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Chapter 2. Judaism. Let Us Pray. Instill in me, O Lord, the wisdom You gave the people of Israel: I am your God; you are my people. Grant me a steadfast heart During my struggles. Lead me in your ways. May I abide in your house Now and forever. Amen. Chapter Outline.

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Chapter 2

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Chapter 2 l.jpg

Chapter 2

Judaism


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Let Us Pray

Instill in me, O Lord, the wisdom

You gave the people of Israel:

I am your God; you are my people.

Grant me a steadfast heart

During my struggles.

Lead me in your ways.

May I abide in your house

Now and forever.

Amen.


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Chapter Outline

  • Judaism is the religion of a particular people—the Jewish people, or “the people of Israel”

  • Jewish beliefs, practices, and identity emerge out of historical encounters with their God

  • Jews celebrate their communal relationship with God in weekly Sabbath and seasonal holy days

  • Jews link major events in their life cycle with their identity as a people in covenant with God


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To Be a Jew Means . . .

  • To be born of a Jewish mother, or

  • To convert to Judaism

  • What does this traditional definition say about what it means to be Jewish?

  • Is this definition different from how someone is identified with other religions?

  • What does this definition suggest about the role of beliefs in Judaism?


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Covenant: Finding God in History

Central to Judaism are the beliefs that:

  • God is present in history, and

  • God has established an agreement with the Jewish people to be faithful to them forever.


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Covenant: Finding God in History

  • Do you find any indications that God continues to be manifest today?

  • A covenant is an agreement between God and people. God laid out a framework for how people were to be faithful to the covenant in the Ten Commandments. What do you think God requires of people today?

  • “Deism” is an understanding of God popular during the Enlightenment period in Europe. It accepts that God created the world but then stepped aside and has had no involvement in human affairs since then. Are you a deist? Why or why not?


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Exodus Themes:Liberation and Ethical Monotheism

  • What forms of “slavery” do people need to be liberated from today?

  • What would you personally and the world community do differently if you and it strove for liberation?

  • Does belief in one God by definition imply that people try to live a moral life?

  • What are some moral principles that flow from belief in one God?


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Prophets of Israel

Characteristics of the biblical prophets:

  • They confront the status quo and commonly accepted beliefs.

  • They are at first reluctant to speak.

  • They live outside of the establishment.

  • They suffer because of their message.

  • Their message is challenging.

  • They call people to do what God tells them, otherwise there will be trouble.

  • They rebuke people for putting their faith in other things (military might, wealth) besides God.


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Prophets of Israel (Continued)

Characteristics of the biblical prophets:

  • They proclaim that God demands justice, especially for those who are poor, suffering, and outcast.

  • They preach hope in the midst of darkness.

  • Name some people today who embody some of the characteristics of a prophet. How do they?

  • What types of prophets do we need today?

  • Read about some of the biblical prophets. What issues do you think they would address today?


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The Books of the Hebrew Bible

The Hebrew Bible contains thirty-nine books, the earliest parts of which may date to the eleventh century B.C.E. Around 100 C.E. Jewish scholars settled on the following thirty-nine books as the Hebrew Bible.

  • Torah (Five Books of Moses, Pentateuch)

    Genesis

    Exodus

    Leviticus

    Numbers

    Deuteronomy


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Nevi’im (Prophets)

Joshua

Judges

I Samuel

II Samuel

I Kings

II Kings

Latter Prophets

Isaiah

Jeremiah

Ezekiel

Books of the Bible, cont’d


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The Twelve Minor Prophets

Hosea

Joel

Amos

Obadiah

Jonah

Micah

Nahum

Habakuk

Zephaniah

Haggai

Zechariah

Malachai

Ketuvim (The Writings)

Psalms

Proverbs

Job

Five Scrolls

Song of Songs

Ruth

Lamentations

Ecclesiastes

Esther

Daniel

Ezra

Nehemiah

I Chronicles

II Chronicles


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History of Israel during the Biblical Era

  • Age of the Patriarchs (c.1800-1500B.C.E.)

    Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and the Twelve Tribes of Israel

  • The Exodus (c.1250 B.C.E.)

    Moses

  • Period of the Judges (1200-1000 B.C.E.)

    Joshua, Gideon, Samson, and others

  • United Kingdom; first temple built (1000 B.C.E.)

    Saul, David, Solomon


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History of Israel during the Biblical Era (Continued)

  • Divided Kingdoms (Judah and Israel); Age of the Prophets (c.925-586 B.C.E.)

    Jeremiah, Micah, Joel, and other prophets

  • Babylonian Captivity (586-537 B.C.E.)

  • Beginning of Second Jewish Commonwealth (536 B.C.E.)

  • Maccabean/Hasmonean Revolt against Greeks (167 B.C.E)

  • Rome destroys Temple; end of Jewish nation until 1948 C.E. (70 C.E.)


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Talmud: The Rabbis Interpret the Scriptures

The Talmud contains commentary about biblical passages made by the great rabbis of Jewish tradition. For instance, one rabbi discussing Deuteronomy 32:20 might say that the Jewish people are God’s children only when they obey the commandments. Another rabbi appeals to the same passage to claim that God loves his children even when they lack faith. Another debate would center around whether or not there was rejoicing in heaven when the Egyptians perished in the Red Sea. (According to one rabbi, God forbade the angels to rejoice in the deaths of any of his creatures.)

1. Look through the Hebrew Bible. Choose one brief passage and describe three or four different ways it could be interpreted.


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Ghetto

Pogroms

Crusades

Inquisition

Zenophobia

Holocaust

Shoah

Anti-Semitism

Anti-semitism has come to mean specifically anti-Jewish attitudes and practices. Anti-semitism has been either explicit or implicit in some Christian-dominated communities since the fourth century. Write an essay about anti-semitism using the following terms:


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Branches of Judaism

Read about the following expressions of Judaism:

  • Orthodox

  • Hasidic

  • Conservative

  • Reform

  • Reconstructionist

  • Describe basic differences among them.

  • What do you think is the appeal of each of these branches of Judaism?

  • If you were to choose, which branch would you join?


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Judaism Study Sheet

According to traditional Jewish law, a Jew is anyone born of a Jewish mother or anyone who converts to Judaism. This reflects key concepts of the Judaism:

  • Peoplehood: To be Jewish means to identify with the Jewish people—past, present, and future. Specific beliefs are secondary to identification with the community.

  • History/Tradition: For Jews, God is found less in nature (as in religions of India and Southeast Asia) and more in human history—in particular the story of the people of Israel beginning with Abraham.

  • Covenant: Jews view themselves as a people with whom God made an agreement or covenant. God promises always to remain faithful to the covenant; Jews struggle to be faithful as well.


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Judaism Study Sheet (Continued)

  • Scripture: Sacred writings tell the story of the making the covenant, occasions of breaking it and struggles to keep it, and God’s fidelity to it. The Hebrew Bible (TANAKH) consists of three sections:

    --Torah (first five books or the Penteteuch)

    --Prophets (books about preachers who called the people to covenantal fidelity, morality, and justice)

    --Writings (150 psalms, wisdom literature, and additional stories)


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Judaism Study Sheet (Continued)

Key Figures in Early Jewish History

  • Abraham: patriarchal ancestor of the Jews; monotheism and the covenant

  • Moses: the leading prophet, or spokesperson for God; the Exodus and ethical monotheism

  • David: the Greatest Jewish king, despite his faults; nationhood and Messiah

  • Rabbis: When the Temple and the nation were destroyed in 70 CE, kept Judaism alive; synagogues and Talmud


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Judaism Study Sheet (Continued)

Modern Jewish Movements

In the late 1700s European Jews could leave the ghettoes, giving rise to three movements:

  • Reform (hold onto essentials only)

  • Orthodox (hold onto traditional ways as much as possible)

  • Conservative (“conserve” more than the Reform movement)

  • (early 1900s, Reconstructionist movement began)


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Judaism Study Sheet (Continued)

Major Jewish Holy days

  • Sabbath: a weekly remind of God’s sovereignty; celebrated as much in the home as in the synagogue

  • Rosh Hashana: in autumn, Jewish new year and beginning of the high holy days

  • Yom Kippur: Day of Atonement; ten days after Rosh Hashanah

  • Sukkoth: soon after the high holy days; a harvest festival when tents are erected and traditionally lived in

  • Hanukah: feast of rededication of the temple when the Maccabees drove out the Greeks

  • Passover: a spring festival commemorating the Exodus


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Judaism Study Sheet (Continued)

Celebrating the lifecycle

Jews have ceremonies celebrating key events of the life cycle, such as:

  • Circumcision

  • Bar and Bat/Bas Mitsvah

  • Marriage

  • Death


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Concluding Prayer

Let us pray:

You are my life and my salvation,

O Lord.

Create in me a temple

Where your holy presence abides.

Help me to welcome the stranger.

May I find joy in your commandments.

Let me walk in your ways

All the days of my life.

Amen.


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