THOMAS CAHILL - THE GIFTS OF
“The Jews started it all—and by ‘it’ I mean so many of the
things we care about, the underlying values that make all
of us, Jew and Gentile, believer and atheist, tick. Without
the Jews, we would see the world through different eyes,
hear with different ears, even feel with different feelings
… we would think with a different mind, interpret all our
experiences differently, draw different conclusions from
the things that befall us. And we would set a different
course for our lives.”
PATRIARCHS OF THREE FAITHS
Beliefs common to the West:
• Humans = highest creation of God
• Linear time lines
• God has a personal relationship with humans
• Speaks through prophets
• God is love
How can three religions as diverse (and often hostile) as Judaism,
Christianity and Islam, be classified as closely-related religions?
Man from UR
Follow only 1 God
(I AM) and God
will provide a land
of Milk and Honey
Promised Land =
family (& people)
from UR to
2 sons = Isaac
THE FATHERS (PATRIARCHS) OF JUDAISM
• Abraham, Isaac and Jacob
establish the covenant.
• God will love humanity and
humanity will love God and God
• Key Ideas Emerge:
• Jews = God’s chosen people
• Promised land
• 12 sons (12 tribes of Israel)
• Joseph - moves the tribe to
• Raised in Pharaoh's palace
• Called to free the Israelites and return
them to the promised land.
• 10 plagues
• The Exodus (Sinai Peninsula)
• 10 Commandments
JUDGES, KINGS, EXILES, PROPHETS
• Judges (c. 40 years later when the
Israelites reach Canaan)
• Kings (c.1000 BCE)
• Builds the Temple
• Levities (Priestly Caste)
• Canaan splits into ISRAEL (north)
and JUDAH (south)
• Assyrians conquer (721 BCE)
• Babylonians conquer (586 BCE)
• Babylonian Captivity
• Temple destroyed
• DIASPORA begins.
• Synagogue worship/rabbis emerge
• Belief in Messiah emerges
• End of the era predicted by
• A prophet is a person who receives a
message from God and delivers that message
to God’s people. Usually, prophets warn of a
coming crisis based on the inability of people
to be true to their covenant with God. The
prophetic tradition is shared by Christianity,
Islam and Judaism
A HISTORY OF JEWISH
- Required Reading (see Appendix)
• Movement to restore the nation of Israel to the Jews. It began
strongly in 1900 and finally succeeded in 1948, with the
establishment of a Jewish homeland in Israel
• Tanakh = Old Testament or
• Written over a period of 1000 yrs
(c. 1300 BCE to 300 BCE)
• Includes history, fiction, non-
fiction, laws, myths, instructional
• This contains the Torah, the
prophets and the writings
(basically all of the ‘Old
• For Jews, the most important
section = TORAH (Pentateuch)
• Written over 400 years. The word Torah means
“revelation,” “teaching,” or “instruction.” For Jews it means
a way by which to live.
• Torah = first 5 books of the Hebrew Scriptures (also called
• Genesis = myth and story about creation.
• Exodus = the story of Moses leading Israelites back to Canaan
• Leviticus = rituals and ceremonies performed during TEMPLE
worship (done by Priests called Levities)
• Numbers = Outlines the Israelites faith growth while wondering for
39 years in the desert before entering the Promised Land
• Deuteronomy = Outlines the 613 LAWS that Jews are called to
follow (in addition to the 10 Commandments). These include
KOSHER, Marriage, Family, Property, Murder, etc.
TORAH AND TANAKH
• Why would the BOOK become the most important
element once Solomon’s Temple was destroyed and
the Jews were sent into Exile????
• What parts of the TANAKH would become less
important? More important?
• Talmud = commentary on Tanakh written by Rabbis
• It is a collection of written Jewish Law and oral traditions pertaining
to the Law. Basically, it is an interpretation of the Pentateuch. It
developed as a collection of materials used to settle problems
concerning the obligations imposed on Jews by the Law.
• In addition, the Talmud contains a collection of oral stories dealing
with how Yahweh intervened in the lives of the Hebrew people.
Such stories were handed down by word of mouth (not written) from
generation to generation.
• The Talmud is divided into two sections:
• The Mishnah – a collection of oral laws handed down from
around 200 C.E.
• The Gemera – a collection of discussions on the Mishnah (a
discussion on the discussion)
• Shema = MOST important/
fundamental statement of
Jewish beliefs taken from the
• Statement refers to two
fundamental concepts: One is
that God is their God and that
the Jewish people are the
“chosen people”. The second
is the belief in Monotheism.
• “Hear, O Israel, The Lord is our
God, the Lord is One”.
• Deuteronomy 6:4-9
CREED (FIVE FUNDAMENTAL CONCEPTS)
• Philo (20 BCE – 50 CE), a
• There is a GOD
• There is only ONE God
• God created the WORLD, but it
will not last forever
• There is only ONE Universe
• God CARES for the world and all
of its creatures
CREED (13 ARTICLES OF
• Maimonedes (1135-1204 CE), adopted Philo’s 5
Concepts into 13 key statements of belief
• The existence of God, the creator: There is only one God
• God's unity: There is only one universe
• God's incorporeality: God is all-knowing
• God's eternity: God is eternal external to time
• The obligation to worship God alone
• The truth of the words of the prophets
• The superiority of the prophecy of Moses (TORAH)
• The Torah as God's revelation to Moses
• The immutability of the Torah (unchanging)
• God's omniscience
• Retribution in this world and the next (Punishment OR
• The coming of the Messiah
• The resurrection of the dead
CREED (OTHER BELIEFS)
• Chosen People – they were picked by God and
set apart from others
• Promised Land (Israel)
• Messiah will come, bring peace and prosperity
for the Jews, resurrect/judge dead and rebuild
• 10 Commandments (creed and code)
• Keeping the covenant means following God’s mitzvot
(the act of doing a good deed, more specifically a
commandment from God that gives people ethical
• Bible contains 613 Mitzvoth including:
• The 10 Commandments (the heart of the law)
• Prayer 3x/day – Morning, Noon, Night
• Tzedakah – Charity, 10-15%
• Shabbat – Friday SUNDOWN to Saturday SUNDOWN, no
• Following Mitzvot helps Jews live in right relationship
• http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RDaggJpNrT0 (4:05 – 6:00)
KOSHER (CODE)• Several Jewish laws are devoted to food.
These laws are called kosher or kashrut
• Jews may eat all fruits and vegetables,
split hooved animals, Chicken, Turkey,
Duck & fish with fins and scales but cannot
eat horses, pigs, birds of prey or
• Permitted foods must be slaughtered in
ritual fashion (all blood is drained) and
must be killed with as little pain as possible.
• No meat or dairy can be eaten together
and all utensils for each type must be kept
• 5 Reasons:
• Hygienic: Judaism forbids eating animals that died without proper
slaughter and the draining of the blood (which is a medium for the growth of
bacteria). Judaism also forbids eating animals that have abscesses in their
lungs or other health problems.
• Moral Lessons: Jews are taught to be sensitive to others' feelings -- even
to the feelings of animals.
• National Reasons: The Jewish people have a mission of Tikkun Olam,
repairing the world. A special diet reminds them of their mission and keeps
them together as a people to fulfill it.
• Mystical: The Torah calls the Jews a "holy people" and prescribes a holy
diet. You are what you eat. Kosher is God's diet for spirituality. Jewish
mysticism teaches that non-kosher food blocks the spiritual potential of the
• Discipline: If a person can be disciplined in what and when he eats, it
follows that he can be disciplined in other areas of life.
Introduction to the Law:
This is the law Moses set before the Israelites. These are
the stipulations, decrees and laws Moses gave them when
they came out of Egypt.
Jewish Law in Leviticus and Deuteronomy
Deut. 14: 1-21, 20: 1-20, 22: 13-30, 12: 1-14, 16: 1-17, 5: 11-15
Lev. 11: 1- 45, 19: 1-17, 19: 18-37
COVENANT WITH NOAH (CODE)
• Jews believe that non-Jews are also obligated to
follow those mitzvot pronounced before Abraham’s time
(by Noah), these include:
1. Do not commit adultery.
2. Do not commit blasphemy.
3. Do not commit murder.
4. Do not commit theft.
5. Do not commit sexual immorality.
6. Do not remove and eat the limb of a living animal.
7. Establish a judicial system with courts to enforce the
• Failure to live the covenant is called sin.
• Sin includes deliberately going again moral laws and
violating ritual or purity laws.
• Sin is a break in the relationship with God.
• In the days of the temple sacrifices were carried out to
heal this break, today Jews celebrate Yom Kippur.
COMMUNITY OUTREACH (CODE)
• Hospitality is a key feature of Judaism (this includes
welcoming guests into one’s home and community
and meeting the needs of the elderly, sick and poor in
• Jews believe in Tikkun Olam (repairing the world);
this can range from political action to planting a tree
• Clergy and Laypersons – in the Jewish
faith any Jew is considered to be
knowledgeable and as such can conduct
and lead a worship service. However it is
usually the rabbi who will do so.
• A rabbi is a trained scholar, teacher and
interpreter of Jewish law. They are also
the person who will officiate at certain
ceremonies such as Bar/Bat Mitzvahs
• Synagogue is the center of all worship.
WORSHIP (CULT)• Blessings (Berakhah) are the
foundations of Jewish prayer.
Through blessings Jews
acknowledge, praise, thank and
• There are 3 types of blessings:
• Thanks (kiddish)
• Mitzvot (recited before
performing a mitzvah -
commandments are divinely
given and thanks God for the
chance to fulfill a religious
• Praise (recited before each
• When Jewish people pray communally, a minyan, or a
quorum of ten males over 13 is required (Reform and
Reconstructionist Jews count women).
• Three worship services are held daily (evening, morning
• The Torah reading is the central part of certain worship
services during the week, one of the Torah’s 54 sections
is read each week; the entire Torah is read each year.
• Worship in the home is also central to the Jewish faith –
meals specifically are considered sacred for Jews and are
used to commemorate most events.
THE TORAH SCROLL (CULT)
• The five books of Moses on parchment
• The most sacred object in Jewish life - essential
• Kept in a place of honour and read at specific
times during service.
• The Holy Ark (symbolizes
the Ark of the Covenant)
sits on a raised platform
and contains the scrolls.
THE SABBATH (CULT)
• Friday sunset to sundown on Saturday
• This is a time to put aside work, shopping, housework and is
instead focused on family, prayer and friends.
• Jews may go to the synagogue on Friday evening. When
they return home families will share in a meal that begins with
Kiddush (prayer over wine). Usually challah (a special egg
bread) is blessed and eaten at the meal. On Saturday
morning Jews will return to the synagogue for prayer and
worship. At sundown on Saturday the Sabbath will conclude
with a brief prayer in which people greet each other by saying
“Shavua tov” (may it be a good week).
THE SABBATH (CULT)
Requirements of Shabbat:
• No work is to be done.
• No discussion of work or one’s job is allowed.
• No money is to be handled.
• Nothing is to be carried in public.
• No motor vehicle is to be ridden, even if driven by a
• No lights are to be switched on or electrical
• No food is to be cooked.
DIVISIONS IN MODERN JUDAISM
• After the Holocaust, some Jews
lost faith in old traditions or failed
to see them as relevant; others
began to rely more heavily on
• In some cases traditions became a
unifying and strengthening aspect
for the community
• These reactions serve as the
primary distinctions between the
modern divisions in Judaism.
DIVISIONS (CULT)• Orthodox – “Right Way”
• Strict Jews who believe that they should preserve the traditions of the Jewish
people and conform to the will of God in all areas of life.
• The Torah is held to be “the word of God”.
• Resistant to change: all services in Hebrew, strict rules about customs, ritual,
clothing, gender roles etc.
• Conservative – Mix Orthodox w. Reform
• “Religious Jews living within the modern world".
• Follow old ways (most services still in Hebrew) and traditions.
• Needs of community come before the individual.
• Allow men and women to sit together, female rabbis are permitted and Bat
Mizvahs are performed.
• Reform – Very Liberal
• Retain the essential elements of Judaism that make the most sense in the
• Leave the rules of Judaism open to individual interpretation.
• Believe the Torah was a human creation and that God allows successive
generations to interpret the Torah.
• Allow female rabbis and men and women are allowed to intermingle.
• Hasidic –Ultra-Orthodox
• Live in exclusive communities; rejecting the modern world.
• Founder taught that communion with God happens through
prayer, good deeds, humility and joy.
• Emphasize singing, dancing and Kabalah ( mystical reading of
• Very traditional clothing and grooming (black clothes, tassels,
complete body covering, beards, etc.).
• Strict observance of Jewish law.
• Reconstructionist – new, fastest growing,
• Off-shoot of Conservative Judaism.
• Wish to “reconstruct” Judaism by making it more meaningful to
today’s world (different than reforming or changing Judaism).
• Believe that Judaism is a “work-in-progress”.
• Passover/ Pesach
• Usually held in March or April (during
Nisan – the first month of the Jewish year).
• Represents the 10th Plague
• Families gather to retell the story of Exodus
• Jews do not eat anything chametz (leavened) in order to
commemorate the haste in which the Hebrews left Egypt
• Eat foods that remind them of slavery, SEDER PLATE
• Maror – bitter herb (bitterness of slavery)
• Charoset – mix of apples, walnuts, cinnamon & wine (mortar)
• Z’roah – roasted bone (sacrifice)
• Beitzah – roasted egg (new life)
• Karpas – parsley, dipped in H2O (tears of slavery )
• Matzvah – unleavened bread (haste)
• Wine – God’s promise
Rosh Hashanah - Jewish New Year
• September or early October
• 2 day festival commemorating the creation of the world
• Day of judgment when Jews believe that God balances a
person’s good deeds over the past year against their bad deeds
and decides what the next year will be like for them. God
records this judgment in the Book of Life.
• Starts 10 days of repentance (days of awe); Jews request
forgiveness from God and others for their mistakes and
• Period ends with the blowing of a SHOFAR (ram’s horn).
• Apples are dipped in honey to symbolize a sweet year to come.
• Rosh Hashanah ends with…
Yom Kippur– Day of Atonement
• Rosh Hashanah ends with the
festival of Yom Kippur.
• The most important religious day in
the Jewish calendar as it is believed
that the book of life and God’s
judgments are finally sealed on this
day. Jews spend the day seeking
reconciliation with God and atoning
• Yom Kippur is marked by a 25 hour
fast. No signs of comfort or luxury
are allowed on this day. For
example, women may choose not to
wear make-up, no food or drink, no
• Jewish festival of lights held in December.
• Commemorates the miracle of the menorah in the
temple (after the Maccabean Revolt).
• Jews light a candle for each of the eight days of
Hanukkah on a candelabrum (menorah).
• Menorah has 9 branches, one for each of the eight
nights of Hanukkah and the ninth for the candle
known as the shamus (servant candle), which is
used to light the others.
• Each night families gather to light the candles, say
prayers, recite blessings and share gifts.
• Brit Milah or Bris
• 8th day after birth the rite of
circumcision is performed,
combined with naming.
• Initiates the infant into the people of
• A MOHEL performs the ceremony
• Bar/Bat Mitzvah
• Son or Daughter of Commandment
• 1st Sabbath after 13th birthday
• Prior - study TORAH
• Read, in Hebrew, passage in front of
• Only modern (Reform) Jews do this
• Usually same faith because a
child can technically only be
Jewish IF born of a Jewish mother
• Most marriages are in the synagogue
and are presided over by a rabbi.
• Couple starts under a Chuppah
(canopy) – representing their home
• Share blessed wine
• Marriage contract read and signed by the groom
• Exchange rings and vows
• Ceremony ends with the groom crushing a glass – representing good & bad
times AND destruction of TEMPLE
• Divorce allowed but highly discouraged – if all efforts at reconciliation fail a
certificate known as a GET is given by the husband to the wife, allowing the
couple to remarry again in the faith.
• When a parent dies, a son (in some cases a daughter) recites
the Kaddish (a prayer of sanctification) in the synagogue each
morning and evening for 11 months.
• Funeral takes place as soon as possible following death
(usually within 24 hours).
• Simple service – NO cremation because we should not destroy
what God has created.
• Believe in life after death but do not dwell on it; one should
concentrate on being a good person now, in the present.
• Sitting Shiva – seven day period of mourning following the
funeral. Family mourners are protected from everyday
problems and responsibilities. Mourners will not leave the home
for the seven day period.
Jewish Objects and Symbols (See Appendix)
Schindler’s List, Fiddler on the RoofORLife is
FOR REVIEW: TEST YOUR
• Define the terms:
1. Explain the importance of covenant to Judaism.
2. Why is (or was) the Shema considered a radical
3. What are the three main parts of the Tanakh?
• Tanakh, Torah, Mishnah,
• Moses, Abraham, Joseph
• 5 Fundamental Concepts
o Driedal, Yarmulke, Menorah,
Star of David
o Solomon’s Temple
o Divisions (Conservative,
Reform, Hasidic etc.)
• How have the sacred writings of Judaism influenced its
ritualistic practices and moral beliefs?
• How have the sacred writings been influenced by the
sacred history of the Jewish people?
• In what ways have world religions responded to
prejudice and discrimination, specifically through the
events of the Holocaust?
• In what ways has Judaism been altered due to the
• How have the Jewish divisions each reacted to
modernity with respects to prayer and ritualistic life?