Presentation on theme: "Living a Jewish Life Key Jewish Concepts. Unit 7, Session 1a Rabbi Jonathan Keren-Black Leo Baeck Centre - East Kew - 2009/5770 Revised 2013/5774 for Introduction."— Presentation transcript:
Living a Jewish Life Key Jewish Concepts. Unit 7, Session 1a Rabbi Jonathan Keren-Black Leo Baeck Centre - East Kew /5770 Revised 2013/5774 for Introduction to Judaism Course
The root of the word is K D SH K D SH is Special or Separate KiDuSH – for Shabbat & Festivals KeDuSHa – prayer in the Amidah (eg Prayer Book page 248) KaDiSH – Readers Kaddish prayer, Mourners Kaddish prayer Special behaviour – being holy. Being holy as God is holy Trying to act as God would act
In government circles and with things like grant applications, Partnership is a common and important word and concept – working together with others. In Judaism, it goes back a long way. We believe that humans and God need to work in Shutafut – in partnership, to heal the world.
At the end of every service, we read the Aleynu, which contains the phrase ltakeyn olam bmalchut Shadai – to perfect the world under Gods rule. This is The Meaning of Life. We are here for a purpose – to work WITH GOD to make the world better for all its inhabitants, both today and into the future.
Our task is to work with God to heal the world. These units ask: how do we work out how best to heal the world? What should we do in practical terms Lets start with a practical example: Nothing But Nets. Great progress has been made over the past few years in combating malaria – we have been a part of that real improvement in our world.
The Union for Progressive Judaism partnered with the UN Nothing But Nets campaign to combat the spread of malaria. They had a goal to supply 5,000 insecticide- treated bed nets to families in sub-Saharan Africa, saving one family at a time, one net at a time. Visit to find out more.
The pillars of Judaism are three-fold: commitment to Torah (lifelong Jewish learning), Avodah (worship of God through prayer and observance) and Gmilut Hasadim (the pursuit of justice, peace and deeds of loving kindness). This third pillar is expressed by participating in social action efforts. This is why the UPJ partnered with Nothing But Nets to combat the spread of malaria. This is a practical way to help.
Our tradition teaches us that God dictated the written law to Moses... but also... God gave Moses the oral law at the same time. We don't take either of these claims literally. We don't take either of these claims literally.
The tradition tells us there are 613 commandments in the Torah [sometimes called the TaRYaG (alphabetical way to say 613) mitzvot] Best known are the Ten Commandments In Hebrew they are called Aseret HaDibrot More accurately this translates as The Ten Statements – as the first, Love your Eternal God, is not a command (though the Christian version is Have no other gods).
Is the left hand set a Jewish set of commandments?
The left hand set were Christian (they did not start with I am the Eternal God). Actually, the rounded top is a shape from later, Classical architecture. The two tablets of stone would probably have been rectangular. Also the Hebrew we are now familiar with is a more recent, Aramaic script. The letters Moses would have known were proto-Canaanitic. So, if the Ten Statements were written on stone in Moses time, they would have looked more like the next set:
1. I am your Eternal God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt 2. You shall have no other Gods but Me 3. You shall not use Gods name casually 4. Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy 5. Honour your father and your mother (the bridge to the second five – honouring parents is said to be like honouring God).
6. You shall not murder 7. You shall not commit adultery 8. You shall not steal 9. You shall not bear false witness 10. You shall not covet your neighbours wife, nor their ox nor their ass, nor anything that is your neighbours. (this last is a warning against materialism – wanting things – and hence very relevant to modern society today!).
Perhaps God literally, physically gave some of Torah to Moses at the top of Mount Sinai. Who knows? What would this look like? We believe that Moses, and/or others, perhaps 'inspired', recorded over many years what they felt 'God wanted from human beings'. This document, Torah, has gained sanctity because of this noble task, and the messages, the history and the age-old experiences it contains.
The Rabbis developed the important tradition that when Moses was given the written law, he was also given the verbal explanations about what it meant - and how to apply it. So the tradition says that as well as the written Torah passed down through the generations, there was also an oral Torah – just as important, and necessary to understand the written law. The tradition said the oral law should never be written down. And one couldnt be Jewish without the traditions and combination of both parts of the Torah, written and oral.
If a tradition is conveyed orally, it can be applied slightly differently as situations, times and needs change. But it can also be lost, especially as it inevitably grows bigger and bigger. Thus it was eventually decided to record the Oral Law in writing (Mishna). It was divided into six sections or 'Orders. The flexibility started to be lost.
The Mishna is the first collection of the Oral Law, written down about 220 of the Common Era by Judah HaNasi. It was very useful. It became restrictive. It became too rigid.
Once the Mishna was published, it was widely studied and debated. The discussions, arguments and debates were written around it. This was called 'GMaRah' – completion (from root GMR: finish ). The combination – Mishna and its many commentaries, is called 'Talmud' – studies.
Amongst other things, the Talmud has much detailed discussion about the commandments. A commandment is a miTZ-VaH (root TZVH) The plural is miTZ-Vot Ethical mitzvot demand high standards of behaviour. Being very honest, being sensitive, feeding the hungry, looking after the sick, not stealing, not exploiting or taking advantage... Ritual mitzvot govern ceremonies and rites of Jewish life such as food, festivals, prayers...
Ethics – Judaism demands we try to live up to high standards of behaviour – acting as God would act (or trying to be perfect). Perhaps this is why many Jews seem to tend to be perfectionists? We base our ethical standards on a belief in some unique power, far greater than any individual human, which we call God, and then we ask What does God require of us. For most Progressive Jews, Torah is the record of this human quest for guidance.
Having a developed, adult understanding of an ethical life and goals may be enough. In practice it probably isnt, and is supported and encouraged through ritual acts (for example, considering animals through checking what you buy and eat) However children especially need a ritual framework in which they slowly learn that they are part of a special people (KaDoSH). More of this in the next units.
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