelve important clans of Medina pledged to physically protect Muhammad and invited him as a neutral outsider to Medina to serve as chief arbitrator for the entire community, which had been fighting with each other for around a hundred years and was in need of an authority.
Among the things Muhammad did in order to settle down the longstanding grievances among the tribes of Medina was drafting a document known as the Constitution of Medina. The community defined in the Constitution of Medina had a religious outlook but was also shaped by the practical considerations and substantially preserved the legal forms of the old Arab tribes. Muhammad also adopted some features of the Jewish worship and customs such as fasting on the Yom Kippur day. According to Alford Welch, the Jewish practice of having three daily prayer rituals appears to have been a factor in the introduction of the Islamic midday prayer but that Muhammad’s adoption of facing north towards Qiblah (position of Jerusalem – Islam’s first Qiblah or direction of prayer, which subsequently changed to face the Kabah in Mecca) when performing the daily prayers however was also practiced among other groups in Arabia.
Many Medinans converted to the faith of the Meccan immigrants, particularly pagan and polytheist tribes, but there were fewer Jewish converts. The Jews rejected Muhammad’s claim to prophethood, and further argued that some passages in the Qur’an contradicted with the Torah. Their opposition was due to political as well as religious reasons, as many Jews in Medina had close links with Abd-Allah ibn Ubayy, who was partial to the Jews and would have been Medina’s prince if not for Muhammad’s arrival.
Mark Cohen adds that Muhammad appeared “centuries after the cessation of biblical prophecy” and “couched his message in a verbiage foreign to Judaism both in its format and rhetoric.”Maimonides, a Jewish scholar, referred to Muhammad as a false prophet. Moreover, Maimonides asserted that Muhammad’s claim to prophethood was in itself what disqualified him, because it contradicted the prophecy of Moses, the Torah and the Oral Tradition. His argument further asserted that Muhammad being illiterate also disqualified him from being a prophet.
In the Constitution of Medina, Jews were given equality to Muslims in exchange for political loyalty and were allowed to practice their own culture and religion. However, as Muhammad encountered opposition from the Jews, Muslims began to adopt a more negative view on the Jews, seeing them as something of a fifth column. Jewish violations of the Constitution of Medina, by aiding the enemies of the community, finally brought on major battles of Badr and Uhud which resulted in Muslim victories and the exile of the Banu Qainuqa and Banu Nadir, two of the main three Jewish tribes from Medina.
Both regard many people as being prophets with exceptions. Both unlike Christianity teach Eber, Job, and Joseph were prophets. However, according to one sage in Judaism the whole story attributed to Job was an allegory and Job never actually existed. Rashi, a Jewish commentator on the Hebrew Scriptures quotes a text dating to 160CE, which is also quoted in the Talmud on his commentary on Genesis 10 to show that Eber was a prophet.
Jews have often lived in predominantly Islamic nations. Since many national borders have changed over the fourteen centuries of Islamic history, a single community, such as the Jewish community in Cairo, may have been contained in a number of different nations over different periods.
In the Iberian Peninsula, under Muslim rule, Jews were able to make great advances in mathematics, astronomy, philosophy, chemistry and philology. This era is sometimes referred to as the Golden age of Jewish culture in the Iberian Peninsula.
Traditionally Jews living in Muslim lands, known (along with Christians) as dhimmis, were allowed to practice their religion and to administor their internal affairs but subject to certain conditions. They had to pay the jizya (a per capita tax imposed on free, adult non-Muslim males) to the Muslim government but is exempted from paying the zakat (a tax imposed on free, adult Muslim males). Dhimmis were prohibited from bearing arms or giving testimony in most Muslim court cases, for there were many Sharia laws which did not apply to Dhimmis, who practiced Halakha. A common misconception is that of the requirement of distinctive clothing, which is a law not taught by the Qur’an or hadith but allegedly invented by the Sunni in early medieval Baghdad. Jews rarely faced martyrdom or exile, or forced compulsion to change their religion, and they were mostly free in their choice of residence and profession. The notable examples of massacre of Jews include the killing or forcible conversion of them by the rulers of the Almohad dynasty in Al-Andalus in the 12th century. Notable examples of the cases where the choice of residence was taken away from them includes confining Jews to walled quarters (mellahs) in Morocco beginning from the 15th century and especially since the early 19th century. Most conversions were voluntary and happened for various reasons. However, there were some forced conversions in the 12th century under the Almohad dynasty of North Africa and al-Andalus as well as in Persia.
The medieval Volga state of Khazaria converted to Judaism, whereas its subject Volga Bulgaria converted to Islam.
Islam accepts converts, and spreading Dawah to other religious adherents including Jews. In modern times, some notable converts to Islam from a Jewish background include Muhammad Asad (b. Leopold Weiss), Abdallah Schleifer (b. Marc Schleifer), Youssef Darwish, Layla Morad and Maryam Jameelah (b. Margret Marcus). More than 200 Israeli Jews converted to Islam between 2000 and 2008.
Historically, in accordance with traditional Islamic law, Jews generally enjoyed freedom of religion in Islamic states as People of the Book. However, certain rulers did historically enact forced conversions for political reasons and religious reasons in regards to youth and orphans. A number of groups who converted from Judaism to Islam have remained Muslim, while maintaining a connection to and interest in their Jewish heritage. These groups include the anusim or Daggataun of Timbuktu who converted in 1492, when Askia Muhammed came to power in Timbuktu and decreed that Jews must convert to Islam or leave, and the Chala, a portion of the Bukharan Jewish community who were pressured and many times forced to convert to Islam.
In Persia, during the Safavid dynasty of the 16th and 17th centuries, Jews were forced to proclaim publicly that they had converted to Islam, and were given the name Jadid-al-Islam (New Muslims). In 1661, an Islamic edict was issued overturning these forced conversions, and the Jews returned to practicing Judaism openly. Jews in Yemen also suffered under Islam, which persecution reached its climax in the 17th century when nearly all Jewish communities in Yemen were given the choice of either converting to Islam or of being banished to a remote desert area, and which later became known as the Mawza Exile. Similarly, to end a pogrom in 1839, the Jews of Mashhad were forced to convert en masse to Islam. They practiced Judaism secretly for over a century before openly returning to their faith. At the turn of the 21st century, around 10,000 lived in Israel, another 4,000 in New York City, and 1,000 elsewhere. (See Allahdad incident.)
In Turkey, the claimed messiah Sabbatai Zevi was forced to convert to Islam in 1668. Most of his followers abandoned him, but several thousand converted to Islam as well, while continuing to see themselves as Jews. They became known as the Dnmeh (a Turkish word for a religious convert). Some Donmeh remain today, primarily in Turkey.
Judaism does not proselytize, and often discourages conversion to Judaism; maintaining that all people have a covenant with God, and instead encourages non-Jews to uphold the Seven Laws which it believes were given to Noah. Conversions to Judaism are therefore relatively rare, including those from the Islamic world. One famous Muslim who converted to Judaism was Ovadyah, famous from his contact with Maimonides.Reza Jabari, an Iranian flight attendant who hijacked the air carrier Kish Air flight 707 between Tehran and the resort island of Kish in September 1995, and landed in Israel converted to Judaism after serving four-and-a-half years in an Israeli prison. He settled among Iranian Jews in the Israeli Red Sea resort town of Eilat. Another such case includes Avraham Sinai, a former Hezbollah fighter who, after the Israel-Lebanon War ended, fled to Israel and converted from Islam to become a religious and practicing Jew.
Iran contains the largest number of Jews among Muslim countries and Uzbekistan and Turkey have the next largest communities. Iran’s Jewish community is officially recognized as a religious minority group by the government, and, like the Zoroastrians, they were allocated a seat in the Iranian parliament. In 2000 it was estimated that at that time there were still 3035,000 Jews in Iran, other sources put the figure as low as 2025,000. They can not emigrate out of Iran, since the government only allows one family member to leave and be out of the country at a time. A Jewish businessman was hanged for helping Jews emigrate.
In present times, the Arab-Israeli conflict is a defining event in the relationship between Muslims and Jews. The State of Israel was proclaimed on 14 May 1948, one day before the expiry of the British Mandate of Palestine. Not long after, five Arab countriesEgypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraqattacked Israel, launching the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. After almost a year of fighting, a ceasefire was declared and temporary borders, known as the Green Line, were instituted. Jordan annexed what became known as the West Bank and Egypt took control of the Gaza Strip. Israel was admitted as a member of the United Nations on 11 May 1949. During the course of the hostilities, 711,000 Arabs, according to UN estimates, fled or were expelled. The following decades saw a similar Jewish exodus from Arab lands where 800,000-1,000,000 Jews were forcibly expelled or fled from Arab nations due to persecution.
The Slovenian philosopher Slavoj iek has argued that the term Judeo-Muslim to describe the middle-east culture against the western Christian culture would be more appropriate in these days, claiming as well a reduced influence from the Jewish culture on the western world due to the historical persecution and exclusion of the Jewish minority. (Though there is also a different perspective on Jewish contributions and influence.)
A Judaeo-Christian-Muslim concept thus refers to the three main monotheistic religions, commonly known as the Abrahamic religions. Formal exchanges between the three religions, modeled on the decades-old Jewish-Christian interfaith dialogue groups, became common in American cities following the 1993 Israeli-Palestinian Oslo accords.
Following 9/11, there was a breakdown in interfaith dialogue that included mosques, due to the increased attention to Islamic sermons in American mosques, that revealed anti-Jewish and anti-Israel outbursts by previously respected Muslim clerics and community leaders.
One of the countrys most prominent mosques is the New York Islamic Cultural Center, built with funding from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Malaysia. Its imam, Mohammad Al-Gamei’a, disappeared two days after 9/11.
Back in Egypt, he was interviewed on an Arabic-language Web site, charging that the “Zionist media” had covered up Jewish responsibility for the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. He agreed with Osama bin Laden’s accusations in bin Laden’s Letter to America, claiming that Jews were guilty of “disseminating corruption, heresy, homosexuality, alcoholism, and drugs.” And he said that Muslims in America were afraid to go to the hospital for fear that some Jewish doctors had “poisoned” Muslim children. “These people murdered the prophets; do you think they will stop spilling our blood? No,” he said.
Since 2007, the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, led by Rabbi Marc Schneier and Russell Simmons has made improving Muslim-Jewish Relations their main focus. They have hosted the National Summit of Imams and Rabbis in 2007, the Gathering of Muslim and Jewish Leaders in Brussels in 2010 and in Paris in 2012, and three Missions of Muslim and Jewish Leaders to Washington D.C.. Each November the Foundation hosts the Weekend of Twinning which encourages Muslims and Jews, Imams and Rabbis, Mosques and synagogues, and Muslim and Jewish organizations to hold joint programming inspired by the commonalities between Muslims and Jews.
The interview was published 4 October on a Web site affiliated with Cairo’s Al-Azhar University, Islam’s most respected theological academy. Immediately after 9/11, Imam Al-Gamei’a had presided over an interfaith service at his mosque. At the service the imam was quoted as saying, “We emphasize the condemnation of all persons, whoever they be, who have carried out this inhuman act.” The Reverend James Parks Morton, president of the Interfaith Center of New York, who attended the service, called Imam Al-Gamei’a’s subsequent comments “astonishing.” “It makes interfaith dialogue all the more important,” Reverend Morton said.
Post 9/11 remarks made by Muslim leaders in Cleveland and Los Angeles also led to the suspension of longstanding Muslim-Jewish dialogues. Some Jewish community leaders cite the statements as the latest evidence that Muslim-Jewish dialogue is futile in today’s charged atmosphere. John Rosove, senior rabbi of Temple Israel of Hollywood, and other Jewish participants withdrew from the three-year-old Muslim-Jewish dialogue group after one of the Muslim participants, Salam al-Marayati of MPAC, suggested in a radio interview that Israel should be put on the list of suspects behind the 11 September attacks. However, in January 2011, MPAC member Wael Azmeh and Temple Israel engaged in an interfaith dialogue.
In Cleveland, Jewish community leaders put Muslim-Jewish relations on hold after the spiritual leader of a prominent mosque appeared in (a 1991) videotape …aired after 9/11 by a local TV station. Imam Fawaz Damra calls for “directing all the rifles at the first and last enemy of the Islamic nation and that is the sons of monkeys and pigs, the Jews.” The revelation was all the more shocking since Imam Damra had been an active participant in local interfaith activities.
Good Jewish-Muslim relations continue in Detroit, which has the nation’s largest Arab-American community. Jewish organizations there have established good relations with a religious group called the Islamic Supreme Council of North America.
In Los Angeles there has been a formation of an interfaith think tank through the partnership of neighboring institutions the University of Southern California, The Hebrew Union College, and Omar Foundation. The Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement has an extensive online resource center with scholarly works on similar topics from Muslim and Jewish perspectives. The Center of Muslim-Jewish Engagement has begun to launch an interfaith religious text-study group to build bonds and form a positive community promoting interfaith relations.
There are many common aspects between Islam and Judaism. As Islam developed it gradually became the major religion closest to Judaism, both of them being strictly Monotheist religious traditions originating in a Semitic Middle Eastern culture. As opposed to Christianity, which originated from interaction between ancient Greek and Hebrew cultures, Islam is similar to Judaism in its fundamental religious outlook, structure, jurisprudence and practice. There are many traditions within Islam originating from traditions within the Hebrew Bible or from postbiblical Jewish traditions. These practices are known collectively as the Isra’iliyat.
The Qur’an speaks extensively about the Children of Israel (Ban Isr’l) and recognizes that the Jews (al-Yahd) are, according to lineage, descendants of Prophet Abraham through his son Isaac and grandson Jacob. They were chosen by Allah for a mission: “And We chose them, purposely, above (all) creatures.” [Srah al-Dukhn: 32] Allah raised among them many Prophets and bestowed upon them what He had not bestowed upon many others: “And (remember) when Musa said unto his people: O my people! Remember Allah’s favor unto you, how He placed among you Prophets, and He made you Kings, and gave you that (which) He gave not to any (other) of (His) creatures.” [Srah al-M’idah: 20] He, also, exalted them over other nations of the earth and granted them many favors: “O Children of Israel! Remember My favor wherewith I favored you and how I preferred you to (all) creatures.” [Srah al-Baqarah: 47] They were chosen by God for a mission (44:32) and God raised among them many Prophets and bestowed upon them what He had not bestowed upon many others (5:20).
Islam and Judaism share the idea of a revealed Scripture. Even though they differ over the precise text and its interpretations, the Hebrew Torah and the Muslim Qur’an share a lot of narrative as well as injunctions. From this, they share many other fundamental religious concepts such as the belief in a day of Divine Judgment. Reflecting the vintage of the religions, the Torah is traditionally in the form of a scroll and the Qur’an in the form of a codex.
Muslims commonly refer to Jews (and Christians) as fellow “People of the Book”: people who follow the same general teachings in relation to the worship of the one God worshipped by Abraham – Allah. The Qur’an distinguishes between “People of the Book” (Jews and Christians), who should be tolerated even if they hold to their faiths, and idolaters (polytheists) who are not given that same degree of tolerance (See Al-Baqara, 256). Some restrictions for Muslims are relaxed, such as Muslim males being allowed to marry a woman from the “People of the Book” (Qur’an, 5:5), or Muslims being allowed to eat Kosher meat.
Judaism and Islam are unique in having systems of religious law based on oral tradition that can override the written laws and that does not distinguish between holy and secular spheres. In Islam the laws are called Sharia, In Judaism they are known as Halakha. Both Judaism and Islam consider the study of religious law to be a form of worship and an end in itself.
The most obvious common practice is the statement of the absolute unity of God, which Muslims observe in their five times daily prayers (salat), and Jews state at least twice (Shema Yisrael), along with praying 3 times daily. The two faiths also share the central practices of fasting and almsgiving, as well as dietary laws and other aspects of ritual purity. Under the strict dietary laws, lawful food is called Kosher in Judaism and Halal in Islam. Both religions prohibit the consumption of pork. Halal restrictions are similar to a subset of the Kashrut dietary laws, so all kosher foods are considered halal, while not all halal foods are Kosher. Halal laws, for instance, do not prohibit the mixing of milk and meat or the consumption of shellfish, each of which are prohibited by the kosher laws, with the exception that in the Shia Islam belief shellfish, mussel, things like that and other fish without scales are not considered halal.
Both Islam and traditional Judaism ban homosexuality and forbid human sexual relations outside of marriage and necessitate abstinence during the wife’s menstruation. Both Islam and Judaism practice circumcision for males.
Islam and Judaism both consider the Christian doctrine of the trinity and the belief of Jesus being God as explicitly against the tenets of monotheism. Idolatry and the worship of graven images is likewise forbidden in both religions. Both faiths believe in angels and demons; Jewish demonology mentions ha-Satan and Muslim demonology mentions Al-Shai’tan. Many angels also possess similar names and roles in both Judaism and Islam. Neither religion subscribes to the concept of original sin and both religions traditionally view homosexuality as sinful. Narrative similarities between Jewish texts and the Hadith have also been noted. For example, both state that Potiphar’s wife was named Zuleika.
There is a small bone in the body at the base of the spinal column called the Luz bone (known by differing traditions as either the coccyx or the seventh cervical vertebra) from which the body will be rebuilt at the time of resurrection, according to Muslims and Jews who share the belief that this bone does not decay. Muslim books refer to this bone as “^Ajbu al-Thanab” ( ). Rabbi Joshua Ben Hananiah replied to Hadrian, as to how man revived in the world to come, “From Luz, in the back-bone”.
There was a great deal of intellectual cultural diffusion between Muslim and Jewish rationalist philosophers of the medieval era, especially in Muslim Spain.
One of the most important early Jewish philosophers influenced by Islamic philosophy is Rav Saadia Gaon (892942). His most important work is Emunoth ve-Deoth (Book of Beliefs and Opinions). In this work Saadia treats of the questions that interested the Mutakallimun so deeply such as the creation of matter, the unity of God, the divine attributes, the soul, etc. and he criticizes the philosophers severely.
The 12th century saw the apotheosis of pure philosophy. This supreme exaltation of philosophy was due, in great measure, to Ghazali (10581111) among the Arabs, and to Judah ha-Levi (1140) among the Jews. Like Ghazali, Judah ha-Levi took upon himself to free religion from the shackles of speculative philosophy, and to this end wrote the Kuzari, in which he sought to discredit all schools of philosophy alike.
Maimonides endeavored to harmonize the philosophy of Aristotle with Judaism; and to this end he composed the work, Dalalat al-airin (Guide for the Perplexed) known better under its Hebrew title Moreh Nevuchim which served for many centuries as the subject of discussion and comment by Jewish thinkers. In this work, Maimonides considers creation, the unity of God, the attributes of God, the soul, etc., and treats them in accordance with the theories of Aristotle to the extent in which these latter do not conflict with religion. For example, while accepting the teachings of Aristotle upon matter and form, he pronounces against the eternity of matter. Nor does he accept Aristotle’s theory that God can have a knowledge of universals only, and not of particulars. If He had no knowledge of particulars, He would be subject to constant change. Maimonides argues: “God perceives future events before they happen, and this perception never fails Him. Therefore there are no new ideas to present themselves to Him. He knows that such and such an individual does not yet exist, but that he will be born at such a time, exist for such a period, and then return into non-existence. When then this individual comes into being, God does not learn any new fact; nothing has happened that He knew not of, for He knew this individual, such as he is now, before his birth” (Moreh, i.20). While seeking thus to avoid the troublesome consequences certain Aristotelian theories would entail upon religion, Maimonides could not altogether escape those involved in Aristotle’s idea of the unity of souls; and herein he laid himself open to the attacks of the orthodox.
Arabic philosophy also found a following with the Jews, to whom belongs the honor of having transmitted it to the Christian world. A series of eminent men such as the Tibbons, Narboni, and Gersonides joined in translating the Arabic philosophical works into Hebrew and commenting upon them. The works of Ibn Roshd especially became the subject of their study, due in great measure to Maimonides, who, in a letter addressed to his pupil Joseph ben Judah, spoke in the highest terms of Ibn Roshd’s commentary.
In a response, Maimonides discusses the relationship between Judaism and Islam:
The Ishmaelites are not at all idolaters; [idolatry] has long been severed from their mouths and hearts; and they attribute to God a proper unity, a unity concerning which there is no doubt. And because they lie about us, and falsely attribute to us the statement that God has a son, is no reason for us to lie about them and say that they are idolaters … And should anyone say that the house that they honor [the Kaaba] is a house of idolatry and an idol is hidden within it, which their ancestors used to worship, then what of it? The hearts of those who bow down toward it today are [directed] only toward Heaven … [Regarding] the Ishmaelites today idolatry has been severed from the mouths of all of them [including] women and children. Their error and foolishness is in other things which cannot be put into writing because of the renegades and wicked among Israel [i.e., apostates]. But as regards the unity of God they have no error at all.
Saadia Gaon’s commentary on the Bible bears the stamp of the Mutazilites; and its author, while not admitting any positive attributes of God, except these of essence, endeavors to interpret Biblical passages in such a way as to rid them of anthropomorphism. The Jewish commentator, Abraham ibn Ezra, explains the Biblical account of Creation and other Scriptural passages in a philosophical sense. Nahmanides (Rabbi Moshe ben Nahman), too, and other commentators, show the influence of the philosophical ideas current in their respective epochs. This salutary inspiration, which lasted for five consecutive centuries, yielded to that other influence alone that came from the neglected depths of Jewish and of Neoplatonic mysticism, and which took the name of Kabbalah.
In the early days of Islam, according to Islamic sources, a Jewish tribe of Arabia had broken the peace treaty with the early Muslims, resulting in a short conflict, which ended with the tribe’s expulsion from Arabia. Since then, relations remained mostly peaceful under Islamic rule, with the exception of rare Jewish persecutions such as the 1033 Fez massacre, 1066 Granada massacre and 1834 looting of Safed. In the 20th century, the Zionist ideology was created, which wanted to re-establish a Jewish homeland in historic Israel, within the land of Canaan British mandate of Palestine. This created tensions between the Palestinian Jews and Palestinian Arabs, leading to, beginning in 1947, a civil war and the subsequent expulsion of many non-Jewish Palestinians. In 1948, the state of Israel was declared, and shortly after its declaration of independence, the Arab States declared war on Israel, in which the Israelis were victorious. After the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, twelve more wars were fought between the Arab States and Israel. These wars and conflicts were more political and nationalistic than religious but the ArabIsraeli conflict has weakened IslamicJewish relations severely.
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IslamicJewish relations – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
DRAFT — The Nature and Central Themes of Judaism
A. What is Judaism? B. What is the nature of Judaism? C. The interrelationship of Judaism with the Jewish people and Israel.
A. What is Judaism?
DEFINITION I propose that we view religion as a distinctive life style and as a recognized set of beliefs, as applied to a defined social entity. Judaism is the religion of the Jews. The word Jew comes from the name of the ancient southern kingdom of Judah, whose people gave their name to Judaism. Kabbalah and Modern Life – Living with the Times: Judah is the king (the “first”) of the tribes of Israel. His name means to give thanks, in speech (the sense of Nissan). The king rules his people by the power of his speech, as is said “for the word of the king is his rule.” The month of Nissan is “the new year for kings” (Mishnah Rosh HaShana 1:1).1
Judaism is one of the world’s oldest living religions, and was the first religion based on monotheism, the belief in one God. Judaism traces its origins to Abraham and has its spiritual and ethical principles embodied chiefly in the Bible -the Old Testament for the Christians- and the Talmud. It was the first religion based on ethical monotheism.Judaism influenced the development of Christianity and Islam, and had a major influence on Western civilization – Christianity, the eventually dominant religious faith of the West, was in large part a child of the Hebrew religion. When we speak of the Judeo-Christian heritage of Western civilization, we refer not only to the concept of monotheism, but also to ideas of law, morality, and social justice that have become important parts of Western culture. All of the major Western religions found their roots in Judaism.HISTORY The Patriarchs and the Origins of Judaism
The cultural and religious continuity of the Israelites since ancient times is indicated by attitudes in the modern state of Israel and by the monotheistic roots of modern religion. They maintained their identity throughout years of conquest and slavery. The Hebrew people have retained a commitment tio God and his law despite having experienced conquest, exile and dispersal.
Geography – The land
In ancient times, three peoples -the Hebrews, the Phoenicians and the Lydians- lived in the western end of the Fertile Crescent. This narrow strip of land along the Mediterranean Sea today forms portions of nations of Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Turkey. The southern section had different names during the course of history, including Canaan (KAY-nun), Israel and Palestine.
Canaan -south of Phoenicia- lay between Asia and Africa, and consisted of two regions: 1. the Jordan Valley watered the northern valley -fertile soil; 2. desert covered most of the southern region, around and south of the Dead Sea -high salt content of water killed all marine life. Canaan.
People2 The earliest known inhabitants of Palestine were the Caananites, a people who urbanized around the third millennium C.E. (Common Era), and established several city-states, one of which was Jericho. Later invaders to the area included the Hebrews, a group of Semitic tribes from Mesopotamia, & the Philistines, an Aegean people of Indo-European origin, around 1400 B.C.E. The area was also later to be submitted to Persian, Roman, Arab Caliphates, Ottoman, and British rule. The greatest influence from this period on civilization did not come from the powerful and prolonged kingdoms of Mesopotamia and Egypt or from the warlike successor states that from time to time held sway in the area, but rather from a group that came to inhabit a part of early Palestine. That influence developed from a comparatively small group of people, the Hebrews, whose existence would have passed unnoticed were it not for the uniqueness of their religious belief and practice.
I. The Hebrews: The Children of Israel 1800 B.C.E.
The Hebrews, the ancestors of the Jews, were a small group, yet their influence in world history was great. The Hebrews/Israelites, who did not create large empires, made an important contribution to Western civilization in religion: Judaism/ ethical monotheism. They were responsible for a religious revolution founded on the concept of a single, universal God. This innovation became the basis of Christianity and Islam.
The Early Israelites – Originally herders from Mesopotamia, the Hebrews, group of nomadic Semitic-speaking people, were descendants of the patriarchal leader Abraham, who had migrated from Sumer to Canaan and the land of Palestine, where they were called the Children of Israel. Between 1800 and 1500 B.C.E. (Before the Common Era=B.C. Before Christ) the Hebrews entered Canaan from the east. Because of famine the Hebrews migrated to Egypt, and settled there until a pharaoh enslaved them.
1. The Patriarchs http://www.jewfaq.org/origins.htm Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, known as the Patriarchs, are both the physical and spiritual ancestors of Judaism. They founded the religion now known as Judaism, and their descendants are the Jewish people. The history below is derived from written Torah, Talmud, Midrash and other sources.
a. Abraham According to Jewish tradition, Abraham was born under the name Abram in the city of Ur in Babylonia in the year 1948 from Creation (circa 1800 BCE). He was the son of Terach, an idol merchant, but from his early childhood, he questioned the faith of his father and sought the truth. He came to believe that the entire universe was the work of a single Creator, and he began to teach this belief to others.
Abram tried to convince his father, Terach, of the folly of idol worship. One day, when Abram was left alone to mind the store, he took a hammer and smashed all of the idols except the largest one. He placed the hammer in the hand of the largest idol. When his father returned and asked what happened, Abram said, “The idols got into a fight, and the big one smashed all the other ones.” His father said, “Don’t be ridiculous. These idols have no life or power. They can’t do anything.” Abram replied, “Then why do you worship them?”
The b’rit – covenant. Eventually, the one true Creator that Abram had worshipped called to him, and made him an offer: if Abram would leave his home and his family, then G-d would make him a great nation and bless him. Abram accepted this offer, and the b’rit (covenant) between G-d and the Jewish people was established. (Gen. 12).
The idea of b’rit is fundamental to traditional Judaism: we have a covenant, a contract, with G-d, which involves rights and obligations on both sides. We have certain obligations to G-d, and G-d has certain obligations to us. The terms of this b’rit became more explicit over time, until the time of the Giving of the Torah (see below). Abram was subjected to ten tests of faith to prove his worthiness for this covenant. Leaving his home is one of these trials.
Abram, raised as a city-dweller, adopted a nomadic lifestyle, traveling through what is now the land of Israel for many years. G-d promised this land to Abram’s descendants. Abram is referred to as a Hebrew (Ivri), possibly because he was descended from Eber or possibly because he came from the “other side” (eber) of the Euphrates River.
But Abram was concerned, because he had no children and he was growing old. Abram’s beloved wife, Sarai, knew that she was past child-bearing years, so she offered her maidservant, Hagar, as a wife to Abram. This was a common practice in the region at the time. According to tradition Hagar was a daughter of Pharaoh, given to Abram during his travels in Egypt. She bore Abram a son, Ishmael, who, according to both Muslim and Jewish tradition, is the ancestor of the Arabs. (Gen 16)
When Abram was 100 and Sarai 90, G-d promised Abram a son by Sarai. G-d changed Abram’s name to Abraham (father of many), and Sarai’s to Sarah (from “my princess” to “princess”). Sarah bore Abraham a son, Isaac (in Hebrew, Yitzchak), a name derived from the word “laughter,” expressing Abraham’s joy at having a son in his old age. (Gen 17-18). Isaac was the ancestor of the Jewish people.
b. Isaac Isaac was the subject of the tenth and most difficult test of Abraham’s faith: G-d commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering. (Gen 22). This test is known in Jewish tradition as the Akeidah (the Binding, a reference to the fact that Isaac was bound on the altar).
But this test is also an extraordinary demonstration of Isaac’s own faith, because according to Jewish tradition, Isaac knew that he was to be sacrificed, yet he did not resist, and was united with his father in dedication.
At the last moment, G-d sent an angel to stop the sacrifice. It is interesting to note that child sacrifice was a common practice in the region at the time. Thus, to people of the time, the surprising thing about this story is not the fact that G-d asked Abraham to sacrifice his child, but that G-d stopped him. Judaism uses this story as evidence that G-d abhors human sacrifice. Judaism has always strongly opposed the practice of human sacrifice, commonplace in many other cultures at that time and place.
Isaac later married Rebecca (Rivka), who bore him fraternal twin sons: Jacob (Ya’akov) and Esau. (Gen 25).
c. Jacob (Israel) Jacob and his brother Esau were at war with each other even before they were born. They struggled within Rebecca’s womb. Esau was Isaac’s favorite, because he was a good hunter, but the more spiritually-minded Jacob was Rebecca’s favorite.
Esau had little regard for the spiritual heritage of his forefathers, and sold his birthright of spiritual leadership to Jacob for a bowl of lentil stew. When Isaac was growing old, Rebecca tricked him into giving Jacob a blessing meant for Esau. Esau was angry about this, and about the birthright, so Jacob fled to live with his uncle, where he met his beloved Rachel. Jacob was deceived into marrying Rachel’s older sister, Leah, but later married Rachel as well, and Rachel and Leah’s maidservants, Bilhah and Zilphah. Between these four women, Jacob fathered 12 sons and one daughter.
After many years living with and working for his uncle/father-in-law, Jacob returned to his homeland and sought reconciliation with his brother Esau. He prayed to G-d and gave his brother gifts. The night before he went to meet his brother, he sent his wives, sons, and things across the river, and was alone with G-d. That night, he wrestled with a man until the break of day. As the dawn broke, Jacob demanded a blessing from the man, and the “man” revealed himself as an angel. He blessed Jacob and gave him the name “Israel” (Yisrael), meaning “the one who wrestled with G-d” or “the Champion of G-d.” The Jewish people are generally referred to as the Children of Israel, signifying our descent from Jacob. The next day, Jacob met Esau and was welcomed by him.
2. Children of Israel
Jacob fathered 12 sons: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Zebulun, Issachar, Dan, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Joseph and Benjamin. They are the ancestors of the tribes of Israel, and the ones for whom the tribes are named. Joseph is the father of two tribes: Manasseh and Ephraim.
Joseph’s older brothers were jealous of him, because he was the favorite of their father, and because he had visions that he would lead them all. They sold Joseph into slavery and convinced their father that Joseph was dead. But this was all part of G-d’s plan: Joseph was brought into Egypt, where his ability to interpret visions earned him a place in the Pharaoh’s court, paving the way for his family’s later settlement in Egypt.
II. The Exodus and the Giving of the Torah, 1300 B.C.E.
As centuries passed, the descendants of Israel became slaves in Egypt. They suffered greatly under the hand of later Pharaohs. But G-d brought the Children of Israel out of Egypt under the leadership of Moses. In the 13th century, about 1300-1250 BC, during Ramses II, the Hebrews, led by Moses raised at the pharaohs court, fled across the desert of the Sinai (SY-ny) Peninsula (= northern boundary of Red Sea and desert home of Moses) back to Canaan. Their flight from Egypt is known as the exodus. The books of Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy in the Bible describe Moses and the flight from Egypt. The history below is derived from written Torah, Talmud, Midrash and other sources. Where information comes directly from the Bible, I have provided citations.
Moses was the greatest prophet, leader and teacher that Judaism has ever known. In fact, one of Rambam’s 13 Principles of Faith is the belief that Moses’ prophecies are true, and that he was the greatest of the prophets. He is called “Moshe Rabbeinu,” that is, Moses, Our Teacher/Rabbi. Interestingly, the numerical value of “Moshe Rabbeinu” is 613: the number of mitzvot that Moses taught the Children of Israel! He is described as the only person who ever knew G-d face-to-face (Deut. 34:10) and mouth-to-mouth (Num. 12:8), which means that G-d spoke to Moses directly, in plain language, not through visions and dreams, as G-d communicated with other prophets.
Moses was born on 7 Adar in the year 2368 from Creation (circa 1400 BCE), the son of Amram, a member of the tribe of Levi, and Yocheved, Levi’s daughter (Ex. 6:16-20). Amram married Yocheved, and she conceived, and she gave birth to Moses (Ex. 2:1-2). The only unusual thing about his birth is Yocheved’s advanced age: Yocheved was born while Jacob and his family were entering Egypt, so she was 130 when Moses was born. His father named him Chaver, and his grandfather called him Avigdor, but he is known to history as Moses, a name given to him by Pharaoh’s daughter.
The name “Moses” comes from a root meaning “take out,” because Moses was taken out of the river (Ex. 2:10). Some modern scholars point out that the root M-S-S in Egyptian means “son of” as in the name Ramases (son of Ra), but it is worth noting that Moses’s name in Hebrew is M-Sh-H (Moshe), not M-S-S. According to one Jewish source, Pharaoh’s daughter actually named him Minios, which means “drawn out” in Egyptian, and the name Moshe (Moses) was a Hebrew translation of that name.
Moses was born in a very difficult time: Pharaoh had ordered that all male children born to the Hebrew slaves should be drowned in the river (Ex. 1:22). Yocheved hid Moses for three months, and when she could no longer hide him, she put him in a little ark and placed it on the river where Pharaoh’s daughter bathed (Ex. 2:2-3). Pharaoh’s daughter found the child and had compassion on him (Ex. 2:6). At the suggestion of Moses’s sister Miriam, Pharaoh’s daughter hired Yocheved to nurse Moses until he was weaned (Ex. 2:7-10). Yocheved instilled in Moses a knowledge of his heritage and a love of his people that could not be erased by the 40 years he spent in the court of Pharaoh.
Little is known about Moses’s youth. The biblical narrative skips from his adoption by Pharaoh’s daughter to his killing of an Egyptian taskmaster some 40 years later. One traditional story tells that when he was a child, sitting on Pharaoh’s knee, Moses took the crown off of Pharaoh’s head and put it on. The court magicians took this as a bad sign and demanded that he be tested: they put a brazier full of gold and a brazier full of hot coals before him to see which he would take. If Moses took the gold, he would have to be killed. An angel guided Moses’s hand to the coal, and he put it into his mouth, leaving him with a life-long speech impediment (Ex. 4:10).
Although Moses was raised by Egyptians, his compassion for his people was so great that he could not bear to see them beaten by Pharaoh’s taskmasters. One day, when Moses was about 40 years old, he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew slave, and he was so outraged that he struck and killed the Egyptian (Ex. 2:11-12). But when both his fellow Hebrews and the Pharaoh condemned him for this action, Moses was forced to flee from Egypt (Ex. 2:14-15).
He fled to Midian, where he met and married Zipporah, the daughter of a Midianite priest (Ex. 2:16-21). They had a son, Gershom (Ex. 2:22). Moses spent 40 years in Midian tending his father-in-law’s sheep. A midrash tells that Moses was chosen to lead the Children of Israel because of his kindness to animals. When he was bringing the sheep to a river for water, one lamb did not come. Moses went to the little lamb and carried it to the water so it could drink. Like G-d, Moses cared about each individual in the group, and not just about the group as a whole. This showed that he was a worthy shepherd for G-d’s flock.
Revelation G-d appeared to Moses and chose him to lead the people out of Egyptian slavery and to the Promised Land (Ex. Chs. 3-4). With the help of his brother Aaron, Moses spoke to Pharaoh and triggered the plagues against Egypt (Ex. Chs. 4-12). He then led the people out of Egypt and across the sea to freedom, and brought them to Mount Sinai, where G-d gave the people the Torah and the people accepted it (Ex. Chs. 12-24):
During their journey, Moses, a strong leader, unified the Hebrew tribes under a jealous god, Yahweh, and a complex code of ethically based laws. According to the Torah -1st 5 books of the Tanakh, Moses climbed to the top of Mt. Sinai and returned bearing the Ten Commandments -the set of moral laws revealed to him by the Hebrew God. The Torah explains how Yahweh made a covenant -pact, with the sons of Abraham and gave his chosen people a set of laws by which to live. The Hebrews wandered in the desert for 40-years. G-d led them on a journey through the wilderness to Mount Sinai. Here, G-d revealed Himself to the Children of Israel and offered them a great covenant: if the people would hearken to G-d and observe His covenant, then they would be the most beloved of nations, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. (Ex 19). G-d revealed the Torah to his people, both the written and oral Torah, and the entire nation responded, “Everything that the L-rd has spoken, we will do!” According to Jewish tradition, every Jewish soul that would ever be born was present at that moment, and agreed to be bound to this covenant.
G-d revealed the entire Torah to Moses. The entire Torah includes the first five books of the Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy) that Moses himself wrote as G-d instructed him. It also includes all of the remaining prophecies and history that would later be written down in the remaining books of scripture, and the entire Oral Torah, the oral tradition for interpreting the Torah, that would later be written down in the Talmud. Moses spent the rest of his life writing the first five books, essentially taking dictation from G-d.
After Moses received instruction from G-d about the Law and how to interpret it, he came back down to the people and started hearing cases and judging them for the people, but this quickly became too much for one man. Upon the advice of his father-in-law, Yitro, Moses instituted a judicial system (Ex. 18:13-26).
Moses was not perfect. Like any man, he had his flaws and his moments of weakness, and the Bible faithfully records these shortcomings. In fact, Moses was not permitted to enter the Promised Land because of a transgression (Deut. 32:48-52). Moses was told to speak to a rock to get water from it, but instead he struck the rock repeatedly with a rod, showing improper anger and a lack of faith (Num. 20:7-13).
Moses died in the year 2488, just before the people crossed over into the Promised Land (Deut. 32:51). Moses was 120 years old at the time that he died (Deut. 34:7). That lifespan is considered to be ideal, and has become proverbial: one way to wish a person well in Jewish tradition is to say, “May you live to be 120!” He completed writing the first five books of the Bible(Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy) before he died. There is some dispute as to who physically wrote the last few verses of Deuteronomy: according to some, Moses wrote these last few verses from a vision of the future, but according to others, the last few verses were added by Joshua after Moses’s death. In any case, these verses, like everything else in the Torah, were written by G-d, and the actual identity of the transcriber is not important.
As important as Moses was to the Children of Israel, it is always important to remember that Moses himself was not the deliverer or redeemer of Israel. It was G-d who redeemed Israel, not Moses. Moses was merely G-d’s prophet, His spokesman. The traditional text of the Pesach haggadah does not even mention Moses’s name. In order to prevent people from idolatrously worshipping Moses, his grave was left unmarked (Deut. 34:6).
Moses’s position as leader of Israel was not hereditary. His son, Gershom, did not inherit the leadership of Israel. Moses’s chosen successor was Joshua, son of Nun (Deut. 34:9).
Aaron was Moses’s older brother. He was born in 2365, three years before Moses, before the Pharaoh’s edict requiring the death of male Hebrew children. He was the ancestor of all koheins (priest in Hebrew), the founder of the priesthood, and the first Kohein Gadol (High Priest). Aaron and his descendants tended the altar and offered sacrifices. Aaron’s role, unlike Moses’s, was inherited; his sons continued the priesthood after him (Num. 20:26).
Aaron served as Moses’s spokesman. As discussed above, Moses was not eloquent and had a speech impediment, so Aaron spoke for him (Ex. 4:10-16). Contrary to popular belief, it was Aaron, not Moses, who cast down the staff that became a snake before Pharaoh (Ex. 7:10-12). It was Aaron, not Moses, who held out his staff to trigger the first three plagues against Egypt (Ex. 7:19-20; Ex. 8:1-2 or 8:5-6; Ex. 8:12-13 or 8:16-17). According to Jewish tradition, it was also Aaron who performed the signs for the elders before they went to Pharaoh (Ex. 4:30).
Aaron’s most notable personal quality is that he was a peacemaker. His love of peace is proverbial. In fact, Aaron loved peace so much that he participated in the incident of the Golden Calf (Ex. 32), constructing the idol in order to prevent dissension among the people. Aaron intended to buy time until Moses returned from Mount Sinai (he was late, and the people were worried), to discourage the people by asking them to give up their precious jewelry in order to make the idol, and to teach them the error of their ways in time (Ex. 32:22). Aaron, like Moses, died in the desert shortly before the people entered the Promised Land (Num. 20).
Miriam Miriam was Aaron and Moses’s older sister. According to some sources, she was seven years older than Moses, but other sources seem to indicate that she was older than that. Some sources indicate that Miriam was Puah, one of the midwives who rescued Hebrew babies from Pharaoh’s edict against them (Ex. 1:15-19).
Miriam was a prophetess in her own right (Ex. 15:20), the first woman described that way in scripture. According to tradition, she prophesied before Moses’s birth that her parents would give birth to the person who would bring about their people’s redemption.
Miriam waited among the bulrushes while Moses’s ark was in the river, watching over him to make sure he was all right (Ex. 2:4). When the Pharaoh’s daughter drew Moses out of the water, Miriam arranged for their mother, Yocheved, to nurse Moses and raise him until he was weaned (Ex. 2:7-9).
Miriam led the women of Israel in a song and dance of celebration after the Pharaoh’s men were drowned in the sea (Ex. 15:20-21). She is said to be the ancestress of other creative geniuses in Israel’s history: Bezalel, the architect of the mishkan (the portable sanctuary used in the desert) (Ex. 31:1-3) and King David.
According to tradition, because of Miriam’s righteousness, a well followed the people through the desert throughout their wanderings, and that well remained with them until the day of Miriam’s death. … Like her brothers, Miriam died in the desert before the people reached the Promised Land (Num. 20:1).
III. The Israelite Monarchy, 1000-538 B.C.E.
Finally, ca. 1220 BC. a new generation of Hebrews returned to the land of Canaan, which they believed God had promised them. Organized in 12 tribes, they entered in conflict with the Canaanites, and the Philistines, warlike people who lived along the southern coast of Canaan (from their name the land became known as Palestine), and who defeated the Israelites in 1050 BC (David & Goliath). In the 11th century, about 1000 BC the Hebrew tribes united under the rule of one king, establishing a monarchy – the kingdom of Israel.
Political Aspirations & FrustrationsThe 1st king of the kingdom of Israel was Saul (c. 1020-1000). Brief period of anarchy. The 2nd king, David, Sauls lieutenant, (1010?-960?) reunited the Hebrews, defeated the Philistines, and established control over all of Palestine. He conquered Jerusalem, which became the capital (psalms: book of Hebrew religious hymns). Under Davids son, Solomon (c. 971-931), the Hebrew kingdom reached its greatest height of power and prosperity. His most popular contribution to the Hebrew society was the construction of the great Temple for God, the symbolic center of the Hebrew religion and society, in Jerusalem.
After Solomon died, the kingdom split in two. The northern part, called Israel with 10 tribes, was eventually conquered in 722 BC by Assyrians who burnt its capital -Samaria. The southern part along the Dead Sea, Judah with 2 tribes, was conquered in 586 by Nebuchadnezzar, the Chaldean ruler of Babylon, who destroyed Assyria. Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Solomons Temple, burnt Jerusalem, and exiled several 1000s of Hebrews, to Babylon = the Babylonian Captivity. The Israelites were tragically dispersed, though late, they managed to obtain partial independence in Palestine for occasional periods. David
When the Persians conquered Babylon in 538 BC, they allowed the exiles, now called Jews, to return home to rebuild the Temple at Jerusalem (word Jew comes from the name of the southern kingdom of Judah, whose people gave their name to Judaism, the religion of Yahweh). The revived kingdom of Judah was conquered by Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC.
IV. Spiritual Dimensions of Israel
a. The conception of God – YHWH: Yahweh as God The Hebrews concerns were religious & moral. They believed in one omnipotent transcendent God -Yahweh (means: he causes to be) who was eternal, ageless, & supreme. – he is the creator of the world but not an inherent part of nature – he is totally sovereign, all peoples of the world were subjects to him – he would punish those not following his willThe Hebrew spiritual perspective also emphasized individual worth. each person possessed of moral freedom, had the ability to choose between good & evil, and to follow or not to follow Gods Law. Through Moses & other holy men, God had made known his commandments, his ideal of behavior. The Hebrew conception of God was related to 3 aspects of the Hebrew religion tradition: the covenant, the law, and the prophets.
b. Covenant & the Law The covenant between God & the people was central to Hebrew religious thought. It place a heavy responsibility on the Hebrews as a chosen people to become the moral teachers of humanity The Hebrews believed their deity, whose name was spelled YHWH made a formal covenant -pact, with the tribes of Israel, through Moses, during the exodus. The Hebrews promised to obey Yahweh -the law of God, and follow the Mosaic laws, or Ten Commandments, which they had received on Mount Sinai, & moral laws. In return, Yahweh promised to take special care ofthem. . The Law has many dimensions, but ethical concerns stood at center of the law, and are expressed in decrees that regulated the economic, social, & political life of the community. these laws made no class distinctions & emphasized the protection of the poor, widows, orphans, & slave.
c. The Prophets Over time, Judaism was shaped by a series of social critics, prophets holy men men of God with special communion with God – messenger sent to reveal Gods message & will -his voice: they preached. They were also a series of scholars who organized the sacred writings of Judaism. The golden age of prophecy began in the mid-eighth century, and continued when the Hebrews were threatened by the Assyrians and Chaldeans. Prophets played a crucial role in Hebrew society by calling social injustices to attention. They emphasized corruption, moral reform, peace and a redeeming Messiah. – Isaiahs and Amos prophecies of Israels destruction at the hands of its enemies – their condemnation of suffering caused by Israels class differences – their adaptation of message to make the Hebrews more hopeful in times of exile & captivity
Out of the word of prophets came came new concepts – a notion of universalism & a yearning for social justice, that enriched the Hebrew tradition & Western civilization. The prophets embraced a concern for all humanity, and depicted a vision of peace for all nation. In the word of the prophet Isaiah: He will judge between the nation & settle disputes for many people. They shall beat their swords into plowshares… The prophets also expressed a new individualism by their assumption of personal responsibility for their thoughts and by their conception of a personal relationship between the individual & God
B. What is the nature of Judaism?
Judaism, which refers to the religious culture of the Jewish people, can be called a religious culture because it includes both a world view (beliefs) and a way of life (halacha). The Torah is the primary source of this world view and way of life.
I. What is the Torah?
Torah: Law; literally meaning “teaching.” The term also refers to the parchment scroll containing the first five books (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) of the Tanakh, used in a synagogue during services.
The Torah consists of the first Five Books of the Bible (also known as the Pentateuch), and which forms the first part of -what the Christians call- the Old Testament. The Torah (means teaching) is God’s revealed instructions to the Jewish People. It teaches Jews how to act, think and even feel about life. It encompasses every aspect of life, from birth through death.
The Torah contains 613 commandments (mitzvot). Ohr Somayach provides a online list of the 613 commandments. These 613 commandments govern Jewish law covering such areas as philanthropy, sacrifices, prayer, ritual purity, dietary laws, and observances of the Sabbath and other holy days. The Ten Commandments are considered the most important commandments of the Torah. The Torah also contains stories that teach us about God’s relationship with the Jewish People. There are two parts to the Torah: a. Written Torah b. Oral Torah
1. Written Torah – Tanakh
The Written Torah is often called the Tanakh – the Bible to the Jews/the Jewish Bible, which Christians call the Old Testament. Tanakh is an acronym for for (T), Torah – Law (N) Nevi’im – prophets, and (K), Ketuvim – Writings, 39 books of Hebrew Scriptures The Written Torah contains: 1. Five Books of Moses (Chumashe Torah) 2. Prophets (Nevi’im) 3. Writings (Ketuvim)
1. The Five Books of Moses (Chumashe Torah) were given to the Jewish People at Mount Sinai during their exodus from Egypt approximately 3500 years ago. They include Genesis (Beresheet), Exodus (Shemot), Vayikra (Leviticus), Numbers (Bamidbar), and Deuteronomy (Devarim). The first 5 books of the Tanakh are the source for much of early Hebrew history.
2. Prophets (Nevi’im) are direct prophecies or recordings of what God said to the prophets. Writings (Ketuvim) are books written by the prophets with the guidance of God. The Torah has been supplemented by oral law and interpretations of the law which comprise the Talmud. The Jewish system of law, also referred to as Halacha, includes a civil and criminal justice system which is followed by observant Jews. Halacha regulates Jewish life, such as marriage and divorce, burial, relationships with non-Jews and education. 2. Oral Torah The Oral Torah, explanations of the Written Torah, was originally passed down verbally from generation to generation.
After the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, it was decided the Oral Torah should be written down so it would not be forgotten. In the 2nd century C.E.(Common Era), Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi and a group of Sages compiled the Mishnah. The Mishnah is a written outline of the Oral Torah.
Over the next few centuries, Jewish scholars studied the Mishnah. Their discussions, questions and decisions became known as the Gemara. The Gemara is commentaries elaborating on the Mishnah.
The Talmud is the combination of the Mishnah and Gemara together; it is the oral tradition of Jewish law which has been written down and serves as the authority in Jewish law. In the 4th century, the Jerusalem Talmud was compiled in Israel. In the 5th century, the Babylonian Talmud was compiled in Babylon. The Babylonian Talmud is studied and used more than the Jerusalem Talmud because it is more comprehensive.
II. What are Judaism’s basic beliefs?
1. Judaism is a monotheistic religionGod The Jewish People believe there is one God who created and rules the world. This God is omnipotent (all powerful), omniscient (all knowing) and omnipresent (in all places at all times). God is also just and merciful. the conception of one supreme, omnipotent, universal deity who made strong ethical demands on human beings.
2. Judaism is an ethical religion – Ethical Monotheism
Judaism traditionally emphasizes ethical conduct and the treatment of others “as one would wish to be treated themselves.” Ethical monotheism involves a moral code of conduct, and means two things: 1. There is one God from whom emanates one morality for all humanity. 2. God’s primary demand of people is that they act decently toward one another.
If all people subscribed to this simple beliefwhich does not entail leaving, or joining, any specific religion, or giving up any national identitythe world would experience far less evil. When the Israelites accepted the Ten Commandments from God at Mount Sinai, they committed themselves to following a code of law which regulates both how they worship and how they treat other people.
The Ten Commandments
1.I am the Lord your God 2.You shall not recognize the gods of others in My presence 3.You shall not take the Name of the Lord your God in vain 4.Remember the day of shabbat to keep it holy 5.Honor your father and your mother 6.You shall not murder 7.You shall not commit adultery 8.You shall not steal 9.Do not give false testimony against your neighbor 10.You shall not covet your fellow’s possessions
3. What Do Jews Believe? This is a far more difficult question than you might expect. Judaism has no dogma, no formal set of beliefs that one must hold to be a Jew. In Judaism, actions are far more important than beliefs, although there is certainly a place for belief within Judaism. The closest that anyone has ever come to creating a widely-accepted list of Jewish beliefs is Rambam’s thirteen principles of faith. Who is Rambam?Rambam (Maimonides; Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon) (1135-1204 C.E.)
One of the greatest medieval Jewish scholars. Also known as Maimonides. A physician born in Moorish Cordoba, Rambam lived in a variety of places throughout the Moorish lands of Spain, the Middle East and North Africa, often fleeing persecution. He was a leader of the Jewish community in Cairo. He was heavily influenced by Greek thought, particularly that of Aristotle.
Rambam was the author of the Mishneh Torah, one of the greatest codes of Jewish law, compiling every conceivable topic of Jewish law in subject matter order and providing a simple statement of the prevailing view in plain language.
Rambam is also responsible for several important theological works. He developed the 13 Principles of Faith, the most widely accepted list of Jewish beliefs. He also wrote the Guide for the Perplexed, a discussion of difficult theological concepts written from the perspective of an Aristotelian philosopher. Rambam’s thirteen principles of faith, which he thought were the minimum requirements of Jewish belief, are:
Rambam’s thirteen principles of faith 1. G-d exists. 2. G-d is one and unique. 3. G-d is incorporeal. 4. G-d is eternal. 5. Prayer is to be directed to G-d alone. 6. The words of the prophets are true. 7. Moses was the greatest prophet, and his prophecies are true. 8. The Torah was given to Moses. 9. There will be no other Torah. 10. G-d knows the thoughts and deeds of men. 11. G-d will reward the good and punish the wicked. 12. The Messiah will come. 13. The dead will be resurrected.
G-d: A way of avoiding writing a name of G-d, to avoid the risk of the sin of erasing or defacing the Name. As you can see, these are very basic and general principles. Yet as basic as these principles are, the necessity of believing each one of these has been disputed at one time or another, and the liberal movements of Judaism dispute many of these principles. It is believed that each person is created in the image of one God. Therefore, all people are created equal. Furthermore, our likeness to God is in our intellectual ability to understand. Judaism believes that people have freewill and are responsible for the choices made.
A central tenet of Judaism is that God, the Creator of the World and the universal Creator of all humanity, made a special agreement called a covenant (Brit in Hebrew) with Abraham, from whom the Jewish people descended. The covenant provided that the Jews would be blessed with God’s love and protection if they remained true to God’s law and faithfully worshipped Him, and be accountable for sins and transgression against God and His laws. The Messiah – Mashiach
The tenets of Judaism include a belief in a coming Messiah (derived from the Hebrew, meaning, “the anointed one”) who will unite the Jewish people and lead them under a Kingdom of God on earth and bring peace and justice to all mankind. Jews believe the Messiah (Mashiach) will be a person (not a god), from the family of King David, who will lead the world to unity and peace. Jews do not believe that Jesus was the Messiah.
http://www.jewfaq.org/beliefs.htm: Unlike many other religions, Judaism does not focus much on abstract cosmological concepts. Although Jews have certainly considered the nature of G-d, man, the universe, life and the afterlife at great length (see Kabbalah and Jewish Mysticism), there is no mandated, official, definitive belief on these subjects, outside of the very general concepts discussed above. There is substantial room for personal opinion on all of these matters, because as I said before, Judaism is more concerned about actions than beliefs.
Judaism focuses on relationships: the relationship between G-d and mankind, between G-d and the Jewish nation, between the Jewish nation and the land of Israel, and between human beings. Our scriptures tell the story of the development of these relationships, from the time of creation, through the creation of the relationship between G-d and Abraham, to the creation of the relationship between G-d and the Jewish people, and forward. The scriptures also specify the mutual obligations created by these relationships, although various movements of Judaism disagree about the nature of these obligations. Some say they are absolute, unchanging laws from G-d (Orthodox); some say they are laws from G-d that change and evolve over time (Conservative); some say that they are guidelines that you can choose whether or not to follow (Reform, Reconstructionist). For more on these distinctions, see Movements of Judaism.
So, what are these actions that Judaism is so concerned about? According to Orthodox Judaism, these actions include 613 commandments given by G-d in the Torah as well as laws instituted by the rabbis and long-standing customs. These actions are discussed in depth on the page regarding Halakhah: Jewish Law and the pages following it.
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judaism – University of Arizona
Judaism is the oldest of the monotheistic faiths. It affirms the existence of one God, Yahweh, who entered into covenant with the descendants of Abraham, God’s chosen people. Judaism’s holy writings reveal how God has been present with them throughout their history. These writings are known as the Torah, specifically the five books of Moses, but most broadly conceived as the Hebrew Scriptures (traditionally called the Old Testament by Christians) and the compilation of oral tradition known as the Talmud (which includes the Mishnah, the oral law).
According to Scripture, the Hebrew patriarch Abraham (20th century? B.C.) founded the faith that would become known as Judaism. He obeyed the call of God to depart northern Mesopotamia and travel to Canaan. God promised to bless his descendants if they remained faithful in worship. Abraham’s line descended through Isaac, then Jacob (also called Israel; his descendants came to be called Israelites). According to Scripture, 12 families that descended from Jacob migrated to Egypt, where they were enslaved. They were led out of bondage (13th century? B.C.) by Moses, who united them in the worship of Yahweh. The Hebrews returned to Canaan after a 40-year sojourn in the desert, conquering from the local peoples the promised land that God had provided for them.
The 12 tribes of Israel lived in a covenant association during the period of the judges (1200?1000? B.C.), leaders known for wisdom and heroism. Saul first established a monarchy (r. 1025?1005? B.C.); his successor, David (r. 1005?965? B.C.), unified the land of Israel and made Jerusalem its religious and political center. Under his son, Solomon (r. 968?928? B.C.), a golden era culminated in the building of a temple, replacing the portable sanctuary in use until that time. Following Solomon’s death, the kingdom was split into Israel in the north and Judah in the south. Political conflicts resulted in the conquest of Israel by Assyria (721 B.C.) and the defeat of Judah by Babylon (586 B.C.). Jerusalem and its temple were destroyed, and many Judeans were exiled to Babylon.
During the era of the kings, the prophets were active in Israel and Judah. Their writings emphasize faith in Yahweh as God of Israel and of the entire universe, and they warn of the dangers of worshiping other gods. They also cry out for social justice.
The Judeans were permitted to return in 539 B.C. to Judea, where they were ruled as a Persian province. Though temple and cult were restored in Jerusalem, during the exile a new class of religious leaders had emergedthe scribes. They became rivals to the temple hierarchy and would eventually evolve into the party known as the Pharisees.
Persian rule ended when Alexander the Great conquered Palestine in 332 B.C. After his death, rule of Judea alternated between Egypt and Syria. When the Syrian ruler Antiochus IV Epiphanes tried to prevent the practice of Judaism, a revolt was led by the Maccabees (a Jewish family), winning Jewish independence in 128 B.C. The Romans conquered Jerusalem in 63 B.C.
During this period the Sadducees (temple priests) and the Pharisees (teachers of the law in the synagogues) offered different interpretations of Judaism. Smaller groups that emerged were the Essenes, a religious order; the Apocalyptists, who expected divine deliverance led by the Messiah; and the Zealots, who were prepared to fight for national independence. Hellenism also influenced Judaism at this time.
When the Zealots revolted, the Roman armies destroyed Jerusalem and its temple (A.D. 70). The Jews were scattered in the Diaspora (dispersion) and experienced much persecution. Rabbinic Judaism, developed according to Pharisaic practice and centered on Torah and synagogue, became the primary expression of faith. The Scriptures became codified, and the Talmud took shape. In the 12th century Maimonides formulated the influential 13 Articles of Faith, including belief in God, God’s oneness and lack of physical or other form, the changelessness of Torah, restoration of the monarchy under the Messiah, and resurrection of the dead.
Two branches of European Judaism developed during the Middle Ages: the Sephardic, based in Spain and with an affinity to Babylonian Jews; and the Ashkenazic, based in Franco-German lands and affiliated with Rome and Palestine. Two forms of Jewish mysticism also arose at this time: medieval Hasidism and attention to the Kabbalah (a mystical interpretation of Scripture).
After a respite during the 18th-century Enlightenment, anti-Semitism again plagued European Jews in the 19th century, sparking the Zionist movement that culminated in the founding of the state of Israel in 1948. The Holocaust of World War II took the lives of more than 6 million Jews.
Jews today continue synagogue worship, which includes readings from the Law and the Prophets and prayers, such as the Shema (Hear, O Israel) and the Amidah (the 18 Benedictions). Religious life is guided by the commandments of the Torah, which include the practice of circumcision and Sabbath observance.
Present-day Judaism has three main expressions: Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform. Reform movements, resulting from the Haskala (Jewish Enlightenment) of the 18th century, began in western Europe but took root in North America. Reform Jews do not hold the oral law (Talmud) to be a divine revelation, and they emphasize ethical and moral teachings. Orthodox Jews follow the traditional faith and practice with great seriousness. They follow a strict kosher diet and keep the Sabbath with care. Conservative Judaism, which developed in the mid-18th century, holds the Talmud to be authoritative and follows most traditional practices, yet tries to make Judaism relevant for each generation, believing that change and tradition can complement each other. Because a Jewish identity is not dependent upon accepting the Torah, a strong secular movement also exists within Jewish life, including atheist and agnostic elements.
In general, Jews do not proselytize, but they do welcome newcomers to their faith.
See also Encyclopedia: Judaism.
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Judaism – Infoplease
Judaism was one of the first monotheistic religions, dating back to around 2000 BC. Judaism is the first Abrahamic faith, tracing its origins to Abraham, as can the religions of Christianity and Islam. The core of the Judaism as it exists today took shape from a later time period when Moses led the Hebrews from Egypt and climbed Mount Sinai, bringing back the Ten Commandments.
The five books of Mosesthe Torahin which the Mosaic Law is found, are generally considered to be the core of the Jewish Scripture, and are supplemented by the works of the prophets and other writings. The works of the prophets are grouped under Nevi’im, and the other writings are known as Ketuvim. The first letters of each part combined were used to create the name of the full Hebrew Bible: the Tanakh, which Christians call the Old Testament. The Talmud is another ancient Jewish writing considered by some Jews to contain traditions dating back to Moses himself, yet the Talmud also contains discussion by rabbis involving extensive disagreement and lively discussion, over interpretation of these traditions. The Talmud is not part of the Bible and the degree to which the Talmud itself is considered to be inspired varies across Judaism, with the Orthodox generally giving it the most weight. Most Muslims and Christians, including Messianic Jews, however, consider the theological findings and argumentation of the Talmud to be invalid after the advent of the birth of Jesus Christ.
Tikkun Olamto help “repair the world”is a Hebrew phrase originated in the early rabbinic period.
Many Jews observe a weekly day of rest (the Sabbath) that begins shortly before sundown on Friday and ends after sunset on Saturday. During this time no work may be done, business transactions are forbidden, and light switches are not to be turned on or off. Jews celebrate the Sabbath by lighting candles before the Sabbath, singing songs, going to synagogue, called shul, by some, and learning.
There are many different branches of Judaism. There are five large branches:
There has been much controversy as to whether Messianic Judaism is truly Judaism, or a branch of Christianity which respects and practises Jewish customs. However, Messianic Judaism celebrates traditional Jewish holidays and does not celebrate Christmas or Lent, as like Jehovah’s Witnesses they believe these holidays to be paganistic in origin. There are also certain theological differences between Messianic Judaism and traditional Christianity.
The traditional explanation, and the one given in the Torah, is that the Jews are a nation. The Hebrew word, believe it or not, is “goy.” The Torah and the rabbis used this term not in the modern sense meaning a territorial and political entity, but in the ancient sense meaning a group of people with a common history, a common destiny, and a sense that we are all connected to each other. 
“Diaspora” (Greek meaning “seeded throughout”) is the term used to refer to the various dispersions of the Jews throughout the world through the eras of history. Its Hebrew linguistic forerunner is “Galut” meaning the “uncovering”, betraying the understanding that being exiled from the Land of Israel is an exposing of Israel to vulnerability and danger. Some commonly known “Galuyot” (plural for Galut) are:
The term “Mizrachi” means “easterner” and it covers a number of eastern dispersions as opposed to the Ashkenazi who were westerners – from Europe. Coming into Israel during Ottoman Turk rule (1517-1917), many immigrating Jewish families who were not European were given the name Mizrahi by the Turkish immigration authorities as they were all “lumped together” as Easterners.
The Return of the Jews to Israel is seen as a fulfillment of the Scriptures and is called Kibbutz Galuyot, the ingathering of the Exiles. Here are some of the scriptures that both tell about the ingathering of the exiles and which have provided a major influence for the some of the dispersions to return to the Land of Israel:
” I will bring your offspring from the east, and gather you from the west, To the north I will say ‘Give them up’, and to the south, ‘Do not hold them’. Bring back my sons from far away, my daughters from the end of the earth. Isaiah 43: 5,6
“Those whom Adonai has redeemed return, they come to Zion shouting for joy. everlasting joy in their faces, joy and gladness go with them, sorrow and lament are ended.” Isaiah 51:11
“He who has scattered Israel, gathers him, He guards them as a shepherd guards his flock…they shall come back from the enemy country, There is hope for your descendants” Jeremiah 31: 10,16
“The Lord says this: ‘I am going to take the sons of Israel from the nations, where they have gone. I shall gather them together from everywhere and bring them home to their own soil. I shall make them into one nation and into My own land and on the mountains of Israel.'” . Exekiel 37:21,22
The Jewish calendar combines lunar and solar features. During Temple times, months began when the new moon was sighted in Jerusalem. An extra month was added when needed to keep the Pesach festival in the spring. Today a complex algorithm, over a thousand years old, is used to determine when months begin. As a result, the dates of the Jewish holidays in the civil calendar vary from year to year. A day on the Hebrew calendar lasts from one sundown to the next, so for purposes of religious observances a day begins at sundown of the preceding civil day.
Jewish Scripture consists of 24 books, broken down into three sections:
The Torah is divided into portions that are read during synagogue services over the course of the liturgical year. Jews refer to all 24 scrolls as the Tanakh, an acronym of the names of the three sections. The Old Testament is the Tanakh, except with some different naming and a different ordering than the Jewish version. Some Jews find the term Old Testament to be offensive, as its meaning can be interpreted to mean the covenant of God with the Jews has been superseded and no longer applies.
The most famous of the tribes of Israel is Judah. From this tribe came King David your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever 2 Samuel 7:16, Acts 13:34. No matter what tribe you originate from, all are considered Israeli.
Jacob, grandson of Abraham and son of Isaac, came to be known as the father of Israel, for it is written that God changed his name to Israel.  The descendants of these twelve ‘sons’ of Jacob became the twelve tribes of Israel.
In Northern Israel Gad, Reuben, Simeon, Dan, Naphtali, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun and Joseph. In Southern Israel, the tribes Benjamin and Judah. The Levi were to serve as as the priests and their assistance for all tribes having their own levitical cities within the other tribes while having no land as inheritance for for themselves.
Each tribe was composed of a group of families, united by blood ties and constituting a social and political unit. As time went on, the stronger tribes tended to absorb the weaker ones.  After the death of King Solomon, and in the time of his son, Rehoboam, the twelve tribes divided into two camps. The south was known as Judah with Jerusalem as their capital, while the ten northern tribes made up the kingdom of Israel whose capital was Samaria. In 721/2 B.C. , the northern kingdom of Israel was conquered and the elite and powerful taken away by the Assyrians (leaving the weak and powerless) and resettled among various client kingdoms of their empire. The Assyrians, in like manner, settled other conquered peoples in various places of conquered Israel in order to dilute and weaken the population causing them to be compliant to the Assyrian overlords. This is how the “Samarians” were to arise, present in the time of Jesus and and present to this day – a mixed semi-Judaized population with their religious center on Mt. Gerizim in Samaria rivaling Jerusalem. The northern dispersion came to be called popularly “the Lost 10 Tribes of Israel”. But some of the “10 Lost Tribes” were not lost. At the time of Assyrian conquest of Israel, archaeology reveals, the city walls of the capitol city of the Southern Kingdom, Jerusalem, were suddenly and greatly expanded. This is because, it is thought, of the sudden influx to the southern brothers of the fleeing northerners. See also in the Diaspora section above, the Bnei Menashe, and see 
The Southern Kingdom was conquered by Babylonians in 586/7 B.C. with much population taken to Babylon, which was to become a center for Judaism (and the Babylonian Talmud) rivaling Jerusalem itself. Cyrus, Emperor of Persia was to allow the Jews to return to their ancestral homeland, but many Jews preferred to remain in Babylon (most of these “Iraqis” would return to Israel with the erection of the modern State of Israel).
Alexander the Great, 333 B.C. would wrest the Middle East, and “Judah” with it, from the hands of the Persians, and after him, at the breakup of his Empire into Seleucid (northern) and Ptolomaic (southern) parts, the Seleucids took control of the Judah and Galilee (bringing “Hellenism” – the amalgamation of Greek with local cultures), and the occasion for the the revolt of the Jews against Seleucid overlord Antiochus and the beginning of the celebration among the Jews of Hanukah – the remembrance of the successful revolt, the setting up once again of a Jewish Kingdom in the promised land, and the re-dedication (“Hanukah”) of the Temple (which had been desecrated). In 63 A.D., Pompey and the Roman rule would wrest power from the Hellenistic Greeks, and thus the Roman rule in the Land at the time of Jesus. The Kingdom of Judah, with its King Herod, was intended by Rome to be a buffer state between Rome and its hated adversary Kingdom – that of Persia. In this context there arose, another movement, followers of “the way” of Jesus, the forefront of another Kingdom, that was not of this world, the leading servants of which, would sit on the seats of the now 12 tribes of Israel, and knowing themselves, as the “Israel of God”.
Note: Among modern Jews, there is no knowledge of descent from any of the particular tribe of the 12 tribes of Israel, except Jews with the family name of Levi or Cohen (and a very few others). “Levi” is from the tribe of Levites and means “accompanier”, that is the ones who accompany the priest and offering assistance in the service of the Temple. “Cohen” means priest. With the last great dispersion from the Holy Land, that of 70 AD at the hands of the Romans, with its destruction of “the House” – the Temple of God, the levitical and priestly families, now exiled to Rome and Italy were careful to record and remember their genealogies back to the tribe of Levi, as it would be they who would once again be called to function when God when would make possible the return to the Land of Israel and the rebuilding of the Temple.
The Jewish canon of Scripture was defined at the Jamnia (Yavneh) on the Mediterranean coast of Israel at 90A.D., about two decades after the destruction of the Second Jewish Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans. Jews now also lived in great numbers outside of the Land of Israel, particularly in Mesopotamia (the Land between the Rivers of the Euphrates and the Tigris), and in Alexandria, Egypt. Mesopotamian Jewry, with its large core from the exile to Babylon continually added to, was mainly Aramaic speaking while Egyptian Jewry was Greek speaking. Aramaic Jewry began the translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Aramaic, this came to be known as the Peshitta (“simple” or common). This development was accelerated particularly when the queen of Adiabene, Helena (Shlomzion HaMalka, converted with others to Judaism. The Old Testament Peshitta (there is also the New Testament Peshitta as believers in Jesus translated the Greek New Testament into Aramaic) contains influence from the Jewish literature known as the Targum. Queen Helena was buried in Jerusalem around 70 A.D.
The Alexandrian Jews also translated, even earlier, the Torah into their language, Greek. Later books were added to the Septuagint by anonymous translators. This is known as the Septuagint (translated by 70 or 72 Jewish scholars). The Septuagint was used by Greek speaking Jews and was naturally turned to by the Greek speaking believers in Jesus. Later Jewish scholars retranslated the Bible into Greek, as the Septuagint was seen as having issues in translations of words, these translations were done by Symmachus, Aquilas, and Theodotios, all converts to Judaism. Around the same time of this process, the Rabbinical School at Jamnia (Yavneh) under Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai, decided that what was canonical for Judaism was only those books which had already been accepted as Scripture and were found in the Hebrew language. This eliminated most of the Apocrypha which was found mostly in Greek and Latin (but the book of Ecclesiasticus – “Ben Sirach” – has now been found in Hebrew and considered canonical by the Dead Sea community of Jews) as well as elevating the Hebrew Scriptures over just the Scriptures of Israel no matter in which language. Eventually over time, not only did the Septuagint drop out of Jewish usage, but so did the other Greek translations.
They were replaced by various translations of the Bible into Aramaic, one of the best known of these was the translation by Onkelos, a convert to Judaism, although Jewish scholars still used the Hebrew translation of the Bible, the laity preferred the Aramaic translations because Hebrew became out of use expect for Jewish scholars.
Though the connection of Jamnia and Protestantism is little known, it is a real one and one that exerted much influence on the developing Protestant Church and its outlook. The Hebrew canon of Scripture with its emphasis on Hebrew language originals sanctioned at Jamnia, which would exclude the Jewish but Greek language books we now know as Intertestamental or Apocryphal, would be the basis of a continuing textual study and ammendation according to the passing on of readings and comments by succeeding Jewish authorities, scholars, and rabbis. This work would be carried on through the fifth century, the time of the Masoretes – the “tradition (of Scripture) bearers”. The receiving and handing on of how Scripture texts were to be read and sung, and what they meant.
When the Renaissance took hold in Europe, great interest was shown in the rediscovering both of the Greek classics, entailing the renewed study of Greek for this purpose, and the study of Hebrew language. Here now was the possibility for many scholars, and the emerging Protestant ones among them, to study the Hebrew Scriptures directly in the original language instead of the necessity of working through the Greek (Septuagint) and Latin (Vulgate) translations. But the Hebrew source resorted to by these scholars was the Masoretic text – following the School of Jamnia – without the Apocrypha. From then on, the heritage and perspective of the Protestant Reformation churches was that the Bible excluded the Apocrypha, though some of the churches would use the Apocrypha as “secondary” readings.
In Israel, there arose a literature, mainly in the common Hebrew of the day. It is known as the Mishna (“secondary”). This was primarily the recordings of discussions of Biblical laws with view to application to the present life and experience of Jews in Israel and in the diaspora. Changing conditions required more current applications. The Mishna developed over four centuries (200 B.C. to 200 A.D.) and is divided into 6 orders, numerous tractates, and smaller units (mishnayot). Most of the Mishna is comprised of “Halakha”- that is, legal discussions, decisions, having, in many cases, enforceable applications either by the Jewish community directly or by the Roman or otherwise authorities. The non legal aspects of the Mishna – the anecdotes, stories, remembrances of the rabbinic lives, etc. are called Aggadah (“the telling”).
The Palestinian Hebrew Mishna, having spread to Mesopotamia, came to be regulatory to the Babylonian Jews, and, as the Mishna had become a “commentary” on the Hebrew Bible, so the Babylonian Jews developed a commentary on the Mishna itself. This was called the Gemara (“completion”) and is in their own language, Aramaic. The formation of the Gemara took from 200 A.D. to 500 A.D. The whole Talmud then was a work of 700 years. The Mishna and the Gemara together is called the Talmud (“the Learning”). The Talmud then became regulatory until modern times for Jewish life elsewhere with but a few non-mainstream groups not accepting it.
The process of G-d sanctioned and ordained commentary (the Talmud) on the Scriptures is a legacy of the one movement that survived the first century Roman destruction of the temple and Jewish authority in Israel. The Saduccees disappeared as did the Essenes and the Herodians. But not so the Pharisees. The Pharisees believed that with the written Torah given to Moses on Sinai, there was also an Oral Torah given to him, by which the written was to be interpreted and applied. According to this tradition this Oral Torah was transmitted to others – Joshua, then the seventy, the prophets, and then to certain pairs (Zugot) finally finding its expression through the discussions and decisions embodied in the Talmudic literature. Through this the Jews created over 600 laws that they had to obey. Having a “portable” law and, so to speak, a “constitution” in the Talmud, Jews then were able to survive as Jews when they no longer had a land to live in and define them.
Observant Jews follow a strict and complex set of rules governing what they may eat and drink. Permissible foods are called kosher. Per Biblical commandments, only animals that chew their cud and have cloven hooves may be eaten and they must be properly slaughtered. Additionally, all birds other than “birds of prey” are kosher, so long as they are properly slaughtered. Anything which comes from the sea must have fins and scales. According to most traditions, dairy products cannot be mixed with meat from animals or birds. Vegetables must be checked for insects, as insects are considered “treyf,” meaning not kosher. Additional rules apply during Pesach.
Jewish boys are circumcised eight days after birth, in a ceremony called a bris where the circumcision is performed by a specially trained rabbi, termed a moyl. They become adults for religious purposes when they turn 13, an event marked by a ceremony called a Bar Mitzvah. Similar ceremonies for girls when they turn 12, called Bat Mitzvah, were introduced in in the 20th century.
Jewish law only recognizes marriages between Jews. Divorce is permitted, but there are exacting rules that must be followed for the divorce to be valid, including the husband presenting a bill of divorce (Get) to his wife.
Jewish law requires bodies to be buried promptly, preferably no later than the day after death. Cremation is not permitted. There are prescribed stages of mourning for the first year after the death of a close relative (parent, sibling, spouse of child). The anniversary of such a death is observed with gifts to charity and the recitation of a prayer, Kaddish, praising God’s name.
Definitions of Jewish identity have changed over the years, and among the various Jewish religious and cultural groupings. Whereas, the Old Testament, stresses the importance of the male side of the family for the most important aspects of cultural decision and prerogatives, thus furthering identity through the Father (male) and his clan, present Orthodox Jewish identity is defined as coming through the mother. If the mother is Jewish, regardless of the father’s religion, then the child is Jewish. Reformed Judaism disregards the Orthodox Jewish definition and stresses that Judaism is equally applicable as a religious designation whether through the mother or the father, in line with de-emphasizing the racial, cultural, and genetic background in favor of stressing the ethical content in Judaism. This is in line with Reform Judaism’s stress on equality between the sects even in the house of worship. The Orthodox Jewish emphasis on the parentage through the mother as constituting Jewish identity, has brought about paradox and contradiction with Judaism’s own sources. Whereas it is clear from Scripture that faith in the revealed will of God and His movement in History is what constituted the people, starting from Abraham, as a People, and then as a Nation and the formation, consequently, of identity, Orthodox Judaism recognizes as Jews those who are atheistic or agnostic, free thinkers, repudiators of all religous, and even those who have become members of other religions. These are considered still Jewish, howbeit, Jews who are not good Jews. The only exception possibly in the Jewish conception of acceptability under the definition of “Jewish” are Jews who have become Christians or members of Messianic Judaism. Yet, even these, though considered apostate, are considered Halakhically (according to Jewish orthodox religious law) as being Jewish. The modern state of Israel exhibits a contradiction in the question of Jewish identity. Orthodoxy is the accepted form of Judaism, and consequently, a non Jew having converted to Judaism under Reformed Jewish rite or Conservative Jewish rite are not considered Jewish for purposes of becoming citizens of Israel under Israel’s Right of Return law. But neither are Messianic Jews eligible (Israeli Supreme Court decision) for citizenship under the Law of Return, even if they be born to a Jewish mother. This is in violation of halakhic definition but is in accord with common Israeli sentiment. What is rapidly being destroyed in the modern state of Israel and which does hearken back to the predominant Biblical definition is the purely racial and cultural catagorizing as to who might be considered a Jew. This is because of the immensity and varliagation in the origins of new immigrants to Israel – Ethiopia (Falasha origin), Iraq (6th cent. exile from Jerusalem), Turkey and Greece (1492 expulsion from Spain origin), Argentinia, China, India (both the long known B’nei Israel and the recently emerged B’nei Menasha of the Northern Kingdom dispersion), the former Soviet Union, the United States, Yemen (Himyaritic Kingdom conversion origin), etc.
Jewish humor is first of all not jokes about Jews made by non-Jews, nor is it jokes about Jews made to ridicule, making parody of characteristics considered Jewish traits. Jewish humor is humor made by Jews sometimes using material from the Jewish life and experience to highlight Jewish fallibilities to show them either as means of overcoming or defense, or to show them as universals shared by all peoples. Jewish humor is appreciated by both Jews and non Jews, thereby showing the truth of the commonality of Jews with all peoples. Because Jewish humor often is gently self-deprecating or willing to expose the foibles of Jews themselves, which Jews understand intuitively, Jewish comedians succeed, without raising rancor, in finding the humorous situation of other nationalities, without raising rancor. An example is the Sid Caesar’s “German General” (below)
ex. 1. A man comes into the office of the Rabbi, while his wife waits her turn outside. Sitting next to the Rabbi is the Rebbitzen, his wife. The man comes in seats himself, and begins his tirade against his wife. She doesn’t cook well, always complains, talks too loud, hours on the phone with the girls, on and on. The rabbi listens carefully, and finally, slams his palm on the desk and says “You’re right!” The man goes out and in comes the wife, seats herself, and then begins on her husband, never at home, when he comes, takes off his shoes and his shirt and leaves them on the floor, burps in public, on and on. The Rabbi listens, gets illuminated, slams his palm on the table and says, “You’re right!” The wife leaves, and the Rebbitzen explodes and turning to him says, “How can they both be right, what kind of a counsel is that to say, Are you crazy?” The Rabbi, squints at her, slams his palm on the table and says, “You’re right!”
ex. 2. Moses Mendelssohn was the father of reform Judaism and a favorite at the court of Fredrick the Second. Fredrick would often make fun of the helpless Moses before the nobles of the Court. This day, Fredrick wrote a note which said “Moses Mendelssohn is the First Ass of the Kingdom”, and passed it around for all to see and snicker at. When it got to Moses, he read it, went into ecstasy with delight, holding it to his breast, finally saying to Fredrick, “O my lord, I have been so touched and honored by your note mentioning my name and I humbly ask of you that you sign it for my continual reverence.” Fredrick nodded, signed it handing it back to Moses, who immediately rose from his knees, held out the note, and read it in loud and emotion packed tone, “Moses Mendelssohn is the First Ass of the Kingdom, Fredrick the Second.”
ex. 3. The visual comedy of Jewish American comedian Sid Caesar  , 
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Judaism – Conservapedia
Judaism is the world’s oldest Abrahamic religion. There are about 15 million followers who are called Jews. It is one of the oldest monotheistic religions, teaching the belief in one God. Both Christianity and Islam have similarities with Judaism. These religions accept the belief in one God and the moral teachings of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), which includes the Torah or “.”
The laws and teachings of Judaism come from the Torah, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible and oral traditions. Some of these were first oral traditions and later written in the Mishnah, the Talmud, and other works.
The Torah is the most important holy book of Judaism. The Hebrew Bible is a collection of writings called the “Tanakh” () in Hebrew. It is divided into three parts – Torah (, Instruction), Nevi’im (, Prophets), and Ketuvim (, Writings). Judaism is passed down through the maternal line.
The most important teaching of Judaism is that there is one God, who wants people to do what is just and compassionate. Judaism teaches that a person serves God by studying the holy writings and doing what they teach. These teachings include both ritual practices and ethical laws. Judaism teaches that all people are created in the image of God and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.
The covenant with God is an agreement that Jews believe God made with Abraham, the ancestor of the Jewish people. According to the Bible, God promised to bless Abraham and his descendants if they worshipped God and were faithful to Him. God made this covenant with Abraham’s son, Isaac, and Isaac’s son, Jacob. Jacob was also called Israel, and so his descendants were known as the “Children of Israel” or the Israelites. God later gave the Israelites the Ten Commandments and other laws through their leader, Moses. These laws told the Israelites how to live their lives and build their community.
The Jews are sometimes called the “Chosen People”, meaning that they have special duties and responsibilities commanded by God. For example, the Jews must establish a just society and serve only God. Thus, the covenant assures the Jews of God’s love and protection, but it also makes them accountable for their sins and shortcomings.
Judaism does not try to convince others to accept its beliefs and practices. But it does accept people who choose to convert to Judaism.
Jews believe that God will send a Messiah to save them. The word Messiah comes from the Hebrew word mashiah, which means “the anointed one”. The Book of Isaiah describes the Messiah as a just ruler who will unite the Jewish people and lead them in God’s way. The Messiah will fix wrongs and defeat the enemies of the people. The Messiah will unite all the people of the world to serve God. People will act just as kind, and the whole world will be filled with peace.
Maimonides was a famous Jewish teacher of the 12th century. He made a list of 13 principles that include the basic beliefs of Judaism.
The two most important groups of books in Judaism are the Old Testament and the Talmud. The beliefs and rituals of Judaism come from these books. Later, Jewish teachers and scholars wrote more books, called commentaries, which explain and say more about the teachings of the Old Testament and Talmud.
The Torah is the most important of all Jewish writings. The first five books of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) make up the Torah. The Torah contains the basic laws of Judaism and describes the history of the Jews until the death of Moses. Jewish tradition says that God told Moses what to write in the Torah, which is also called the Five Books of Moses.
Jews divide the Old Testament into three parts and call it the Tanakh. The three parts are the Torah, which is the first five books; the Nevi’im, which are the books of the prophets; and the Ketuvim, meaning the Writings, which are other books of history and moral teachings.
There are various important actions in Judaism. These are called mitzvot. A mitzvah is a commandment (law, rule) from God to the Jewish people. The word mitzvah means commandment in Hebrew, but, perhaps based on common Yiddish usage, many people think of a mitzvah as ‘a good deed,’ or ‘a good thing to do.’ Traditionally, Jews believe that the Torah specifies mitzvot for all people; all of mankind must keep seven laws, as taught to Noah and his children after the flood. The Jews must keep 613 mitzvot, which are listed in the Torah. Some mitzvot are for everyday life, and some are observed only at special times, such as on Jewish holidays. Many of these 613 commandments relate to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and therefore cannot be done since the Temple was destroyed.
Religious Jews believe that Moses brought the Ten Commandments and the Torah down from Mount Sinai. Rabbinic Jews also believe that there is another part of the Torah besides the 5 books of Moses. It is called the Mishnah, also called the Oral Torah or Oral Law. It explains how to follow the laws written in the 5 books. There is a commentary (explanation) of the Mishnah, called the Gemara. Together, the Mishna and the Gemara make up the Talmud. Karaite Jews however believe that there is no additional Torah besides the 5 books of Moses.
Traditional Jews believe that God gave the written Torah and the oral Torah to Moses and that Moses told it to the Jewish people, and that it is the same today as it was back then. Traditional Jews also believe that all of the commandments must still be followed today.
Liberal Jews believe that the Torah was inspired by God but written by human beings. Liberal Jews believe that all of the ethical laws in the Torah must still be followed, but many ritual laws do not need to be followed today.
It is considered good in Judaism to talk about the commandments and to try to understand how to follow them. The Talmud has many stories about Rabbis who argued about the commandments. Over time, some opinions have become the rule for everyone. Some rules are still being argued about. Jews praise logical argument and looking for truth.
There is no single leader of Judaism who can decide how to follow the commandments or what to believe. Even though Jews believe different things and they disagree about the rules, they are still one religion and one people.
The Ten Commandments are special because they were heard by all of the Jewish people at Mount Sinai. However, in traditional Judaism, all of the 613 mitzvot in the Torah are equally important.
The Ten Commandments are
One of the commandments is to keep the Jewish Sabbath, or Shabbat. Shabbat starts every Friday at sunset and ends on Saturday at nightfall. Shabbat is a day of rest to thank God for making the universe.
The tradition of resting on Shabbat comes from the Torah. According to the Torah, God created the world in six days and on the seventh day, Shabbat, He rested. Many Jews go to their temple or synagogue to pray on Shabbat.
Religious Jews follow special rules on Shabbat. These rules require Jews not to do creative work on Shabbat. One reason for this is to give people a break from all the things that make them busy during the week. This helps them focus more on appreciating God, their family, and the rest of creation. Also it reminds people that God is the creator and ruler of the world; and no matter how great a person’s creative power is, it cannot compare with God’s creation of the universe and everything in it. Many of these categories of creative work include actions that people might not think of as work. For instance, on Shabbat a Jew cannot:
Traditional Jews are very careful about Shabbat. It is a special day. They clean their houses and prepare special food for Shabbat. They dress in their nicest clothes. They sing beautiful songs and say extra prayers in the synagogue. They have dinner and lunch with their families. Many families also invite guests for dinner and for lunch. They eat special delicious food, and sing together traditional Shabbat songs. On Shabbat afternoon people study Judaism together or just visit friends.
Liberal Jews do not follow those rules. Some do go to synagogue, visit friends, or have special meals. But they may also talk on the phone, drive cars, and go shopping.
Jews who follow the religious rules called “kashrut” only eat some types of food that are prepared by special rules. Food that a Jew can eat is called kosher food.
Traditional Jews are very careful about kashrut. They usually cannot eat many foods in non-kosher restaurants or in the home of someone who does not keep kosher. Sometimes, this makes it hard to visit people or to do business. It is important to understand that this is part of their religion. People help avoid this problem by choosing to dine with Traditional Jews in a kosher restaurant or serve them kosher food in their home.
Liberal Jews are not so careful about kosher, although some of them may keep some rules.
There are other rules for kosher food as well.
For a very long time, most Jews in Europe believed the same basic things about Judaism. Jews in other lands had different beliefs and customs than European Jews. About 200 years ago, a small group of Jews in Germany decided to stop believing in many parts of Judaism and try to become more “modern” and more like Germans. Those Jews were called Reform Jews.
Today there are three main kinds of Judaism: Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox Judaism. There are also kinds with a smaller number of people, such as Reconstructionist Judaism, and Karaite Judaism, Each group has its own practices according to how it understands the Jewish laws. Some do not believe in keeping most of the laws. For example: Reform (also called Liberal or Progressive) Judaism does not require eating kosher food or keeping the Sabbath at all. Reform Judaism teaches Jews to focus on the ethical laws of Judaism. Conservative Judaism developed after Reform Judaism. The leaders of Conservative Judaism felt that Reform Judaism was too radical. They wanted to conserve (protect) Jewish tradition instead of reforming (changing) it. Orthodox Jews do not believe that Reform or Conservative Judaism are correct because they believe that the laws given by God are timeless, and can’t be changed.
In the most recent survey of Jews in the United States in 2000-2001, it was found that 35% of American Jews say they are Reform, 27% say they are Conservative, 10% say they are Orthodox, 2% say they are Reconstructionist and 25% do not say what type they are.
In Israel, almost all Jews go to Orthodox synagogues. There are very few Reform or Conservative synagogues, but there has been an steady increase since 2009. In Israel, Jews do not call themselves Reform, Conservative, or Orthodox. Instead, they mostly call themselves “Haredi” (completely religious) “Dati” (basically religious), “Masorati” (traditional/conservative) or “Chiloni” (secular). Surveys suggest that about 20% of Israelis say they are secular, 25% say they are Dati or Haredi and 55% say they are traditional.
Names are very important in Judaism. Many Jews believe that a name not only tells you who someone is, but also tells you something about them. Names of God are very special in Judaism, so Jews do not write them or speak them fully but use other words instead. That is why some Jews write G-d, with a “-” instead of an “o.”
HaShem Means “The Name”. It is the word Jews use most often when not praying to talk about God.
Adonai means “My Lord.” This name tells Jews about God’s position. God is the King of the World, and his name Adonai lets us know that.
Elohim means “one who is strong enough to do everything.” This name is used when talking about God’s power to create or God’s justice. This tells us that God is the creator and that God rules the world with just laws.
The two names above are so special that Orthodox Jews use these names only when they pray and read the Torah. When they are not praying or reading the Torah, they say “Hashem” (The Name) or “Elokim”.
God – Some Jews write “God” by replacing the “o” with a dash, like this: “G-d”. They do this because God’s name is very holy so they are not allowed to throw away a piece of paper with “God” written on it. However, if by accident “God” is written, then the paper can be disposed of in a special way and buried in a special place. Others say that “God” is just an English word, not Hebrew, and so it is not holy.
YHWH (“Yehovah”) is the most sacred name of God in Hebrew, and is not pronounced by most Jews. No one knows where the name came from, or what exactly it means. It looks like the Hebrew word “hayah,” which is the verb “to be.” (According to Hebrew scripture, when Moses asked God who God was, God told Moses I am that I am.) Jews believe that the name YHWH shows that God is endless. Instead of trying to say it, most Jews say “haShem”, which means “The Name.” Some people pronounce this name as Yahweh, or Jehovah. Scholars of religion sometimes refer to “YHWH” as the Tetragrammaton, from Greek words meaning “four letters”.
The Jewish scriptures say that Judaism began with a man named Abram who lived in the city of Ur. According to the Midrash, Abram strongly believed that the people in Ur were wrong to pray to different gods and statues. He believed that there was really only one god who was not a statue. The Torah tells that God spoke to Abram and told him to leave Ur with his family and move to Canaan, where he started a new religion. God told him that his name would be changed to Abraham. The Midrash also says that angels taught Abraham a new holy language, which Jews believe is the language today known as Hebrew. Hebrew continues to be the language of Judaism. Abraham’s grandson Jacob is said to be the one who first had the name of “Israel”.
According to the Torah, at one time, the Hebrew people moved to Egypt because of famine in Canaan. The 12 tribes sold everything that they had to Egypt because Pharaoh had what Israel lacked. In the end, they sold themselves into slavery. Pharaoh agreed and eventually the famine ended, but the tribes were bound to slavery. Later God told Moses that he (Moses) would be an ambassador to God and plead the case to free the 12 tribes of Israel. Pharaoh said “No” time and again and each time he did God sent many terrible punishments to the Egyptians to make him to free the Hebrews. Finally, the Pharaoh let the Hebrews go free, but then decided to send the Egyptian army after them. The Hebrews escaped when God made the waters of the Red Sea open a path for them. The waters then returned and drowned the Egyptian army. The Torah says that after this, Moses met with God on Mount Sinai and received the Ten Commandments and the Torah from God.
The Hebrews or Israelites, in twelve tribes, began a country called Israel in Caanan. They fought many wars against other peoples in the area. The name Jew comes from the name of one of these tribes, Judah.
Later this country broke apart into two kingdoms, Israel and Judah. Israel was conquered by Assyria in the 8th century BC, and the people were taken away. Later Judah was conquered by Babylonia in the early 6th century BC, and its people were taken captive to Babylon. They were allowed to go back to Judah again when Babylon was conquered by Persia. Some Jewish people stayed in Babylon (now Iraq) and others also lived in other countries.
By 50 BC, Judah (then called Judea) was ruled by the Roman Empire. During this time, the main language of Judea was Aramaic. The Jews did not like the Roman government or customs, and often made trouble for the Romans. In 70 AD, after a revolt against the government by the Jewish community, the Romans destroyed Judea’s capital city, Jerusalem and sent almost all Jews into exile.
After this, the Jewish people did not have their own country. They were a small minority in almost every place they lived. This time is called the Diaspora, when Jews spread around the world. They lived in many other countries. Jews living in Spain and Portugal used the language Ladino (also called Judeo-Spanish). Jews living in Germany, Poland, and Russia used the language Yiddish. Jews living in North Africa spoke Judeo-Arabic or Haketia, the local name for Ladino. Jews have lived in most, but not all, places in the world, including India, China, Yemen, and Ethiopia. Even today, Jews who do not live in Israel are often said to live “in the Diaspora”. In some places, like India, Jews lived without any problems. In other places, like most of Europe and Islamic countries, there was bigotry or even hatred against Jews and they lived under unfair laws. Sometimes Jews suffered from outright persecution (that is: systematic hatred and violence), sometimes they were forced to dress in special, ugly clothes, pay higher taxes than others, not build higher houses than others, not to ride a horse or donkey, wear certain badges etc. But Jews were known as skillful bankers. In Europe, where the Roman Catholic church forbade Christians from lending money against interest, Jews worked as bankers and money-lenders.
One nomad nation, the Khazars, converted to Judaism in the 8th century. The Khazar khanate, which was in the modern Ukraine and Byelorussia, was the only independent Jewish state before modern day Israel. The Khazar state was destroyed by the Eastern Vikings (Rus) in 987.
The Jewish People have always believed that they have a special mission from God. They do things in their own ways, such as having special rules about food and eating, not working on the Shabbat, keeping their own holidays, and not marrying people from other religions. Because of this, people in many different times and countries have thought that the Jews were strange, and maybe dangerous. Many countries made laws that the Jews could not work in some jobs or live in some places. Sometimes Jewish people were killed because of their religion. The word “antisemitism” describes the hatred for Jews.
During the 1930s and 1940s, the Nazi, or National Socialist government of Germany conquered most of Europe. They did terrible things to the Jewish people because they believed the Jews were responsible for the problems in Germany during and after the First World War. The Nazi government killed more than six million Jewish people. Before they were killed, often in gas chambers, many of the Jews were made to be forced workers, and some of them were forced to help in the killing and capturing of the others.
In 1948 after World War II, the United Nations made the country of Israel for the Jews in Palestine, which is in the same place as the original Israel, in the Middle East. The land had been part of the Ottoman Empire before World War I. Then Britain controlled the area under the oversight of the United Nations. Many Jews moved back to Israel, then called Palestine, starting in the late 1800s. When the country of Israel was made in 1948, there were about 600,000 Jews in it. Today there are about 5,600,000 Jews in it.
When Jews moved back to Palestine, there were some people living there now. Most of them did not want to live in a Jewish country. This was the beginning of the Israeli-Arab or Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which continues today.
Jews have come to Israel from all over the world, bringing different languages, music, food, and history to create a unique culture. Israel is the only country in the world where most people are Jews and where Hebrew is the main language.
Jewish history continues today in both Israel and the Diaspora. Outside of Israel, there are many Jews in the United States, Great Britain, Canada, France, Russia, the Uktraine, Germany, Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, and Australia. There are smaller numbers of Jews living in other parts of the world.
Some of the major problems faced by the Jewish people today include resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and dealing with high rates of assimilation (loss of Jewish identity) in some countries, like the United States.
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Judaism – Simple English Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
County Jewish population % of total 1 Rockland County, New York 91,300 31.4% 2 Kings County, New York 561,000 22.4% 3 New York County, New York 314,500 19.9% 4 Palm Beach County, Florida 255,550 19.4% 5 Nassau County, New York 230,000 17.2% 6 Westchester County, New York 136,000 14.3% 7 Broward County, Florida 206,700 11.8% 8 Montgomery County, Maryland 113,000 11.6% 9 Ocean County, New Jersey 61,500 10.7% 10 Marin County, California 26,100 10.3% 11 Bergen County, New Jersey 92,500 10.2% 12 Monmouth County, New Jersey 64,000 10.2% 13 Sullivan County, New York 7,425 9.6% 14 Norfolk County, Massachusetts 63,600 9.5% 15 Queens County, New York 198,000 8.9% 16 Orange County, New York 32,300 8.7% 17 San Francisco County, California 65,800 8.2% 18 Montgomery County, Pennsylvania 64,500 8.1% 19 Middlesex County, Massachusetts 113,800 7.6% 20 Baltimore County, Maryland 60,000 7.5% 21 Lake County, Illinois 51,300 7.3% 21 Richmond County, New York 34,000 7.3% 23 Santa Clara County, California 128,000 7.2% 24 Arlington County, Virginia 14,000 6.7% 24 San Mateo County, California 47,800 6.7% 26 Bucks County, Pennsylvania 41,400 6.6% 26 Ventura County, California 54,000 6.6% 28 Middlesex County, New Jersey 52,000 6.4% 29 Camden County, New Jersey 32,100 6.2% 29 Essex County, New Jersey 48,800 6.2% 31 Falls Church City, Virginia 750 6.1% 32 Morris County, New Jersey 29,700 6.0% 32 Howard County, Maryland 17,200 6.0% 34 Somerset County, New Jersey 19,000 5.9% County Jewish population % of total 35 Suffolk County, New York 86,000 5.8% 36 Cuyahoga County, Ohio 70,300 5.5% 37 Fulton County, Georgia 50,000 5.4% 38 Los Angeles County, California 518,000 5.3% 39 Ozaukee County, Wisconsin 4,500 5.2% 40 Fairfield County, Connecticut 47,200 5.1% 40 Oakland County, Michigan 61,200 5.1% 42 Baltimore City, Maryland 30,900 5.0% 42 St. Louis County, Missouri 49,600 5.0% 44 Nantucket County, Massachusetts 500 4.9% 45 Union County, New Jersey 25,800 4.8% 45 Denver County, Colorado 28,700 4.8% 45 Sonoma County, California 23,100 4.8% 48 Washington, District of Columbia 28,000 4.7% 49 Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania 66,800 4.4% 49 Pitkin County, Colorado 750 4.4% 51 Arapahoe County, Colorado 24,600 4.3% 51 Geauga County, Ohio 4,000 4.3% 51 Atlantic County, New Jersey 11,700 4.3% 51 Miami-Dade County, Florida 106,300 4.3% 55 Cook County, Illinois 220,200 4.2% 55 Chester County, Pennsylvania 20,900 4.2% 57 Boulder County, Colorado 12,000 4.1% 58 Passaic County, New Jersey 20,000 4.0% 59 Albany County, New York 12,000 3.9% 59 Alameda County, California 59,100 3.9% 59 Putnam County, New York 3,900 3.9% 59 Bronx County, New York 54,000 3.9% 63 Delaware County, Pennsylvania 21,000 3.8% 64 Suffolk County, Massachusetts 27,000 3.7% 64 Clark County, Nevada 72,300 3.7% 66 DeKalb County, Georgia 25,000 3.6% 66 Fairfax County, Virginia 38,900 3.6% 68 Alexandria, Virginia 4,900 3.5% County Jewish population % of total 69 Napa County, California 4,600 3.4% 69 Dutchess County, New York 10,000 3.4% 69 Schenectady County, New York 5,200 3.4% 72 Fairfax City, Virginia 750 3.3% 72 Hartford County, Connecticut 29,600 3.3% 72 Allegheny County, Pennsylvania 40,500 3.3% 72 Berkshire County, Massachusetts 4,300 3.3% 76 Ulster County, New York 5,900 3.2% 77 New Haven County, Connecticut 27,100 3.1% 77 Contra Costa County, California 32,100 3.1% 79 Essex County, Massachusetts 22,300 3.0% 80 Sussex County, New Jersey 4,300 2.9% 80 San Diego County, California 89,000 2.9% 80 Burlington County, New Jersey 12,900 2.9% 83 Orange County, California 83,750 2.8% 83 Johnson County, Kansas 15,000 2.8% 85 Pinellas County, Florida 25,000 2.7% 85 Multnomah County, Oregon 20,000 2.7% 85 Hamilton County, Ohio 21,400 2.7% 88 Sarasota County, Florida 9,950 2.6% 88 Monroe County, New York 19,000 2.6% 90 Hennepin County, Minnesota 29,300 2.5% 90 Cobb County, Georgia 17,300 2.5% 90 Broomfield County, Colorado 1,400 2.5% 90 Collier County, Florida 8,000 2.5% 90 Mercer County, New Jersey 9,000 2.5% 95 Cumberland County, Maine 6,775 2.4% 95 Seminole County, Florida 10,000 2.4% 97 Cherokee County, Georgia 5,000 2.3% 97 Santa Fe County, New Mexico 3,300 2.3% 97 Hampden County, Massachusetts 10,600 2.3% 97 Santa Cruz County, California 6,000 2.3% 97 Dukes County, Massachusetts 300 2.3% Assimilation and population changes
These parallel themes have facilitated the extraordinary economic, political, and social success of the American Jewish community, but also have contributed to widespread cultural assimilation. More recently however, the propriety and degree of assimilation has also become a significant and controversial issue within the modern American Jewish community, with both political and religious skeptics.
While not all Jews disapprove of intermarriage, many members of the Jewish community have become concerned that the high rate of interfaith marriage will result in the eventual disappearance of the American Jewish community. Intermarriage rates have risen from roughly 6% in 1950 and 25% in 1974, to approximately 4050% in the year 2000. By 2013, the intermarriage rate had risen to 71%. This, in combination with the comparatively low birthrate in the Jewish community, has led to a 5% decline in the Jewish population of the United States in the 1990s. In addition to this, when compared with the general American population, the American Jewish community is slightly older.
A third of intermarried couples provide their children with a Jewish upbringing, and doing so is more common among intermarried families raising their children in areas with high Jewish populations. The Boston area, for example, is exceptional in that an estimated 60% percent of children of intermarriages are being raised Jewish, meaning that intermarriage would actually be contributing to a net increase in the number of Jews. As well, some children raised through intermarriage rediscover and embrace their Jewish roots when they themselves marry and have children.
In contrast to the ongoing trends of assimilation, some communities within American Jewry, such as Orthodox Jews, have significantly higher birth rates and lower intermarriage rates, and are growing rapidly. The proportion of Jewish synagogue members who were Orthodox rose from 11% in 1971 to 21% in 2000, while the overall Jewish community declined in number. In 2000, there were 360,000 so-called “ultra-orthodox” (Haredi) Jews in USA (7.2%). The figure for 2006 is estimated at 468,000 (9.4%). Data from the Pew Center shows that as of 2013, 27% of American Jews under the age of 18 live in Orthodox households, a dramatic increase from Jews aged 18 to 29, only 11% of whom are Orthodox. The UJA-Federation of New York reports that 60% of Jewish children in the New York City area live in Orthodox homes. In addition to economizing and sharing, Orthodox communities depend on government aid to support their high birth rate and large families. The Hasidic village of New Square, New York receives Section 8 housing subsidies at a higher rate than the rest of the region, and half of the population in the Hasidic village of Kiryas Joel, New York receive food stamps, while a third receive Medicaid.
About half of the American Jews are considered to be religious. Out of this 2,831,000 religious Jewish population, 92% are non-Hispanic white, 5% Hispanic (Most commonly from Argentina, Venezuela, or Cuba), 1% Asian (Mostly Bukharian and Persian Jews), 1% Black and 1% Other (mixed race etc.). Almost this many non-religious Jews exist in United States, the proportion of Whites being higher than that among the religious population.
Many Jews identify as being of Middle Eastern descentor simply as “Jews”as supported by genetic research. As with other oppressed racial and ethnocultural groups, Jews have a complex relationship to the concept of “whiteness,” and as a result, many Americans of Jewish descent do not self-identify as white.
The American Jewish community includes African American Jews and other American Jews of African descent (such as American Beta Israel), excluding North African Jewish Americans, who are considered Sephardi and are thus classified as white. Estimates of the number of American Jews of African descent in the United States range from 20,000 to 200,000. Jews of African descent belong to all of American Jewish denominations. Like their white Jewish counterparts, some black Jews are Jewish atheists or ethnic Jews.
Notable African-American Jews include Lisa Bonet, Sammy Davis, Jr., Rashida Jones, Yaphet Kotto, Jordan Farmar, Taylor Mays, and rabbis Capers Funnye and Alysa Stanton.
Relations between American Jews of African descent and other Jewish Americans are generally cordial. There are, however, disagreements with a specific minority among African-Americans who consider themselves, but not other Jews, to be the true descendants of the Israelites of the Torah. They are generally not considered to be members of the mainstream Jewish community, since they have not formally converted to Judaism, nor are they ethnically related to other Jews. One such group, the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem, emigrated to Israel and was granted permanent residency status there.
Education plays a major role as a part of Jewish identity; as Jewish culture puts a special premium on it and stresses the importance of cultivation of intellectual pursuits, scholarship and learning, American Jews as a group tend to be better educated and earn more than Americans as a whole. Forty-four percent (55% of Reform Jews) report family incomes of over $100,000 compared to 19% of all Americans, with the next highest group being Hindus at 43%. And while 27% of Americans have had college or postgraduate education, fifty-nine percent (66% of Reform Jews) of American Jews have, the second highest of any religious group after American Hindus. 31% of American Jews hold a graduate degree, this figure is compared with the general American population where 11% of Americans hold a graduate degree. White collar professional jobs have been attractive to Jews and much of the community tend to take up professional white collar careers requiring tertiary education involving formal credentials where the respectability and reputability of professional jobs is highly prized within Jewish culture. While 46% of Americans work in professional and managerial jobs, 61% of American Jews work as professionals, many of whom are highly educated, salaried professionals whose work is largely self-directed in management, professional, and related occupations such as engineering, science, medicine, investment banking, finance, law, and academia.
Much of the Jewish American community lead educated, professional and upper middle class lifestyles. While the median household net worth of the typical American family is $99,500, among American Jews the figure is $443,000. In addition, the median Jewish American income is estimated to be in the range of $97,000 to $98,000, nearly twice as high the American national median. Either of these two statistics may be confounded by the fact that the Jewish population is on average older than other religious groups in the country, with 51% of polled adults over the age of 50 compared to 41% nationally. Older people tend to both have higher income and be more highly educated.
While the median income of Jewish Americans is high, there are still small pockets of poverty. In the New York area, there are approximately 560,000 Jews living in poor or near-poor households, representing about 20% of the New York metropolitan Jewish community. Most affected are children, the elderly, immigrants from the former Soviet Union and Orthodox families.
According to analysis by Gallup, American Jews have the highest well-being of any ethnic or religious group in America.
The great majority of school-age Jewish students attend public schools, although Jewish day schools and yeshivas are to be found throughout the country. Jewish cultural studies and Hebrew language instruction is also commonly offered at synagogues in the form of supplementary Hebrew schools or Sunday schools.
From the early 1900s until the 1950s, quota systems were imposed at elite colleges and universities particularly in the Northeast, as a response to the growing number of children of recent Jewish immigrants; these limited the number of Jewish students accepted, and greatly reduced their previous attendance. Jewish enrollment at Cornell’s School of Medicine fell from 40% to 4% between the world wars, and Harvard’s fell from 30% to 4%. Before 1945, only a few Jewish professors were permitted as instructors at elite universities. In 1941, for example, antisemitism drove Milton Friedman from a non-tenured assistant professorship at the University of WisconsinMadison.Harry Levin became the first Jewish full professor in the Harvard English department in 1943, but the Economics department decided not to hire Paul Samuelson in 1948. Harvard hired its first Jewish biochemists in 1954.
Today, American Jews no longer face the discrimination in higher education that they did in the past, particularly in the Ivy League. For example, by 1986, a third of the presidents of the elite undergraduate final clubs at Harvard were Jewish.Rick Levin has been president of Yale University since 1993, Judith Rodin was president of the University of Pennsylvania from 1994 to 2004 (and is currently president of the Rockefeller Foundation), Paul Samuelson’s nephew, Lawrence Summers, was president of Harvard University from 2001 until 2006, and Harold Shapiro was president of Princeton University from 1992 until 2000.
There are an estimated 4,000 Jewish students at the University of California, Berkeley.
Jewishness in the United States is considered an ethnic identity as well as a religious one. See Ethnoreligious group.
Jewish religious practice in America is quite varied. Among the 4.3 million American Jews described as “strongly connected” to Judaism, over 80% report some sort of active engagement with Judaism, ranging from attendance at daily prayer services on one end of the spectrum to as little as attendance Passover Seders or lighting Hanukkah candles on the other.
A 2003 Harris Poll found that 16% of American Jews go to the synagogue at least once a month, 42% go less frequently but at least once a year, and 42% go less frequently than once a year.
The survey found that of the 4.3 million strongly connected Jews, 46% belong to a synagogue. Among those households who belong to a synagogue, 38% are members of Reform synagogues, 33% Conservative, 22% Orthodox, 2% Reconstructionist, and 5% other types. Traditionally, Sephardic and Mizrahis do not have different branches (Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, etc.) but usually remain observant and religious. The survey discovered that Jews in the Northeast and Midwest are generally more observant than Jews in the South or West. Reflecting a trend also observed among other religious groups, Jews in the Northwestern United States are typically the least observant.
In recent years, there has been a noticeable trend of secular American Jews returning to a more observant, in most cases, Orthodox, lifestyle. Such Jews are called baalei teshuva (“returners”, see also Repentance in Judaism).
The 2008 American Religious Identification Survey found that around 3.4 million American Jews call themselves religious out of a general Jewish population of about 5.4 million. The number of Jews who identify themselves as only culturally Jewish has risen from 20% in 1990 to 37% in 2008, according to the study. In the same period, the number of all US adults who said they had no religion rose from 8% to 15%. Jews are more likely to be secular than Americans in general, the researchers said. About half of all US Jews including those who consider themselves religiously observant claim in the survey that they have a secular worldview and see no contradiction between that outlook and their faith, according to the study’s authors. Researchers attribute the trends among American Jews to the high rate of intermarriage and “disaffection from Judaism” in the United States.
About one-sixth of American Jews maintain kosher dietary standards.
American Jews are more likely to be atheist or agnostic than most Americans, especially so compared with Protestants or Catholics. A 2003 poll found that while 79% of Americans believe in God, only 48% of American Jews do, compared with 79% and 90% for Catholics and Protestants respectively. While 66% of Americans said they were “absolutely certain” of God’s existence, 24% of American Jews said the same. And though 9% of Americans believe there is no God (8% Catholic and 4% Protestant), 19% of American Jews believe God does not exist.
A 2009 Harris Poll showed American Jews as the religious group most accepting of evolution, with 80% believing in evolution, compared to 51% for Catholics, 32% for Protestants, and 16% of Born-again Christians. They were also less likely to believe in supernatural phenomena such as miracles, angels, or heaven.
Jews are overrepresented in American Buddhism specifically among those whose parents are not Buddhist, and without Buddhist heritage, with between one fifth and 30% of all American Buddhists identifying as Jewish though only 2% of Americans are Jewish. Nicknamed Jubus, an increasing number of American Jews have begun adopting Buddhist spiritual practice, while at the same time continuing to identify with and practice Judaism. Notable American Jewish Buddhists include: Robert Downey, Jr.Allen Ginsberg,Goldie Hawn and daughter Kate Hudson, Steven Seagal, Adam Yauch of the rap group The Beastie Boys, and Garry Shandling. Film makers the Coen Brothers have been influenced by Buddhism as well for a time. Founder of the New York City Marathon, Fred Lebow, dabbled in Buddhism for a brief period.
Today, American Jews are a distinctive and influential group in the nation’s politics. Jeffrey S. Helmreich writes that the ability of American Jews to effect this through political or financial clout is overestimated, that the primary influence lies in the group’s voting patterns.
“Jews have devoted themselves to politics with almost religious fervor,” writes Mitchell Bard, who adds that Jews have the highest percentage voter turnout of any ethnic group (84% reported being registered to vote).
Though the majority (6070%) of the country’s Jews identify as Democratic, Jews span the political spectrum, with those at higher levels of observance being far more likely to vote Republican than their less observant and secular counterparts.
Owing to high Democratic identification in the 2008 United States Presidential Election, 78% of Jews voted for Democrat Barack Obama versus 21% for Republican John McCain, despite Republican attempts to connect Obama to Muslim and pro-Palestinian causes. It has been suggested that running mate Sarah Palin’s conservative views on social issues may have nudged Jews away from the McCainPalin ticket. In the 2012 United States presidential election, 69% of Jews voted for the Democratic incumbent President Obama.
Helmreich describes Jews as “a uniquely swayable bloc” as a result of Republican stances on Israel. A paper by Dr. Eric Uslaner of the University of Maryland disagrees, at least with regard to the 2004 election: “Only 15% of Jews said that Israel was a key voting issue. Among those voters, 55% voted for Kerry (compared to 83% of Jewish voters not concerned with Israel).” The paper goes on to point out that negative views of Evangelical Christians had a distinctly negative impact for Republicans among Jewish voters, while Orthodox Jews, traditionally more conservative in outlook as to social issues, favored the Republican Party. A New York Times article suggests that the Jewish movement to the Republican party is focused heavily on faith-based issues, similar to the Catholic vote, which is credited for helping President Bush taking Florida in 2004. However, Natan Guttman, The Forwards Washington bureau chief, dismisses this notion, writing in Moment that while “[i]t is true that Republicans are making small and steady strides into the Jewish communitya look at the past three decades of exit polls, which are more reliable than pre-election polls, and the numbers are clear: Jews vote overwhelmingly Democratic,” an assertion confirmed by the most recent presidential election results.
Though some critics charged that Jewish interests were partially responsible for the push to war with Iraq, Jewish Americans were actually more strongly opposed to the Iraq war from its onset than any other religious group, or even most Americans. The greater opposition to the war was not simply a result of high Democratic identification among U.S. Jews, as Jews of all political persuasions were more likely to oppose the war than non-Jews who shared the same political leanings.
A 2013 Pew Research Center survey suggests that American Jews’ views on domestic politics are intertwined with the community’s self-definition as a persecuted minority who benefited from the liberties and societal shifts in the United States and feel obligated to help other minorities enjoy the same benefits. American Jews across age and gender lines tend to vote for and support politicians and policies supported by the Democratic Party. On the other hand, Orthodox American Jews have domestic political views that are more similar to their religious Christian neighbors.
American Jews are largely supportive of LGBT rights with 79% responding in a Pew poll that homosexuality should be “accepted by society”. A split on homosexuality exists by level of observance. Reform rabbis in America perform same-sex marriages as a matter of routine, and there are fifteen LGBT Jewish congregations in North America. Reform, Reconstructionist and, increasingly, Conservative, Jews are far more supportive on issues like gay marriage than Orthodox Jews are. A 2007 survey of Conservative Jewish leaders and activists showed that an overwhelming majority supported gay rabbinical ordination and same-sex marriage. Accordingly, 78% percent of Jewish voters rejected Proposition 8, the bill that banned gay marriage in California. No other ethnic or religious group voted as strongly against it.
In considering the trade-off between the economy and environmental protection, American Jews were significantly more likely than other religious groups (excepting Buddhism) to favor stronger environmental protection.
Jews in America also overwhelmingly oppose current United States marijuana policy. Eighty-six percent of Jewish Americans opposed arresting nonviolent marijuana smokers, compared to 61% for the population at large and 68% of all Democrats. Additionally, 85% of Jews in the United States opposed using federal law enforcement to close patient cooperatives for medical marijuana in states where medical marijuana is legal, compared to 67% of the population at large and 73% of Democrats.
Since the time of the last major wave of Jewish immigration to America (over 2,000,000 Jews from Eastern Europe who arrived between 1890 and 1924), Jewish secular culture in the United States has become integrated in almost every important way with the broader American culture. Many aspects of Jewish American culture have, in turn, become part of the wider culture of the United States.
Most American Jews today are native English speakers. A variety of other languages are still spoken within some American Jewish communities, communities that are representative of the various Jewish ethnic divisions from around the world that have come together to make up America’s Jewish population.
Many of America’s Hasidic Jews, being exclusively of Ashkenazi descent, are raised speaking Yiddish. Yiddish was once spoken as the primary language by most of the several million Ashkenazi Jews who immigrated to the United States. It was, in fact, the original language in which The Forward was published. Yiddish has had an influence on American English, and words borrowed from it include chutzpah (“effrontery”, “gall”), nosh (“snack”), schlep (“drag”), schmuck (“an obnoxious, contemptible person”, euphemism for “penis”), and, depending on ideolect, hundreds of other terms. (See also Yinglish.)
The Persian Jewish community in the United States, notably the large community in and around Los Angeles and Beverly Hills, California, primarily speak Persian (see also Judeo-Persian) in the home and synagogue. They also support their own Persian language newspapers. Persian Jews also reside in eastern parts of New York such as Kew Gardens and Great Neck, Long Island.
Many recent Jewish immigrants from the Soviet Union speak primarily Russian at home, and there are several notable communities where public life and business are carried out mainly in Russian, such as in Brighton Beach in New York City and Sunny Isles Beach in Miami. 2010 estimates of the number of Jewish Russian-speaking households in the New York city area are around 92,000, and the number of individuals are somewhere between 223,000350,000. Another high population of Russian Jews can be found in the Richmond District of San Francisco where Russian markets stand alongside the numerous Asian businesses.
American Bukharan Jews speak Bukhori, a dialect of Persian, and Russian. They publish their own newspapers such as the Bukharian Times and a large portion live in Queens, New York. Forest Hills in the New York City borough of Queens is home to 108th Street, which is called by some “Bukharian Broadway”, a reference to the many stores and restaurants found on and around the street that have Bukharian influences. Many Bukharians are also represented in parts of Arizona, Miami, Florida, and areas of Southern California such as San Diego.
Classical Hebrew is the language of most Jewish religious literature, such as the Tanakh (Bible) and Siddur (prayerbook). Modern Hebrew is also the primary official language of the modern State of Israel, which further encourages many to learn it as a second language. Some recent Israeli immigrants to America speak Hebrew as their primary language.
There are a diversity of Hispanic Jews living in America. The oldest community is that of the Sephardic Jews of New Netherland. Their ancestors had fled Spain or Portugal during the Inquisition for the Netherlands, and then came to New Netherland. Though there is dispute over whether they should be considered Hispanic. Some Hispanic Jews, particularly in Miami and Los Angeles, immigrated from Latin America. The largest groups are those that fled Cuba after the communist revolution (known as Jewbans), and Argentine Jews. Argentina is the Latin American country with the largest Jewish population. There are a large number of synagogues in the Miami area that give services in Spanish. The last Hispanic Jewish community would be those that recently came from Portugal or Spain, after Spain and Portugal granted citizenship to the descendants of Jews who fled during the Inquisition. All of the above listed Hispanic Jewish groups speak either Spanish or Ladino.
Although American Jews have contributed greatly to American arts overall, there remains a distinctly Jewish American literature. Jewish American literature often explores the experience of being a Jew in America, and the conflicting pulls of secular society and history.
Yiddish theater was very well attended, and provided a training ground for performers and producers who moved to Hollywood in the 1920s. Many of the early Hollywood moguls and pioneers were Jewish. Many individual Jews have made significant contributions to American popular culture. There have been many Jewish American actors and performers, ranging from early 1900s actors, to classic Hollywood film stars, and culminating in many currently known actors. The field of American comedy includes many Jews. The legacy also includes songwriters and authors, for example the author of the song “Viva Las Vegas” Doc Pomus, or Billy the Kid composer Aaron Copland. Many Jews have been at the forefront of women’s issues.
Since 1845, a total of 34 Jews have served in the Senate, including the 14 present-day senators noted above. Judah P. Benjamin was the first practicing Jewish Senator, and would later serve as Confederate Secretary of War and Secretary of State during the Civil War. Rahm Emanuel served as Chief of Staff to President Barack Obama. The number of Jews elected to the House rose to an all-time high of 30. Eight Jews have been appointed to the United States Supreme Court.
The Civil War marked a transition for American Jews. It killed off the antisemitic canard, widespread in Europe, to the effect that Jews are cowardly, preferring to run from war rather than serve alongside their fellow citizens in battle.
At least twenty eight American Jews have been awarded the Medal of Honor.
More than 550,000 Jews served in the U.S. military during World War II; about 11,000 were killed and more than 40,000 were wounded. There were three recipients of the Medal of Honor, 157 recipients of the Army Distinguished Service Medal, Navy Distinguished Service Medal, Distinguished Service Cross, or Navy Cross, and about 1600 recipients of the Silver Star. About 50,000 other decorations and awards were given to Jewish military personnel, for a total of 52,000 decorations. During this period, Jews were approximately 3.3 percent of the total U.S. population but constituted about 4.23 percent of the U.S. armed forces. About 60 percent of all Jewish physicians in the United States under 45 years of age were in service as military physicians and medics.
Many Jewish physicists, including project lead J. Robert Oppenheimer, were involved in the Manhattan Project, the secret World War II effort to develop the atomic bomb. Many of these were refugees from Nazi Germany or from antisemitic persecution elsewhere in Europe.
Jews have been involved in the American folk music scene since the late 19th century; these tended to be refugees from Central and Eastern Europe, and significantly more economically disadvantaged than their established Western European and Sephardic coreligionists. Historians see it as a legacy of the secular Yiddish theater, cantorial traditions and a desire to assimilate. By the 1940s Jews had become established in the American folk music scene.
Examples of the major impact Jews have had in the American folk music arena include, but are not limited to: Moe Asch the first to record and release much of the music of Woodie Guthrie, including “This Land is Your Land” (see The Asch Recordings) in response to Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America”, and Guthrie wrote Jewish songs. Guthrie married a Jew and their son Arlo became influential in his own right. Asch’s one man corporation Folkways Records, also released much of the music of Leadbelly and Pete Seeger from the 40’s and 50’s. Asch’s large music catalog was voluntarily donated to the Smithsonian.
Three of the four creators of the Newport Folk Festival, Wein, Bikel and Grossman (Seeger is not) were Jewish. Albert Grossman put together Peter, Paul and Mary, of which Yarrow is Jewish. Oscar Brand, from a Canadian Jewish family, has the longest running radio program “Oscar Brand’s Folksong Festival” which has been on air consecutively since 1945 from NYC. And is the first American broadcast where the host himself will answer any personal correspondence.
Influential group The Weavers, successor to the Almanac Singers, led by Pete Seeger, had a Jewish manager, and 2 of the 4 members of the group were Jewish (Gilbert and Hellerman). The B-side of “Good Night Irene” had the Hebrew folk song personally chosen for the record by Pete Seeger “Tzena, Tzena, Tzena”.
The influential folk music magazine ‘Sing Out!’ was co-founded and edited by Irwin Silber in 1951, and edited by him until 1967, when the magazine stopped publication for decades. Rolling Stone magazine’s first music critic Jon Landau is of German Jewish descent. Izzy Young who created the legendary Folklore Center in NY, and currently the Folklore Centrum near Mariatorget in Sdermalm, Sweden, which relates to American and Swedish folk music.
“[The behind the scenes folk scene] Was at the very least 50 percent Jewish, and they adopted the music as part of their assimilation into the Anglo-American tradition which itself was largely an artificial construct but none the less provided us with some common ground”.
Jews have been involved in both financial thought from many diverting perspectives, and practical investment in the U.S. During the colonial era, before the establishment of the U.S.A. Jews were the first non-Protestants to receive rights to trade fur, from the Dutch and Swedish controlled colonies. The colonial United Kingdom honored after transitioning control of the colonies. During the Revolutionary War, Haym Solomon gave up his fortune to help create America’s first semi-central bank, and advised Alexander Hamilton on the building of America’s financial system.
American Jews in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries played a major role in the American financial services industry, both at investment banks and investment funds. German Jewish bankers began to assume a major role in American finance in the 1830s when government and private borrowing to pay for canals, railroads and other internal improvements increased rapidly and significantly. Men such as August Belmont (Rothschild’s agent in New York and a leading Democrat), Philip Speyer, Jacob Schiff (at Kuhn, Loeb & Company), Joseph Seligman, Philip Lehman (of Lehman Brothers), Jules Bache, and Marcus Goldman (of Goldman Sachs) illustrate this financial elite. As was true of their non-Jewish counterparts, family, personal, and business connections, a reputation for honesty and integrity, ability, and a willingness to take calculated risks were essential to recruit capital from widely scattered sources. The families and the firms which they controlled were bound together by religious and social factors, and by the prevalence of intermarriage. These personal ties fulfilled real business functions before the advent of institutional organization in the 20th century. Nevertheless, antisemitic elements often falsely targeted them as key players in a supposed Jewish cabal conspiring to dominate the world.
Since the late 20th century have Jews played a major role in the hedge fund industry, according to Zuckerman (2009) Thus SAC Capital Advisors,Soros Fund Management,Och-Ziff Capital Management,GLG PartnersRenaissance Technologies and Elliott Management Corporation are large hedge funds cofounded by Jews. They have also played a pivotal role in the private equity industry, co-founding some of the largest firms, such as Blackstone,Cerberus Capital Management,TPG Capital,BlackRock,Carlyle Group,Warburg Pincus, and KKR.
Paul Warburg, one of the leading advocates of the establishment of a central bank in the U.S. and one of the first governors of the newly established Federal Reserve System, came from a prominent Jewish family in Germany. Since then, several Jews have served as chairmen of the Fed, including the prior Chairman Ben Bernanke and Alan Greenspan. The current Chairwoman Janet Yellen is also Jewish.
With to the Jewish penchant to be drawn to white collar professional jobs and having excelled at intellectual pursuits, many Jews have also become been remarkably successful as an entrepreneurial and professional minority in the United States. Jewish culture also has a strong tradition, emphasis and respect for money, financial acumen, business, commerce, and entrepreneurship resulting many Jews to start their own businesses, especially family businesses that could be passed down from one generation to the next as well as serve as an asset, source of income and layering a strong financial groundwork for the family’s overall socioeconomic prosperity. Within the Jewish American cultural sphere, Jewish Americans have also developed a strong culture of entrepreneurship as excellence in entrepreneurship and engagement in business and commerce is highly prized in Jewish culture.
American Jews have also been drawn to various disciplines within academia such as sociology, economics, psychology, philosophy and linguistics (see Secular Jewish culture for some of the causes), and have played a disproportionate role in numerous academic domains. Jewish American intellectuals such as Saul Bellow, Ayn Rand, Noam Chomsky, Thomas Friedman, and Elie Wiesel have made a major impact within mainstream American public life. Of the United States top 200 most influential intellectuals, 50% are fully Jewish with 76% of Jewish Americans overall having at least one Jewish parent. Of American Nobel Prize winners, 37 percent have been Jewish Americans (18 times the percentage of Jews in the population), as have been 61 percent of the John Bates Clark Medal in economics recipients (thirty-five times the Jewish percentage).
In the business world, while Jewish Americans only constitute less than 2.5 percent of the U.S. population, they occupied 7.7 percent of board seats at various U.S. corporations. In New York real estate, 18 of the top 20 richest real estate moguls based in New York City are of Jewish extraction. American Jews also have a strong presence in NBA ownership. Of the 30 teams in the NBA, there are 14 Jewish principal owners. Several Jews have served as NBA commissioners including prior NBA commissioner David Stern and current commissioner Adam Silver.
Since many careers in science, business, and academia generally pay well, Jewish Americans also tend to have a higher average income than most Americans. The 20002001 National Jewish Population Survey shows that the median income of a Jewish family is $54,000 a year and 34% of Jewish households report income over $75,000 a year.
The 1993 Oslo Agreement made this split in the Jewish community official. Prime Minister Yitzak Rabins handshake with Yasir Arafat during the September 13 White House ceremony elicited dramatically opposed reactions among American Jews. To the liberal universalists the accord was highly welcome news. As one commentator put it, after a year of tension between Israel and the United States, “there was an audible sigh of relief from American and Jewish liberals. Once again, they could support Israel as good Jews, committed liberals, and loyal Americans.” The community “could embrace the Jewish state, without compromising either its liberalism or its patriotism”. Hidden deeper in this collective sense of relief was the hope that, following the peace with the Palestinians, Israel would transform itself into a Western-style liberal democracy, featuring a full separation between the state and religion. Not accidentally, many of the leading advocates of Oslo, including the Yossi Beilin, the then Deputy Foreign Minister, cherish the belief that a “normalized” Israel would become less Jewish and more democratic. However, to some right wing Jews, the peace treaty was worrisome. From their perspective, Oslo was not just an affront to the sanctity of how they interpreted their culture, but also a personal threat to the lives and livelihood settlers, in the West Bank and Gaza AKA “Judea and Samaria”. For these Jews, such as Morton Klein, the president of the Zionist organization of America, and Norman Podhoretz, the editor of Commentary, the peace treaty amounted to an appeasement of Palestinian terrorism. They and others repeatedly warned that the newly established Palestinian Authority (PA) would pose a serious security threat to Israel.
Religious Jews regarded those who assimilated with horror, and Zionists campaigned against assimilation as an act of treason.
American Jews – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The religion of the Jewish people (II Macc. ii. 21, viii. 1, xiv. 38; Gal. i. 13 = , Esth. R. iii. 7; comp. , Esth. viii. 17); their system of beliefs and doctrines, rites and customs, as presented in their sacred literature and developed under the influence of the various civilizations with which they have come in contact, widening out into a world-religion affecting many nations and creeds. In reality the name “Judaism” should refer only to the religion of the people of Judea, that is, of the tribe of Judah, the name “Yehudi” (hence “Judean,” “Jew”) originally designating a member of that tribe. In the course of time, however, the term “Judaism” was applied to the entire Jewish history.
A clear and concise definition of Judaism is very difficult to give, for the reason that it is not a religion pure and simple based upon accepted creeds, like Christianity or Buddhism, but is one inseparably connected with the Jewish nation as the depository and guardian of the truths held by it for mankind. Furthermore, it is as a law, or system of laws, given by God on Sinai that Judaism is chiefly represented in Scripture and tradition, the religious doctrines being only implicitly or occasionally stated; wherefore it is frequently asserted that Judaism is a theocracy (Josephus, “Contra Ap.” ii. 16), a religious legislation for the Jewish people, but not a religion. The fact is that Judaism is too large and comprehensive a force in history to be defined by a single term or encompassed from one point of view.
Extending over thirty-five centuries of history and over well-nigh all the lands of the civilized globe, Judaism could not always retain the same form and character. Judaism in its formative period, that is, in the patriarchal and prophetic times, differed from exilic and post-exilic Judaism; and rabbinic or pharisaic Judaism again presents a phase quite different from Mosaic Judaism, to which the Sadducees, and afterward to some extent the Karaites, persistently clung. Similarly Judaism in the Diaspora, or Hellenistic Judaism, showed great divergences from that of Palestine. So, too, the mysticism of the Orient produced in Germany and France a different form of Judaism from that inculcated by the Arabic philosophy cultivated by the Jews of Spain. Again, many Jews of modern times more or less systematically discard that form of Judaism fixed by the codes and the casuistry of the Middle Ages, and incline toward a Judaism which they hold more in harmony with the requirements of an age of broader culture and larger aims. Far from having become 1900 years ago a stagnant or dried-up religion, as Christian theology declares, Judaism has ever remained “a river of God full of living waters,” which, while running within the river-bed of a single nation, has continued to feed anew the great streams of human civilization. In this light Judaism is presented in the following columns as a historic power varying in various epochs. It is first necessary to state what are the main principles of Judaism in contradistinction to all other religions.
However tribal or exclusive the idea of the God of Israel may have been originally, Judaism boldly assumes that its God was the God of man from the very beginning; the Creator of heaven and earth, and the Ruler of the world from eternity to eternity, who brought the Flood upon a wicked generation of men, and who established the earth in righteousness and justice (Gen. i.-x.). In the light of this presentation of facts, idolatry or the worship of other gods is but a rebellious breaking away from the Most High, the King of the Nations, the universal God, besides whom there is no other (Deut. v. 39; Jer. x. 7), and to whom alone all knees must bend in humble adoration (Isa. xlv. 23, lxvi. 23). Judaism, accordingly, has for its sole object the restoration of the pure worship of God throughout the earth (Zech. xiv. 9); the Sinaitic covenant, which rendered Israel “a kingdom of priests among the nations”itself only a renewal of the covenant made with Abraham and his descendants for all timehaving been concluded for the sole purpose of giving back to mankind its God of old, the God of the Noachian covenant, which included all men (Gen. ix. 17, xviii. 18-19; Ex. xix. 3-6; Isa. xlix. 6-8). Surely there is nothing clannish in the God of the Prophets and the Psalmist, who judges all men and nations alike with justice and righteousness (Amos i.-ii., ix. 7; Jer. xxvi.; Ezek. xl.; Ps. xcvi. 13, xcviii. 9; and elsewhere). Judaism’s God has through the prophetic, world-wide view become the God of history, and through the Psalms and the prayers of the asidim the God of the human heart, “the Father,” and the “Lover of souls” (Isa. lxiii. 16; see Wisdom, xi. 26, and Abba). Far from departing from this standpoint, Judaism in the time of the Synagogue took the decisive forward step of declaring the Holy Name (see Adonai) ineffable, so as to allow the God of Israel to be known only as “the Lord God.” Henceforth without any definite name He stood forth as the world’s God without peer.
Judaism at all times protested most emphatically against any infringement of its pure monotheistic doctrine, whether by the dualism of the Gnostic (Sanh. 38a; Gen. R. i.; Eccl. R. iv. 8) or by the Trinitarianism of the Church (see Jew. Encyc. iv. 54, s.v. Christianity), never allowing such attributes as justice and pardoning love to divide the Godhead into different powers or personalities. Indeed, every contact with other systems of thought or belief served only to put Judaism on its guard lest the spirituality of God be marred by ascribing to Him human forms. Yet, far from being too transcendental, too remote from mortal man in his need (as Weber, “Jdische Theologie,” 1897, pp. 157 et seq., asserts), Judaism’s God “is ever near, nearer than any other help or sympathy can be” (Yer. Ber. ix. 13a); “His very greatness consists in His condescension to man” (Meg. 31a; Lev. R. i., with reference to Ps. cxiii. 6). In fact, “God appears to each according to his capacity or temporary need” (Mek., Beshalla, Shirah, iv.; see Schechter in “J. Q. R.” vi. 417-427).
Judaism affirms that God is a spirit, above all limitations of form, the Absolute Being who calls Himself “I am who I am” (“Eheyeh asher Eheyeh”; Ex. iii. 14), the Source of all existence, above all things, independent of all conditions, and without any physical quality. Far, however, from excluding less philosophical views of the Deity, so ardent a Jew as R. Abraham b. David of Posquires contends against Maimonides that he who holds human conceptions of God, such as the cabalists did, is no less a Jew than he who insists on His absolute incorporeality (Haggahot to “Yad,” Teshubah, iii. 7). Indeed, the daily prayers of the Jew, from “Adon ‘Olam” to the “Shir ha-Yiud” of Samuel b. Kalonymus, show a wide range of thought, here of rationalistic and there of mystic character, combining in a singular manner transcendentalism and immanence or pantheism as in no other faith. While the ideas of the various ages and civilizations have thus ever expanded and deepened the conception of God, the principle of unity was ever jealously guarded lest “His glory be given to another” (Isa. xlii. 8; see God).
But the most characteristic and essential distinction of Judaism from every other system of belief and thought consists in its ethical monotheism. Not sacrifice, but righteous conduct, is what God desires (Isa. i. 12-17; Amos v. 21-24; Hos. vi. 6; Micah vi. 6-8; Jer. vii. 22; Ps. xl. 7 [A. V. 6], 1. 8-13); the whole sacrificial cult being intended only for the spiritual need of man (Pesi. vi. 57, 62; Num. R. xxi.; Lev. R. ii.). Religion’s only object is to induce man to walk in the ways of God and to do right (Gen. xix. 19; Deut. x. 12), God Himself being the God of righteousness and holiness, the ideal of moral perfection (Ex. xx. 5-6, xxxiv. 7; Lev. xix. 1; Deut. vii. 9-10). While the pagan gods were “products of fear,” it was precisely “the fear of God” which produced in Judaism the conscience, the knowledge of a God within, thus preventing man from sin (Gen. xlii. 18; Ex. xx. 20; Deut. x. 12; Job i. 1). Consequently thehistory of mankind from the beginning appeared as the work of a moral Ruler of the world, of “the King of the nations of whom all are in awe” (Jer. x. 7; Ps. lxv. 13, xcvi. 10; Dan. ii. 21), in whom power and justice, love and truth are united (Ps. lxxxix. 15 [A. V. 14]). As He spoke to Israel, “Be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy” (Lev. xix. 1, Hebr.), so “He said unto man, Behold the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding” (Job xxviii. 28; comp. Micah vi. 8; Isa. xxxiii. 15; Ps. xv., xxiv. 4: “He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”). Quite characteristic of rabbinical Judaism is the fact that the names used for God are chiefly taken from His ethical attributes: “The world’s Righteous One” (“Zaddio shel ‘olam,” Gen. R. xlix.; Yoma 37a); “The Merciful One” (“Ramana”); and most frequently “The Holy One, blessed be He!” (“ha-adosh baruk hu”). Before Cain killed his brother, he said: “There is no divine judgment and no Judge” (Targ. Yer. to Gen. iv. 8). “The first question put to man at the Last Judgment will be: ‘Didst thou deal honestly with thy fellow man?'” (Shab. 31a; see God).
At any rate, Judaism, while insisting upon the unity of God and His government of the world, recognizes alongside of God no principle of evil in creation. God has no counterpart either in the powers of darkness, as the deities of Egypt and Babylon had, or in the power of evil, such as Ahriman in the Zoroastrian religion is, whose demoniacal nature was transferred by the Gnostic and Christian systems to Satan. In the Jewish Scriptures Satan has his place among the angels of heaven, and is bound to execute the will of God, his master (Job i. 7); and though sin and death are occasionally ascribed to him (see Satan), he can seduce and harm only as far as God permits him, and in the end must work for good (B. B. 16a). “God is the Creator of light and darkness, the Maker of peace and of evil” (Isa. xlv. 7). Everything He made was found by Him to be very good (Gen. i. 31); “also death,” says R. Mer (Gen. R. ix.). “What the Merciful does is for the good” (Ber. 60b). Whatever evil befalls man has disciplinary value: it is intended for his higher welfare (Deut. viii. 5; Ps. xciv. 12; Ta’an. 21a: “Gam zu leobah”).
Because the Lord saw that the world could not stand to be measured by strict justice, He mingled the quality of mercy with that of justice and created the world with both (Gen. R. xii.). In striking contrast to the pessimistic doctrine that the world is the product of mere chance and full of evil, the Midrash boldly states that the world was (or is) a process of selection and evolution: “God created worlds after worlds until He said, ‘This at last pleases Me'” (Gen. R. ix.; see Optimism).
The fundamental principle of Judaism (see Maimonides, “Moreh,” iii. 17) is that man is free; that is to say, the choice between good and evil has been left to man as a participant of God’s spirit. “Sin lieth at the door, and unto thee shall be its desire; but thou shalt rule over it” (Gen. iv. 7, Hebr.) says God to Cain; and herein is laid down for all time the law of man’s freedom of will. Accordingly Moses says in the name of God: “See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil; . . . therefore choose life” (Deut. xxx. 15, 19); and Ben Sira, commenting upon this, says: “God hath made man from the beginning and left him in the hand of his counsel. . . . He hath set fire and water before thee; thou mayest stretch forth thy hand unto whichsoever thou wilt. Before man is life and death; and whichsoever he liketh, it shall be given him” (Ecclus. [Sirach] xv. 14-17). Similarly R. Akiba declares: “All is foreseen; but the mastery [that is, free will] is granted” (Ab. iii. 15). Another rabbinical saying is, “Everything is determined by Heaven save the fear of Heaven” (Ber. 33b). Freedom of will constitutes man’s responsibility; and his heavenly prerogative would be impaired were there an inheritance of sin. “Every man shall be put to death for his own sin,” says the Law (Deut. xxiv. 16). It is the principle for which the prophet Ezekiel fought (Ezek. xviii. 20). Accordingly the Rabbis say: “The wicked are under the power of their hearts; the righteous have their hearts in their power” (Gen. R. lxvii.). Also, “Man is constantly led along the way he wishes to go. If he wishes to pollute himself by sin, the gates of sin will be opened for him; if he strives for purity, the gates of purity will be opened to him” (Yoma 38a; Mak. 10b; Nid. 30b). Regarding the difficulty of reconciling free will with divine omniscience, see Free Will. Notwithstanding man’s propensity to sin, caused by the Yeer Ha-Ra’, “the leaven in the lump” (Ber. 17a; comp. I Cor. v. 7), and the universal experience of sinfulness (Eccl. vii. 20; Ex. R. xxxi.), rabbinical Judaism denies that sin is inherited from parents, pointing to Abraham the son of Terah, Hezekiah the son of Ahaz, and others as instances to the contrary (Tan., uat, ed. Buber, p. 4, with reference to Job xiv. 4), and insists on the possibility of sinlessness as manifested by various saints (Shab. 55b; Yoma 22b; Eccl. R. i. 8, iii. 2).
Sin, according to Jewish teaching, is simply erring from the right path, owing chiefly to the weakness of human nature (Num. xv. 26; I Kings viii. 46; Ps. xix. 13, lxxviii. 39, ciii. 14; Job iv. 17-21); only in the really wicked it is insolent rebellion against God and His order (“pesha'” or “resha'”; Isa. lvii. 20; Ps. i. 4-6, xxxvi. 2; and elsewhere). And there is no sin too great to be atoned for by repentance and reparation (Ezek. xviii. 23; Yer. Peah i. 16b; id. 40b). The whole conception, then, of mankind’s depravity by sin has no place in Judaism, which holds forth the reintegrating power of repentance to Gentiles and Jews, to the ordinary and the most corrupt sinners alike (Pes. 119a; R. H. 17b; Sanh. 103a, 108a; Yoma 86a, b). “Before God created the world, He created repentance for man as one of his prerequisites” (Pes. 54a; Gen. R. xxi., xxii.; see Repentance; Sin).
Israel, then, has been chosen, like Israel’s ancestor Abraham, the descendant of Shem (Gen. ix. 26-27), to be a blessing to all nations on earth (ib. xii. 3, xix. 18); and the name by which the Lord calls him at the Exodus (Ex. iv. 22), “My first-born son,” betokens in the language of the time his mission to be that of the priest and teacher in the house-hold of the nations, leading the rest by his precept and example to the worship of the Only One (ib. xix. 6; Isa. lxi. 6). “A people dwelling in solitude and not counted among the nations” (Num. xxiii. 9; Deut. vii. 7), but watched over by divine providence with especial care (Deut. xxvii. 18-19, xxxii. 8-12), the standard-bearer of incomparable laws of wisdom and righteousness in the sight of the nations (ib. iv. 5-8), Israel has been created to declare God’s praise to the world, to be “His witnesses” (LXX., “martyrs”) testifying to His unity, “the light of the nations,” and the “covenant of the people to establish the earth” (Isa. xliii. 10, 21; xlix. 6-8). “To Israel’s house of God the nations shall flock to be taught of His ways and to learn to walk in His paths.” This is to bring humanity back to its normal condition, peace and bliss on earth, because righteousness will then prevail everywhere and the whole “earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord” (Isa. ii. 2-4, ix. 6, xi. 4-9, lxv. 25; Micah iv. 1-4). Israel, who when redeemed from Egypt proclaimed God as King (Ex. xv. 19; Lev. R. ii. 4), received the truth of Sinai as a trust; he is never to rest until his God shall become king of the whole earth, until all men and nations shall bend the knee before Him (Zech. xiv. 9; Isa. xl. 5, xlv. 13, xlix. 19; Ps. xxii. 29 [A. V. 28], xlvii. 9 , lxxvii. 5 , xcvi.-xcix.). “Israel, who proclaims God’s unity, is proclaimed by God as His unique people” (Mek., Beshalla, Shirah, 3). Israel, as the people of the saints of the Most High, is to establish the kingdom of God to last forever (Dan. ii. 44, vii.). But as teacher and guardian of mankind’s purest faith and loftiest hope, he is dealt with more severely by God for every transgression (Jer. ii. 21; Ezek. xx. 33-41; Amos iii. 2). Nay more, as the servant of God he has been chosen for continual martyrdom in the cause of truth and justice; he, therefore, is the “man of sorrows” whose affliction is to bring healing to the world and to lead many to righteousness (Isa. lii-liii.; see Servant of God).
Whether the expectation is that the universal kingdom of God on earth will be brought about by an ideal king from the house of David, the Messiah, as Isaiah and his followers depict the future of Israel (Isa. xi. 1 et seq.; Ezek. xxxiii. 24), or by the dispersed people of Israel itself, as the seer of the Exile (Isa. lvi.-lxvi.) indicates (see Messiah); whether or not the great day when all flesh shall worship the Lord will be preceded by a day of divine judgment when all the wicked “shall be stubble” (Mal. iii. 19, 21 [A. V. iv. 3]; see Day of the Lord; Eschatology; Gog and Magog), Judaism by its idea of a divine kingdom of truth and righteousness to be built on earth gave to mankind a hope and to history a goal for which to live and strive through the centuries. Other nations beheld in the world’s process a continual decline from a golden age of happiness to an iron age of toil, until in a great catastrophe of conflagration and ruin the end of all things, of men and gods, is to be reached: Judaism points forward to a state of human perfection and bliss to be brought about by the complete unfolding of the divine in man or the revelation of God’s full glory as the goal of history. And herein lies its great distinction also from Christianity. Judaism’s scope lies not in the world beyond, the world of the spirit, of which man on earth can have no conception. Both the hope of resurrection and that of immortality, in some form or other familiar and indispensable to all tribes and creeds, seem evidently to have come to the Jews from withoutthe one from Persia or Babylonia, the other from Greece. Judaism itself rests on neither (see Eschatology; Immortality; Resurrection). Its sole aim and purpose is to render the world that now is a divine kingdom of truth and righteousness; and this gives it its eminently rational, ethical, and practical character.
Judaism has a twofold character: (1) universal, and (2) particular or national. The one pertains to its religious truths destined for the world; the other, to its national obligationsconnected with its priestly mission. Upon the former more stress is laid by the Prophets and by most of the sacred poets, by the Alexandrian propagandists and the Palestinian haggadists, as well as by the medieval philosophers and the modern Reform school; whereas the Mosaic law, the Halakah, and the Talmudic and cabalistic schools dwell almost exclusively upon the latter.
Judaism is, above all, the law of justice. Whereas in heathendom, except in the case of some exalted philosopher like Plato, might was deified, and the oppressed, the slave, and the stranger found no protection in religion, the declaration is everywhere made throughout Scripture that injustice committed by man against man provokes the wrath of the world’s Ruler and Judge (Ex. xxi. 22-23; Gen. vi. 13, xviii. 20; Deut. xxvii. 15-26; Amos i. 3-ii. 8; and elsewhere), and that righteousness and compassionate love are demanded for the oppressed, the slave, the poor, the fatherless and homeless, the stranger, and for the criminal as having a claim on the sympathy of his fellow men; even for the dumb creature compassion is required (Ex. xxii. 20-26, xxiii. 5-6; Deut. xxii. 6; xxiv. 6, 10-xxv. 4; Job xxxi.). This is the “Torah” of which Isaiah speaks (Isa. i. 10), the “commandment” put by God upon every human heart (Deut. xxx. 11-14). And this spirit of justice permeates the Talmudic literature also. “For righteousness is one of the pillars of the world” (Ab. i. 18). “Where right is suppressed war comes upon the world” (ib. iv. 8). “The execution of justice is one of the Noachian laws of humanity” (Sanh. 56b). “Justice is demanded alike for the Gentile and the Jew” (Mak. 24a; B. . 113a; and other quotations in Baya b. Joseph’s “ad ha-Kema,” ch. “Gezelah”). To have due regard for the honor of all fellow creatures (“kebod aberiyyot”; Tos., B. . vii. 10) is one of the leading principles of rabbinic law (Shab. 94b).
Judaism furthermore is the law of purity. Heathenism by its orgiastic cults of Baal-peor, Astarte, and the like, fostered impurity and incest (Lev. xviii. 3, 24-30; Num. xxv. 1-9; Deut. iv. 3). The Torah warns against fornication, and teaches purity of heart and of action (Num. xv. 39; Deut. xxiii. 18-19, xxiv. 15; Prov. vii. 5-27; Job xxxi. 1), because God is too pure to tolerate unchastity in man or in woman (see Holiness; Purity). Judaism resents every act of lewdness as “nebalah” = “villainy” (Gen. xxxiv. 7, 31; Deut. xxii. 21; Judges xix. 24; II Sam. xiii. 12; see Folly), and most severely condemns lascivious talk (Isa. ix. 16; Shab. 33a).
Judaism is, moreover, the law of truth. Its God is the God of truth (Jer. x. 10). “The seal of the Holy One is truth” (Gen. R. lxxxi.; see Alpha and Omega). Abraham, Moses, Jeremiah, Job, and ohelet wrestled with God in doubt until He revealed Himself to them in a higher form (Gen. xviii. 25; Ex. xxxii.-xxxiii.; Jer. xii. 1; Job xxxi. 35). And as the Prophets had perfect faith in God as the God of truth and therefore shrank from hypocrisy (Yer. Ber. vii. 11c), so did all the Jewish philosophers show perfect confidence in truth while boldly expressing their lofty views concerning the Deity and divesting God of every trace of Anthropomorphism and Anthropopathism and of every attribute infringing upon the spirituality and unity of God. It was, says the Talmud, the last will of Canaan that his children should not speak the truth and should love lasciviousness (Pes. 113b). “The Torah of Moses is truth” and “desires men to speak the truth and assent to the truth, even as God Himself assents to the truth when honestly spoken”; for “Upon truth rests the world” (B. B. 74a; Ps. xv. 2; Ab. R. N. xxxvii.; Ab. i. 18). This honest search for truth made Judaism, indeed, the world’s great power for truth as well as for righteousness.
Judaism promotes and fosters education and culture. In contrast to such systems of faith as foster ignorance of the masses, it renders it a duty for the father to instruct his children and for the community to provide for the general instruction of old and young (see Education; Philosophy). It sanctifies labor, and makes the teaching of a trade whereby a livelihood may be earned a duty incumbent upon the father or upon the municipal authority (see Labor, Holiness of). It makes the systematic care of the poor a duty of the community with a view to the dignity and self-help of the recipient (See Charity). It denounces celibacy as unlawful, and enjoins each man to build a home and to contribute to the welfare of human society (see Marriage). The high priest in Israel was not allowed to officiate on the Day of Atonement unless he had a wifeliving with him (Yoma i. 1; comp. Ta’an. ii. 2). It enjoins love of country and loyalty to the government, no matter how unfriendly it be to the Jew (Jer. xxix. 7; Ab. iii. 2; Ket. 111a; see Patriotism).
Judaism is a religion of joy, and it desires that man should rejoice before God and gratefully enjoy all His gifts, at the same time filling other hearts with joy and thanksgiving. Especially are its Sabbath and festal days seasons of joy with no austerity about them. Judaism discourages asceticism (see Asceticism; Joy).
Judaism is a religion of hope. It teaches men to recognize in pain and sorrow dispensations of divine goodness. It is optimistic, because it does not defer hope merely to the world to come, but waits for the manifestation of God’s plans of wisdom and goodness in the moral and spiritual advancement of man. While the present world is, in comparison to the future one, declared to be “like the vestibule wherein one prepares for the palace,” it is nevertheless stated that “one hour devoted to repentance and good works in this world is more valuable than the entire life of the world to come” (Ab. iv. 16-17); for “to-day is the time for working out one’s destiny, while to-morrow is the time for receiving compensation” (‘Er. 22a).
As its highest aim and motive Judaism regards the love of God. Twice every day the Jew recites the Shema’, which contains the words: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (Deut. vi. 5); this verse is understood to enjoin him to willingly surrender life and fortune whenever the cause of God demands it, while it at the same time urges him to make God beloved by all his fellow creatures through deeds of kindness, as Abraham did (Sifre, Deut. 32). This love of God implies the most unselfish devotion and the purest motive of action; that is, acting not from fear, but rather for God’s sake alone (Sifre, Deut. 32, 48; Ab. ii. 12); doing good not in view of any reward in the world to come (Ab. i. 3), but for its own sake (see Schreiner, “Die Jngsten Urtheile ber das Judenthum,” 1902, pp. 145-151); and it also implies the love of man (Deut. x. 12-19; see Love).
Judaism, finally, is a system of sanctification of life. It teaches that the whole of life is holy, because God is manifested in it: “Be holy, for the Lord your God is holy” (Lev. xix. 1, Hebr.). Even in the functions of animal life the presence of a holy God should be realized (Deut. xxiii. 15); and when the perfect state of humanity shall have been attained, every road will be a holy road free from impurity (Isa. xxxv. 8), and “In that day shall there be upon the bells of the horses, Holy unto the Lord” (Zech. xiv. 20, R. V.).
The Sinaitic covenant which rendered Israel “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex. xix. 6) became, the Rabbis say, “a source of hatred to the nations” (Shab. 89a: a play upon words, “Sinai””Sin’ah”), because it separated it from them by statutes and ordinances such as the dietary and the Levitical purity laws and others intended to prevent idolatrous practises. Like the priest in the Temple, whose garments and mode of life distinguished him from the rest in order to invest him with the spirit of greater sanctity and purity (I Chron. xxiii. 13), so Israel was for all time to be impressed with its priestly mission by all those ceremonies which form so prominent a feature in its religious life (see Ceremonies; Circumcision; Commandments; Dietary Laws). Particularly the Mosaic and, later on, the Pharisaic laws had for their object the separation of the Jewish people from all those influences prevalent in heathendom which led to idolatry and impurity; wherefore not only intermarriage, but also participation in any meal or other festive gathering which could possibly be connected with idol-worship was prohibited (see Worship, Idol-; Intermarriage; Jubilees, Book of.) This persistent avoidance of association with the Gentiles on the part of the Pharisees, which in the time of the Maccabees was termed = “keepingapart from the surrounding nations” (comp. II Macc. xiv. 38), became the chief cause of the accusation of a “hatred of mankind” which was brought against the Jews by the Greeks and Romans, and which has ever since been reiterated by the anti-Semites (see Schrer, “Gesch.” iii. 3, 416).
In reality these very laws of seclusion fitted the Jew for his herculean task of battling for the truth against a world of falsehood, and enabled him to resist the temptations and to brave the persecutions of the nations and the ages. They imbued him with a spirit of loyalty unparalleled in human history; they inculcated in him the principle of abstinence, enabling him to endure privation and torture; and filled him with that noble pride which alone upheld him amidst the taunts and sneers of high and low. They brought out those traits of manhood which characterized Abraham, who, according to the Rabbis, was called ‘”Ibri ” (Hebrew) because his maxim was: “Let all the world stand on the one side [“‘eber ead”]I side with God and shall win in the end” (Gen. R. xlvi.). But these laws also fostered a conception of the sanctity of life unknown to other creeds or races. By investing the commonest act and event with religious obligations, they made the whole of life earnest and holy with duty. Instead of being “a yoke of servitude,” as Schrer and others have it, they “filled the home and the festal seasons with higher joy” (see Schechter and Abrahams in “J. Q. R.” iii. 762 et seq., xi. 626 et seq.).
Notwithstanding its unmitigated severity against heathenism with its folly and vice, and against every mode of compromise therewith, Judaism does not, like other creeds, consign the non-believer to eternal doom. It judges men not by their creed, but by their deeds, demanding righteous actions and pure motives, since “fear of God” signifies fear of Him who looketh into the heart (Sifra, Aare Mot, iii. 2). It declares through R. Joshua b. Hananiah, whose opinion is generally accepted, that “the righteous of all nations have a share in the world to come”; the Shammaite R. Eliezer in consigning all heathen to Gehenna bases his argument on the Scriptural verse Ps. ix. 18 (A. V. 17), into which he reads, “The wicked are turned to Sheol because all heathen forget God”not as R. Joshua does, “all those heathen that forget God” (Sanh. 105a). It is the moral depravity ascribed to the heathen, owing to his unchaste and violent habits, which is the cause of all the harsh haggadic expressionssuch as “the people that resemble the ass” (Ket. 111a)and halakic injunctions found in the Talmud against the heathen (Gentile or ‘Akkum; see Jubilees, Book of). The latter is always under grave suspicion (see ‘Ab. Zarah ii. 1; Yeb. 98a), yet, no sooner does he solemnly discard idolatry than his association is invited and he has a claim on protection (Gi. 45a).
On the contrary, Judaism waits for “the righteous nation that keeps the faith” (Isa. xxvi. 2), and opens wide “its gates that the righteous from among the heathen world may enter” (Ps. cxviii. 20; Sifra, Aare Mot, xiii.), calling the Gentiles that serve God in righteousness “priests of the Lord” (“Otiot de-R. Akiba,” letter “Zayin”). It declares that the Holy Spirit may rest upon the righteous heathen as well as upon the Jew (Tanna debe Eliyahu R. ix.). It pays due homage to the wise among the heathen (Ber. 58a; Soah 35b; Bek. 8b; Gen. R. lxv.). It recognizes the existence of prophets among the heathen (B. B. 15b: “Fifteen prophets God sent to the heathen world up to the time of Moses: Balaam and his father, Job and his four friends,” etc.; comp. Lev. R. i. 12, ii. 8; Tanna debe Eliyahu R. xxvi.; ib. Zua xi., etc.). The assertion made by Max Mller, Kuenen, and others, that Judaism is not a missionary religion, rests on insufficient knowledge. There existed an extensive proselyte propaganda literature, especially in Alexandria (see Didache; Propaganda); and, according to the Midrash, “the heathen world is saved by the merit of the one proselyte who is annually won” (Gen. R. xxviii.; comp. Matt. xxiii. 15; Jellinek, “B. H.” vi., Introduction, xlvi.). Abraham and Sarah are represented as devoting their lives to making proselytes (Gen. R. xxxix.); and as the Psalmist accords to the proselytes”those that fear God”a special place (Ps. cxv. 11), so does the daily prayer of the Jew in the “Shemoneh ‘Esreh” contain a special blessing for the proselytes (“Gere ha-ede”). Only in later centuries, when the Church interfered through apostates and by edicts, was the proselyte declared to be a plague instead of a desired accession to the house of Israel (Isa. xiv. 1); the ancient Halakah endeavored to encourage the heathen to come under the wings of the Shekinah (Yeb. 47a, b; Mas. Gerim; Lev. R. ii.). In order to facilitate the admission of Gentiles, Judaism created two classes: (1) “proselytes of righteousness,” who had to bring the “sacrifices of righteousness” while submitting to the Abrahamic rite in order to become full members of the house of Israel; and (2) “proselytes of the gate” (“gere toshab”), who accepted only the seven Noachian laws (ten and thirty are also mentioned) of humanity. Occasionally the necessity of undergoing circumcision is made a matter of controversy also in the case of the full proselyte (see Circumcision). But proselytism as a system of obtaining large numbers is deprecated by Judaism.
However, the Messianic age is regarded as the one when “the fulness of the heathen world” will join Judaism (Isa. xiv. 1; Zech. viii. 23; ‘Ab. Zarah 3a). Especially characteristic of the cosmopolitan spirit of Judaism is the fact that the seventy bullocks brought as sacrifice during the Sukkot festival at the Temple were taken to be peace-offerings on behalf of the supposed seventy nations representing the heathen world (Suk. 55b), a view shared by Philo (“De Monarchia,” ii. 6; idem, “De Septenario,” p. 26; see Treitel in “Monatsschrift,” 1903, pp. 493-495). Throughout the entire ethical literature of the Jews, from Tanna debe Eliyahu R. down to the various Ethical Wills of the Rabbis, there is voiced regarding the non-Jewish world a broadly human spirit which stands in strange contrast to the narrowness with which Judaism is viewed by Christian writers, even those of high rank (see Zunz, “Z. G.” pp. 122-157). The same cosmopolitan attitude was taken by Judaism whenever its representativeswere called upon to act as intermediaries between Moslem and Christian; and the parable of the three rings, put by Lessing into the mouth of Nathan der Weise, was actually of Jewish origin (see Wnsche in “Lessing-Mendelssohn Gedenkbuch,” 1879, pp. 329 et seq.).
Owing to the Paulinian antithesis of law and faith or love (see Lwy, “Die Paulinische Lehre von Gesetz,” in “Monatsschrift,” 1903, pp. 332 et seq., 417 et seq.), the Torah, the basis and center of Judaism since Ezra, has been persistently placed in a false light by non-Jewish writers, undue stress being laid upon “the burden of the Law.” In reality, the word “Torah” signifies both “law” and “doctrine”; and Judaism stands for both while antagonizing Paul’s conception of faith as a blind dogmatic belief which fetters the mind. It prefers the bondage of the Law to the bondage of the spirit. It looks upon the divine commandments as a source of spiritual joy (“simah shel miwah”) and as a token of God’s special protection (Ber. 31a), for which it enjoins the Jew to offer Benedictions and to display zeal and enthusiastic love (Ab. v. 20). “God has given the children of Israel so many commandments in order to increase their merit [Mak. iii. 16] or to purify them” (Tan., Shemini, ed. Buber, p. 12). Every morning after having taken upon himself the yoke of God’s kingdom, the Israelite has to take upon himself the yoke of the divine commandments also (Ber. ii. 2); and there is no greater joy for the true Israelite than to be “burdened with commandments” (Ber. 17a). “Even the commonest of Jews are full of merit on account of the many commandments they fulfil” (ib. 57a.)
The Law was accordingly a privilege which was granted to Israel because of God’s special favor. Instead of blind faith, Judaism required good works for the protection of man against the spirit of sin (ib. 32b). The Law was to impress the life of the Jew with the holiness of duty. It spiritualized the whole of life. It trained the Jewish people to exercise self-control and moderation, and it sanctified the home. It rendered the commonest functions of life holy by prescribing for them special commandments. In this sense were the 613 commandments regarded by Judaism.
Some of these are understood to be divine marks of distinction to separate Israel from the other nationsstatutes (“ukkot”) which are designated as unreasonable by the heathen world, such as laws concerning diet, dress, and the like (Sifra, Aare Mot, xiii.). Others are called “‘eduyot” (testimony), in view of their having been given to make Israel testify to God’s miraculous guidance, such as the festive seasons of the year; while still others are “signs” (“ot”), being tokens of the covenant between God and Israel, such as circumcision, the Sabbath (Gen. xvii. 11; Ex. xxxi. 13), the Passover (Ex. xii. 13, xiii. 9), and, according to the rabbinical interpretation, the tefillin (Deut. vi. 8, xi. 18).
Of sacraments, in the sense of mysterious rites by which a person is brought into a lifelong bodily relationship to God, Judaism has none. The Sabbath and circumcision have been erroneously called thus by Frankel (in his “Zeitschrift,” 1844, p. 67): they are institutions of Judaism of an essential and, according to the generally accepted opinion, vital character; but they do not give any Jew the character of an adherent of the faith (see Ceremony; Commandments). At the same time the Sabbath and the festival seasons, with the ceremonies connected with them, have at all times been the most significant expressions of Jewish sentiment, and must be regarded as the most important factors of religious life both in the Synagogue and in the home (see Ab, Ninth of; Atonement, Day of; anukkah; New-Year; Passover; Purim; Sabbath; Shabuot; and Sukkot).
While the immutability of the Torah, that is, the law of Moses, both the written and the oral Law, is declared by Maimonides to be one of the cardinal doctrines of Judaism, there are views expressed in the Talmud that the commandments will be abrogated in the world to come (Nid. 61b). It is especially the dietary laws that will, it is said, be no longer in force in the Messianic time (Midr. Teh. on Ps. cxlvi. 4).
On the question whether the laws concerning sacrifice and Levitical purity have ceased to be integral parts of Judaism, Reform and Orthodox Judaism are at issue (on this and other points of difference between the two extreme parties of Judaism see Reform Judaism). Between the two stands the so-called “Breslau school,” with Zacharias Frankel as head, whose watchword was “Positive Historical Judaism,” and whose principle was “Reform tempered with Conservatism.” While no longer adhering to the Mosaic origin of the Pentateuch (see Grtz in “Gesch.” ii. 299-318, and Schechter in “J. Q. R.” iii. 760-761) and the divine character of tradition (see Frankel, “Darke ha-Mishnah”), it assigns the power and authority for reforms in Judaism only to the Jewish community as a whole, or to what Schechter calls “catholic Israel.” The latter author desires “a strong authority,” one which, “drawing inspiration from the past, understands also how to reconcile us [the Jews] with the present and to prepare us [them] for the future” (“J. Q. R.” iv. 470). Grtz goes so far as to reduce Judaism to two fundamental principles: (1) “the religious element, which is mere negative monotheism in the widest acceptation of the term,” and (2) the ethical, which offers the ideal for the moral life: “Be ye holy even as I am holy”; at the same time declaring that “prophets and Talmudists did not regard sacrifice or ritual as the fundamental and determining thing in Judaism” (Grtz, i. 9). This leads to a final statement of the principles and forces of Judaism.
The Shema’, “the proclamation of God’s unity, requires an undivided Israel” (Mek., Yitro, Baodesh, i.). “One God, One Israel, and One Temple” is the principle twice stated in Josephus (“Ant.” iv. 8, 5; “Contra Ap.” ii. 28); “One God, One Israel, and One Torah” is the principle upon which Orthodox Judaism rests. “It was an evil day for Israel when the controversies between the schools of Shammai and Hillel began, and the one Torah appearedto have become two Torot” (Sanh. 88b; where the plural “Torot” occurs, it refers to the written and oral law; Yoma 28b, with reference to Gen. xxvi. 5; comp. Shab. 31a). This Torah, both written and oral, was known to and practised in all its details by the Patriarchs (Yoma 28b; Gen. R. lxiv.; comp. Jubilees, Book of, and “Attah Ead” in the liturgy). “Whosoever denies that the whole Law, written as well as oral, was given by God to Moses on Sinai is a heretic” (Sanh. 99a; Sifra, Behar, i. 1).
The trustworthiness of the divine behest until the final codification of the Law, from this point of view, rests upon the continuous chain of tradition from Moses down to the men of the Great Synagogue (Ab. i. 1), and afterward upon the successive ordination of the Rabbis by the elders with the laying on of hands (probably originally under the influence of the Holy Spirit; see Semikah). Accordingly the stability and the immutability of the Law remained from the Orthodox standpoint one of the cardinal principles of Judaism (see M. Friedlnder, “The Jewish Religion,” 1891; Samson Raphael Hirsch, “Horeb,” 1837).
Independent research, however, discerns evolution and progress to have been at work in the various Mosaic legislations (Ex. xx. 22-xxiii. 19; Deut. xii.-xxi. 13; and Leviticus together with Num. xv., xviii.-xix. 22), in the prophetic and priestly as well as in the soferic activities, and it necessarily sees in revelation and inspiration as well as in tradition a spiritual force working from within rather than a heavenly communication coming from without. From this point of view, ethical monotheism presents itself as the product not of the Semitic race, which may at best have created predisposition for prophetic inspiration and for a conception of the Deity as a personality with certain moral relations to man, but solely of the Jewish genius, whose purer and tenderer conception of life demanded a pure and holy God in sharp contrast to the cruel and lascivious gods of the other Semitic races (see M. Jol, “Religis-Philosophische Zeitfragen,” 1876, pp. 82-83).
It was the prophetic spirit of the Jewish nation embodied in Abraham (not the Midianite, as Budde thinks, nor some Babylonian tribe, as the Assyriologists would have it) which transformed Yhwh, an original tribal deity localized on Sinai and connected with the celestial phenomena of nature, into the God of holiness, “a power not ourselves that maketh for righteousness,” the moral governor of the world. Yet this spirit works throughout the Biblical time only in and through a few individuals in each age; again and again the people lapse into idolatry from lack of power to soar to the heights of prophetic vision. Only in the small Judean kingdom with the help of the Deuteronomic Book of the Law the beginning is made, and finally through Ezra the foundation is laid for the realization of the plan of “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”
But while thus the people were won, and the former propensity to idolatry, the “yeer ha-ra’,” was banished forever by the power of the men of the Great Synagogue (Yoma 69b), the light of prophetic universalism became dim. Still it found its utterance in the Synagogue with its liturgy, in the Psalms, in the Books of Jonah and Job, in the Books of Wisdom, and most singularly in the hafarah read on Sabbath and holy days often to voice the prophetic view concerning sacrifice and ritual in direct antagonism to the Mosaic precepts. Here, too, “the Holy Spirit” was at work (see Inspiration; Synagogue). It created Pharisaism in opposition to Sadducean insistence upon the letter of the Law; and the day when the injunction “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth” was abrogated, and the rationalistic interpretation of the Scribes was substituted therefor, was celebrated as a triumph of reason (Megillat Ta’an. iv. 1). While the legalists beheld God’s majesty confined to “the four ells of the Halakah” (Ber. 8a), the Haggadah unfolded the spirit of freedom and progress; and when mysticism in the East threatened to benumb the spirit, philosophy under Arabian influence succeeded in enlarging the mental horizon of Judaism anew.
Thus Judaism presents two streams or currents of thought ever running parallel to each other: the one conservative, the other progressive and liberal; the one accentuating the national and ritualistic, the other the cosmopolitan and spiritual, elements; mysticism here and rationalism there, these together forming the centripetal and centrifugal forces of Judaism to keep it in continuous progress upon its God-appointed track.
Judaism, parent of both Christianity and Islam, holds forth the pledge and promise of the unity of the two (“Yad,” Melakim, xi. 4; “Cuzari,” iv. 23; see Jew. Encyc. iv. 56, s.v. Christianity), as it often stood as mediator between Church and Mosque during the Middle Ages (see Disputations and Judah ha-Levi). In order to be able to “unite all mankind into one bond” (New-Year’s liturgy and Gen. R. lxxx viii.), it must form “one bond” (Lev. R. xxx.). It must, to use Isaiah’s words, constitute a tree ever pruned while “the holy seed is the substance thereof” (Isa. vi. 13); its watchword being: “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts” (Zech. iv. 6).
For Karaitic Judaism see Karaites.
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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