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Torah and Tradition. The Rhythms of Jewish Life. Jewish Time. The Jewish calendar revolves around the seasons of the year in the land of Israel. The Jewish Year. Based on a lunar calendar  7 leap months in every 19-year cycle.

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Torah and Tradition

The Rhythms of Jewish Life


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Jewish Time

The Jewish calendar revolves around the seasons of the year in the land of Israel.


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The Jewish Year

  • Based on a lunar calendar  7 leap months in every 19-year cycle.

  • First month in the spring, but the New Year (Rosh Hashanah) celebrated in the 7th month.

  • Jewish time is reckoned from the putative time of the creation of the world  5769 A.M. (cf. Bishop Ussher 4004 BCE).

Zodiac from floor of Bet-Alpha Synagogue, 6th century CE.


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The Sabbath (Shabbat)

  • The most important day in the Jewish calendar.

  • Weekly com-memoration of divine creative act.

  • In emulation of God, no work may be performed.

  • Celebrated both at home and in the community.

Isidor Kaufmann, Friday Evening


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A Musical Interlude

  • Lekha dodi

    • Come, my beloved,

  • Liqra’t kalla

    • To greet the bride;

  • Peney Shabbat

    • The Sabbath presence

  • Neqabbela

    • Let us receive.

  • Mystical Sabbath hymn

  • Versions from Italy (16th cent.) & Germany (19th cent.)

Sabbath Candles & Wine Decanter


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  • Yom Kippur: The Day of Atonement. Full day of fasting and prayer.

Maurycy Gottlieb, Yom Kippur

The High Holidays

  • Rosh Hashanah: The Jewish New Year.

  • The Ten Days of Repentance: Squaring accounts with one’s fellow human beings.

Man blowing a shofar (“ram’s horn”) at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.


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Siddur (Prayerbook)

  • Repository of Jewish theology.

  • Quite long, because it was continually added to.

  • Written mainly in Hebrew.

    Major themes:

  • Creation (Yotzer/Maariv)

  • Revelation (Ahavat Olam/ Ahavah Rabbah)

  • Covenant (Shema & Ve-ahavta)

  • Redemption (Mi Khamokha/Aleinu)

  • Connection to Holy Land & City (Amidah/Mussaf)

Tripartite Mahzor, Germany, ca. 1320 CE


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The Pilgrimage Festivals

  • Pesach (Passover): Commemoration of the Exodus from Egypt. Celebrated with a ritual meal (Seder) and the avoidance of leavened foods. Originally a spring festival. (Schiffman 12.3.3 about the Seder).

  • Shavuot (Weeks/Pentecost): Commemoration of the revelation on Mount Sinai. Originally the first barley harvest.

  • Sukkot (Booths/Tabernacles): Commemoration of the temporary shelters of the Israelites in the desert. Originally a fall harvest festival. Simchat Torah at end.

    • Cf. Schiffman 2.4.3 about biblical festivals


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    The Haggadah

    • “Retelling” of the story of God’s redemption of the Israelites from Egypt for use at Passover Seder.

      Two central concepts:

    • Reliving experience.

    • Teaching children.

    Sarajevo Haggadah - Blessings


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    Additional Holidays

    Purim in Israel

    • Purim: Celebration of rescue of the Jews during time of Queen Esther  “Jewish Carnival”.

    • Hanukkah: Festival of “rededication” of Temple by Maccabees in 164 BCE. NOT a “Jewish Christmas”!

    • Tisha b’Av: Fast day commemorating a number of disasters including the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem (2X) and the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492.

    • Two modern additions: Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) and Yom Haatzmaut (Israeli Independence Day).

    Hanukkah

    Symbols


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    Birth

    • Brit Milah (= Bris): At eight days male babies are circumcised as a sign of their entering the covenant.

    • Brit Bat: In recent years, equivalent ceremonies for girls have been developed.


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    Bar/Bat Mitzvah

    • Bar Mitzvah: A boy’s coming of religious age at 13.

    • Custom arose in Germany in the Middle Ages to mark the event by publicly being called to the Torah for the first time.

    • In the 20th century, bat mitzvah was added for girls at either 12 or 13 years of age.


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    Marriage

    • Midrash: What has God been doing since creation? Trying to arrange marriages (with limited success)!

    • Marriage as central rite for Jewish continuity and survival  raising a family.

    • Formal agreement.

    • Wedding ceremony takes place underneath the Chuppah (“canopy”).

      Three signifiers:

    • Contract: Ketubbah.

    • Gift of object: Ring.

    • Sex: Yichud.


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    Death

    • Although there is an indistinct belief in an afterlife, the focus of Judaism is on this world.

    • Simple and quick burial  maintaining dignity of the deceased  no cremation (officially).

    • Elaborate mourning ritual designed to ease the mourners back into normal life (Shiva  Shloshim  Kaddish).

    Jewish Cemetery in Worms, Germany

    Burial Society Cup


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    Sacred Space

    Western Wall, Jerusalem


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    Jerusalem and the Holy Land

    • Land promised to biblical ancestors.

    • City chosen by God.

    • Locus of God’s indwelling on earth.

    • Focus of Jewish aspirations and messianic hopes over the centuries.


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    Jews at the Western Wall in 1880

    Israel and Zionism

    • Continual Jewish presence in land.

    • Hope of redemption and restoration basic to Jewish theology through the ages.

    • Modern Zionism arose as a result of persecution and the failure of assimilation.

    • To be a nation like all other nations.

    • The founding of the State of Israel shortly after the Holocaust interpreted by some as the beginning of the messianic redemptive promise.


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    Contemporary Issues

    • Conversion

      • “Jews by choice”

    • Intermarriage

    • Assimilation

    • Anti-Semitism

    • Who is a Jew?

      • Matrilineality vs. patrilineality

    • The role of women in Jewish life

    • The role of gender/sexuality

    • Israel


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    Facing a Precarious Future

    • Assimilation

      • Problem in open societies

    • Anti-Semitism

      • Growing problem once again throughout the world

      • the “three-D” distinction between legitimate criticism of Israel and the new anti-Semitism - demonization, double standards and delegitimization (Natan Sharansky)

    Ahmad Hijazi al-Saqa, Protocols of the Elders of Zion and their Biblical and Talmudic Origins (Al-Azhar University, 2003)



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