Jews can’t agree amongst themselves about many things, so it is no surprise that non-jews have many misconceptions about the religion. I’m starting this thread to address any questions that people may have about Judaism. It is not about proving that one religion is better than another. Any review of my past posts should show that I don’t attempt to show that my religion is better than yours, or that Christians need judaism, etc.
However, if there are basic concepts or questions about Judaism that anyone wants to discuss, I’d be happy to.
Valke2 thanks for this opportunity. I have a tremendous respect and admiration for today’s Jews (My favorite radio personalities are both orthodox Jews, Dennis Prager, Dr. Laura.)
Question: Do you notice that Christians know more about 1st century Judaism than modern Judaism. My fear is that I think I know alot about Judaism but most of that knowledge comes from studying 1st century Judaism so Im probably loaded with outdated misconceptions about today’s Judaism.
How close is today’s Orthodox community to the ancient practice etc.
heh. That’s a toughie. I’m a Conservative and not an Orthodox Jew, btw. I’ll try to keep my bias out of my answer. Since first century judaism, there has been a whole lot of commentary written which further explains many aspects of Torah to Jews. The Talmud, which as you may know is our “oral Torah” itself is very different today than it was at that time (for one thing, it is no longer oral, and there are several centuries of commentary added to it called “Gemara”).
Many Jews do not even realize that our religion constantly evolves, despite the fact that the evidence is contained right in our own text. The Talmud is really the recording of a long conversation between rabbis over centuries about all of Torah and how to apply it to everyday life. Very rarely were all the sages in agreement on how to do this. And we preserve all opinions whether they are followed or not, with the understanding that there may come a time when the minority opinion becomes the majority.
As for the day to day observance of the commandments, practices have certainly changed over time. I mean, its been about 2,000 years. Change is bound to happen. ANd how one observes, even withint the ortodox community, differs somwhat depending on what country they live in.
An example of how things can change: Rambam today is considered by the orthodox to be one of the most influential jewish thinkers of all time. But there was a period where certain rabbis called for his books to be burned.
Thanks (for they happy new year). COnservative Jews are required to keep kosher as well, and our services are in Hebrew. Reform Jews believe keeping kosher is voluntary and their services are often in English (or partly in English). there is a lot of tension between the sects, especially between reform and the others. But orthodox will not recognize a conversion of someone into judiasm unless it is an orthodox conversion. I think it is safe to say that they do not agree with how we practice judaism.
IMO, Conservative Judaism has the right idea about how to interpet and apply halacha (jewish law), but its congregants are generally not very educated in what it means to do this.
The orthodox, on the other hand, have a very educated understanding of the texts and the commandments, etc., but their method of determining halacha and law is too rigid and actually not how judaism was traditionally practiced. That’s my thumbnail sketch of what I believe to be the two main positives and negatives of the the different sects.
Midrash is part of the Talmud. It is the “story” part that is used to illustrate a principle in Torah, rather than the legal part, which is also in Talmud.
Let me just quickly give an overview of the Talmud. Orthodox Judaism holds that both the written Torah and oral Torah (Talmud) were given to MOses at Sinai. The oral torah that was given is called the Mishna. It’s purpose was to clarify or expand on the text of the Torah. It is difficult to read because it is a lot of acronyom, short hand, and neumonic (sp?), because it was a lot of information that had to be transmitted orally from generation to generation. WHen the rabbis felt that they were in danger of losing the oral Torah (due to the fact that many jews were being persecuted, killed, etc), they decided to write it down. This was completed in about 200 CE. After that, they looked at the Mishna and said, “hey, this needs more explaining”. ANd so other rabbis wrote commentaries through about 500 CE. These commentaries on the Mishna are called the Gemara. Mishna + Gemara = Talmud. There were further commentaries written later which are used in determining halacha (jewish law), but they are not considered part of Talmud. (cont.)
I would say that the Talmud is considered as important as Torah. That the Mishna would be considered as sacred as the Torah, and that the Gemara is considered as important, but not as “sacred” as it is the expression of rabbis, not God. My own opinion is that the Talmud was a human endeavor to expound on the laws of Torah and to make them relevant for each generation.
By and large, rabbinical interperation of the Scripture is how Jews determine how to follow Torah. Each community looks to its rabbi for how to do this.
I don’t call synagouge “temple” for the very reason you mentioned. Usually, but not always, jews who use the word “temple” are secular or reform. Reform use temple because the consder all their meeting places to be the equilavant of the Temple. I happen to use the word “shul” which is a yiddish word for “school”, because it underscores the synagouge’s role as a place of study. Synagouge is a greek translation of the hebrew word for the beit k’nesset (“place of assembly”).
Most orthodox want the Temple rebuilt and believe sacrifices will continue at that time. Some Jews believe that the Temple need only be rebuilt “metaphoricaly”. Abraham Joshua Heschel, a famous Jewish scholar (and social activist) describes our sabbath as a “Temple in Time”.
As far as sacrifices go, I’ll give you a historical explanation: Pagans were big on animal sacrifices, and it was something jews were used to doing. In order to ensure that they would not slip back to pagan ways, Hashem allowed sacrifices to continue but He limited them to specific times at a specific place, and in so doing, strenghtened monotheistic beliefs rather than pagan beliefs. Sacrifices became part of worshiping the One God. But even when they were in place, prayer, good deeds, and actions were preferred over sacrifices. (this is a whole other subject).
btw, I’m sure you have heard the expression, 2 Jews, 3 opinions. Don’t be surprised if other jews say something different about some of this.
This thread is an awesome idea ! Thanks !!!
One of the first questions that came to my mind is about Prayer to Saints or to righteous people. Is this kind of prayer common in Judaism and how does Judaism support this tradition (scripture, tradition, etc.) ?
Hi ALex. I can’t think of any prayers that are made to anyone other than God.
We are very, um, cautious about “idolizing” any person. That’s why Moses is almost not even mentioned in our passover seder. We do have prayers where we recite the names of Abraham, Issac and Jacob, as a way of connecting with our patriarchs. BUt no prayers to them.
understood. Maybe I was formulating the question poorly, but when I wrote the question I was thinking of intercessory prayer - one that is addressed to a righteous person having in mind that the respective person will intercede on your behalf to God.
We believe in an afterlife. But there’s not a lot of dogma on it so jews may believe diffferent things about what the afterlife consists of. We also believe that there will come a time when God will ressurect the dead. Whether this will be a ressurrection of all jews or only a few is something else that is up for debate. I’mnot sure what you mean by deuterocanonicals or apocryphal texts.
Our scriptures consist basically of the Torah, the prophets and what we call “other writings” such as Psalms, book of ruth, book of esther, proverbs, Chronicles, and some other texts.
Wisdom of Solomon 30 B.C. Didactic
Ecclesiasticus 32 B.C. Didactic
Tobit c. 200 B.C. Religious Novel
I Esdras c. 150 B.C. Historic & Legendary
I Maccabees c. 110 B.C. Historic
II Maccabees c. 100 B.C. Historic & Legendary
Judith c. 150 A.D. Romantic Novel
Baruch c. 100 A.D. Prophetic
Letter of Jeremiah c. 200 B.C. Prophetic
II Esdras c. 100 A.D. Prophetic
Additions to Esther c. 130 B.C. Legendary
Prayer of Azariah* c. 100. B.C. Legendary
Suzanna (Daniel 13) c. 100 B.C. Legendary
Bel & the Dragon (Daniel 14) c. 100 B.C. Legendary
Prayer of Manasseh c. 150 B.C. Legendary
Those are the apochryphal texts, not all are used by the Catholic Church. I think they are all used by the Eastern Orthodox Church though.
About the resurrection, is it only for the Jews then? Are the gentiles without a ressurection or afterlife? If so how do you reconcile the Jewish God being the creator of everyone if he only cares for the Jews?
You know, as I re-read my post, I asked myself the same question, regarding the resurrection being only for jews. I’ll have to look into that a bit and get back to you. Truthfully, it is not something I’ve thought a lot about. Regarding the above texts, we use:
Ecclesiasticus 32 B.C. yes
Tobit c. 200 B.C. Nope
I Esdras c. 150 B.C. Nope
I Maccabees c. 110 B.C. Yes, but not part of our writings
II Maccabees c. 100 B.C. Same
Judith c. 150 A.D. Nope
Baruch c. 100 A.D. Not really. Although there is some belief it was read from at certain synagouges during certian times of the year. Certainly not accepted as a prophetic book by Jews.
Letter of Jeremiah c. 200 B.C. Nope
II Esdras c. 100 A.D. Nope
Additions to Esther If this is the same as the book of Esther, yes.
Prayer of Azariah* nope
Suzanna (Daniel 13) If this is book of Daniel, yes.
Bel & the Dragon (Daniel 14) same answer
Prayer of Manasseh nope.
ALl the righteous dead will be resurrected. That doesn’t mean by the way, that the unreserrected do not have a share in the world to come. It means that the righteous will be brought back to life in this world so that they can experience the perfect world that they helped to create.