Encyclopaedia of Judaism

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Subject: Jewish Studies

General Editors: Jacob Neusner, Alan J. Avery-Peck and William Scott Green

The Encyclopaedia of Judaism Online offers more than 200 entries comprising more than 1,000,000 words and is a unique reference tool.  The Encyclopaedia of Judaism Online offers an authoritative, comprehensive, and systematic presentation of the current state of scholarship on fundamental issues of Judaism, both past and present. While heavy emphasis is placed on the classical literature of Judaism and its history, the Encyclopaedia of Judaism Online also includes principal entries on circumcision, genetic engineering, homosexuality, intermarriage in American Judaism, and other acutely contemporary issues. Comprehensive and up-to-date, it reflects the highest standards in scholarship. Covering a tradition of nearly four thousand years, some of the most distinguished scholars in the field describe the way of life, history, art, theology, philosophy, and the practices and beliefs of the Jewish people.

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Magic, Magic Bowls, Astrology in Judaism

(9,253 words)

Author(s): Avery-Peck, Alan J.
Judaism, like most systems of religion, distinguishes between miracles—the extraordinary deeds of the true God or agents of the true God—and magic—the extraordinary deeds of false gods or their agents. (1) The former acts are judged good and acceptable, so that a person who is able to use the power of the divine for purposes the religion deems right and appropriate is thought of as a holy man, miracle worker, or sage. By contrast, a person—usually an outsider or practitioner of a different religion—who demonstrates similar abilities is derided as a witch, demon, or fiend. This distinction…

Mamzer

(4,211 words)

Author(s): Basser, Herbert W. | Fishbane, Simcha
Illegitimate children have been a source of concern to many societies. Each of these societies stigmatizes in some way its “illegitimate offspring.” In general, illegitimacy refers to a child whose conception and birth do not conform to the institutional rules governing reproduction in the community to which its parents belong. (14) Even today, the concept is related to the structures of the institution of marriage—an institution that among other purposes, embodies the social and religious “lawfulness” of the group. These…

Masculine and Feminine in Judaism

(7,150 words)

Author(s): Neusner, Jacob
Judaism in its classical documents joins traits explicitly marked as male to those explicitly classified as female and insists upon both in the formation of models of virtue. It therefore may be classified as androgynous, exhibiting the traits of both sexes as the religion itself defines those gender-qualities. In this world holy Israel is to emulate women's virtue as the condition of the coming of the Messiah. Women's capacity for devotion, selfless faith, and loyalty defines the model of what is required of Israel for its virtue. Gender Roles and the Judaic System The sages of the nor…

Medical Ethics of Judaism

(14,766 words)

Author(s): Rosner, Fred
Recent advances in biomedical technology and therapeutic procedures have generated a moral crisis in modern medicine. The vast strides made in medical science and technology have created options that only a few decades earlier would have been relegated to the realm of science fiction. To a significant degree, humans now have the ability to exercise control over not only the ravages of disease but even over the very process of life and death. With the unfolding of new discov…

Medieval Judaeo-Arabic Literature

(11,113 words)

Author(s): Polliack, Meira
Judaeo-Arabic literature designates the rich oeuvre, literary and scientific, created by the Jews of Muslim lands in the Judaeo-Arabic language during the medieval and modern periods. Essentially, this language is a form of medieval (also termed middle) Arabic that deviates from classical Arabic in that it reflects some neo-Arabic dialectic features and pseudo-corrective elements. It is also distinguished by two other features that demonstrate its Jewish origin: the use of Hebrew rather than Arabic s…

Messiah

(9,688 words)

Author(s): Green, William Scott | Silverstein, Jed
Probably no religious idea seems more fundamental to Judaism or more essentially Jewish than that of the messiah , Israel's eschatological redeemer. It is widely supposed that Judaism is a messianic religion and that hope for the messiah's appearance is the major focus of, and driving force behind, Jewish religious belief and behavior. Indeed, two commonplaces of western history are that, in first century Palestine, enhanced Jewish anticipation of the messiah's arrival was t…

Messiah in Rabbinic Judaism

(10,622 words)

Author(s): Neusner, Jacob
Throughout the Oral Torah the main point of the theological eschatology—the theory of last things—registers both negatively and affirmatively. Death does not mark the end of the individual human life, nor exile the last stop in the journey of Holy Israel. Israelites will live in the age or the world to come, all Israel in the Land of Israel; and Israel will comprehend all who know the one true God. The restoration of world order that completes the demonstration of God's justice encompasses both …