Unit 5: Judaism - St. Mary Catholic Secondary School

HRT 3M1: Grade 11 World Religions
Unit 5: Judaism
Class Notes
Durham Catholic District School Board
St. Mary Catholic Secondary School
World Religions: Beliefs, Issues, and
Religious Traditions
Grade 11
University/College Preparation
Unit 5
Mr. A Morra
St. Mary Catholic Secondary School
Mr. Morra
HRT 3M1: Grade 11 World Religions
Unit 5: Judaism
Unit 5 Overview
Judaism (9 Days)
Day 1:
a) Jewish Biblical History
o Note: Terminology
o Textbook Reading (pg. 217-224)
o Check Your Understanding (pg. 224)
o Handout: Origins of Judaism Worksheet
Day 2:
a) Who are the Jews, What do they believe
o Textbook Reading (pg. 226-229)
o Check Your Understanding (pg. 230)
o Article: Who is a Jew? (Lecture to follow)
o Note: The Five Touchstones of Judaism
Day 3:
Practices, Rituals, Symbols and Festivals & Jewish Milestones
a) The Synagogue, Worship, Kashruth, Shabbat
b) Symbols
c) Festivals
o Textbook Reading (pg. 230-237)
o Check Your Understanding (pg. 235, 237)
o Reading Assignment: Jewish Festivals
Day 4:
Sacred Writings
a) Torah, Mishna & Talmud
o Textbook Reading (pg 238-239)
o Check Your Understanding (pg. 238)
o Note: The Written Tradition of Judaism (the Tenakh) & The Oral Tradition of Judaism (the
Mishnah and the Talmud)
Day 5-6:
Medieval Judaism & Modern Judaism
a) Cultural Impact: Anti-Semitism, Judaism in Canada
a. Textbook Reading (pg. 247-251 & 254)
b. Check Your Understanding (pg. 251)
c. Note: Medieval Judaism
b) Groups and Institutions: Orthodox Judaism, Reform Judaism, Conservative Judaism, Reconstructions
Judaism & Judaism in Women
a. Textbook Reading (pg 241-244)
b. Check You Understanding (pg. 244)
c. Note: Modern Judaism
Day 7-8:
Exploring Faith Through Film:
o “La Vita e Bella” Film Assignment
Day 9:
St. Mary Catholic Secondary School
Mr. Morra
HRT 3M1: Grade 11 World Religions
Unit 5: Judaism
Day 1:
a) Jewish Biblical History
o Note: Terminology
o Textbook Reading (pg. 217-224)
o Check Your Understanding (pg. 224)
o Handout: Origins of Judaism Worksheet
Terminology (Key Words):
Ark of the Covenant
Bar/bat Mitzvah
Chosen People
Promised Land
Rosh Hashanah
Star of David
Western Wall
Yom Kippur
St. Mary Catholic Secondary School
Mr. Morra
HRT 3M1: Grade 11 World Religions
Unit 5: Judaism
Day 2:
a) Who are the Jews, What do they believe
o Textbook Reading (pg. 226-229)
o Check Your Understanding (pg. 230)
o Article: Who is a Jew? (Lecture to follow)
o Note: Five Touchstones of Judaism
After reading Who is a Jew? (Detroit Free Press, September 1985), complete the following chart outlining the
formal position Reform, Conservative and Orthodox Jews take on whom they consider to be a legitimate Jew.
The Five Touchstones of Judaism
The Jewish people hold a world-view and a way of life which is defined within the framework of Yahweh,
People, Covenant, Land and Torah. These touchstones give life and meaning to the Jewish people.
o Yahweh (meaning I am who I am) is one (monotheism). Only he alone can be worshiped.
o The first Commandment is the Shema:
Hear, O Israel! The Lord is God, the Lord alone! Therefore, you shall love the Lord with all of your heart, and with all of your
soul, and with all your strength.
The People:
o The people are chosen for a special mission to be the light and blessing of Yahweh to all nations. It
includes the belief that Yahweh will save all nations. Universal harmony will be established with the
people of Israel.
o Chosen to accomplish this task:
a. A personal Messiah (the Anointed One); a person who would come to re-instate Jewish political
b. A “Messianic Age”, a time of peace, harmony and justice
The Covenant:
o This is an absolute Covenant:
a. Yahweh is always faithful
b. His unconditional love is given freely
c. Problems in the Covenant are die to the peoples infidelity
The Torah:
o The revelations of Yahweh to Moses on Mount Sinai; the true and authoritative voice calling the
Chosen People to obedience. The word Torah means “Instruction, Law or Teaching”; it usually
refers to the first five books of the Old Testament.
The Land:
o Land as Homeland or Promised Land has always been a struggle with the Jewish People. The
People see themselves as tenants of Yahweh’s holy land; this is evident today with the Zionist Political
St. Mary Catholic Secondary School
Mr. Morra
HRT 3M1: Grade 11 World Religions
Unit 5: Judaism
Day 3:
Practices, Rituals, Symbols and Festivals
a) The Synagogue, Worship, Kashruth, Shabbat
b) Symbols
c) Festivals
o Textbook Reading (pg. 230-235)
o Check Your Understanding (pg. 235)
o Reading Assignment: Jewish Festivals
Jewish Festivals
Jewish festivals, originating in antiquity, are observed in Israel intensively and in many ways. They are
manifested in traditional and nontraditional customs and practice, and they leave their imprint on diverse
aspects of national life. The Jewish festivals are the “landmarks” by which Israelis mark the passing of the year.
They are very much a part of daily life: on the street, in the school system and in synagogues and homes around
the country. After reading about each festival, complete the organizational chart that follows.
Shabbat, (the Sabbath - the weekly day of rest) on Saturday, is marked in Israel with most people spending the
day together with family and friends. Public transport is suspended, businesses are closed, essential services are
at skeleton-staff strength, and leave is granted to as many soldiers as possible. The secular majority take
advantage of their weekly day of rest for leisure time at the seashore, places of entertainment and excursions in
outdoor settings. The observant devote many hours to festive family feasts and services in synagogue, desist
from travel, and refrain from working or using electrical appliances.
Rosh Hashanah
Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of the Jewish New Year. Its origin is Biblical (Lev. 23:23-25): “a sacred
occasion commemorated with loud blasts [of the shofar, the ram’s horn].” The term Rosh Hashanah,
“beginning of the year,” is rabbinical, as are the formidable themes of the festival: repentance, preparation for
the day of Divine judgment, and prayer for a fruitful year. The two-day festival falls on 1-2 Tishrei in the Jewish
calendar, usually September in the Gregorian calendar, and starts at sundown of the preceding evening, as do
all Jewish observances. Major customs of Rosh Hashanah include the sounding of the shofar in the middle of a
lengthy synagogue service that focuses on the festival themes, and elaborate meals at home to inaugurate the
new year. The prayer liturgy is augmented with prayers of repentance.
In many senses, Israel begins its year on Rosh Hashanah. Government correspondence, newspapers and most
broadcasts carry the “Jewish date” first. Felicitations for the new year are generally tendered before Rosh
Yom Kippur
Yom Kippur, eight days after Rosh Hashanah, is the day of atonement, of Divine judgment, and of “affliction
of souls” (Lev. 23:26-32) so that the individual may be cleansed of sins. The only fast day decreed in the Bible,
it is a time to enumerate one’s misdeeds and contemplate one’s faults. The Jew is expected, on this day, to pray
for forgiveness for sins between man and God and correct his wrongful actions against his fellow man. The
major precepts of Yom Kippur - lengthy devotional services and a 25-hour fast - are observed even by much of
the otherwise secular population. The level of public solemnity on Yom Kippur surpasses that of any other
festival, including Rosh Hashanah. The country comes to a complete halt for 25 hours on this day; places of
entertainment are closed, there are no television and radio broadcasts (not even the news), public transport is
suspended, and even the roads are completely closed. Yom Kippur in Israel has special meaning due to
memories of the 1973 war, a surprise attack launched by Egypt and Syria against Israel on that very day.
Sukkot, described in the Bible (Lev.23:34) as the “Feast of Tabernacles” begins five days after Yom Kippur).
Sukkot is one of the three festivals that were celebrated (until 70 CE) with mass pilgrimage to the Temple in
St. Mary Catholic Secondary School
Mr. Morra
HRT 3M1: Grade 11 World Religions
Unit 5: Judaism
Jerusalem and are therefore known as the “pilgrimage festivals.” On Sukkot, Jews commemorate the Exodus
from Egypt (c. 13th century BCE) and give thanks for a bountiful harvest. At some kibbutzim, Sukkot is
celebrated as Chag Ha’asif (the harvest festival), with the themes of the gathering of the second grain crop and
the autumn fruit, the start of the agricultural year, and the first rains.
In the five days between Yom Kippur and Sukkot, tens of thousands of householders and businesses erect
sukkot - booths for temporary dwelling, resembling the booths in which the Israelites lived in the desert, after
their exodus from Egypt - and acquire the palm frond, citron, myrtle sprigs and willow branches with which
the festive prayer rite is augmented. All around the country, sukkot line parking lots, balconies, rooftops, lawns,
and public spaces. No army base lacks one. Some spend the festival and the next six days literally living in their
sukkot, while most observers just eat their meals there.
In Israel, the “holy day” portion of Sukkot (and the other two pilgrimage festivals, Passover and Shavuot) is
celebrated for one day. Diaspora communities celebrate it for two days, commemorating the time in antiquity
when calendation was performed at the Temple and its results reported to the Diaspora using a tenuous
network of signal fires and couriers.
The prayer liturgy is augmented with additional prayers, including the Hallel, a collection of blessings and
psalms, recited on Rosh Hodesh (the beginning of each lunar month) and on the pilgrimage festivals.
After the festive day, Sukkot continues at a lesser level of sanctity, as mandated by the Torah (Lev. 23:36).
During this intermediate week - half festival, half ordinary - schools are closed and many workplaces shut down
or shorten their hours. Most Israelis spend the interim days of Sukkot and Passover at recreation sites
throughout the country.
The intermediate week and the holiday season end on Shemini Atseret, the “sacred occasion of the eighth day”
(Lev. 23:36), with which Simhat Torah is combined. Celebration of Shemini Atseret/Simhat Torah focuses on
the Torah and is noted for public dancing with a Torah scroll in one’s arms and with recitation of the
concluding and beginning chapters of the Torah, renewing the yearly cycle of Torah reading. After dark, many
communities sponsor further festivities, often outdoors, that are not limited by the ritual restrictions that apply
on the holy day itself.
Hanukkah, beginning on 25 Kislev (usually in December), commemorates the triumph of the Jews, under the
Maccabees, over the Greek rulers (164 BCE) - both the physical victory of the small Jewish nation against
mighty Greece and the spiritual victory of the Jewish faith against the Hellenism of the Greeks. Its sanctity
derives from this spiritual aspect of the victory, and the miracle of the flask of oil, when a portion of
sacramental olive oil meant to keep the Temple candelabrum lit for one day lasted for eight days, the time it
took for the Temple to be rededicated.
Hanukkah is observed in Israel, as in the Diaspora, for eight days. The central feature of this holiday is the
lighting of candles each evening - one on the first night, two on the second, and so on - in commemoration of
the miracle at the Temple. The Hanukkah message in Israel focuses strongly on aspects of restored sovereignty;
customs widely practiced in the Diaspora, such as giftgiving and the dreidl (spinning top - sevivon in Hebrew),
are also in evidence. The dreidl’s sides are marked with Hebrew initials representing the message “A great
miracle occurred here”; in the Diaspora, the initials stand for “A great miracle occurred there.” Schools are
closed during this week; workplaces are not.
Purim, another rabbinical festival in early spring, occurs on 14 Adar (15 Adar in walled cities), commemorating
the deliverance of beleaguered Jewry in the Persian Empire under Artaxerxes, as recounted in the Scroll of
Esther. This festival compensates for the solemnity of many other Jewish observances by mandating
merriment. Schools are closed, public festivities abound, newspapers run hoax items reminiscent of April
Fools’ Day, children (and adults) don costumes, and a festive reading of the Scroll of Esther is marked by
noisemakers sounded whenever the villain Haman’s name is recited. The Orthodox indulge in inebriation,
within limits, and carry out an exacting list of duties: giving of alms, evening and morning readings of the Scroll
of Esther, exchange of delicacies and a full-fledged holiday feast.
St. Mary Catholic Secondary School
Mr. Morra
HRT 3M1: Grade 11 World Religions
Unit 5: Judaism
(Pessah) Passover (Pessah), is celebrated in the spring, beginning on 15 Nisan. Passover is the festival
celebrating the Exodus from Egypt (c. 13th century BCE) and liberation from bondage. Freedom is, indeed,
the festival’s dominant theme. The rites of Passover begin long before the festival, as families and businesses
cleanse their premises of hametz - leaven and anything containing it - as prescribed in the Bible (Ex. 12:15-20).
The day before the festival is devoted to preparatory rituals including ceremonial burning of the forbidden
foodstuff. On the holiday evening, the seder is recited: an elaborate retelling of the enslavement and
redemption. At this festive meal, the extended family gathers to read the Haggadah and enjoy traditional foods,
particularly matza (unleavened bread). The following day’s observances resemble those of the other pilgrimage
Passover is probably second only to Yom Kippur in traditional observance by the generally nonobservant. In
addition, a secular Passover rite based on the festival’s agricultural connotations is practiced in some kibbutzim.
It serves as a spring festival, a festival of freedom, and the date of the harvesting of the first ripe grain. Passover
also includes the second “intermediate” week - five half-sacred, half-ordinary days devoted to extended prayer
and leisure - and it concludes with another festival day.
Shavuot, the last of the pilgrimage festivals, when enumerated from the beginning of the Jewish year, falls
seven weeks after Passover (6 Sivan), at the end of the barley harvest and the beginning of the wheat harvest.
The Bible (Deut. 16:10) describes this occasion as the festival of weeks (Heb. shavuot), for so is it counted
from Passover, and as the occasion on which new grain and new fruits are offered to the priests in the Temple.
Its additional definition - the anniversary of the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai - is of rabbinical origin.
Shavuot is observed among the Orthodox with marathon religious study and, in Jerusalem, with a mass
convocation of festive worship at the Western Wall. In the kibbutzim, it marks the peak of the new grain
harvest and the ripening of the first fruits, including the seven species mentioned in the Bible (wheat, barley,
grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates).
The Ninth of Av (Tisha B’Av, falling in July or early August), commemorates the anniversary of the destruction
of the First and Second Temples. On the day itself, numerous rules of bereavement and the Yom Kippur
measures of “self-denial,” including a full-day fast, are in effect.
St. Mary Catholic Secondary School
Mr. Morra
HRT 3M1: Grade 11 World Religions
Unit 5: Judaism
Name of
Other Titles
How Often &
Does it Occur
Rosh Hashanah
Yom Kippur
St. Mary Catholic Secondary School
Mr. Morra
What it
What do Jews do
to Celebrate it
HRT 3M1: Grade 11 World Religions
Unit 5: Judaism
Day 4:
Sacred Writings
a) Torah, Mishna & Talmud
o Textbook Reading (pg 238-239)
o Check Your Understanding (pg. 238)
o Note: The Written Tradition of Judaism (the Tenakh) & The Oral Tradition of Judaism (the
Mishnah and the Talmud)
The Written Tradition of Judaism (The Tenakh)
All of it’s parts are written in Hebrew, apart from Daniel which is written in Aramaic – similar to Hebrew
The 24 books of the Tenakh fall into three main sections:
1. Torah, the Law
2. Niviim, the Prophets
3. Ketuvim, the writing
The first letter of each of these Hebrew words (TNK) gives us the Jewish name for the Bible, Tenakh
1. Torah: The Law
Torah means direction of teachings and is commonly used specifically to mean the Bible. The Torah is applied
solely to the first five books of the bible, which is sometimes called and referred to as Pentateuch (from the
Greek word ‘five’). It is believed that it was given directly to Moses on Mount Sinai, thus it can also be called
the ‘five books of Moses’.
The Torah includes accounts of:
 the creation of the world and the life story of the patriarchs (Genesis),
 the early history of the people of Egypt, their release from slavery, their presence at Sinai, and their
wandering in the wilderness (Exodus)
 the leadership of Moses, and the origins of the priesthood (Numbers)
 legislation ranging from the minute details about sacrifices to universal ethical precepts (Leviticus)
 The covenant made at Sinai and the obligations on which this covenant depends (Exodus &
Neviim: The Prophets
The first four books, know as the Early Prophets, are concerned with the past – they tell the history of the
people from their entry into Canaan until the destruction of Jerusalem more than 500 years latter. They
are interested in drawing out the meaning of the historical facts.
The books of latter prophets all take their names from prophetic figures who spoke on God’s behalf,
presenting the past, the future, and the present from the perspective of the faith. These books are again
divided into minor prophets (because these 12 books are short) and major prophets (the long books of
Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel.
3. Ketuvim: The Writings
 All the remaining books of the Tenakh are included under this heading. These last 12 books are so short
that they are often referred to as one book, the Book of the Twelve
 The writings include a variation of literature;
o Psalms are hymns which are sung at temple
o Proverbs is largely made up of wise sayings
o Jobs depict the struggles of a good man suffering
o The next five books, known as Megillot (scrolls) are quite short, the first is a love poem; the
second tells of a Moabite woman’s devotion to her Israelite mother-in-law and her God; the third
laments the destruction of Jerusalem; the fourth asks questions about the meaning of life and
morality; and the fifth tells a story from the time of Persian rule
o Each of the five Megillot are read at a specific time of year
St. Mary Catholic Secondary School
Mr. Morra
HRT 3M1: Grade 11 World Religions
Unit 5: Judaism
The Oral Tradition of Judaism (The Mishnah and Talmud)
The Hebrew bible, or written Torah, is complemented by a vast and resourceful wealth of religious teachings of
the “oral Torah”.
This is the material taught and transmitted by Judaism’s greatest rabbis of the past.
 Their teachings were eventually written down into the texts, most notably:
o The Mishnah
o The Talmud
The written revelations of God’s will would always remain the central teachings – but the varying
circumstances of life demanded that religious law be elaborated.
The written revelations could not always address the changing situations of the Jews in a world that was always
Therefore, the oral Torah continues the task of the written Torah.
Rings of Interpretation:
The Mishnah was written down about 200 C.E. – it contains teachings that were formulated and transmitted
orally by the rabbis of the past four centuries
 It is considered the starting point for rabbinic study
The Talmud is based directly on the Mishnah – rabbis formulate their arguments based on citing biblical
passages and portions of the Mishnah.
 The Talmud forms a book of interpretations of God’s will, blending the oral tradition with the
 The Talmud is continuing to be examined and interpretations are still being added - modern Jews
strive for deeper understandings of God’s will, like the Jews of the past.
St. Mary Catholic Secondary School
Mr. Morra
HRT 3M1: Grade 11 World Religions
Unit 5: Judaism
Day 5-6:
Medieval Judaism & Modern Judaism
a) Cultural Impact: Anti-Semitism, Judaism in Canada
a. Textbook Reading (pg. 247-251 & 254)
b. Check Your Understanding (pg. 251)
c. Note: Medieval Judaism
b) Groups and Institutions: Orthodox Judaism, Reform Judaism, Conservative Judaism,
Reconstructionist Judaism & Judaism in Women
a. Textbook Reading (pg 241-244)
b. Check You Understanding (pg. 244)
c. Note: Modern Judaism
Medieval Judaism
The Medieval Period of Judaism spans from the eighth to the Middle of the eighteenth centuries.
In ancient times, Jews lived in Palestine, Babylonia, and Egypt (the area now called the Middle East). By the
middle ages, Jews have taken up residency throughout the known world (Middle East, North Africa, Asia, and
Europe). Scattered throughout a large Diaspora, Jews lived under various political and social conditions. In
some places, Jewish culture thrived.
For the most part, Jews lived under the rule of Muslims (in Africa, Spain and the Near East/Asia Minor) and
Christians (in most of Europe).
Jews under Christian rule tended to vary considerably over the centuries.
 In the early centuries of the medieval period, European Jews emerged as successful moneylenders
(modern day bankers/loaners). Church laws discouraged Christians from participating in this
profession therefore, Jews had a monopoly. Moneylending helped Europe’s changing economy,
however the economic success of the Jews lead to resentment among many Christians. Furthermore,
Christians resented Jews, for they rejected Christ.
 Resentment led to open and violent persecution. Beginning with the 12th Century, Jews were accused
of blood libels (the ritual of murdering Christian children for their blood), which were false
accusations. Large scale expulsions of Jews occurred in France, England, and Spain (which was under
Christian rule by the 15th Century).
 Jews were also blamed for causing the Black Death, a plague that killed about 1/3 of Europe’s
population in the mid 14th century. For this, entire Jewish populations were massacred, mostly by
wandering bands of Christian peasants.
 Also, the Spanish Inquisition (an arm of the Vatican whose purpose was to “cleans the population”
of sin) targeted Jews, putting many to death.
To escape persecution, many Jews migrated eastward, especially to Poland, which was welcoming Jews and
promised protections b/c Poland needed to create a middle class as a way for economic advancement.
 By the mid-17th century, Poland had the largest population of Jews (about 15, 000) of any country in
the Diaspora.
 In Poland, Jews enjoyed a large degree of government autonomy, and the people lived in relative
safety and prosperity – however, even in Poland the threat of persecution loomed. In 1648 a
Cossack Rebellion against Poland resulted in the brutal massacre of about 1/4 th of its Jewish
Under Muslim rule, Jews were generally free to practice their own religion and to conduct their own courts of
law, and they were assured security of life and property. In return for this freedom, Jews were required to pay a
Head Tax to their Muslim rulers.
St. Mary Catholic Secondary School
Mr. Morra
HRT 3M1: Grade 11 World Religions
Unit 5: Judaism
Jews and other religious minorities were allowed to “keep their heads if they pay an annual tax to the
Muslim rulers.
Overall, Jews did quite well and established a large middle class.
Medieval Spain
We are so accustomed to the present situation of Jews and Arabs as mutual enemies that it may be hard to
understand why the period of Islamic rule over the many Jews in Spain is referred to as the Golden Age.
 The reason is that both Muslims and Jews flourish together, learning and inspiring each other. There
was a flourishing of Jewish poetry and philosophy.
Medieval Spain produced both the philosophy of Maimonides and the mystical teachings of the Zohar
(Jewish Mysticism).
Jewish Philosophy:
Rabi Moses ben Maimon (1135-1205), called Maimonides, tried combined the idea of divine revelation
with that of human reason. He is the representative of a great number of philosophers, teachers, and scriptural
masters who contributed to the ongoing process of interpreting the Torah.
 He applied the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle to the biblical tradition, creating a new and debated
Jewish theology.
 Furthermore, he contributed to Judaism’s most famous statements of belief: the twelve principles that
set the backbone of Jewish theology (pg. 240):
1. The belief in God’s existence
2. The belief in His unity
3. The belief in His incorporeality
4. The belief in His timelessness
5. The belief that He is approachable through prayer
6. The belief in prophecy
7. The belief in the superiority of Moses to all other prophets
8. The belief in the revelation of the Law, and that the Law as contained in the Pentateuch is
that revealed by Moses.
9. The belief in the immutability of the Law
10. The belief in Divine providence
11. The belief in the coming of the Messiah
12. The belief in the resurrection and human immortality
The life of Maimonides illustrates how fragile were the relations between Spanish Jews and Muslims. Muslim
fanatics insisted that Maimonides either convert to Islam or leave the country. He left and eventually settled in
The Kabbalah: Jewish Mysticism
Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism) teaches that God can be best known with the heart, through love. The mystics
acknowledge the ultimate transcendence of God, but stress the immanence of God: God can only be found by
looking inward. Kabbalah is not usually taken up by a student under 40 years old, for they must have
completed their education in the Talmud and Torah.
 The most famous text of Jewish mysticism is the Zohar, written in 13 century Spain by Moses de
Leon. The Zohar incorporates rich symbolism based on numbers and esoteric language, and teaches
that the Torah can be interpreted on different levels, each revealing hidden meanings that bring one
closer to God.
 An alternative to traditional Judaism, the Kabbalah does not abandon the basic forms of Jewish
St. Mary Catholic Secondary School
Mr. Morra
HRT 3M1: Grade 11 World Religions
Unit 5: Judaism
Modern Judaism
Yesterday, we looked the medieval developments of European Jewry. We saw how the Jewish Diaspora lived
under various political and social conditions. The conditions that Jews had to endure depended greatly on
where they lived and who was in power of that region. We saw some significant differences between the
Jewish experience under Christian rule and Muslim rule:
Christian Rule
Resentment of Profession
Accusation of Blood Libels
The Black Death
The Spanish Inquisition
Muslim Rule
1. Head Tax
2. Jewish Prosperity
3. Maimonides
4. Kabbalah
To escape persecution, we saw how Jews migrated eastward, especially to Poland – where they were invited to
created a middle class. In return, the Polish King granted Jews much autonomy and freedom, and promised to
protect them. In Poland, during the 14th Century, Jews developed a language known as Yiddish, a German
dialect containing elements of Hebrew, Polish and Russian. Though the language is not widely spoken by
modern day Jews, some Yiddish words (as we have seen with our terms of the day,) are still in common use.
Today, we will be looking at how the remaining Jews were expelled from Western Europe.
 In 1492, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain (now under Catholic rule, signed a royal edict (royal
law), that expelled 150,000 Jews from Spain. This was not officially abolished until 1968.
 France had been ejecting Jews and then taking them back for their skills for many years. However, in 1496
France too expelled them. Only in the 1800’s did Jews move back to France.
 Jews were expelled from England in 1290, after first terrorizing them during the years of the Crusades.
For example, in 1190 as the armies of Richard the First set out for the liberation of Palestine (from the
Muslims), they began grudges against Jews in the Towns along the east coast of England. In York a
specific group of Jews trapped in Clifford’s Tower, took their own lives rather than surrender.
 Italy did not actually expel Jews; however in 1516 a decree was passed in Venice limiting Jews to the
northern sector of the city. This was the first official ghetto. This simply legalized what had been
practiced for centuries – namely forcing Jews to live in the less pleasant areas away from the Christian
Ashkenazi and Sephardic:
Many of the Jews expelled from Spain fled eventually to the Netherlands, where the Protestant Church at first
offered greater tolerance that the Catholic Church and its Inquisition.
 The Jews of Spanish origin were called the Sefardim, from the ancient Hebrew name for Spain, Sefarad.
o Jews from other ‘eastern’ countries were also called Sefardim (for instance, Jews from Northern
Africa, and the Middle East).
 Another stream of Jewish immigrants found its way to the Netherlands. They were called Ashkenazim,
from Ashkenaz, the Hebrew name for Germany.
o The Ashkenazim now include French, English East European, American, and other ‘western’
As we saw, each had a different experience from the other during the Middle Ages
How do the Jews get back into Germany if they all left during the 14 th Century?
 In the 17th Century there was a reverse migration trend westward, bringing many Yiddish speaking
Ashkenazim back to Germany. In Germany, during the period known as the Enlightenment, many Jews
flourished. One Jew for example was Moses Mendelssohn (1729-1786).
 Also, after the Cossack Rebellion in Poland, many Jews now fled to Germany.
The Enlightenment in Germany:
The enlightenment stressed the ideas of Science and Reason – Mendelssohn tried to combine this new secular
(non-religious) learning with Jewish thought and belief. To give you a brief history, Jews were not encouraged
St. Mary Catholic Secondary School
Mr. Morra
HRT 3M1: Grade 11 World Religions
Unit 5: Judaism
to participate in the learning of secular society. Jews had their own schools were they were taught according to
tradition. Many Jews look at western culture, especially ideas of the enlightenment as corrupt.
 Mendelssohn translated the Hebrew bible into German and became the leading figure in the Jewish
Enlightenment movement, known as Haskalah in Hebrew.
In response to the Enlightenment, Hasidism (from hasid, meaning pious) emerged in the 18 th Century in
Eastern Europe, specifically Poland. It draws from some of the mystical teachings of the Kabbalalist traditions,
holding that God is immanent (existing and remaining in humans) and known first and foremost within the
 Hasidism emphasises personal relationships with God and the community, rather than the study of the
Torah and strict observance of the commandments.
 Hasidic Jews live in their own communities, where the center of their community is the leadership of the
Zaddik, a holy man who is believed to have an especially close relationship with God. Through his
teachings Hasidic Jews are able to move closer to God.
 Large Hasidic communities still exist today in North America and elsewhere.
The Jewish people never gave up hope that we would someday return to our home in Israel. But for a long
time, this desire for their homeland was merely a vague hope without any concrete plans to achieve it.
 In the late 1800s, Theodor Herzl and Chaim Weizmann founded Zionism, a political movement dedicated
to the creation of a Jewish state in Israel. They saw the state of Israel as a necessary refuge for Jewish
victims of oppression in Europe.
Zionism was not a religious movement; it was a primarily political. The early Zionists sought to establish a
secular state of Israel, recognized by the world, through purely legal means. Zion is a biblical name for
During World War I, the Zionist cause gained some degree of support from Great Britain. In a 1917 letter
from British foreign secretary Lord Balfour to Jewish financier Lord Rothschild, the British government
expressed a commitment to creating a Jewish homeland in Palestine. This letter is commonly known as the
Balfour Declaration. Unfortunately, the British were speaking out of both sides of their mouth, simultaneously
promising Arabs their freedom if they helped to defeat the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire, which at that time
controlled most of the Middle East (including the modern states of Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq, as well as
significant portions of Saudi Arabia and northern Africa). The British promised the Arabs that they would limit
Jewish settlement in Palestine mere months after the Balfour Declaration expressed support for "the
establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people."
After World War I, Palestine was assigned to the United Kingdom/Britain as a mandated territory by the
League of Nations. The Palestinian Mandate initially included the lands that are now Israel and Jordan, but all
lands east of the Jordan River were later placed into a separate mandate known as Transjordan (now the nation
of Jordan). The document creating the Palestinian mandate incorporated the terms of the Balfour Declaration,
promising the creation of a national Jewish homeland within the mandated territory. Although Arab leaders
were initially willing to give Palestine to the Jews if the rest of the Arab lands in the Middle East were free, the
Arabs living in Palestine vigorously opposed Jewish immigration into the territory and the idea of a Jewish
homeland. It is around this time that the idea of Palestinian nationality (distinct from Arab nationality generally)
first begins to appear. There were many riots in the territory, and the British came to believe that the conflicting
claims were irreconcilable. In 1937, the British recommended partition of the territory.
The Holocaust:
Despite the new ideals of social equality that arose within the enlightenment, some Jews were convinced that
the only way to ensure their safety was to have their own nation. Events of anti-Semitism in the 20th century,
most tragically the Holocaust, has confirmed the Zionist conviction regarding the need for a Jewish state.
The Holocaust brought the need for a Jewish homeland into sharp focus for both Jews and for the rest of the
world. The Jews who tried to flee Nazi Germany were often turned back due to immigration limitations at the
St. Mary Catholic Secondary School
Mr. Morra
HRT 3M1: Grade 11 World Religions
Unit 5: Judaism
borders of every country, including the United States, Britain and Palestine. Many of those who were sent back
to Germany ended up in death camps where they were systematically murdered.
The British were unable to come up with a solution that would satisfy either Arabs or Jews, so in 1947, they
handed the problem to the newly-founded United Nations, which developed a partition plan dividing Palestine
into Jewish and Arab portions. The plan was ratified in November 1947. The mandate expired on May 14, 1948
and British troops pulled out of Palestine. The Jews of Palestine promptly declared the creation of the State of
Israel, which was recognized by several Western countries immediately.
However, the surrounding Arab nations did not recognize the validity of Israel and invaded, claiming that they
were filling a vacuum created by the termination of the mandate and the absence of any legal authority to
replace it. The Arabs fought a year-long war to drive the Jews out. Miraculously, the new state of Israel won
this war, as well as every subsequent Arab-Israeli war, gaining territory every time the Arabs attacked them.
Another problems that exist in Israel is the deep divisions that exist between secular and religious Israeli Jews.
The task of reconciling such secular ideals such as Western democracy with the ways of traditional Judaism
poses a great challenge to Israel.
Modern Institutional Divisions:
The same challenges of the modern period that prompted the development of branches of Judaism, such as
Hasidism and Zionism, have also lead to divisions within traditional Judaism. These divisions are most relevant
in North America and Israel where the three most prominent forms of Judaism are Reform, Orthodox, and
Reform Judaism
 Belief that you can be Jewish and completely involved in modern society
 It states that as society changes, so must Judaism adapt to the change
 It is relaxed regarding observance of Jewish traditional practice – liturgy is spoken in English, and rabbis
function like Christian preachers rather than scholars of the Torah
 1/3 of Jews in USA are Reform
Orthodox Judaism
 Maintain that Torah is the standard of truth – life within society must conform to the Torah
 Despite society, Jewish life should change very little, for the Torah is unchanging (however secular
education is not rejected)
 Deeply traditional – they live in separate communities to help maintain their traditional ways
 10% of Jews in USA are Orthodox
Conservative Judaism
 the middle ground – somewhat open to change but still strict regarding observance of traditional Jewish
 Liturgy is spoken in Hebrew, laws regulating diet and behaviour on the Sabbath are observed
 ½ of the Jews in USA are Conservative
St. Mary Catholic Secondary School
Mr. Morra
HRT 3M1: Grade 11 World Religions
Unit 5: Judaism
Day 7-8:
“La Vita e Bella”
o Film Assignment
“Life is Beautiful”
Watch the film, Life is Beautiful and complete one of the following questions:
Guido Orefice used his coulorful imagination and his sense of humour to shelter his son from the horror
and reality of WW2. Outline the ground rules for the game that Guido created for his son in the
concentration camp.
Create two timelines of events. One through the eyes of Guido. The other through the eyes of his son,
Day 9:
St. Mary Catholic Secondary School
Mr. Morra
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