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Judaism: Beliefs & Practices Introduction to World Religions Fall 2007 Dr. Hannah Schell The Hallowing of Life.

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Presentation on theme: "Judaism: Beliefs & Practices Introduction to World Religions Fall 2007 Dr. Hannah Schell The Hallowing of Life."— Presentation transcript:

1 Judaism: Beliefs & Practices Introduction to World Religions Fall 2007 Dr. Hannah Schell The Hallowing of Life

2 Judaism - Christianity – Islam Monotheistic: these traditions believe in a single divine Being who is personal, that is, possessing mind and will; eternal, that is, not subject to the limits of time or change, all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good. Creation: God creates a world distinct from himself, a world which is real, not illusory, though totally dependent on God; a world which is good. Revelation: In a unique historical event, God reveals his will, requiring obedience (disobedience being sin. The revelation in each case is given in writing). Immortality and Judgment: There is a life after death; at death, God will judge each individual, for reward or punishment. (Adopted from Patrick Burke’s “The Religions of Semitic Origin” introduction. The Major Religions, 191.)

3 Return to the pie: So, why do we study Judaism in a course such as this?

4 Why study Judaism? It is the source of western monotheism, including Christianity and Islam It is the source for other important aspects of western civilization, including  an understanding of history as morally significant;  the creation (including human beings) as good;  the idea of social justice. It is a source of wisdom (Smith’s corollary).

5 Huston Smith’s approach to Judaism Meaning: finding and making Meaning in God Meaning in Creation Meaning in Human existence Meaning in History Meaning in Morality Meaning in Justice Meaning in Suffering Meaning in Messianism

6 Part I. Jewish Belief Three relationships: God and the world God and human beings Human beings and the world These relationships are spelled out in the sacred scriptures of Judaism. GOD The World Human Beings

7 Scriptures of Judaism The Jewish Bible: Tanakh - traditionally understood as revelation by God: “Written Torah”; composed over several hundred years (about 900 B.C.E. to about 100 B.C.E.) Talmud, or “Oral Torah”: “record of the ongoing task of study, commentary and interpretation through which God’s continuing communication to human partners is discerned” (Philip Novak, 176). Midrashim – collection of legend, exegesis, and homily – “inexhaustible mine for scholarship, anecdote and cultural identity” (Smith, abridged, 203).

8 The Jewish Bible: Tanakh 1. Torah Genesis Exodus Leviticus Numbers Deuteronomy Tanakh is an acronym for 2. Prophets Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel Plus 12 minor prophets (Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi) 3. Writings Psalms, Proverbs, Job, The Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, 1 and 2 Chronicles

9 Torah: The Five Books of Moses The Pentateuch (the “Five Scrolls”) or Torah:  Genesis tells the story of the creation of the world and the histories of the fathers of the Hebrew people, including Abraham.  Exodus tells the story of the rescue of the people out of Egypt.  Leviticus contains the main provisions of the Law.  Numbers gives a variety of further ordinances and stories and  Deuteronomy is a summary of the material in the preceding books Patrick Burke, The Major Religions, 200.

10 The Prophets Prophet: “one who speaks on behalf of another” (in this case, on behalf of God): The prophets gave instructions in the name of God concerning the actions of the people; interpretations of what had happened or predictions of what was going to happen; calls to repent of their (the people’s) sins. Chastised the people for neglect of social justice and charity Judgment moves from the whole of the people to particular individuals (with Jeremiah). The Prophetic Principle: God has high standards! (191).

11 Examples of prophetic writings “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth, For the LORD has spoken: ‘I reared children and brought them up – And they have rebelled against Me! An ox knows its owner, An ass its master’s crib: Israel does not know, My people take no thought.’ Ah, sinful nation! People laden with iniquity! Brood of evildoers! Depraved children! They have forsaken the LORD Spurned the Holy One of Israel, Turned their backs. … Your land is a waste, Your cities burnt down; Before your eyes, the yield of your soil Is consumed by strangers – A wasteland as overthrown by strangers!” - Isaiah 1:2-4,7

12 The call to justice – (Dr. Martin Luther King’s words in their original, biblical context). “I hate, I despise your festival, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them… Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” - Amos 5:21-24.

13 I. God and the World Monotheism Creation God’s role in history Source:

14 Monotheism The Shema – basic prayer of Judaism - “Hear of Israel, the Lord your God, the Lord is One.” (Deuteronomy 6:4). God is the Supreme Being; the Creator of the Universe; Judge and Ruler of history; the Supreme Lawgiver. Also described as Father, Shepherd, Judge, King. God does not have relatives and no human needs God is the sovereign ruler of nature; all is dependent on him as the creator.

15 Jewish view of Creation “When God began to create heaven and earth – the earth being unformed and void, with darkness over the surface of the deep and a wind from God sweeping over the water – God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, a first day.” Genesis 1:1-5. Tanakh: A New Translation of the Holy Scriptures according to Traditional Hebrew Text. Jewish Publication Society, Gustave Dore’s Creation by Light What do you notice here?

16 Some Implications The world is separate from God (vs. monism) The world is real (vs. illusory) God is the creator – like an artist or a carpenter – the world is dependent upon God for its creation. God is good: ethical monotheism. God intends for us to be good – an offense against morality is an offense against God (sin).

17 God & History Salvation history – God brings about certain, definite events; these are the “founding” events that bind God and the people. History is linear (vs. cyclical) and begins with creation, continuing until the final consummation. History is a drama, with a beginning, middle and an end. God, through history, offers and brings redemption

18 God operating in history – the founding stories God appears to Moses in a burning bush God rescues the people from slavery in Egypt God takes care of the people when they wander in the desert God reveals his Law to the people through Moses on Mt. Sinai God leads them back to Palestine God appoints Saul and David as Kings.

19 God & History: formation of an identity [The people are directed to recite:] “My father was a wandering Aramean. He went down to Egypt with meager numbers and sojourned there; but he became a great and very populous nation. The Egyptians dealt harshly with us and oppressed us; they imposed heavy labor upon us. We cried to the LORD, the God of our fathers, and the LORD heard our plea and saw our plight, our misery, and our oppression. The LORD freed us from Egypt by a mighty hand, by an outstretched arm and awesome power, and by signs and portents. He brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey.” - Deuteronomy 26: 5-9.

20 II. God and Human Beings Positive view of human nature Role of sin Relationship between the divine and human beings:  Covenant  Chosenness Role of the Law in that relationship

21 A celebration of humans “O LORD, our Lord, How majestic is your name throughout the earth, You who have covered the heavens with Your splendor! From the mouths of infants and sucklings You have founded strength on account of Your foes, to put an end to enemy and avenger. When I behold Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and stars that You set in place, What is man that You have been mindful of him, mortal man that You have taken note of him, that You have made him little less than divine, a And adorned him with glory and majesty; You have made him master over Your handiwork, Laying the world at his feet, sheep and oxen, all of them; and wild beasts, too; The birds of the heavens, the fish of the sea, whatever travels the paths of the seas. O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is Your name throughout the earth!” - Psalms 8.

22 “Make way, make way, make way for the image of God!” – Rabbinic saying, cited by Huston Smith, 281.

23 Sin Sin: any departure from God’s way, or any transgression of the divine commandments. No sin is unforgivable, but to be pardoned requires repenting, confessing to God, making restitution (if needed) and charity. Smith: “to miss the mark” (281); and note that this is very different from the Christian notion of original sin!

24 Relationship between God and humans The covenant: a contract that involves the pledging of total selves (Smith, 306). The covenantal relationship between the Hebrew people and their God A solemn agreement which binds both parties – the people through observance of the law, and God, obligated to protect and preserve the people and to give them possession of the land of Canaan. Biblical basis of idea of covenant…

25 The covenant with Noah never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.’ God further said, ‘This is the sign that I set for the covenant between Me and you, and every living creature with you, for all ages to come. I have set My bow in the clouds, and it shall serve as a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.” - Genesis 6-9 (Abridged by Novak, 179). “The LORD saw how great was man’s wickedness on earth.. But Noah found favor with the LORD… And when the waters had swelled on the earth one hundred and fifty days, God remembered Noah and … the waters subsided. … And God said to Noah.. ‘I now establish my Covenant with you and your offspring to come, and with every living thing that is with you…:

26 The covenant with Abraham Set forth initially by God (Yahweh) to Abraham: “When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared… and said to him, ‘I am El Shaddai [God Almighty]. Walk in My ways an be blameless. I will establish My covenant between Me and you, and I will make you exceedingly numerous… This is My covenant with you: You shall be the father of a multitude of nations. And you shall no longer be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I will make you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fertile, and make nations of you; and kings shall come fort from you. I will maintain my covenant between Me and you, and your offspring to come, as an everlasting covenant throughout the ages, to be God to you and to your offspring to come, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting holding. I will be their God.” - Genesis 17: 1-8. Marc Chagall, The covenant with Abraham.

27 The covenant with Moses: a theophany “Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law… [at Horeb, the mountain of God]. There the angel of the LORD appeared to him a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed… God said to him out of the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ then he said, ‘Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’ He said further, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the god of Jacob.’ and Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.’…[Moses asks, what shall I say when the people ask me your name?]. God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’” - Exodus 3:1-15

28 Ellie Wiesel on the Sinai theophany “Think about it. God decided for the first and last time.. To reveal himself… You would expect God to give you a lecture on theology at least. After all it’s his domain… Instead.. He gave you al kind of commands about human relations: Thou shall not kill; Thou shall not lie;… Why did he do that? It was so simple. But this was the lesson: God can take care of himself. What he had to give man was the dignity of man.” - Quoted by Phillip Novak, 186.

29 The concept of Chosen-ness “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God: the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his own possession out of all the peoples that are on the face of the earth.” (Deuteronomy7:6). Chosenness means responsibility. Israel is to be a prophet to the nations of the world, to bring salvation. Also, sometimes called the doctrine of election Smith: “the scandal of particularity” (308). Teaching was rejected, or amended, by some modern non- Orthodox Jews.

30 III. Human beings and the world What is our relationship to the world? Dominion? Role of justice; social concerns Finding meaning – and the possibility of redemption – in suffering. Role of vicarious suffering – Suffering on behalf of another (in this case, the world). Jewish Messianism - the redemption of the world

31 Part II. Jewish practice “Judaism is less an orthodoxy than an orthopraxis. Jews are united more by what they do than by what they think. One evidence of this is that Jews have never promulgated an official creed that must be accepted to belong to this faith. Observance, on the other hand.. Is decisive…. Ritual.. In Judaism… aims to hallow life – ideally, all life.” - Huston Smith, ; my emphasis

32 Hallowing life: Cycles of observance 1. Day to day observances 2. Weekly cycle of observing the Sabbath 3. Yearly cycle of holy days and festivals 4. Rites of passage: from birth to death

33 1. Day to Day Observances Dietary Laws (Kashrut) The Shema: “Binding the law on your heart” Daily prayer

34 Keeping Kosher Kosher – literally means “pure” in Hebrew; “ritually fit.” Kashrut: dietary laws –Pertains to food that is permissible under the Jewish dietary laws. Understood to be given by God to Moses on Mt. Sinai. Reasons: hygiene; unhealthy; elevated spiritual state; symbolic significance. “For I am the Lord your God: consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. You shall not defile yourselves with any swarming thing that crawls upon the earth. For I am the Lord who brought you up out from the land of Egypt, to be your God; you shall therefore be holy, for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44-45).

35 Laws of Kashrut Certain foods (rf Leviticus Ch 11 and Deut. 14:3-21) are prescribed; only animals which both chew the cud and have split hooves may be eaten (e.g. cows and sheep but not pigs); only fish with have both fins and scales; Prohibition against birds of prey; other seafood Also laws pertaining to how animals are killed – act of slaughter must cause the least amount of suffering and performed by someone who is trained in the law; also rules against animals with defects. Restrictions concerning mixing milk and meat. (rf. Exodus 23:19); symbolic meaning: life and death must be kept apart. Importance of keeping cooking utensils separate in order to remain pure.

36 The Shema 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. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9; my emphasis).

37 Source: “Many people pray spontaneously at different moments in their live or when they experience inner feelings on a deep level. This has been called variously praying, wishing, pouring out one’s heart, conducting an interior conversation, or meditation… Teffillah [which is translated in English as prayer] implies an act of self-judgment or intercession on one’s own behalf before God, or the expression of hopeful sentiments. Tefillah is the standard Jewish term referring both to the liturgical dimensions of Judaism and to the spontaneous outpouring of the human heart. There is no good English equivalent for the word.” From David Ariel, What do Jews Believe (188). The importance of prayer

38 2. Weekly cycle: the Sabbath The Sabbath is a day of rest; observance of it is commanded by God in the Ten Commandments (Exod 20:8-11); understood as a sign of the covenant (Exod. 31:12,16). Sabbath is observed between sunset on Friday evening until sunset on Saturday evening. Refrain from work: kindling a fire; ploughing and harvesting; carrying from one place to another; regulations expanded by rabbis to list 39 categories of work.

39 Observance of the Sabbath Begins with a service at home, lighting the Sabbath candles, traditionally lit by the woman of the house who recites “Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who has hallowed us by your commandments and commanded us to kindle the Sabbath light.” Followed by synagogue service and then a ceremonial meal at home:  blessing of the children  kiddush prayer over a cup of wine  washing of hands  blessing of bread  Singing table hymns  Grace after meals Saturday: service on Saturday morning and afternoon. Ends with the Havdalah ceremony: blessings

40 3. Yearly cycle of holy days and festivals Pilgrim Festivals: Passover (Pesach) Feast of Weeks (Shauvot) Feast of Booths (Sukkot) High Holy Days New Year (Rosh Hashanah) Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) Other minor festivals Feast of Lights (Hanukkah) Feast of Esther (Purim)

41 Passover (Pesach) Pesach: to pass over, to exempt or to spare Begins on the 15 th day of Nisan (spring) Festival of freedom: commemorates the exodus of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt Highpoint is the family seder (dinner) Leavened bread prohibited

42 High Holy Days (Autumn) New Year (Rosh Hashanah) Day of Judgment; Day of Remembrance; Commemorates God’s act of creation Begins the ten days of Awe, period of repentance. Synagogue-oriented Sounding of the Shofar (ram’s horn) Hallah (bread) dipped in honey (new year will be sweet) Prayers for peace and tranquility for the world Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) The most solemn day in the Jewish year Day of fasting and prayer, repentance Service includes special prayer, “the locking of the gates”: when a person’s fate is set

43 4. Rites of passage: from birth to death Brit Milah; a bris: circumcision. Sign of entering the covenant; eighth day after the birth of the male child. Bar/Bat Mitzvah: Becoming a son or daughter of the commandment (Torah). Marriage Funerals

44 Circumcision: a sign of the covenant God to Abraham: “This is my covenant which you shall keep between me and you and your descendants after you; every male among you shall be circumcised. You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between you and me.” (Genesis 17:9-11).

45 Bar & Bat Mitzvah A time for celebration: First occasion of reading from the Torah. Usually followed by a lavish party.

46 Jewish Marriage Source: karny.html “He who dwells without a wife dwells without joy, without blessing, without good, and without happiness.” Huppah: marriage canopy (in ancient times referred to the bridal chamber where the marriage was consummated) Ketubah : marriage contract – listing the groom’s obligations to the bride; recently highly decorated, artistic piece. Seven blessings recited over cup of wine Breaking of glass concludes the ceremony

47 Life’s passing: Death Care of the body and burial: true kindness. Dead body is not to be left alone Burial to take place as soon as possible. Traditionally, mourners tear their garments Mourning period known as shivah (seven) – begins with day of burial. The Kaddish (the mourner’s prayer) – recited three times a day by a mourner for 11 months and a day and on the yearly anniversary of the death.

48 Discussion questions What role does religious ritual play (according to Huston Smith; according to you)? What is Jewish messianism? What meaning is there in suffering? What is vicarious suffering? What is the Jewish doctrine of election (chosenness) and why is it controversial?


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