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C-PALSY  March 2000

C-PALSY March 2000

Subject:

Informational facts on Judaism

From:

Trisha Cummings <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

St. John's University Cerebral Palsy List

Date:

Fri, 17 Mar 2000 07:55:18 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (296 lines)

The term "G-d" is used in this essay to respect the Jewish prohibition
against spelling the name or title of the deity in full. Dates listed which
are prior to the 4th century BCE are approximate.

Early History of Judaism
Circa 2000 BCE, the G-d of the ancient Israelites established a divine
covenant with Abraham, making him the patriarch of many nations. From his
name, the term Abramic Religions is derived; these are the four religions
which trace their roots back to Abraham: Judaism, Christianity, Islam and
the Baha'i World Faith. The book of Genesis describes the events surrounding
the lives of the  three patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. (Joseph, who
is recognized as a fourth patriarch by Christians is not considered one by
Jews). Moses was the next leader of the ancient Israelites. He led his
people out of captivity in Egypt, and received the Law from G-d. After
decades of wandering through wilderness, Joshua led the tribes into the
promised land, driving out the Canaanites through a series of military
battles.

The original tribal organization was converted into a kingdom by Samuel; its
first king was Saul. The second king, David, established Jerusalem as the
religious and political center. The third king, Solomon built the first
temple there.

Division into the Northern kingdom of Israel and the Southern kingdom of
Judah occurred shortly after the death of Solomon in 922 BCE. Israel fell to
Assyria in 722 BCE; Judah fell to the Babylonians in 587 BCE. The temple was
destroyed. Some Jews returned from captivity under the Babylonians and
started to restore the temple in 536 BCE. Alexander the Great invaded the
area in 332 BCE. From circa 300 to 63 BCE, Greek became the language of
commerce, and Greek culture had a major influence on Judaism. In 63 BCE, the
Roman Empire took control of Palestine.

Four major (and some minor) religious sects had formed by the 1st century
AD: the Basusim, Essenes, Pharisees and Sadducees. Many anticipated the
arrival of the Messiah who would drive the Roman invaders out and restore
independence. Christianity was established initially as a Jewish sect,
centered in Jerusalem. Paul broke with this tradition and spread the
religion to the Gentiles (non-Jews). Many mini-revolts led to the
destruction of Jerusalem and its temple in 70 CE. The Jewish Christians were
wiped out or scattered at this time. The movement started by Paul flourished
and quickly evolved into the religion of Christianity. Jews were scattered
throughout the known world. Their religion was no longer centered in
Jerusalem; Jews were prohibited from setting foot there. Judaism became
decentralized and stopped seeking converts. The local synagogue became the
new center of Jewish life, and authority shifted from the centralized
priesthood to local scholars and teachers, giving rise to Rabbinic Judaism.

The period from the destruction of the temple onward give rise to heavy
persecution by Christians throughout Europe and Russia. Many groundless
stories were spread, accusing Jews of ritual murder, the desecration of the
Catholic host and continuing responsibility for the execution of Jesus .
Unsubstantiated rumors continue to be circulated today. In the 1930s and
1940s, Adolph Hitler and the German Nazi party drew on centuries of
anti-Semitism, and upon their own psychotic beliefs in racial purity. They
organized the Holocaust, the attempted extermination of all Jews in Europe.
About 6 million were killed in one of the world's greatest examples of
religious and racial intolerance.

The Zionist movement was a response within all Jewish traditions to
centuries of Christian persecution. Their initial goal was create a Jewish
homeland in Palestine. The state of Israel was formed on 1948-MAY-18.

There are currently about 18 million Jews throughout the world. They are
mainly concentrated in North America (about 7 million) and Israel (about 4.5
million).

Jewish Texts
The Tanakh corresponds to the Jewish Scriptures, (often referred to as the
Old Testament by Christians). It is composed of three groups of books:

 the Torah Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.
 the Nevi'im, the Prophetic books of Isaiah, Amos, etc.
 the Ketuvim, the "Writings" including Kings, Chronicles, etc.

The Talmud contains stories, laws, medical knowledge, debates about moral
choices, etc. It is composed of material which comes mainly from two
sources:

 the Mishnah, 6 "orders" containing hundreds of chapters, including series
of laws from the Hebrew Scriptures. It was compiled about 200 CE.
 the Gemara (one Babylonian and one Palestinian) is encyclopedic in scope.
It includes comments from hundreds of Rabbis from 200 - 500 CE, explaining
the Mishnah with additional historical, religious, legal, sociological, etc.
material. It often records many different opinions on a topic without giving
a definitive answer.


Traditional Jewish Beliefs
They include:

 G-d is the creator of all that exists; he is one, incorporeal (without a
body), and he alone is to be worshipped as absolute ruler of the universe.
 The first five books of the Hebrew Bible were revealed to Moses by G-d. It
will not be changed or augmented in the future.
 G-d has communicated to the Jewish people through prophets.
 G-d monitors the activities of humans; he rewards individuals for good
deeds and punishes evil
 Although Christians base much of their faith on the same Hebrew Scriptures
as Jews, there are major differences in belief:  Jews generally consider
actions and behavior to be of primary importance; beliefs come out of
actions. This conflicts with conservative Christians for whom belief is of
primary importance and actions tend to be secondary.
 Jewish belief does not accept the Christian concept of original sin (the
belief that all people have inherited Adam and Eve's sin when they disobeyed
G-d's instructions in the Garden of Eden).
 Judaism affirms the inherent goodness of the world and its people as
creations of G-d.
 Believers are able to sanctify their lives and draw closer to G-d by
performing fulfilling mitzvot (divine commandments).
 No savior is needed or is available as an intermediary.
 Beliefs about Jesus vary considerably. Some view him as a great moral
teacher. Others see him as a false prophet or as an idol of Christianity.
Some sects of Judaism will not even say his name due to the prohibition
against saying an idol's name.

 The Jews are often referred to as G-d's chosen people. This does not mean
that they are in any way to be considered superior to other groups. Biblical
verses such as Exodus 19:5 simply imply that G-d has selected Israel to
receive and study the Torah, to worship G-d only, to rest on the Sabbath,
and to celebrate the festivals. Jews were not chosen to be better that
others; they were simply selected to receive more difficult
responsibilities, and more onerous punishment if they fail.
 The 613 commandments found in Leviticus and other books regulate all
aspects of Jewish life
 The Ten commandments, as delineated in Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy
5:6-21, form a brief synopsis of the Law
 The Messiah (anointed one of G-d) will arrive in the future and gather Jews
once more into the land of Israel. There will be a general resurrection of
the dead at that time. The Jerusalem Temple, destroyed in 70 CE, will be
rebuilt.
 Boys reach the status of Bar Mitzvah on their 13th birthday; girls reach
Bat Mitzvah on their 12th birthday. This means that they are recognized as
adults and are personally responsible to follow the Jewish commandments and
laws; they are allowed to lead a religious service; they are counted in a
"minyan" (a quota of men necessary to perform certain parts of religious
services); they can sign contracts; they can testify in religious courts;
theoretically, they can marry, although the Talmud recommends 18 to 24 as
the proper age for marriage.

The more liberal movements within Judaism differ from some of the above
beliefs concerning the source of the Torah, the concept of direct reward and
punishment according to one's behavior, etc.

Jewish Practices
They include:

 Observation of the Sabbath as a day of rest, starting at sundown on Friday
evening.
 Strict discipline, according to the Law, which governs all areas of life
 Regular attendance by Jewish males at Synagogue
 Celebration of the annual festivals including:  Passover, or Pesach is held
each Spring to recall the Jews' deliverance out of slavery in Egypt circa
1300 BCE. A ritual Seder meal is eaten in each observing Jewish home at this
time. Six different foods are placed on the seder plate in the order in
which they area eaten:  Maror (bitter herbs) to symbolize the bitterness of
slavery
 Zeroa (lamb shankbone) to recall the Passover sacrifice in the ancient
temple
 Choroset (apple, nuts & spices with wine) represents the mortar used by
Hebrew slaves
 Chazeret (bitter vegetables) also to symbolize the bitterness of slavery
 Karpas (vegetables dipped in salt water) recalls the bitter tears shed
during slavery
 Beitzah (roasted egg) symbolizes mourning, sacrifice, spring, and renewal.

 Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year, and is the anniversary of creation,
about 5760 years ago. It is held in the fall.
 The 10 days from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, are
days of fasting and penitence.
 Sukkoth or the Feast of Booths is an 8 day harvest festival; a time of
thanksgiving.
 Hanukkah or the Feast of Lights is an 8 day feast of dedication. It recalls
the war fought by the Maccabees in the cause of religious freedom. It is
typically observed in December. Originally a minor Jewish holy day, it has
become more important in recent years.
 Purim, the Feast of Lots recalls the defeat by Queen Esther of the plan to
slaughter all of the Persian Jews, circa 400 BCE.
 Shavout, the Feast of Weeks recalls G-d's revelation of the Torah to the
Jewish people. It is held in late May or early June.

Rules for calculating Rosh Hashanah and Passover are available online at:
http://quasar.as.utexas.edu/BillInfo/Quack.html/ReligiousCalendars.html

 The local synagogue is governed by the congregation and is normally led by
a rabbi who has been chosen by the congregation. A rabbi is a teacher who
has been well educated in Jewish law and tradition.
 Any adult male with sufficient knowledge can lead religious services. In
reform and some conservative congregations, a woman can also preside. This
is often done in those Jewish communities who lack a rabbi.
 The Chief Rabbis in France and Great Britain have authority only by the
agreement of those who accept it. Two Chief Rabbis in Israel have civil
authority in areas of family law.

Jewish Movements:
There are five main forms of Judaism in the world today:

 Conservative* Judaism: This began in the mid-nineteenth century as a
reaction against the Reform movement. It is a main-line movement midway
between Reform and Orthodox.
 Humanistic Judaism: This is a very small group, mainly composed of atheists
and agnostics, who regard mankind as the measure of all things.
 Orthodox* Judaism: This the oldest, most conservative, and most diverse
form of Judaism. Modern Orthodox, Chasidim and Ultra Orthodox share a basic
belief in the derivation of Jewish law, even as they hold very different
outlooks on life. They attempt to follow the original form of Judaism as
they view it to be. They look upon every word in their sacred texts as being
divinely inspired.
 Reconstructionist Judaism: This is a new, small, liberal movement started
by Mordecai Kaplan as an attempt to unify and revitalize the religion. They
reject the concept that Jews are a uniquely favored and chosen people. They
have no connection at all with Christian Reconstructionism, which is an
ultra-conservative form of Christianity.
 Reform* Judaism: They are a liberal group, followed by many North American
Jews. The movement started in the 1790's in Germany. They follow the ethical
laws of Judaism, but leave up to the individual the decision whether to
follow or ignore the dietary and other traditional laws. They use modern
forms of worship. There are many female rabbis in reform congregations.

* These are the largest forms of Judaism

Jewish-Christian Relations:
The faith of Israel, as described in the Hebrew Scriptures, had divided into
a number of Jewish Sects (the Basusim, Pharisees, Essenes, Saducees, Zealots
and others) by the early first century CE. Subsequently, a number of events
of momentous importance occurred:

 30 CE: Some Jews, following the teachings of Jeshua (known by Christians as
Jesus Christ), formed a Jewish Christian reform movement within Judaism
under the leadership of James, an apostle of Jeshua.
 circa 55 CE: Paul, a Jewish persecutor of Christians, became converted to
Christianity and started to organize Pauline Christian churches throughout
much of the Roman empire in conflict with the Jewish Christians.
 70 CE: The Roman army destroyed the Temple and the rest of Jerusalem.
 132 CE: Many Jews accepted Bar Kochba as the Messiah. This led to a
hopeless three-year revolt against the Roman Empire. About a half-million
Jews were killed; thousands were sold into slavery or taken into captivity.
The rest were exiled from Palestine and scattered throughout the known world
in what is called the "Diaspora."

Out of these events came two major world religions:

 Judaism in its Rabbinical form, centered in local synagogues, scattered
throughout the known world, and
 Pauline Christianity which later became centered in Rome.

Relations between the two religions became strained. The Christian
Scriptures include many examples of anti-Judaism. One of the gospels,
written during the last third of the 1st century CE, included the accusation
that all Jews, (past, present, and future), are responsible for deicide: the
killing of G-d. This form of religious propaganda was serious enough in its
original setting, as long as Christianity remained a small reform movement
within Judaism. There are many examples of inter-religious friction
throughout literature of that era; indeed, it is prevalent today. But when
the Christian religion became the official religion of Rome in the late 4th
century CE, Christianity became sufficiently powerful to actively oppress
and persecute Jews. This led to numerous exterminations of groups of Jews
during the Dark Ages, Middle Ages, Renaissance and into the modern era.
Ancient Christian teachings and practices paved the way for the Nazi
holocaust during World War II.

Today, only a few fringe Christian groups still teach that Jews are
responsible for Christ's death. Many Christian denominations teach that the
promises that G-d made to the Jewish people have been withdrawn and
transferred to the Christian Church. This teaching has led to conflicts over
attempts to evangelize Jews. Although anti-Semitism has been abandoned by
most in North America, the relationships between Christians and Jews have
much room for improvement.

References
A page of links to Jewish web sites is at: http://www.shamash.org
An index of class notes for a University of Alberta course called "Judaism
in the Modern Age" is at:
http://www.ucalgary.ca/~elsegal/363_Transp/363_list.html
Judaism 101 is an "online encyclopedia of Judaism, covering Jewish beliefs,
people, places, things, language, scripture, holidays, practices and
customs." See: http://www.jewfaq.org
The official FAQ of the Soc.Culture.Jewish newsgroup is at:
http://www.shamash.org/lists/scj-faq/HTML/faq/hl-index.html   This extensive
list of questions and answers was developed by a committee of Jews from all
denominations.
Robert Kaiser, "Frequently Asked Questions about Jewish Principals and
Beliefs," is at:  http://judaism.miningco.com/library/weekly/blrobert_3.htm
Robert Kaiser, "Frequently Asked Questions about Jewish Beliefs and
Theology," is at: http://judaism.miningco.com/library/weekly/blrobert_2.htm
He discusses the Jewish concept of G-d, compares the beliefs of different
Jewish denominations, the concept of the Chosen People, etc.
Zipple.com bill themselves as "The Jewish MEGA-Site" with considerable
justification. It is a wide-ranging Jewish web site with a broad list of
topics. See: http://www.zipple.com/
Click on Judaism is a project of the Reform Movement Commission on Synagogue
Affiliation. It invites Jews in their 20s and 30s to explore liberal
Judaism. See http://www.clickonjudaism.com/
Copyright 1995 to 1999 incl.
Latest update: 1999-DEC-5
Author: B.A. Robinson

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