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
They have The Hebrew Bible, the Talmud, and the Midrash
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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-
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
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
o Creation in Genesis
First 11 chapters of Genesis describe the primeval
history of the universe.
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
the 7 day he rested, starting the pattern of
a weekly Sabbath.
Written by a priestly narrator
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
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
Eve is curious, evidently intelligent, and speaks in
complex sentences showing her thinking through
problems. It appears that Eve‟s downfall is her
When they eat from the „Tree of Knowledge of Good
and Evil‟ it is obvious that they are intelligent and
understand what they are