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Judaism, History of. Part V.A: Judaism in Modern Times in Europe

(10,684 words)

Author(s): Neusner, Jacob
For the history of Judaism in Europe, “modern times” begin when, from the late eighteenth century, political change removed from Christianity its power to define culture. The militant secularism of the French Revolution sought to replace Christianity with a religion of reason. When Christianity no longer governed as the sole arbiter of the social order and political life. Rabbinic Judaism as set forth in Talmudic and related writings met competition within Jewry. The Rabbinic Judaism that had taken shape in the fifth century c.e. in response to triumphant Christianity and that…

Tradition in Judaism II

(15,495 words)

Author(s): Neusner, Jacob
Is Judaism a traditional religion? At stake is a long-term issue of culture, namely, the relationship, in the formation of the Judaic culture, between philosophical system and historical tradition. In its canonical documents beyond Scripture, which are the Mishnah, Talmuds, and Midrash, normative Judaism claims to present enduring traditions, a fundament of truth revealed of old—the oral component of the Torah of Sinai. Judaism appeals to literary forms and cultural media that accentuate the tra…

Aggadah

(11,634 words)

Author(s): Neusner, Jacob
The Category-Formations A principle of category-formation selects and organizes facts into the building blocks of social culture (compare Halakhah: The Category-Formations ). It tells us how we define what we want to know and, therefore, also how to find it out. The category-formation defines the theory of the conglomeration of random data into coherent wholes. Cultural categories define the context of coherence. Out of context facts present gibberish, in context, they afford insight and meaning. Out of context info…

Liturgy of Judaism, Content and Theology

(8,678 words)

Author(s): Neusner, Jacob
Life under the law means praying—morning, noon, night, and at meals—both routinely and when something unusual happens. As a Jew in the classical tradition, one lives life constantly aware of the presence of God and always ready to praise and bless God. The way of Torah is the way of perpetual devotion to God. Here we look into the substance of that devotion: for what do pious Jews ask when they pray? For what do they thank God? We find that Judaism's liturgy of home and synagogue expresses the theology of classical Judaism. In every synagogue that addresses God in the wor…

Augustine and Judaism

(9,239 words)

Author(s): Neusner, Jacob
Augustine of Hippo's life, in North Africa and Italy (354–430) coincided with the period in which, to the east, the Rabbinic sages of the land of Israel produced the Talmud of the Land of Israel in amplification of the Mishnah as well as their Midrash-compilations in extension of Moses's books of Genesis and Leviticus, ca. 400–500. 1 But he comes to mind, for comparison and contrast with Rabbinic Judaism, not merely because of temporal coincidence. Rather, the reason is that, like the sages of Judaism, he confronted a comparable this-worldly circumst…

Rabbinic Judaism, Formative Canon of, II: The Halakhic Documents

(15,008 words)

Author(s): Neusner, Jacob
“Halakhah” refers to laws, norms of conduct, and halakhic documents are those that present rules of correct behavior and belief for holy Israel. These form continuations of the laws that the written Torah sets forth. Many derive from the exegesis and amplification of the laws of the written Torah, some from tradition of Sinai set forth by “our sages of blessed memory.” The halakhic documents of the Rabbinic canon are the Mishnah, Tosefta, Talmud of the Land of Israel, and Talmud of Babylonia. The Mishnah The Mishnah is a philosophical law code, covering topics of both a theoreti…

Reform Judaism

(9,921 words)

Author(s): Neusner, Jacob
Reform Judaism, also known as Liberal or Progressive Judaism, sets forth a Judaic religious system that takes as its critical task the accommodation of Judaism to political changes in the status of the Jews from the late eighteenth century onward (fig. 132). These changes, particularly in Western Europe and the USA, accorded to Jews the status of citizens like other citizens of the nations in which they lived. But they denied the Jews the status of a separate, holy people, living under its own l…

Theodicy of Judaism II: Justifying Individual Fate

(9,290 words)

Author(s): Neusner, Jacob
The ultimate anomaly of a logic animated by the principle of God's rational justice comes to realization in the actualities of everyday life. That God orders the world through justice accessible to human reason confronts the everywhere acknowledged obstacle: justice prevails only now and then. Man's fate rarely accords with the fundamental principle of a just order but mostly discredits it. But if the human condition embodied in Israelites' lives one by one defies the smooth explanations that se…

Intentionality in Judaism

(7,326 words)

Author(s): Neusner, Jacob
In the classical sources of Judaism, people match God in possessing freedom of will. The sole player in the cosmic drama with the power to upset God's plans is the human, who alone is like God, “in our image, after our likeness” (Gen. 1:26). Humanity bears a single trait that most accords with the likeness of God, the possession of will and the power of free exercise thereof. In justice and good will, God makes the rules; humanity willfully breaks them. The theology of the Oral Torah thus identi…

Repentance in Judaism

(3,389 words)

Author(s): Neusner, Jacob
The word “repentance” renders into English the Hebrew theological word, teshuvah, meaning, “turning,” in the sense of a turning away from sin, a turning toward God. Repentance in Judaism when properly carried out erases the consequences of sin and reconciles God and the sinner. That means the one who has sinned regrets the sin and resolves not to repeat it, and, further, when the occasion to repeat the sinful deed comes once more, the penitant does not then revert to the prior sinful action or condition. …

Politics, Judaism and, I: The Normative Statement in Scripture and the Talmud

(5,068 words)

Author(s): Neusner, Jacob
The political theory of Judaism emerges in the Hebrew Scriptures of ancient Israel as these writings are interpreted by the rabbis of the first six centuries c.e. in the Talmud of Babylonia and related documents. The Pentateuch portrays Israel as “a kingdom of priests and a holy people” and further takes for granted that this “kingdom” or “people” forms a political entity, exercising legitimate violence. Scripture therefore understands Israel not merely as a church or a voluntary community but an empowered society, with …

Theodicy of Judaism I: The Moral Order, Reward, and Punishment

(7,422 words)

Author(s): Neusner, Jacob
Theodicy means justifying God's deeds within the Torah's theology. The theodicy of Judaism is Judaism, defining as it does the generative issue of the entire theological system that animates the documents of Rabbinic Judaism from the first through the seventh centuries c.e. That issue is how one all-powerful God can be deemed just given the state of Israel, his people, in the world? 1 The parameters of the problem are readily discerned when we contrast monotheism with polytheism. Theodicy therefore presents a particular problem to monotheism. Life is seldom…

Genesis in Judaism

(9,933 words)

Author(s): Neusner, Jacob
Classical Judaism reads the book of Genesis through the interpretative construction set forth in Genesis Rabbah, a systematic, verse-by-verse, analysis of the book of Genesis produced in the Land of Israel at ca. 450 c.e. Genesis Rabbah transforms the book of Genesis from a genealogy and family history of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, then Joseph, into a book of the laws of history and rules of the salvation of Israel: the deeds of the founders become omens and signs for the final generations. In Genesis Rabbah the entire narrative of Genesis is so formed as to point toward the sacr…
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