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A Brief Introduction
Seth Ward
University of Wyoming
Shared History and Literature,
Beliefs and Practices
• Judaism is Believing,
Behaving, Belonging
(Neil Gillman, citing
M. M. Kaplan)
• Ethos, Ethics, Ethnos
(Jacob Neusner,
citing Geertz)
(Abraham Isaac and Jacob)
Exodus (Dated 1311 according
to traditional Judaism)
“United Monarchy”—
Saul, David Solomon
• King David often dated to 1010 BCE
• Map from
• Traditional depiction of Davidic “United
Monarchy” under David and Solomon
• The united monarchy is said to have
united the tribes and preserved them
from the Philistines, established
Jerusalem as a new Capital City, and
built the First Temple.
First Temple Times
• Temple traditionally
built by Solomon
• Often dated c. 960
• Divided monarchy
from about 925-end of
Northern Kingdom
721 BCE
• 1st Temple destroyed
586 BCE
2nd Temple Times
• 2nd Temple Dedicated 516 BCE
• Alexander’s Conquest 330s – Hellenistic
• Maccabean Revolt 167 BCE –
Hasmonean Dynasty (Hanukkah Story)
• Herod, d. 4 BCE
• 1st Jewish Revolt–Temple destroyed 70
During this period, post-Biblical
Judaism emerged, with an identifiable
collection of books (Torah and
Prophets) and a broad commitment to
the major practices described in these
books, such as Sabbath, Festivals,
circumcision, Torah study, and others.
The Dead Sea Scrolls, Roman-period
historians and others suggest a vibrant
debate about belief and practice, role
of the Temple, reading the Bible, and
political, social and educational issues.
Late Antiquity
• Mishnah
• Talmud
• Midrash
2nd Jewish
revolt 130-135
Domination of
Land of Israel
Conquest 630s640s
• Gaonic Period—Centered in Babylonia
– Imposed Talmud, calendar, established teaching
centers, created prayerbook.
• Centers in Rhineland (“Ashkenaz”, North Africa,
Egypt, Palestine, and Spain (“Sepharad”).
• Moses Maimonides d. 1204
Born in Spain, left in Almohad repression, lived in Morocco, land of
Israel and finally Egypt
– Code of Jewish Law
– Commentary on the Mishnah
– Guide of the Perplexed
Medieval Times
• Jewish communities in
Ashkenaz (Germany,
esp. Rhineland)—spread
to Britain, France,
Germany. Expelled from
most of these places.
• Sefarad (Spain) lived
under both Muslim and
Christian societies.
– Expulsion from Spain 1492
• “Different approaches:”
– Rationalism
– Halacha
– Kabbalah
Early Modern Times
• Growth of communities in the Ottoman
Empire, esp. Jerusalem and Safed in the
Land of Israel. (Ottoman conquest 1517).
• Jews in New York 1654, London 1656.
• Shabbetai Tzvi 1666
Modern Times
• Napoleon—Sanhedrin
• Reform—Germany and US 1800s
• Mass Migrations and demographic shifts
– Zionism
– Socialism
– Reform vs. Assimilation
– Secular literature
20th Century
Holocaust 1933-1945
State of Israel 1948
6 day war, Yom Kippur War 1967, 1973
Women in Rabbinate 1970s
Fall of the Soviet Union 1989-1991
• Ancient: Patriarchs, Exodus, Judges, Davidic Kingdom,
First Temple and Divided Monarchy, Second Temple,
Rabbinic Period; Torah, Mishnah/Talmud, basic
• Medieval: Rise of centers in Babylonia (Geonim),
Ashkenaz, Sefarad, and elsewhere; law codes,
commentaries, works on belief, prayerbook, fully
elaborated practice and belief.
• Modern: Demographic change, emancipation,
enlightenment, changes in patterns of practice
• Contemporary: Antisemitism, Holocaust, State of Israel,
new roles for Women, Orthodox/ Conservative/ Reform/
Secular, involvement with general society and modern
intellectual/academic life.
• Bible: Torah, Neviim (Prophets), Ketuvim (writings) "The 24
• Mishna and Talmud: six orders: Agriculture, Seasons,
Women, Damages, Holiness, Purity.
Gemara: Jerusalem (Palestinian) &
Babylonian. Mishna and Gemara together: Talmud.
• Midrash: Legal and Literary (Halacha and Aggadah).
• Prayerbook: First written ”order of prayers” Geonic times;
continuously revised.
• Commentary, Codes: Rashi (d. 1105), Maimonides (d.
1204), R. Joseph Karo’s Shulhan Arukh.
• Piety, Mysticism, Kabbalah: Sefer Ha-Yetsira,
Kuzari, Hovot Ha-levavot, Sefer Ha-Hasidim, Zohar.
• God, Torah, Israel.
• Beliefs about God.
• Torah/Mitzvot "13 articles of Faith"; Israel:
land, community, language, people.
• Sacred land, time, people.
• Creation, Revelation, Redemption
Ani Ma’amin
A poetic restatement of Maimonides’ 13 principles.
So is “Yigdal” sung by young children:
• . 1. I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, blessed be His
Name, is the Creator and Guide of everything that has been created;
He alone has made, does make, and will make all things.
• 2. I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, blessed be His Name,
is One, and that there is no unity in any manner like unto His, and
that He alone is our God, who was, and is, and will be.
• 3. I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, blessed be His Name,
is not a body, and that He is free from all the properties of matter,
and that He has not any form whatever.
• 4. I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, blessed be His Name,
is the first and the last.
• 5. I believe with perfect faith that to the Creator, blessed be
His Name, and to Him alone, it is right to pray, and that it is not right
to pray to any being besides Him.
Ani Ma’amin
• 6. I believe with perfect faith that all the works of the
prophets are true.
• 7. I believe with perfect faith that the prophecy of Moses,
our teacher, peace be unto him, was true, and that he
was the chief of the prophets, both of those
who preceded and of those who followed him.
• 8. I believe with perfect faith that the whole Torah, now in
our possession, is the same that was given to Moses,
our teacher, peace be unto him.
• 9. I believe with perfect faith that this Torah will not be
changed, and that there will never be any other Law from
the Creator, blessed be His name.
Ani Ma’amin
• 10. I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, blessed be His name,
knows very deed of the children of men, and all their thoughts, as it
is said. It is He that fashioned the hearts of them all, that gives heed
to all their works.
• 11. I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, blessed be His
Name, rewards those that keep His commandments and punishes
those that transgress them.
• 12. I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the Messiah; and,
though he tarry, I will wait daily for his coming.
• 13. I believe with perfect faith that there will be a revival of the dead
at the time when it shall please the Creator, blessed be His name,
and exalted be His Fame for ever and ever.
• Shema: “Hear O Israel the Lord is Our God the Lord
is One.”
Deut 6: 4. Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one
LORD: 5. And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all
thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.
6. And these words, which I command thee this day,
shall be in thine heart: 7. And thou shalt teach them
diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when
thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the
way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
8. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand,
and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.
9. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy
house, and on thy gates.
• Study “In the study of Torah, the Sages see God” (Neusner).
• Commandments (mitzvot) – 613 negative and positive, community
and individual, rational and traditional, between Man and Man,
between Man and God.
• Ritual , Milah, Hodesh, Veshabbat (“Circumcision, New Moon,
"Judaism is not loyalty to geography, language, race or power, but Torah."
"More than the Jews have kept the Sabbath, the Sabbath has kept the Jews.“
(Ahad Ha-Am)
Prayer: Morning, afternoon and evening, formal prayer. Three main
elements of prayer:
– 1. Shema.
– 2. Tefila (“Prayer”)– or Amida (“Standing”)“May our lips replace the
animal offerings”
– 3. Torah Reading and Study.
• Ethics: e.g. Lashon Ha-Ra ("The Evil Tongue"). Charity.
– Tikkun Olam “Repairing the World.”
“New Moon” (twelve or 13 lunar months)
Passover, Shavuot, Sukkot
Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur
Hanukkah, Purim
Holocaust, Memorial Day, Israel
Independence Day, Jerusalem Day.
God, Torah/Commandments, Israel
"The world stands on three things:
On Torah, on Worship and deeds
of kindness." (Avot)
Study, performance of commandments, and
charitable acts in our world maintain and
redeem the Jewish people and the world.