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Judaism: Tradition and Change Distinctive characteristics Dialogical Jewish history is “a continuing dialogue with God” rooted in a covenant Both sides—people and God—participate The dialogue is grounded in each side’s obligations to covenant Adaptive Often takes the form of argument in the Bible and rabbinic writings Has changed, radically at times, to accommodate new cultures and new challenges while preserving essential tradition Ortho-praxis (“right practice”) Focus on keeping mitzvot (commandments) as expression of covenant Doctrine can vary widely Ancient Israel: Historical setting Developed in Mesopotamia ca. 3000 yrs ago Tiny land, small group of people fighting for survival Surrounded by powerful empires that rise and fall Akkadia, Egypt, Assyria, Babylonia, Greece, Rome Yet incredibly influential in Western culture Key ideas Monotheistic Contrasts with other Ancient Near Eastern religions Had multiple deities, consorts, were more like humans Also had fertility gods and rituals; Creator might be hostile In contrast, Israel’s God is different from humans Fundamental statement of belief: Shema Yisrael: “Hear O Israel, the Lord your God, the Lord is One” not male (no consort) Always draws contrast (“Am I a man, that I should lie?”) Calls humans to higher moral standards But, cares deeply about people Covenant Central idea in Judaism God is revealed in history History has an end goal, is meaningful Belief is lived out practically Covenants in Judaism God with Noah God with Abraham (Gen 12, 15, 17) Big one: God with Moses and Israel on Mt. Sinai (book of Exodus) Exodus Story Central narrative in Judaism Paradigm: continues to interpret new experiences Retold each year in the Seder meal of Passover Remembers past, and interprets present circumstances as an ongoing story of God’s liberation of the oppressed Story that establishes identity Of God as liberator Of Israel as a people of God Of their covenantal relationship: each has obligations Seder Haggadah Traditional story, blessings, songs, prayers Yet flexible: many versions Unites past, present, and future Foods: symbols of Exodus story Cup for Elijah Roles for the kids Seder, cont. What makes this a ritual? How does it disclose identity: What makes it meaningful? Of Jews (Settings, p. 134, 137) Of God What does it mean for Jews today? Ongoing development: Rabbinic Judaism Major crisis: destruction of Jerusalem Temple by Romans in 70 CE Need new ways to practice religion in diaspora, without a geographic center, Temple, or priesthood Rabbis present new adaptable model: study and prayer in the synagogue and at home Focus on study Torah: Hebrew Bible Talmud (400-500 CE) includes: Mishnah (200 CE): record of oral tradition by rabbis Gemara: commentary on Mishnah 613 mitzvot (commandments) Focus on ritual and prayer in home and synagogue Sabbath (shabbat), holidays, keeping mitzvot Major change: Reform Judaism Assumption: “Jewish law, halachah, is an historical collection of human responses to the divine.” (“Synagogues,” 100) Redefined Judaism’s place in the modern world (101) Develops in 1800s Germany Time of Enlightenment Legal changes Belief in universality of truth, known through reason Religion seen as valuable for teaching morals Questioned religious authorities, scriptures Emancipation laws give Jews citizenship Many Jews see value in assimilating to European society Adapted rabbinic Judaism to modern life Focus on moral law and social justice Traditions are adaptable keeping kosher, observing Sabbath, studying Torah and Talmud critically Jewish Synagogue interior Movements of Judaism Orthodox Conservative Started in 1913 in U.S. as a middle ground between Reform and Orthodox About 40-43% of American Jews Reform About 10% of American Jews Majority of Jews in Europe, Israel About 35-40% of American Jews Reconstructionist Started in 1967 in U.S.