The religion of the Jewish people; technically, the religion ascribed to the people of the kingdom of Judah. These included descendants of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin as well as Levites and priests. The ten remaining tribes constituting the "Kingdom of Israel" were conquered by Sargon II (722 B.C.E.) and were lost to Jewish history (the "ten lost tribes").
Social Scientific Study of Judaism
Judaism has been the focus of work of some of the major figures in the social sciences, including Max Weber, Sigmund Freud, W. Robertson Smith, and …mile Durkheim. Some points of interest to these theorists will be followed by a survey of normative Judaism, which is the focus of some of these theorists. This discussion describes briefly the development of Judaism from a sociohistorical perspective and also comments on contemporary Judaism in light of contemporary social science.
Karl Marx viewed Judaism with hatred. For Marx, whose family converted to Protestantism when Karl was 6, Judaism was synonymous with bourgeois capitalism (see Marx's essay, On the Jewish Question , 1843).
W. Robertson Smith's work focused on the Bible, the prophets, and family relations and culminated in his study The Religion of the Semites (1889). This last work examined temple ritual and sacrifice. Analyzing ancient Judaism in his comparative study of Semitic societies, Smith noted the importance of ritual without rationale (1889:3). Smith argued that sacrifice is a communion between the god and his worshipers in the joint participation in eating the flesh and blood of the animal (1889:345). What is directly expressed in the sacrificial meal is that the god and his worshipers are commensals (1889:269). The paschal lamb and the laws surrounding itthe requirement that it be eaten as part of a family group, for example, and that no bone may be brokensuggest that this particular sacrifice represented the community, and eating of it joined one with community (1889:345). The participation of the members of the community in the annual paschal sacrifice renews their holiness. Similarly, piacular ritesrites of sorrow, fear, or mourningrestore the connection of the community to its god. They too are an expression of and an intensification of attachment to the sacred.
…mile Durkheim, scion of a distinguished rabbinical family and trained in Jewish scholarship and talmudic study, appears to address Judaism only peripherally. Yet his early education is visible in more than his style of reasoning. His analysis comparing Jewish rates of suicide with rates for Protestants and Catholics is well known among sociologists. Many are also familiar with his discussion of Hebrew law as an example of repressive law (in The Division of Labor in Society , 1902). Durkheim's categorization of legal fines as repressive may appear surprising but is fully consonant with the talmudic law with which Durkheim was thoroughly familiar. The distinction Durkheim drew between repressive and restitutive law is identical to the talmudic distinction between k'nass (fines) and mamon (monetary obligations).
While Durkheim's notion of "collective conscience," which is connected to his idea of the sacred, has no counterpart in Judaism, the connection of the sacred to community clearly does. His distinction between sacred and profane is thoroughly consonant with Judaism's, and possibly rooted in it as well, as Durkheim clearly acknowledges his debt to Robertson Smith (Parsons 1949:401).
Sigmund Freud's Moses and Monotheism (1962 ), written at the end of his influential career, tried to account for the origins and special characteristics of the Jewish people. Writing with a disregard for evidence and biblical texts that he himself characterized as "drawing on it [the Bible] for confirmation whenever it is convenient, and dismissing its evidence without scruple when it contradicts my conclusions" (1962:30), he proposed that Moses had been an Egyptian who taught Egyptian monotheism to Israel. Moses was killed when the Jews rebelled against him. This patricide gave rise to a self-perpetuating unconscious guilt feeling passed down in the national consciousness. He argued that Jesus was the resurrected Moses and the primeval father of the horde as well (1962:112 ff). The point of this was that Jews not only killed the primeval god and his reincarnations but admitted it.
Freud freely reconstructs other elements of Judaism as well. Circumcision, he argues, is an Egyptian rite and is proof that Moses was an Egyptian. Levites were Egyptian officers recruited by Moses when he became leader of Israel. Other elements of Judaism, including stories drawn from the midrash , are introduced when they support Freud's thesis.
The foregoing simply suggests some of the elements of Judaism that attracted the attention of some leading modern social scientists. Marx, Durkheim, and Freud all had Jewish roots, and the former two descended from rabbinical families. Nonetheless, it is Max Weber who showed the greatest interest in Judaism and described aspects of it in positive, if not complimentary, terms.
Weber's Sociology of Judaism
For Weber, the world historical importance of Judaism is not exhausted by the fact that it fathered Christianity and Islam. It is a turning point of the whole cultural development of the West and the Middle East. It compares in historical significance with "Hellenic intellectual culture, Roman law, the Roman Catholic church resting on the concept of office, the medieval estates, and Protestantism" (1952:5).
Weber found two aspects of Judaism of particular significance: its rationality and its ethicalism. Weber considered that the absolute monotheism of Judaism set it off from all other religions, including Christianity and even Islam (Weber 1963 :138 ff). When this monotheism and its requirement for rationality confronted the imperfection of the world, it gave rise to the problem of theodicy in its sharpest and most philosophical form. Although magic played a major role in other religions, it was systematically opposed by the Torah teachers (1952:219). Moreover, Weber held that only Judaism and Islam are strictly monotheistic, and he contrasts the universal monotheism of Judaism with the relative monotheism of Zoroastrianism (1963:20-24). In his Introduction to the edition of The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism written just before his death in 1920, Weber noted the primacy of rationality in Occidental thought. In place of magical ritual, the Occident has developed rational systems of thought and organization. Weber describes the God of Israel as the "god of intellectuals" as well as god of plebeians, although these masses are led and taught by an educated stratum (1952:223).
Ethical prophecy : Weber saw the ritualism of Judaism promoting ethics, and argued that "a ritualistic religion may exert an ethical effect in an indirect way, by requiring that participants be specially schooled. This happened in ancient Judaism, resulting in systematic popular education. Systematic regulation of ritual led to systematic regulation of ethics of everyday living" (1963:154). Weber contends that Judaism requires rational mastery over the world but not strict innerworldly asceticism (1963:256). This rationalism is heightened by "the immense impact of the absence in Judaism and in ascetic Protestantism of a confessional, the dispensation of grace by a human being" (1963:189 f).
Pariah people : Weber's use of the term pariah people with regard to the Jews is well known. Gerth and Martindale consider it an unfortunate term and suggest that Park's concept of the "marginal man" is a better description (in Weber 1952:xxv). Weber uses the term to describe Jews' "guest people" (i.e., minority) status. The term pariah resonates with the religious conflict between Christians and Jews, particularly with the notion of the Jews' outcast status resulting from their ostensibly having killed Christ. Weber does not suggest this in his use of the term; as he uses it, it refers either to their minority or marginal status or to aspects of Judaism that set it off from other religions. Some of the latter factors are viewed positively by Weber.
For example, Weber notes the importance of the Sabbath and circumcision in effecting a separation of Jews from other nations (1963:71, 1952:354) and describes in detail the development of ritualistic segregation (1952:336-343). Here Weber is describing the "pariah" community in terms of religious boundary-maintaining mechanisms. Weber argues that the outcome of this "pariah intellectualism" in Judaism resulted in general public schools for the diffusion of literacy and systematic education in critical thinking, the hallmark of Jews (1963:128). Elsewhere Weber connects pariah status to the tenacity with which Jews and pariah Hindus hold to their religion in the face of "murderous humiliation and persecution." Pariah status gives rise to resentment, which is "important in Jewish ethical salvation religion, although completely lacking in all magical and caste religions" (1963:109-110).
Weber's discussion of the religion of nonprivileged classes refers in detail to Judaism and to its pariah status. He contrasts Indian and Jewish pariah status and notes the emergence of congregational religion in Judaism. He concludes that only a congregational religion, especially one of the rational and ethical type, could conceivably win followers easily, particularly among the urban lower middle classes, and then given certain circumstances, exert a lasting influence on the pattern of life of these classes. This is what actually happened. (1963:99)
Pariah status, in the sense of marginality or minority status, also led to Judaism's emphasis on a day when their inferior position would be reversed and they would became masters. This too differed from Hindu pariah notions. In an extended discussion of resentment and retribution, Weber finds some points of agreement with Nietzsche's analysis of resentiment but, in contrast to Nietzsche, finds this sentiment is consonant with critical ethical and rational elements of Judaism (1963:110-116)
Werner Sombart (1914) challenged Weber's wellknown thesis on the importance of Protestantism for the emergence of capitalism. Sombart argued that the Jews were the principal cause of the disruption of feudalism and its replacement by capitalism. Although it is accepted that Jews had an important role in the early development of capitalism, Sombart's theories provided the Nazis with anti-Semitic material. Weber's discussion of Judaism, Christianity, and the socioeconomic order (1963, chap. 15) is a response to Sombart's thesis.
The Faith of Judaism
What follows are definitions and descriptions of some of the significant beliefs, rituals, and sacred components of normative Judaism.
The Torah is the body of Divine Jewish teaching; narrowly, the term indicates the Five Books of Moses. The term is also used with reference to all the books of the Bible and the oral traditions. Jewish tradition ascribes the origin of the Torah to Moses (Deut. 33:4). The Torah was accepted by the Children of Israel in a covenental ceremony (b'rit) at Sinai (Exod. 24:7). Nonetheless, the message of the Torah is for all mankind.
Israel was "chosen" because it accepted the Torah. The Covenant is eternal and nonabrogable. With the rise of Christianity and Islam, which claim to replace both the "Old" Testament and the Jewish people, the nonabrogability of both the Covenant and the chosenness of Israel became crucial.
Moses was teacher, prophet, lawgiver, and leader; known as Moshe Rabbeinu (Moses Our Teacher [literally, "master"] in Rabbinic literature, and as "father [greatest] of the prophets." Under him, Israel was shaped into a nation. He led them out of Egypt and for 40 years in the desert. It was he who received the Torah at Sinai and transmitted it to Israel. Yet he is portrayed as human and mortal and is punished by God for his errors. In contrast to founders of other religions, he was not to be deified or glorified. Moses's authority, although challenged during his lifetime, remained unchallenged after his death. He is the "trusted servant" who spoke to God "mouth to mouth, manifestly and not in riddles" (Num. 12:8).
God is the creator and sustainer of the universe and all the creatures in it (see Gen. 1-3, Psalms, et passim in the OT). The Sh'ma declares God's unity; the Ten Commandments, His sole and sovereign rule as creator, sustainer, and savior. He requires moral behavior of His creatures, and particularly of man. He is long suffering, merciful, loving, and just (Exod. 34:6, 7). He is omnipotent, omniscient (Job 28:23, 42:2), and eternal. He is the Father of all mankind yet has a unique covenantal relationship with the Jewish people.
God not only blew life's breath into man but created man in His image. This was understood by the rabbis to refer to man's soul (Hebrew, neshama or nefesh ). "The human soul is God's light" (Prov. 20:27). The nature of the soul is nowhere authoritatively defined. The soul exists after death. But where? In sheol ? In heaven or in Gehinom (literally, "valley of Hinom"; in the Talmud, the place of punishment of evildoers)? Do animals too have souls (Ecl. 3:21)? Answers to all these questions are uncertain. Similarly, the afterlife has remained undefined and a source of speculation in Judaism. Emphasis has focused instead on ethical action. Weber also has commented on a number of other concepts including election of Israel, good and evil, free will, Providence, salvation, messiah, redemption, repentance, resurrection, revelation, and reward and punishment.
No single statement of belief or set of practices is universally accepted as containing Judaism's essence. Several traditional formulations are provided below. There is overlap in these various statements.
Sh'ma is the statement, "Hear, O Israel, The Lord [Y-H-W-H] is our God, The Lord [Y-H-W-H] is one" (Deut. 6:5), a central affirmation of God's unity. It has distinguished Judaism from polytheism and from the duality of Zoroastrianism and the trinitarianism of Christianity. This statement and the following verses that command one to "Love God . . . with all your heart and with all your soul" (Deut. 6:6-9) have been understood as the essential credo of Judaism. Rabbinical Judaism has required that the Sh'ma be repeated each evening and morning. The Sh'ma written on parchment is also contained in the tefillin , small black leather boxes that traditional Jews place on their arms and their heads during weekday morning prayer. The Sh'ma parchment is also placed on doorposts (called mezuzot ; singular, mezuzah ).
The Decalogue or Ten Commandments was a covenant between God and Israel (Deut. 4:13) written on stone tablets, by the "finger of God." They were placed in the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies. The first four commands deal with duties to God; the fifth requires respect for parents. The last five deal with relations to fellow human beings.
The prophet Micah defined the essence of Judaism as "to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God" (6:5). The Talmud reports that for Hillel the Elder, its core was the following: "What is hateful to you do not do to your neighbor. The rest is commentary, Go and learn it" (Shab. 31a). The Talmud (Sanhedrin 74a) also sets three rejections as central: A Jew should be martyred rather than (1) commit murder, (2) worship idols, or (3) engage in forbidden sexual relations.
Despite the variations in views of the central beliefs, in the twelfth century Maimonides formulated "13 Principles of Belief" accepted by traditional Jews as authoritative. They include references to the oneness of a personal God, His incorporeality, the immutability of the Torah, ultimate justice, resurrection, and the messiah.
Jewish Religious Practice
The unity of Judaism and the community of Jews emerges primarily from practices rather than from beliefs. Judaism places its major emphasis on behaviors rather than beliefs. While one is a "believing Christian," one is an "observant" or "practicing Jew." Rituals or practices are viewed as holy commandments, or mitzvot . They include not only worship behaviors but also those that sanctify ordinary behaviors such as eating (rules of "kosher") or sexual relations (rules regarding incest, modesty, and purity) that transform and sanctify the action.
Halakha is the authoritative laws and rules of Judaism, laws derived from the scriptures as well as from rabbinic traditions and the customs of the Jewish people. It encompasses the life of the individual from awakening in the morning until and including how and where one sleepsand with whom and when. It provides a detailed set of instructions for all roles of life. Although life everywhere is lived by roles, halakha is unique in that the roles are explicit, articulated, and taught as part of the obligatory behavior of the member of the community. Ethical rules are the core of halakha.
Justice plays a central role and has a uniquely universal quality: "Justice, justice shall ye pursue" (Deut. 16:20). Charity derives from the same Hebrew root word as justice (zdk) . The principle of equality of all before the law (Lev. 24:22) permeates all of Jewish law. Also emphasized is care of the poor and the less fortunate; charity is regarded as justice. The poor were given a tithe of the crops and in addition were permitted to gather forgotten sheaves of grain (shikchah) and to pick up after the harvesters (leket) . The Talmud created a special fund for the poor (kupa) and provided soup kitchens (tamchoi) . Interest-free loans also are provided for the needy.
Widows and orphans are provided with additional protections. Slavery was permitted but was carefully limited. Girls sold into slavery by their fathers were to be married to their masters or the masters' sons. If not, they were to be set free. They could not be resold. Runaway slaves were not to be returned to their masters. In the year of the jubilee, liberty was to be proclaimed throughout the land, and all slaves were to be freed. Judaism concretized its ethics in laws of contracts, torts, domestic law, marriage and divorce, charity, business and inheritance laws, laws of privacy, of prevention of cruelty to animals, of ecology, and in building regulations. These constitute a major part of the Talmud and the religious codes.
The Religious Calendar:
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