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Ethical Literature (Sifrut musar)

(298 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] This term is used both by traditional Jewish genre designation and modern scholarship to describe the body of spiritual literature, usually intended for the wide public, which directs Jews in their daily lives. The emphasis, in most cases, is not on the purely practical aspect of ethical conduct (which is codified in the Halakhah), religious law, but in the spiri…

Bahir, Sefer ha-Bahir

(281 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (“the Book of Brilliance”), also known as the Midrash of Rabbi Nechunia ben ha-Kanah (after the 2nd-cent. sage to whom the first paragraph in the book is attributed). It is the first work of the Kabbalah, and was written anonymously around 1185, probably in the Provence or in northern Spain. It contains around 200 paragraphs, which are attribu…

Ethics

(18,301 words)

Author(s): Herms, Eilert | Antes, Peter | Otto, Eckart | Horn, Friedrich Wilhelm | Leicht, Reimund | Et al.
[German Version] I. Concept and Scope – II. Religious Studies – III. Bible – IV. Judaism – V. As a Theological Discipline – VI. As a Philosophical Discipline (Business Ethics, Discourse Ethics, Economic Ethics, Ethics, Bio-Medical Issues, Ethics Commissions, Ethics Education, Ethics of Conviction, Ethics of Duty, Ethics of Goods, Ethics of Responsibility, Evolutionary Ethics, Fraternal Ethics, Individual Et…

Zohar, Sefer

(471 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] The Zohar is the most important book of the Kabbalah (II) and one of the most profound works of mysticism (III, 2.b.) in the Middle Ages. It joined the Bible and the Talmud as the three most sacred works of Judaism. According to G. Scholem it was written mainly by Rabbi Moses ben Shem Tov de Leon in northern Spain between 1270 and 1291; according to Isaiah Tishby it was written in the year de Leon died in 1305. Since 1280 de Leon was distributing sections of the Zohar, claiming th…

Abraham ben Azriel

(152 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] was one of the major authors belonging to the Kalonymus circle of 13th-century Rhineland esoterics and mystics; he was among the third generation of scholars produced by this school. He came to Speyer from Bohemia to study with Rabbi Judah the Pious (died 1217) and especially with Rabbi Eleazar ben Judah of Worms, whom he referred to as his immediate teacher. He is the author of Arugat ha-bosem (“Bed of Spices”: Song 5:13), completed in 1234, an exhaustive commentary on the piyuttim of the Jewish prayer book. Its encyclopedic compass makes Arugat ha-bosem unique …

Providence

(4,529 words)

Author(s): Friedli, Richard | Cancik-Lindemaier, Hildegard | Bosman, Hendrik | Söding, Thomas | Plathow, Michael | Et al.
[German Version] I. Religious Studies Certainty is a fundamental human need. The answers given by religions to unsettling experiences cover a broad cultural spectrum. The issue is (1) to foresee fate as much as possible, (2) to integrate it into a cosmology, and (3) thus to master it. In general terms, we can identify four ways of containing the unforeseeable. 1. Being at the mercy of natural events. When they are powerless, people feel at the mercy of a powerful, threatening fate. Archaic forms of religion and shamanistic experiences (Shamanism) document how t…

Apocalypticism

(4,831 words)

Author(s): Hellholm, David | Kratz, Reinhard Gregor | Frankfurter, David | Dan, Joseph | Collins, Adela Yarbro | Et al.
[German Version] I. Definition of the Term as a Problem for the History of Religions – II. Old Testament – III. Jewish Apocalypticism – IV. New Testament – V. Church History – VI. Dogmatics – VII. Islam – VIII. Art History I. Definition of the Term as a Problem for the History of Religions As a phenomenon in the history of religions, apocalypticism represents a form of revealed communication distinct from other types such as prophecy (Prophets and prophecy: I), oracle, mantic…

Disputation

(1,448 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph | Köpf, Ulrich | van Ess, Josef
[German Version] I. Judaism – II. Christianity – III. Islam I. Judaism Talmudic tradition includes several examples of disputations between Jewish scholars and pagan philosophers or Roman emperors, dealing mainly with the questions of divine unity, the creation and the role of Israel ( b. Sanh. 91a–b; ' Abod. Zar. 10a–11a, etc.). Disputations with representatives of Islam and, especially, of the Christian religion became a central subject in the historical and apologetical literature (…

Azriel of Girona

(186 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (1160–1238) was a significant writer of the first generation of Kabbalists in Girona. He probably was a disciple of Isaac, and with Rabbi Ezra he founded a new center in Catalonia. Many of his ideas influenced the Zohar and hence the Kabbalah as a whole. He wrote a commentary on the traditional prayers, in which he identifies the hidden divine power within every word and letter; a commentary on the Haggadah, which was a major step in presenting a hidden kabbalistic meaning in talmudic sayings; a commentary on the ancient Sefer Yetzirah and many other treatises. He combi…

Sacred Sites

(2,374 words)

Author(s): Baudy, Dorothea | Reichert, Andreas | Dan, Joseph | Koch, Guntram
[German Version] I. Religious Studies Characterization of a place as “sacred” or “holy” lends it a special status vis-à-vis its environment. Usually specific regulations govern how it is entered and used. Traditionally this status has been grounded in the belief that the site is proper to a deity or another spiritual being, or that a special power emanates from it. Sacred sites are particularly common at the center and on the fringes of group territories: the “men’s house” or festival ground defines the center of a village, just as the temple complex on …

Zefad

(195 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (Safed, Sefat; bibl. Heb. תפַצְ/ ṣepat), is a small town in the Upper Galilee in northern Israel which served as a center for Jewish mystics from the 16th century (Land of Israel). Many kabbalists (Kabbalah) assembled in this town, attracted by nearby Meron with the tomb of Rabbi Simeon bar Yohai, the 2nd-century sage to whom the Zohar is attributed. Several main figures lived in Zefad: Rabbi Joseph Karo, the author of Shulhan Arukh, the major book of law in modern Judaism; Rabbi Moshe Alsheikh, the great sermonist; Rabbi Israel Nagara, the great litur…

Exempla,

(314 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] a literary genre, which became frequent in Hebrew ethical literature in the Middle Ages and modern times, deriving its roots from midrashic literature (Midrash) and which may have been influenced by comparable literary devices in Christian medieval literature. An early medieval example of the use of exempla was the anthology Midrash Aseret ha-Dibrot (“Expounding the Ten Commandments”), which originated probably in Babylonia in the 7th and 8th centuries. This work contains examples of …

Yehiel ben Yekutiel Anav of Rome

(134 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] Jewish physician, halakhist, and ethical writer in the second half of the 13th century in Italy. His best-known work is the ethical treatise, Maʾalot ha-Midot (“The ascending ethical qualities”), written c. 1287, one of the most important ethical works of that age. Yehiel bases his teachings on both traditional rabbinic education and rationalistic philosophical ideology which was dominant among Jewish intellectuals at that time. His attitude is moderate and worldly (among the recommended qualities, “weal…

Sacred and Profane

(5,561 words)

Author(s): Paden, William E. | Milgrom, Jacob | Taeger, Jens-Wilhelm | Vroom, Henk M. | Hunsinger, George | Et al.
[German Version] I. Religious Studies While the sacred/profane duality has a long history, going back to the Romans, it was the emergence of an intercultural, anthropological perspective in the late 19th century that made it a significant descriptive category in comparative religious studies…

Nagara, Israel ben Moses

(185 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (…

Apologetics

(9,615 words)

Author(s): Usarski, Frank | Horst, Pieter W. van der | Dan, Joseph | Lüdemann, Gerd | Skarsaune, Oskar | Et al.
[German Version] I. Concept – II. Judaism – III. New Testament – IV. Church History – V. Islam – VI. Fundamental Theology – VII. Practical Theology – VIII. Missiology I. Concept The necessity – felt with varying intensity by different communities of faith – to lend credibility to one's own …

Mysticism

(17,207 words)

Author(s): Brück, Michael v. | Gordon, Richard L. | Herrmann, Klaus | Dan, Joseph | Köpf, Ulrich | Et al.
[German Version] I. The Concept – II. Religious Studies – III. History – IV. Philosophy of Religion – V. Practical Theology – VI. Islamic Mysticism – VII. Hindu Mysticism – VIII. Taoist Mysticism I. The Concept The concept of mysticism is closely linked to the development of the history of religion in Europe and the term must not be taken and applied uncritically as a general term for a phenomenologically determined group of phenomena in other religions (see also II, 3 below). Attempts at definition are either phenomenolog…

Alemano, Yohanan ben Isaac

(230 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (c. 1435, Florence – c. 1504), one of the most important kabbalists, philosophers, and educators in the Jewish community in Italy in the second half of the 15th century. He was an important source of Kabbalah for his contemporary Pico della Mirandola, thus having great influence on the development of the Christian kabbalah of that period. He was raised in Florence, where he spent most of his life, but also lived in Mantua and other cities. Part of his printed work is his commentary on the Song of Songs,

Moses of Narbonne

(162 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] (c. 1300, Perpignan, France – 1363, Soria, Spain) was one of the great Jewish philoso-¶ phers of the 14th century. He was a physician by profession and wandered between several cities in Provence and Spain. His best-known and most influential work is his commentary on Moses Maimonides's More Nevukhim (publ. 1852 in Vienna). He was a radical interpreter of Maimonides, and loyal, more than almost all other Jewis…

Hasidic Tales

(276 words)

Author(s): Dan, Joseph
[German Version] The use of narrative literature in the presentation of Hasidism occurred mainly more than a century after the beginning of the movement. It peaked in the period between 1863 and 1914 when many scores of collections of Hasidic tales were published in Hebrew and Yiddish, mainly in Poland. In the ealier period of Hasidism, only two narrative works were published, both in 1815: Shivchey ha-Besht [In praise of the Besht], a hagiographic biography of the founder of the movement, Israel Baʾal Shem Tov (acronym Besht; this collection became paradigmat…
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