Monday, January 30, 2017
Religion - Week 3: Jewish Perspectives
- Judaism is the oldest of the great monotheistic faiths.
• Basic monotheistic creed:
- Summed up in book of Deuteronomy:
• Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.
• You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and
with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your
heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home
and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise.
• Bind them as a sign on your hand, ﬁx them as an emblem on your forehead,
and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
- Bind them as a sign on your hand, ﬁx them as an emblem on your forehead.
- Torah is ﬁrst 5 books of the Hebrew Bible
- Many Jewish homes will have different shape containers that contain verses from
- People of Israel bound by a sacred covenant to God:
“Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured
possession out of all the peoples. Indeed the whole earth is mine, but you shall be for
me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation.”
- Real emphasis on the collective history of the people. To be a Jew is to be critically
linked with the sequential serious of the events that constitute the history of the Jews
and their origin as a people and all the events that befall them as a people.
- Hebrew Bible begins with a narrative of creation, recounted in the ﬁrst book, the book
In the beginning . . . The earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of
the deep . . .
And God said . . .
“Let there be light”
“Let the dry land appear.”
“Let the earth put forth vegetation”
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“Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind”
“Let us make humankind in our image”
And it was so.
- God chooses one man, Abraham, to show people the right way to live.
- Judaism founded on the Abrahamic Covenant:
Now the Lord saidto Abram, “Go from your countryand your kindred and your
father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation,
and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will
bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all
the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
- The Age of the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, Jacob/Israel
- Proposed route of the Patriarchs from Ur to Canaan and Egypt
- Proposed route of the Israelites from Egypt into Canaan
- Canaan is the land promised by God to Abraham.
Story of the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt was dominated by Moses who was
• In the Bible was a charismatic leader
• In the Quran mentioned many more times than any other prophet
• Exodus becomes a great metaphor for overcoming oppression, freedom.
Celebrated in Jewish Passover.
- After leaving Egypt, tribes wandered 40 years. Receives law of God on Mt. Sinai, the
- God renews covenant at Mt. Sinai with entire community. Central symbols for
- Death of any particular individual will not disrupt the most important aspect of the
religion, the covenant with God, because the group continues.
- National catastrophe or disaster will be the worst.
- Genocide affected the existence of a particular group and the existence of the
relationship between God and humanity.
- The Twelve tribes of Israel settled in Canaan.
• Each tribe had its own tribal chieftain.
• United in one kingdom and only lasted for 100 years. Ruled by Kings: Saul, David,
• Peak of early Israelite history.
• House of David becoming recognized rulers of Israel, house of anointed one born,
When Solomon dies, northern of Israel, and southern Judah.
• Northern conquered by assyrians.
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• Souther kingdom conquered by Babylonians and Solomon’s temple destroyed.
Leaders of the community exiled in Babylon.
• Persians conquered Babylonians and allowed leaders to return home.
Jewish Notions of Death and Afterlife
- The creation story of Genesis: Then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the
ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living
• In early Biblical texts such as Genesis, Psalms or the book of Hob, which date prior
to the Hellenistic period, the person is not regarded dualistically as soul and body,
but a holistic composite of body and animating breath.
• God’s breath animates the dust and it becomes a single living being.
• Earlier biblical idea of death: When the person dies, body turns to dust and life
breath returns to God who gave it. The identity of the person doesn’t entirely
disappear. The dead person’s spirit remains as a kind of ghost, literally a dead
breath or a dead being. That being goes to the place of the dead that the bible calls
• Sheol in the Bible:
- As the cloud fades and vanishes, so those who go down to Sheol do not come
up; they return no more to their houses, nor do their places know them anymore.
- The land of deepest gloom.
- Place of no return and cut off from God.
- Cosmos of early Hebrew tribes. Shared a world view with the surrounding
Mesopotamia cultures. In terms of three levels, the upper, middle, and lower (the
underworld called Sheol).
• The sky Gods occupy the Heaven sphere (upper).
• Ghosts of ancestors occupy Sheol.
• Human beings lived in the middle, related to both worlds. Could be helped or
Bible also speaks of a peaceful death in old age in the end of a full and fruitful life but
did not diminish idea of death as a ﬁnal end. All gods blessings and rewards for the
righteous were to be had in life and not after death. This life afﬁrming emphasis is a
very important aspect of Judaism until today.
- Israelites shared this idea of the cosmos with surrounding cultures but difference in
relating to it.
Other people worshiped many gods. Surrounding cultures worshiped bothy sky and
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• Hebrew tribes turned away from reliance on many gods and cult of the dead.
Turned to only one god, sky god and of the living. Look to one god for help.
• King Saul banned the practice of consulting with the dead in his kingdom.
• Rejected by Israelites.
- Corpse is not beautiﬁed, Cremation is practiced by some Jews but is not historically
tradition way. Burial is the way. Sign of respect, body is always covered. Body is
washed and placed in plain white cloth called shrouds. If the cofﬁn used, plain
wooden cofﬁn, so last interference with return to earth.
- Mourning crucial part of Judaism rituals. Mourners put a symbolic tear in their clothes
to signify grief. The week following is the mourning period known as shevah.
Mourners remain at home and do no bathe, wear same