THE MANY STORIES OF JUDAISM
Sacred and Secular
- Ultra-orthodox Jews close off the streets to traffic every Friday in strict
observance of the Sabbath.
- Jerusalem’s inhabitants consider themselves ethnic rather than religious Jews.
o Disregard most religious rules and Sabbath
- Orthodox synagogue – males and female worshippers segregated, rabi is male
- Reform synagogue – man and women sit together, rabi is female
- Great diversity in Judaism today
- Smallest of the great world religions
- Jews take as the highest reality the God of creation and history, who revealed
himself to Moses at Mount Sinai.
- The Christian concept of original sin does not exist in Judaism.
o Each and every human being is free to choose good or evil because each
of us stands before God in the same relationship that Adam and Eve did.
- The dual Torah – the sacred teachings, both oral and written, concerning God’s
revelation to his people.
- In giving the people Israel the Torah, God established a covenant (a binding
agreement) with them, making them a holy people and reminding them that God
will guide and protect them and they will obey His commandments.
Encounter with Modernity: Modern Judaisms and the Challenge of Ultra-
- Premodern Rabbinic Judaism was a world unto itself, embracing every aspect
of life and offering safe haven from a gentile (non-Jewish) world that severely
restricted the role of Jews in society.
- For Reform Jews the centre of Judaism is its ethics; ritual practices and belief in
supernatural phenomena are negotiable.
- For Conservative Jews the rituals are not negotiable, but supernatural beliefs are.
- For Orthodox Jews neither is negotiable, but it is still permissible for Jews to live
some parts of life in the secular world.
- Ultra-Orthodox Jews accept no such compromises with the secular world.
o Seek to create a Jewish way of life, totally separate not only for the gentile
world but from modernizing forms of Judaism
Segregate themselves by creating Jewish communities where every
aspect of life is governed by supernatural belief and traditional
- Ultra-Orthodoxy rejects pluralism because they fear it leads to religious and
o One truth, one way of life, to which all Jews must return
THE CONFLICT OVER PUBLIC LIFE: RELIGION AND POLITICS IN THE
STATE OF ISRAEL
- Public life in Israel was shaped by secular Jews with a non-religious socialist-
Zionist worldview. - Halalkhah – the commandments of God revealed in the Tanak and commented
on in the Talmud; the word means to walk in the way of God by obeying his
commands or laws.
Ultra-Orthodox Minorities: The Gush Emunim and the Neturei Karta
- The Neturei Karta, in their wide-brimmed hats and long black coats, emaluate a
centuries-old way of life that comes out of the traditions of the eastern European
Haredim, “those of true piety”.
- Gush Emunin, while rigorously ultra-Orthodox in their observance of halakhah,
have adopted a more modern style of dress that clearly distinguishes them from
the Haredim and points to their identification with the secular Zionists who
founded the state of Israel, whom they see as their counterparts.
- Unlike Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox Jews, the ultra-Orthodox Haredim
will not live in communities with gentile neighbours and refuse to mix with
modern Jews who do not share their views.
Ultra-Orthodoxy as a Type of Fundamentalism
- What all religious fundamentalist movements have in common is a desire to
return to the foundations of belief and action that existed in their respective
traditions prior to the coming of modernity.
- Former secular Jews and modern religious Jews have chosen a form of Judaism
that promises to bring order and meaning to the whole of life, not just a part of it,
and that requires a full-time commitment, not just a part-time commitment.
- The “fundamentalist” movements challenged modern forms of Judaism by
refusing to reduce being Jewish to historical heritage, morality, and ethnicity.
- Ultra-Orthodoxy rejects all forms of secular Judaism and the diversity found in
- For them, total immersion in a premodern way of life represents a definitive break
with the decadence of Western civilization.
Premodern Judaism: The Formative Era
THE BIBLICAL ROOTS OF JUDAISM
- Judaism is shaped by the myth of history.
- The story of God who made promises to Abraham and his descendants that were
fulfilled centuries later when this God sent Moses to deliver his people from
slavery in Egypt and lead them into the “land of promise”.
- Analogies fro