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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

Torah and Tradition

The Rhythms of Jewish Life

jewish time
Jewish Time

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

the jewish year
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.

the sabbath shabbat
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

a musical interlude
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

the high holidays

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.

siddur prayerbook
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

the pilgrimage festivals
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
the haggadah
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

additional holidays
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).



  • 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.
bar bat mitzvah
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.
  • 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.
  • 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

sacred space
Sacred Space

Western Wall, Jerusalem

jerusalem and the holy land
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.
israel and zionism

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.
contemporary issues
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
facing a precarious future
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)