An Introduction to Judaism The Jewish Tribe Being Jewish means youre a Member of the Tribe, started by Abraham and Sarah, about 4,000 years ago. You can become a member of the Jewish tribe in two ways: Being born to a Jewish mother Joining through a series of rituals (converting) Judaism Judaism isnt:
Judaism is: A race A particular culture An ethnic group A nation A religion A set of beliefs, practices, and ethics based on the Torah You can practice Judaism and be Jewish, and you can be a Jew and not practice Judaism Whats in a name?
The word Jewish does not come from the Bible Hebrews (Children of Israel) Escaped from slavery in Egypt (Book of Exodus) Belonged to one of the 12 tribes of Israel 10 of the 12 tribes were dispersed by the Assyrians (8th century BCE) The tribe of Judah and the tribe of Benjamin remained as the Southern Kingdom Judea Judea fell to the Babylonians
People were exiled Known as the Judah-ites (Yehudim), people of Judah Yehudim = Jews (in Hebrew) Their religion was Judah-ism, which became Judaism Types of Jews Most Jews identify with one of the two groups: Ashkenazi and Sephardi
Ashkenazi Descendants of Jews living in Europe Primarily interacted with European Christian cultures, which strongly influenced the Ashkenazi culture Majority of Jews Sephardi Descendants of Jews who lived in Spain After expulsion in the fifteenth century, they traveled to
North Africa, Italy, Turkey, and the Middle East Over the past 500 years, the Sephardim primarily interacted with Muslims, especially African and Arab Muslims Much of the Sephardi culture is based on those cultures Analogy of the Tree While Judaism is a set of beliefs and practices, there are many different beliefs and practices Similar to a tree with many branches Common trunk and root system Each denomination is its own branch
Each synagogue is its own twig Branches Biggest branches of the tree: Orthodox Conservative Reform Non-Religious Smaller branches: Reconstructionist
Renewal Secular Humanistic Orthodox Jews see it differently: Orthodoxy is the whole tree What everyone else is doing is something else entirely Maybe a whole other tree, but not one practicing Judaism Biggest difference: Orthodox Jews the Torah was literally given by God to Moses, word for word Liberal Jews The Torah and the halakha/halachah
(Jewish law) may have been divinely inspired, but were translated by humans influenced by their own time and place Hold to elements that feel like Truth and principals that are affirmed as Truth Search for other pieces that need to be involved Orthodox Jews All Orthodox Jews accept the Torah as the word of God Modern Orthodox
Orthodox = correct belief or proper doctrine Approve of many aspects of modern, secular culture (clothes, music, etc.) Ultra-Orthodox Tend to isolate themselves from modern culture Clothing Why do some Orthodox Jews wear all that black? In mourning for the destruction of the Second Temple Ultra-Orthodox Jews
Long black coats, black hats, white stockings, oldstyle shoes Minimize contact with the outside world No television, radios (unless set to religious programming), no movies, no internet Why even be tempted? Synagogues Many Orthodox synagogues
Must walk to synagogue on Sabbath Each congregation has its own culture, ideas, interpretations, and style Ex. Dont round off the corner of your beard One rabbi says it means dont cut the earlocks (the hair that grows to the side of the forehead) Another rabbi says that means you cant shave Breakaway Denominations Liberal Judaism
Traditional Jews avoid applying interpretations of Torah, Talmud, and halakha to modern issues 19th century The sources arent actually Divine but human responses to Divine inspiration If human creations, they should be inspected, judged, and understood to be affected by their time and place of creation Some passages were more meaningful for that age than others Responsibility to find out what is relevant in their own time Reform Judaism
Largest Jewish group in America Belief Jews have the responsibility to educate themselves Social and ethical action based on the writings of the Prophets rather than ritual observance of the Torah and the halakha Strip away what is unessential the kernel of the tradition Make decisions about their spiritual practice based on
conscience rather than relying on external law Seat men and women together Very few dietary laws Instrumental music at Sabbath services First Jewish movement to ordain women as rabbis Conservative Judaism Like the Goldilocks and the Three Bears The Reform movement went too far in rejection of traditional observance The Orthodox communities were unrealistic in restrictions regarding modern life
Respect Jewish laws, like keeping kosher, observing Sabbath and other religious holidays, performing daily prayers Agree with Reform movement that halakha has its basis in history and should be reconsidered Ex. Jews who live too far from a synagogue can drive there (but are encouraged to walk) Famous Jews!
Comics: Joe Siegel and Jerry Shuster invented Superman; Stan Lee invented Spiderman; Jack Kirby invented The Hulk and The X-Men; Bob Kane invented Batman Musicians: Neal Diamond, Bob Dylan, Billy Joel, Barry Manilow, Bette Midler, Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel Gangsters: Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel, and Lee Harvey Oswalds killer Jack Ruby Authors: Al Franken, Franz Kafka, Ayn Rand Actors: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Goldie Hawn, Kirk Douglas, Adam Sandler Athletes: Olympic gold medalist Mark Spitz, baseball star Sandy Koufax Famous mime Marcel Marceau; escape artist Harry Houdini; communist Leo Trostsky, cosmologist Carl Sagan Judaism and God First tradition to teach monotheism Only one God
First of the 10 Commandments One unknowable, universal, image-less Being, who, because the universe is framed in love, requires justice of human beings A Religion of Deed Focuses on the way in which you practice and live in the world The only way to keep the Covenant is to live by the laws set out by God Belief is not enough
Belief is most significant in light of the actions motivated by that belief Arguing with God Question in order to learn more deeply Ex. Abraham argued with God for the sake of the righteous citizens in Sodom and Gomorrah Israel = One who wrestles with God Explore their own personal relationship with God Names of God
More than a mere distinguishing title Each name of God refers to an aspect or quality of the Divine. The name defines the ways humans experience God rather than limiting Gods unity. Most traditional Jews wont write out the word God, so many Jewish books and periodicals print it G-d It ensures that a name of God wont be defaced if the paper is ripped up, soiled, or thrown away The Divine Name Tetragrammaton, the name of four letters YHVH
Occurrs most frequently (6,823 times) Hebrew Bible no vowels Unknown pronunciation Jehovah Yahweh Means He is, He will be, or He lives He is the living God, as opposed to the lifeless gods of the heathen, and he is the source and author of life Considered to be too sacred to be uttered Replaced with Adonai (my Lord) or Ha-Shem (the
Name) Elohim Second most frequently used name Plural form of the noun Eloah = God Elohim Gods, always refers to the singular One and takes verbs and adjectives meant for a singular noun To be explained as the plural of majesty or excellence, expressing high dignity or greatness Refers to the Immanent, the Spark of Divinity which awakens within each and every expression of the One Being
Reminds people that what they see as lots of individual forms (people, animals, plants, etc.) are all part of the One El Used chiefly in poetry and prophetic discourse, rarely in prose, and then usually with some epithet attached, as "a jealous God." Other examples of its use with some attribute are:
El 'Elyon - "most high God" El Shaddai - "God Almighty" El 'Olam - "everlasting God" El ai - "living God El Ro'i - "God of seeing" El Elohe Israel - "God, the God of Israel" El Gibbor "Hero God" Beyond the Name
Any attempt to know God is bound to fail, but people try The God of the philosophers Different in degree and essence from humankind Prime mover, the Uncaused Cause, the God of reason and intellect The God of the mystics Complementary relationship with humankind Interrelationship between God and person, affecting each other The God of the believer (generations of Jews who contributed to the continuity and expansion of Judaism) The One who Creates, the One who Reveals, the One who Redeems God who Creates Two versions: God started the Big Bang and then walked away
from the universe, letting it unfold like a scientist watching an experiment God is a more careful Creator. When God decided to create the world, He opened the Torah scroll and read the beginning of Genesis as though the Torah were an instruction manual or set of blueprints God Reveals Each Jew is responsible for his or her own interpretations, even if it means arguing with God Its important interpret or reinterpret the words of the Torah Revelation is the channel through which a human being hears the Divine word
Always happening, waiting for humans to be sensitive enough to receive and understand the message God Redeems Redemption is different from the Christian idea of salvation from sin Christians tend to see it as a result of right belief rather than acts Key redemptive event: exodus from Egypt God redeemed the Children of Israel from the great hardships of enslavement, celebrated every year during Passover Essential journey of a People in quest of their God People have a responsibility for following godly paths and living in accord with principles of justice and compassion, in service to the One God Path to redemption: healing of the world through a lifelong series
of socially responsible actions and intentional blessings Types of Redemption Metaphor for personal redemption from exile/ slavery (addictive behavior, bad habits, anger, fear, etc.) Redemption will come all at once to the entire People of Israel, or the entire world Redemption of humankind brought by a Jewish king called the Messiah All Jews will return to the ways of the Torah and be led out of exile to return to the land of Israel
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