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Judaism
At the outset, it is important to note that there is a distinction
between the Jewish people and the religion of Judaism; not all Jewish
people are religious. Many profess to be atheists or agnostics. There
are also Jews who are religious, yet have converted to other religions.
Of the some 15 million Jewish people in the world today:
• around 4.5 million are in Israel
• some 7 million are in North America
• approx.1 million are in countries that were part of the
former Soviet Union
• approx. 2 million are spread throughout European
countries
Is “Jewish” a Religious or Ethnic Identity?
Yes and no. Being Jewish can mean you are a part of a religious
movement. However, the great majority of Jews become a part of the
religious movement through birth and not due to their beliefs or
actions. In this way, being Jewish is like being a citizen of a religious
movement. A Jewish identity is automatically bestowed on the babies of
Jewish mothers. And this identity stays with them throughout life no
matter what they believe or how they act.
A person who was born to a Jewish mother or has gone through the
conversion process is considered a Jew even if he or she does not
believe in Judaism and does not observe Jewish practices. Thus, there
are non-religious Jews or secular Jews.
A person who was not born to a Jewish mother or has not gone through
the conversion process is not considered a Jew even if he or she
believes in Judaism and observes Jewish practices. Thus, the conversion
process is a very meaningful because it is the only way for a non-Jew to
become Jewish.
Abraham – Father of the Hebrew
people
• Lived near Ur in Mesopotamia (between Tigris
and Euphrates Rivers)
• Obeyed a command by God to leave his relatives
and take his wife and household westwards to the
land God wanted him to have
• God appeared to him in a dream and told him that
his descendants would be as numerous as the stars
in the sky and the sands of the beach
Abraham and Sarah
• Abraham was visited by three angels, who told
him that by the following year his wife Sarah
would be pregnant.
• Sarah was believed to be barren. She told
Abraham to sleep with her servant Hagar, who
bore him Ishmael. Perhaps, this is what God
intended.
• Not so, eventually Sarah conceived and bore
Abraham a son, who was named Isaac.
• Sarah regretted telling Abraham to be with Hagar
and feared that Ishmael would take Isaac’s
inheritance. She pestered Abraham until he sent
Hagar and Ishmael away.
• According to Islamic tradition, Abraham and his
son Ishmael were the founding fathers.
Abraham and Isaac
• While Isaac was still a boy, God commanded
Abraham to sacrifice Isaac.
• Abraham was going to follow through with it.
• God sent an angel to stop Abraham before he
killed Isaac. This act of obedience was credited as
obedience to Abraham.
• Abraham and God made a covenant (agreement).
Abraham would make sure all his descendants
were circumcise their sons, and God would bless
them. This would be an outward sign of their
cleanliness, holiness, and dedication to God.
Sacrifice of Isaac (Brunelleschi)
Moses
Moses was the greatest prophet, leader and
teacher that Judaism has ever known. In fact,
one of the primary 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 God face-to-face
(Deut. 34:10) and spoke directly to God
(Num. 12:8)
Moses continued
God spoke to Moses directly, in plain
language, not through visions and dreams,
as God communicated with other prophets.
The story Moses is so central to the Jewish
faith because of his leadership in the
Hebrew exodus from Egypt, his founding of
the nation of Israel, and his role as the
person receiving the law of the Jewish
people (the Ten Commandments & the
Torah).
Key Leaders from Ancient Israel
• Abraham – father of the Hebrew people; set them
on the path of monotheism – different from
neighboring tribes
• Moses – giver of God’s law which includes Ten
Commandments (called the Law of Moses)
• Joshua – successor to Moses; led the conquest of
Canaan giving Hebrews a foothold in Palestine
• The Judges – spoke God’s word
• David – Greatest king of Israel in terms of
pleasing God; a man after God’s own heart
• Solomon – Son of David, wisest man who ever
lived, built the first permanent temple for God
Deed – Not Creed
Judaism is a religion that focuses on the importance of the
actions of the righteous, rather than justification found in faith. The
“correct actions” for a Jew are spelled out in the Torah. Whether one
is an Orthodox, Reform, or Conservative Jew, the unifying belief is
that the goal of all humanity is to live in such a way as to perpetuate
the betterment of self and of society, therefore affirming one’s
standing before God’s standard. If there is any one religious principle
that all Jews explicitly affirm and teach, it is the unity and singularity
of God as He is revealed though the Torah (Deuteronomy 6:4 – “Hear,
O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.”) This – the Sh’ma as it is
called – is the cornerstone of all Jewish belief.
The Jewish life is one of duty and deed; it is what you do to
improve the here and now that matters – the idea of “storing up
treasure for heaven” is unknown to the Jew. Jews believe that they
are born in grace, live in grace, and that they will die in grace (sin is
not a fact of birth, it is a matter of choice).
What’s the Purpose Then?
Tikun Olam: “Fixing the World” – the Jewish believer is engaged in the
literal process of fixing a broken world. This is the ultimate purpose of
every Jewish believer’s life. Through the observance of the law, the Jew
will contribute to the restoration of the nation of Israel, preparing the way
for the Messiah to come and take his place in God’s kingdom on earth:
“Judaism is a faith that believes in the renewal and change of the
human being. Change is hard and arduous but possible. We can remake
ourselves, because more than anything else, what we are is a product of
our own choice and our own work.”
Rabbi David Wolpe
Olam Ha-Ba: “The World to Come” – Jews believe that there is a world
to come in which the Messiah will reign, a world in which the Jewish temple
will be rebuilt and the nation of Israel will be fully restored, instituting a
world order of justice and compassion.
The Daily Life of a Jew
Mizvot: the 613 “do’s and don’ts” regarding the daily life of a Jew –
none of the Mizvot deal with beliefs, each of them deal specifically
with a particular action.
“Some look at the teachings of the Mizvot and deduce that Jews
are trying to earn their way into Heaven by observing rules. This is a gross
mischaracterization of the Jewish religion. It is important to remember that
unlike other religions, Judaism isn’t focused on the question of how to get
into Heaven. Judaism rather, is focused on our life on earth and how to
best live that life. Non-Jews frequently ask me, ‘do you think that you will
go to Hell if you don’t do such-and-such?’ – to which I always respond that
the question of where I’m going after death simply doesn’t enter into the
equation when I think about observing the Mizvot. We perform the Mizvot
because it is our privilege and our sacred obligation to do so…we perform
them out of a sense of love and duty to our Creator, not out of a desire to
get something in return.”
Rabbi Izakson
The “Branches” of Judaism
Reform
Orthodox
Conservative
Orthodox Jews are the oldest, most
conservative, and most diverse group of
religious Jews. Modern Orthodox, hasidism and
Ultra Orthodox share a basic belief in the
derivation of Jewish law, even as they hold very
different outlooks on life. They attempt to
follow the original form of Judaism as they view
it to be presented in the Torah. They look upon
every word in their sacred texts as being
divinely inspired.
Reform Jews are a liberal group, comprised of
mostly North American Jews, although the
movement started in the 1790's in Germany. They
follow the ethical laws of Judaism, but leave up to
the individual the decision whether to follow or
ignore the dietary and other traditional laws. They
use modern forms of worship. There are many
female rabbis in reform congregations. Often this
group is referred to as practicing “contemporary
Judaism.”
Conservative Judaism began in the midnineteenth century as a reaction against the
Reform movement. It is a main-line
movement midway between Reform and
Orthodox. Some of the more “obscure” or
“ancient” traditions are not observed,
however the goal is to avoid changing the
religion to simply conform to cultural
norms.
The Messiah?
Jews believe that the Messianic prophecies are
not fulfilled in Christ…
1)
Build the third temple (Ezekiel 37:26-28).
2) Gather all Jews back to the land of Israel
(Isaiah 43:5-6).
3) Usher in an era of world peace, ending hatred,
oppression, suffering and disease (Isaiah 2:4).
Messiah continued
•
•
Spread universal knowledge of the God of Israel
– uniting the entire human race as one
(Zechariah 14:9).
5) Jews believe that the Messiah will be a
prophet, and because prophecy can only exist in
Israel when the land is inhabited by a majority of
the world Jewry, Jesus was not a prophet (during
the time of Ezra – circa 300 B.C. – this time the
majority of Jews refused to move from Babylon
to Israel, thus ending the line of prophets with
Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi).
Messiah cont.
6) He must be descended on his father’s side from King
David (Genesis 49:10 & Isaiah 11:1). Of course,
according to the Christian tradition Jesus was born of
a virgin, and therefore the Jewish believer holds that
Christ could not possibly have fulfilled this messianic
requirement.
7) The Messiah will lead the Jewish people into full
Torah observance. Deuteronomy 13:1-4, states that
all mitzvahs (laws) remain binding forever, and
anyone coming to change the Torah is immediately
identified as a false prophet…(see Jesus’ words on
this in John 1:45, 9:16, & Acts 3:22, 7:37).
Jewish Life: Keeping Kosher
Kosher – follows dietary laws set out in the Law of
Moses (In determining whether a recipe you want to
post is kosher, bear in mind the basic concepts of
kosher food: no mixing of dairy and meat; no pork
or pork products; no shell fish.
This also applies to food products containing such
ingredients. For example, a food coloring made
from a shell fish would be considered unkosher and
would taint the food in which it might be used.
Similarly, using, e.g., an animal fat together with
dairy ingredients renders the product unkosher and
taints even the implements used in making it.
Kosher
If a recipe is not in keeping with these basic
requirements, consider whether
substitutions can be made to adjust it (e.g.,
substituting margarine for butter in a meat
recipe). If you are unsure of how to make
such substitutions, post the recipe and ask
for suggestions as how to do so.
Bar/Bat Mitzvah
• Bar/Bat Mitzvah (“son/daughter of the
commandment”) – Under Jewish Law, children
are not obligated to observe the commandments,
although they are encouraged to do so as much as
possible to learn the obligations they will have as
adults. At the age of 13 (12 for girls), children
become obligated to observe the commandments.
Bar/Bat Mitzvah
• The Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony formally
marks the assumption of that obligation,
along with the corresponding right to take
part in leading religious services, to count in
a minyan (the minimum number of people
needed to perform certain parts of religious
services), to form binding contracts, to
testify before religious courts and to marry.
Bar/Bat Mitzvah
• Although a Jewish girl or Jewish boy
automatically becomes a Bar Mitzvah upon
reaching the ages of 12 & 13 years,
technically no ceremony is needed to
confer these rights and obligations. The
popular ceremonies are not required, and do
not fulfill any commandment. It is a
relatively modern innovation, not
mentioned in the Talmud, and the elaborate
ceremonies and receptions that are
commonplace today were unheard of as
recently as a century ago.
Significant Jewish “Holy” Days
Shabbat – The Sabbath (or Shabbat, as it is
called in Hebrew) is one of the best known and
least understood of all Jewish observances. It is
primarily a day of rest and spiritual enrichment.
Shabbat is the most important ritual observance
in Judaism.
It is the only ritual observance instituted in the
Ten Commandments. It recalls how God rested
on the seventh day after creating the world.
It is also the most important special day, even
more important than Yom Kippur.
Shabbat: Sabbath
"Shabbat" means to cease, to end, or to rest. Third
Commandment – Remember the Sabbath and keep
it holy.
People who do not observe Shabbat think of it as a
day filled with stifling restrictions, or simply as a
day of prayer;
Those who observe Shabbat consider it a precious
gift from God, a day of great joy eagerly awaited
throughout the week, a time when we can set aside
all of our weekday concerns and devote ourselves
to spiritual pursuits. The following are forbidden
on the Sabbath:
Sowing, plowing, reaping, binding sheaves,
threshing, winnowing, selecting, grinding, sifting,
kneading, baking, shearing wool, washing wool,
beating wool, dyeing wool, spinning, weaving,
making two loops, weaving two threads,
separating two threads, tying, untying, sewing two
stitches, tearing, trapping, slaughtering, flaying,
salting meat, curing hide, scraping hide, cutting
hide up, writing two letters, erasing two letters,
building, tearing a building down, extinguishing a
fire, kindling a fire, hitting with a hammer, taking
an object from the private domain to the public, or
transporting an object in the public domain. Also
prohibited are travel, the use of electricity, buying
and selling of goods or services, and other
weekday tasks that would interfere with the spirit
of Shabbat.
“Holy” Days cont.
Yom Kippur – very important holiday of the Jewish
year. Many Jews who do not observe any other
Jewish custom will refrain from work, fast and/or
attend synagogue services on this day.
"Yom Kippur" means "Day of Atonement.”It is a day
set aside to "afflict the soul," to atone for the sins of
the past year – sins between man and God. On Yom
Kippur, the judgments of God are entered into “the
books” and then sealed.
This day is, essentially, the last appeal, the last
chance to change the judgment, to demonstrate
repentance and make amends.
Rosh Hashanah – In Hebrew, Rosh Hashanah
means, literally, "head of the year" or "first of the
year." Rosh Hashanah is commonly known as the
Jewish New Year.
Little similarity between Rosh Hashanah, one of
the holiest days of the Jewish year, and the
American midnight drinking bash and daytime
football game.
Important similarity between the Jewish New Year
and the American one: Many Americans use the
New Year as a time to plan a better life, making
"resolutions."
Jewish New Year is a time of introspection,
looking back at the mistakes of the past year and
planning the changes to make in the new year.
Passover – Passover is the time when each Jew
embarks on a personal journey from slavery to
freedom.
God performed many miracles and sent plagues upon
Egypt until Pharaoh freed the Hebrews from slavery.
God sent an angel to destroy all the first-born males
in Egypt. Moses instructed his people to put the blood
of a lamb on the door lintel and door jambs. The
angel would know to pass over these homes and the
first-born therein would be spared.
 Much like God delivered the Hebrew people from
their enslavement in Egypt (“passing over” their
firstborn, further convincing Pharaoh to free the
Hebrews).
Passover continued
In order to guide Jews in their quest, their Sages
carefully wrote an outline of 15 steps to freedom.
It's called the Haggadah. The Sages say that
Passover occurs on the 15th of Nissan (the Jewish
month), to teach us that just as the moon waxes for
15 days, so too our growth must be in 15 gradual
steps. Think of these as 15 pieces of the Passover
puzzle. Assemble them all and you've got
freedom!
Conquest of Israel
• The nation of Israel repeatedly fell into idol
worship.
• The Jewish Bible (Old Testament of Christian
Bible) tells how God allowed Israel to lose time
and again against enemy armies as punishment for
their infidelity.
• God allows the Assyrians to conquer Israel (Israel
became a divided kingdom; the northern ten tribes
were still called Israel; the tribes of Judah and
Benjamin to the south and including the holy city
of Jerusalem called Judah). The Assyrians killed
many and uprooted their leadership and talented
citizens sending them to far flung parts of the
Assyrian Empire.
Conquest and Return to Jerusalem
• The Israelites of Judah and Benjamin were taken in
captivity to Babylon to lived under King
Nebuchadnezzar.
• The best and brightest were trained to serve the
Babylonian government. Among them were Daniel,
the famous interpreter of dreams.
• The Medes and Persians supplanted the Babylonians.
Daniel, by virtue of his God-given abilities, continued
to serve as an administrator under the Persians. The
Bible tells that he always remained true to God and
prayed faithfully.
The Return continued
• King Darius had sympathy for the Israelites and
allowed them to return to Canaan even furnishing
them with money and supplies to rebuild
Jerusalem.
• The Jews, who chose to return (many preferred to
remain in Babylon and were now speaking
Aramaic not Hebrew), rebuilt the walls of the city
and King Herod the Great built a new, spectacular
temple for God.
Prelude to the Great Revolt (66-70
C.E.)
• Israel had been ruled by Roman puppets since the
beginning of the common era.
• They collected taxes from the people and gave
them to Rome. They often collected more taxes to
enrich themselves.
• In 63, Emperor Caligula pronounced himself a god
and ordered that a statue of him had to be put in
every temple in the Roman Empire.
• The Jews refused. They tried to pacify him to no
avail; Caligula raged against them. His sudden
assassination saved the Jews from an early
destruction.
Great Revolt
• In 66, Roman procurator Florus steals vast quantities
of silver from temple
• Jews kill Roman garrisons.
• Roman army of 60,000 attacks Galilee (kills or sells
into slavery 100,000 Jews); survivors flee to
Jerusalem to make a last stand.
• Roman army besieges Jerusalem. Jewish radicals
called ZEALOTS, start killing any moderate leaders
and rabbis – major civil war in Jerusalem.
• Burn Jerusalem’s supply of food to force everyone to
fight harder against the Romans.
• Summer of 70, Roman army breaches the walls of
Jerusalem beginning a major outbreak of violence
and death and destroy Second Temple.
• Estimated 1 million Jews died during Great Revolt
Arch of Titus in Rome
The Wailing Wall
The Wailing Wall
• Western Wall of the Temple built by Herod the
Great.
• Babylonians destroyed the original temple, the
Temple of Solomon, when they conquered
Jerusalem in 597 B.C.E.
• The Romans destroyed the Second Temple when
they conquered Jerusalem. The West Wall is all
that remains.
• Jews pray and shed tears at this wall over the
destruction of the temple.
• From 70 C.E. until the 20th century (1900 years!),
when the Zionists established the nation of Israel,
Jews had to pay for the right to pray at the Wailing
Wall.
The Jewish Diaspora (70 – 1948
C.E.)
• Period in which Jews spread our from
Palestine.
• They traveled all over the Mediterranean
world.
Diaspora – Centuries of
Discrimination
• Christianity became the main religion of
Eastern and Western Europe.
• Islam eventually became the main religion
of the Middle East, North Africa, and
temporarily Spain. Muslims were usually
more decent to Jews than Christians. Jews
living in Muslim lands just had to pay an
extra tax.
• In most European locations, Jews were
persecuted.
Diaspora and Discrimination
•
•
•
•
Jews were blamed for the Black Plague.
Jews were blamed for Jesus’ crucifixion.
Jews were hated for their financial success.
The dietary rules and rituals of Judaism were
scoffed at and thought to be akin to witchcraft.
• In Spain, after the Muslims were driven out, Jews
had to convert to Christianity or were driven out.
Inquisitors interrogated and tortured Jews, whom
they did not believe to be true Christians.
• In Europe during the Renaissance, Jews were
forced to live in ghettoes, poor neighborhoods, to
keep them separate.
• Some Russians attacked Jewish people and their
residences and burned their neighborhoods. These
attacks are called POGROMS.
Judaism – The Tie that Binds
• Judaism saved the Jewish people during the
Diaspora. It is was kept their religion and
ethnic identification going.
• Following the Law of Moses, observing the
holy days, and keeping the covenant made
between God and Abraham kept the Jews as
a people from extinction by hostile,
prejudiced ethnic groups.
Holocaust (1933-1945)
• Hitler began discriminating against Jews (banning
Jews from certain jobs, forcing them to wear the
Star of David on their clothing for identification)
as soon as he came to power in Germany. He
blatantly expressed his hatred and violent ideas
toward Jews in Mein Kampf and his speeches.
• Some wealthy Jews in Western Europe saw the
writing on the wall and escaped shortly after the
rise of Hitler.
• The window of opportunity to leave soon began to
close. European nations and America began to set
quotas for the number of Jews it would allow to
enter leaving multitudes of Jews trapped in Hitler
dominated lands.
After Holocaust
• Jews allowed by British to move back to
Palestine in vast numbers (some Jews had
been moving back since 1800s and living on
kibbutzim – small communal farms – but
set up quotas because large numbers of
Muslims already lived there)
• 1948 – Israel becomes a nation
The Ten Commandments
• For Jews, they are rules to follow in their
relationships with God and people.
• According to tradition, God carved five
commandments onto two tablets.
• The first tablet deals a person’s with relationship
with the Divine (God).
• The second tablet deals with a person’s
relationship with other people.
• The Fifth Commandment – honor father and
mother, appears to deal with human relationships.
However, rabbis teach that parents can be looked
at as creators, and reflect a Jew’s relationship with
God.
The Ten Commandments
• 1. Belief in G-d
– This category is derived from the declaration in Ex. 20:2 beginning, "I am
the L-rd, your G-d..."
• 2. Prohibition of Improper Worship
– This category is derived from Ex. 20:3-6, beginning, "You shall not have
other gods..." It encompasses within it the prohibition against the worship
of other gods as well as the prohibition of improper forms of worship of
the one true G-d, such as worshiping G-d through an idol.
• 3. Prohibition of Oaths
– This category is derived from Ex. 20:7, beginning, "You shall not take the
name of the L-rd your G-d in vain..." This includes prohibitions against
perjury, breaking or delaying the performance of vows or promises, and
speaking G-d's name or swearing unnecessarily.
• 4. Observance of Sacred Times
– This category is derived from Ex. 20:8-11, beginning, "Remember the
Sabbath day..." It encompasses all mitzvot related to Shabbat, holidays, or
other sacred time.
• 5. Respect for Parents and Teachers
– This category is derived from Ex. 20:12, beginning, "Honor your father
and mother..."
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