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Mar 31, 2019 at 01:16 PM

Judaism

Informer: Wegen Fantu, from Religion category

Photo 1. Passover Meal
A Yemenite family gathers in Israel for the Seder meal to celebrate the Jewish festival of Passover. The foods shown in the foreground symbolize some aspect of the ordeal of the Israelites during their enslavement in Egypt. These symbolic foods include unleavened bread (matzoh), bitter herbs, and a lamb shank.
img source: Encarta Encyclopedia, Richard Nowitz/Corbis

Judaism, religious culture of the Jews (also known as the people of Israel); one of the world’s oldest continuing religious traditions.
The terms Judaism and religion do not exist in premodern Hebrew. The Jews spoke of Torah, God’s revealed instruction to Israel, which mandated both a worldview and a way of life—Halakhah. Halakhah derives from the Hebrew word “to go” and has come to mean the “way” or “path.” It encompasses Jewish law, custom, and practice. Premodern Judaism, in all its historical forms, thus constituted (and traditional Judaism today constitutes) an integrated cultural system encompassing the totality of individual and communal existence. It is a system of sanctification in which all is to be subsumed under God’s rule—that is, under divinely revealed models of cosmic order and lawfulness. Christianity originated as one among several competing Jewish ideologies in 1st-century Palestine, and Islam drew in part on Jewish sources at the outset. Because most Jews, from the 7th century on, have lived within the cultural sphere of either Christianity or Islam, these religions have had an impact on the subsequent history of Judaism.
Judaism originated in the land of Israel (also known as Palestine) in the Middle East. Subsequently, Jewish communities have existed at one time or another in almost all parts of the world, a result of both voluntary migrations of Jews and forced exile or expulsions (see Diaspora). According to the American Jewish Yearbook, the total world Jewish population in the year 2000 was estimated at 13.2 million, of whom 5.7 million lived in the United States, 4.8 million in Israel, 530,000 in France, and 438,000 in the former Soviet Union. These are the four largest centers of Jewish settlement. Other significant Jewish communities are found in Canada (360,000), Great Britain (276,000), Argentina (200,000), and South Africa (80,000).

A. Monotheism

As a rich and complex religious tradition, Judaism has never been monolithic. Its various historical forms nonetheless have shared certain characteristic features. The most essential of these is a radical monotheism, that is, the belief that a single, transcendent God created the universe and continues providentially to govern it. Undergirding this monotheism is the teleological conviction that the world is both intelligible and purposive, because a single divine intelligence stands behind it. Nothing that humanity experiences is capricious; everything ultimately has meaning.
From ancient through medieval times, various forms of Judaism have acknowledged the role of other heavenly beings, such as angels, and have warned against various forces of a demonic nature. But these forces have always been regarded as the creations of God, subordinate to the divine will, and ultimately irrelevant to the primary mission of the Jewish people, which is to acknowledge the unity of God and to serve God in the world.

B. Revelation

The mind of God is manifest to the traditional Jew in both the natural order, through creation, and the social-historical order, through revelation. The same God who created the world revealed himself to the people, Israel, at Mount Sinai. The content of that revelation is the Torah (“revealed instruction”), God’s will for humankind expressed in commandments (mizvoth) by which individuals are to regulate their lives in interacting with one another and with God. By living in accordance with God’s laws and submitting to the divine will, humanity can become a harmonious part of the cosmos. It is primarily as a community bound together in obedience to God’s Torah that the Jews view their role in the larger human community. By testifying to the unity of God and the centrality of the divine will as revealed in the Torah, they seek to draw the attention of all humanity to the unique God of all creation.

C. Covenant:

Although all forms of Judaism have been rooted in the Hebrew Bible (referred to by Jews as the Tanach, an acronym for its three sections: Torah, the Pentateuch; Nebiim, the prophetic literature; and Ketubim, the other writings), it would be an error to think of Judaism as simply the “religion of the Old Testament.” Contemporary Judaism is ultimately derived from the rabbinic movement of the first centuries of the Christian era in Palestine and Babylonia and is therefore called rabbinic Judaism.
Rabbi, in Aramaic and Hebrew, means “my teacher.” The rabbis, Jewish sages adept in studying the Scriptures and their own traditions, maintained that God had revealed to Moses on Sinai a twofold Torah. In addition to the written Torah (Scripture), God revealed an oral Torah, faithfully transmitted by word of mouth in an unbroken chain from master to disciple, and preserved now among the rabbis themselves. For the rabbis, the oral Torah was encapsulated in the Mishnah (“that which is learned or memorized”), the earliest document of rabbinic literature, edited in Palestine at the turn of the 3rd century. Subsequent rabbinic study of the Mishnah in Palestine and Babylonia generated two Talmuds (“that which is studied”; also called Gemera, an Aramaic term with the same meaning; see Talmud), wide-ranging commentaries on the Mishnah. The Babylonian Talmud, edited about the 6th century, became the foundation document of rabbinic Judaism.
Early rabbinic writings also include exegetical and homiletical commentaries on Scripture (the Midrashim; see Midrash) and several Aramaic translations of the Pentateuch and other scriptural books (the see Targums). Medieval rabbinic writings include codifications of talmudic law, the most authoritative of which is the 16th-century Shulhan Arukh (Set Table) by Joseph ben Ephraim Caro. In Judaism, the study of Torah refers to the study of all this literature, not simply of the Pentateuch (“the Torah,” in the narrow sense).

D. Prayers and Services

According to the rules codified in the Talmud and the medieval law codes, Jews must offer communal prayers three times a day: in the morning (shaharith), afternoon (minhah), and evening (maarib). The times of prayer are deemed to correspond to the times when sacrifices were offered in the Jerusalem Temple. In this and other ways, rabbinic Judaism metaphorically carries forward the structure of the destroyed Temple cult. A company of ten men forms a congregation, or quorum (minyan), for prayer. If a community is unable to summon a minyan, individuals are still obliged to offer these prayers. But the service is somewhat abbreviated.
The single required component of all Jewish worship services is a series of benedictions called the Tefillah (“prayer”); it is also known as the Amidah, or “standing” prayer, because it is recited standing, and the Shemoneh Esreh, because it originally contained 18 benedictions. On weekdays it is now composed of 19 benedictions, including 13 petitions for welfare and messianic restoration. On see Sabbaths and festivals, these petitions are replaced by occasional prayers. A second major rubric is the recitation of the Shema in the morning and evening. All services conclude with two messianic prayers, the first called Alenu, the second an Aramaic doxology called the Kaddish.
As a sign of devotion to God, the observant adult male Jew during weekday morning prayers wears both a fringed prayer shawl (tallith; the fringes are called zizith) and phylacteries (prayer boxes, called tefillin). Both customs are derived from the scriptural passages that are recited as the Shema, as is a third, the placing of a mezuzah (prayer box) on the doorpost of one’s house, a further reminder that God is everywhere. As a gesture of respect to God, the head is covered during prayer, either with a hat or a skullcap (kippah; Yiddish yarmulke). Pious Jews wear a head covering at all times, recognizing God’s constant presence.

E. Torah

The study of Torah, the revealed will of God, also is considered an act of worship in rabbinic Judaism. Passages from Scripture, Mishnah, and Talmud are recited during daily morning services. On Monday and Thursday mornings, a handwritten parchment scroll of the Torah (that is, the Pentateuch) is removed from the ark at the front of the synagogue and read, with cantillation (chanting), before the congregation. The major liturgical Torah readings take place on Sabbath and festival mornings. In the course of a year, the entire Torah will be read on Sabbaths. The annual cycle begins again every autumn at a celebration called Simhath Torah (“rejoicing in the Torah”), which falls at the end of the Sukkot festival. Torah readings for the festivals deal with the themes and observances of the day. Thematically appropriate readings from the Prophets (Haftarah, meaning “conclusion”) accompany the Torah readings on Sabbaths and festivals. The public reading of Scripture thus constitutes a significant part of synagogue worship. In fact, this appears originally to have been the primary function of the synagogue as an institution.

F. The Sabbath

The Jewish liturgical calendar carries forward the divisions of time prescribed in the Torah and observed in the Temple cult. Every seventh day is the Sabbath, when no work is performed. By this abstention, the Jew returns the world to its owner, that is, God, acknowledging that humans extract its produce only on sufferance. The two versions of the biblical Ten Commandments explain the necessity for Sabbath rest in complementary ways. In Exodus 20:8-11 the Sabbath is described as a reenactment of God’s rest from the six days of creation. In Deuteronomy 5:12-15 the Sabbath rest is explained as a commemoration of the liberation from Egyptian enslavement. In either explanation the Sabbath has come to be the most distinctive holy day of Judaism. It is spent in prayer, study, rest, and family feasting (see Kiddush). An additional (musaf) service is recited in the synagogue on Sabbaths and festivals, corresponding to the additional sacrifice that is offered in the Temple on these days.

G. Festivals

The Jewish year includes five major festivals and two minor ones. Three of the major festivals originally were agricultural and are tied to the seasons in the land of Israel. Pesach (Passover), the spring festival, marks the beginning of the barley harvest, and Shabuoth (Weeks or Pentecost) marks its conclusion 50 days later. Sukkot (Tabernacles) celebrates the autumn harvest and is preceded by a 10-day period of communal purification. From an early date, these festivals came to be associated with formative events in Israel’s historical memory. Passover celebrates the Exodus from Egypt. Shabuoth is identified as the time of the giving of the Torah on Sinai. It is marked by the solemn reading of the Ten Commandments in the synagogue. Sukkot is still observed primarily as a harvest festival, but the harvest booths in which Jews eat during the festival’s seven days also are identified with the booths in which the Israelites dwelt on their journey to the Promised Land. The ten-day penitential period before Sukkot is inaugurated by Rosh Hashanah, the New Year, and concludes with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. According to tradition, the world is judged each New Year and the decree sealed on the Day of Atonement. A ram’s horn (shofar) is blown on the New Year to call the people to repentance. The Day of Atonement, the holiest day in the Jewish year, is spent in fasting, prayer, and confession. Its liturgy begins with the plaintive chanting of the Kol Nidre formula and includes a remembrance of the day’s rites (avodah) in the Temple.
The two minor festivals, Hanukkah and Purim, are later in origin than the five Pentateuchally prescribed festivals. Hanukkah (Dedication) commemorates the victory of the Maccabees over the Syrian king Antiochus IV in 165 bc and the ensuing rededication of the Second Temple. Purim (Lots) celebrates the tale of Persian Jewry’s deliverance by see Esther and Mordecai. It occurs a month before Passover and is marked by the festive reading in the synagogue of the Scroll of Esther (megillah). Four fast days, commemorating events in the siege and destruction of the two Temples in 586 bc and ad 70, complete the liturgical year. The most important of these is Tishah b’Ab, or the Ninth of Ab, observed as the day on which both Temples were destroyed.

H. Special Occasions:

Significant events in the life cycle of the Jew also are observed in the community. At the age of eight days, a male child is publicly initiated into the covenant of Abraham through circumcision (berith milah). Boys reach legal maturity at the age of 13, when they assume responsibility for observing all the commandments (bar mitzvah) and are called for the first time to read from the Torah in synagogue. Girls reach maturity at 12 years of age and, in modern Liberal synagogues, also read from the Torah (bat mitzvah). In the 19th century, the modernizing Reform movement instituted the practice of confirmation for both young men and women of secondary school age. The ceremony is held on Shabuoth and signifies acceptance of the faith revealed at Sinai. The next turning point in a Jew’s life is marriage (kiddushin, “sanctification”). Even at the hour of greatest personal joy, Jews recall the sorrows of their people. The seven wedding benedictions include petitionary prayers for the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the return of the Jewish people to Zion. Also, at the Jewish funeral the hope for resurrection of the deceased is included in a prayer for the redemption of the Jewish people as a whole. The pious Jewish male is buried in his tallith.

I. Dietary Laws

Since ancient times, Jews have been known among non-Jewish observers through their distinctive dietary observances. Many of these dietary laws relate to the ancient Temple cult. One’s table at home is deemed analogous to the table of the Lord that once existed in the Jerusalem Temple. Certain animals, considered unclean (see Genesis 7:2-3), could not be used in sacrificial service at the altar. Therefore, they are not to be eaten even in secular settings (see Deuteronomy 14:3-21). Into this category fall pigs, donkeys, camels, and other animals. The Bible also prohibits eating fish without fins or scales and other creatures deemed to violate in some way certain norms. Edible domestic animals—those that have split hooves and chew their cuds—must be properly slaughtered (kāshēr, or “fit”) and the blood fully drained before the meat can be eaten (see Genesis 9:5). In a most radical interpretation of the biblical prohibition against boiling calves and other young animals in their mothers’ milk, rabbinic halakhah prohibits the consumption of foods containing a mixture of milk and meat. See Kosher.

J. The Rabbinic Tradition

Although all forms of Judaism have been rooted in the Hebrew Bible (referred to by Jews as the Tanach, an acronym for its three sections: Torah, the Pentateuch; Nebiim, the prophetic literature; and Ketubim, the other writings), it would be an error to think of Judaism as simply the “religion of the Old Testament.” Contemporary Judaism is ultimately derived from the rabbinic movement of the first centuries of the Christian era in Palestine and Babylonia and is therefore called rabbinic Judaism.
Rabbi, in Aramaic and Hebrew, means “my teacher.” The rabbis, Jewish sages adept in studying the Scriptures and their own traditions, maintained that God had revealed to Moses on Sinai a twofold Torah. In addition to the written Torah (Scripture), God revealed an oral Torah, faithfully transmitted by word of mouth in an unbroken chain from master to disciple, and preserved now among the rabbis themselves. For the rabbis, the oral Torah was encapsulated in the Mishnah (“that which is learned or memorized”), the earliest document of rabbinic literature, edited in Palestine at the turn of the 3rd century. Subsequent rabbinic study of the Mishnah in Palestine and Babylonia generated two Talmuds (“that which is studied”; also called Gemera, an Aramaic term with the same meaning; see Talmud), wide-ranging commentaries on the Mishnah. The Babylonian Talmud, edited about the 6th century, became the foundation document of rabbinic Judaism.
Early rabbinic writings also include exegetical and homiletical commentaries on Scripture (the Midrashim; see Midrash) and several Aramaic translations of the Pentateuch and other scriptural books (the see Targums). Medieval rabbinic writings include codifications of talmudic law, the most authoritative of which is the 16th-century Shulhan Arukh (Set Table) by Joseph ben Ephraim Caro. In Judaism, the study of Torah refers to the study of all this literature, not simply of the Pentateuch (“the Torah,” in the narrow sense).



Info source: Microsoft student Microsoft ® Encarta






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