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Chapter 3

Chapter 3: Jewish Traditions

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David Perley

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Jewish Traditions 1/17/2012 7:30:00 AM Traditions at a Glance  14 million Jews worldwide o 7 million live in the Americas o 3 million live in Asia o 4 million live in Europe  The founders are referred to as the matriarchs and the patriarchs.  They only have one God, but his name is never spoken of in Hebrew.  They have The Hebrew Bible, the Talmud, and the Midrash Ritual Initiation  Bar Mitzvah: “Son of the commanders”. The title given to a 13 year old boy when he is initiated into adult ritual responsibilities. o Some branches of Judaism also celebrate Bat Mitzvahs for girls. o It is a rite of passage to maturity. o It reflects several of the features that Jews consider most significant in their tradition. o Although considered an adult, it just means that they are ready to accept ritual and moral responsibilities. It is an ancient concept. o Bar Mitzvahs are done differently by different congregations. For example, some do it only in Hebrew, and others choose to do it in the local language, such as French or English. o The boy reads 2 selections form the Hebrew Bible. One part from the Pentateuch and the other from the Prophets. o After the service there is typically a reception to celebrate the boy‟s success and the family‟s good fortune. This can be a simple dinner, or sometimes they are as fancy as a wedding. o Families devote a great amount of effort to ensure that their child learns as much as possible about the tradition and that they appreciate the meaning of the event. th  Sabbath: The 7 day of the week (Saturday), observed by Jews sine ancient times as a day of rest from ordinary activity. It is a day that they pray and go to synagogue.  Synagogue: The local place of assembly for congregational worship, which became central to the tradition after the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple.  Pentateuch: The first 5 books of the Hebrew Bible. Ascribed by tradition to Moses, but regarded by modern scholars as the product of several centuries of later literary activity.  Minyan: The quorum of ten required for a prayer service in the synagogue. Anyone who has had a Bar Mitzvah is able to be called to read aloud from the sacred scripture and recite the blessings at synagogue.  Torah: A word meaning „teaching‟ or „instruction‟. Applied most specifically to the Law of Moses (the Pentateuch) but may also refer to the entire scripture, including commentaries and even the entire spiritual thrust of Jewish religion. o The Torah in synagogues is written only in ancient Hebrew. It is also written completely by hand, and treated with the most respect. o Jew‟s consider themselves special for being allowed to have the responsibility to read and study the Torah. o Most traditional synagogues only call men to read from the Torah, but some groups in North America will call upon women too. Defining Judaism  Judaism gave rise to 2 other world religions: Christianity and Islam who both (along with Judaism) trace their spiritual lineage to the biblical patriarch Abraham. Judaism is the smallest of the 3.  Judaism is referred to as an “ethnic” because people can convert to it, but most of the time it is an inherited tradition. Some Jews have acknowledged the ethnic tradition, but do not acknowledge the religious aspects.  Being Jewish cannot be considered its own ethnicity because so many people of different origins have either converted or married into the tradition.  It is likely impossible to count the total number of Jews worldwide because of the fact that there are “ethnic Jews” and “religious Jews”  Holocaust: “Burnt offering” or “burnt sacrifice”. One of the ancient sacrifices mandated in the Hebrew Bible. The term has more recently been applied to the persecution and murder of 6 million European Jews by the Nazis before and during World War 2 (1939- 1945).  About half of all Jewish people are not affiliated with a synagogue.  In Canada and the USA there are 3 types of Jews: Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform. It is important to note that the differences are not in beliefs or doctrines, but they are differences in rituals Origins  The Biblical Period o Some history of Judaism is very well known because it is written in the Hebrew Bible, which is very important to Christians and Muslims. o Liberal Jews accept modern historical principles but they also often question the historical accuracy of the biblical text. They distinguish between myth, legend, and history. o Traditional Jews believe that everything in the Hebrew Bible is correct. They think that it was dictated to Moses and the prophets by divine inspiration. o The earliest known references to Israel in secular historical records date from the thirteenth century BCE. We can match the Israelite‟s narratives with accounts of the same people and events in the texts of their neighbors. o Archaeologists have recovered an Egyptian monumental stone dating from about 1206 BCE inscribed with a hymn. This hymn referred to Israel as a place for people to live with fixed borders and a territory. Because of this finding, this is typically where the line between biblical legend and biblical history lies. o Creation in Genesis  First 11 chapters of Genesis describe the primeval history of the universe.  Chapter 1:  God creates the heaven and earth.  It does not state that the universe was created form nothing. It says that before creation, everything was chaotic and primal waters covered the earth.  God created different things on the first 6 days, in a process that culminated in the creation of humanity (male and female). On th the 7 day he rested, starting the pattern of a weekly Sabbath.  Written by a priestly narrator  Chapter 2:  God causes a mist which causes vegetation to sprout. Then he creates Adam, then animals, then Eve.  Written by the kings  Religious traditionalists worry that inconsistencies obscure God‟s plan. So they usually rationalize or smooth them over.  In the Bible there are spots where it looks like the author was trying to interpret earlier material  Example: Isaiah 45, from the 5 thcentury BCE emphasized that God was the creator of both light and darkness (good and evil). They did this because they were trying to underline the distinction between the Hebrews and the Zoroastrians.  Modern biblical scholars take a different view of the inconsistencies. They see them as clues to the composition of the text.  Example: They see the three interpretations came from different sources, and the author was reluctant to change any of them.  Isaiah 45 was written in the Persian period by a prophet who felt that it was necessary to have a further interpretation. o The Primal Couple  Genesis 2 ends with God creating a man and a woman.  Adam means „man‟ in Hebrew.  Eve seems to mean „living‟ in Hebrew.  In Genesis 2 they walk around naked innocently, with peace and harmony. In Genesis 3 it shows how quickly this can change. It is in Genesis 3 that Eve is tempted by the serpent. In this chapter, their nakedness is referred to in a childlike way.  Adam is weary, trusting, and speaks in very simple sentences.  Eve is curious, evidently intelligent, and speaks in complex sentences showing her thinking through problems. It appears that Eve‟s downfall is her intelligence.  When they eat from the „Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil‟ it is obvious that they are intelligent and understand what they are
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