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Glimpses of History #12: Judaism

Judaism is a monotheistic, scriptural religious conviction that evolved from the religion of ancient Israel during the Second Temple period (516 BCE–70 CE.)

Two fundamental beliefs shaped the attitude of Judaism toward nature and toward the systematic study of nature (that is to say, science):

  1. that God is the creator of the universe
  2. that God revealed God’s will in the form of Law—the Torah (literally “instruction”)—to the chosen people, Israel.

Judaism: History, Belief and Practice

Biblical accounts and archaeological findings are roughly in agreement: there were once two adjoining kingdoms, Judah in the south and Israel to the north, sharing the same monotheistic belief. Whether, as the Bible asserts, Judah fell on account of tolerance of other gods is unidentified: modern thinking is that it was a vassal state of Assyria. As a result, Babylon’s king Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Judah’s capital, Jerusalem (and its temple) around 600 BCE, with a fraction of its inhabitants taken into captivity. This separation motivated the formalization of the Tanakh, Jewish scriptures: much had already been written, but the canon was set at this period and shows signs of Babylonian cultural domination.

Much of the populace, though, had been left in Israel, causing dispute when Persian conqueror Cyrus the Great took Babylon and allowed the exiles to return to the Levant and rebuild their temple. Subsequently, Israel and Yehud (past Judah) would become more and more self-reliant, gaining independence again in the second century BCE under the Maccabees (the Selucid empire, who had succeeded the Babylonians, were failing). After the celebrated general Pompey invaded in 63 BCE, the area became Roman.

'Judaism History' by Dan Cohn-Sherbok (ISBN 1138912212) Following a great Jewish revolt, the second temple was destroyed in the Roman sack of Jerusalem in 70 CE, but Jewish opposition to the Roman empire continued sporadically until 136 BCE, when the Bar Koziba rebellion against the aggressively antisemitic Emperor Hadrian led to the disbanding of Israel and the Diaspora (pan-European migration of Jews). Others had moved eastwards in Roman times, becoming convenient contacts for the Abbasid caliphate and Convivencia-era Spain, and later Venice and the Ottoman empire.

Talmudic observations and rabbinical lore would become vital foundations of a faith without a homeland. Christianity, for the meantime, was regarded as an derivative of Judaism until Constantine convened the Council of Nicaea in CE 325.

As Europe adopted Christianity, emigrant Jews became opportune all-purpose hate-figures; the Black Death was blamed on them and Tsarist pogroms forced many from east Europe and Russia to America and east London in the late 19th century. This movement, culminating in the Holocaust, led to the creation of the modern state of Israel in 1948.

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Hasidic Judaism Quotes

Hasidic Judaism is a Jewish religious sect Hasidic Judaism or Hasidism is a Jewish religious sect that resulted from a spiritual revival movement in Western Ukraine during the 18th century and spread rapidly throughout Eastern Europe.

  • Rabbi Michel of Zlotchov once said to his children, “My life was always blessed in that I never needed anything until I had it.”
  • Rabbi Rami Shapiro writes: “Aren’t all religions equally true? No, all religions are equally false. The relationship of religion to truth is like that of a menu to a meal. The menu describes the meal as best it can. It points to something beyond itself. As long as we use the menu as a guide we do it honor. When we mistake the menu for the meal, we do it and ourselves a grave injustice.”
  • Soon after the death of Rabbi Moshe of Kobrin someone asked one of his disciples what was the most important thing to his teacher. The disciple thought and then replied, “Whatever he happened to be doing at the moment.”
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Man’s Imperfection and God’s Infallibility

Man's Imperfection and God's Infallibility

  • It is an old Jewish tradition to place one brick out of line / askew in a new building, as an acknowledgement of man’s imperfection.
  • Persians deliberately knit a defect into their carpets because they do not wish to compete with God’s infallibility.
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Love of Parents and Love of God: Sense of Security

Love of Parents and Love of God Sense of Security

The sense of security is an indispensable need for emotional health. We need to feel secure on several practical dimensions: financial, physical, social, interpersonal, & emotional. We also need to feel secure at a much deeper level—this is called existential insecurity.

The question to ponder is, what is it that can make a person feel secure and protected in the world? Our parents have often been held responsible for developing it in us. The love of a father and a mother creates in the child the feeling of being wanted, filling the child’s world with warmth and loving kindness. In this manner is engendered the sense of security which we all need for a happy response to the rigorous demands of everyday living.

There is no uncertainty that parental love will add to the child’s feeling of security in the world, particularly for the very young child. Yet parental love is an inadequate anchor for emotional security. For our parents are worldly and mortal, and we are bound to lose them. And even while we have them, they do not always offer us enough anchorage in life, for as we grow in emotional and worldly perception, we comprehend that our parents are but finite creatures. We are limited in the resources of wisdom and strength with which to support our own lives. We need another love to bolster parental love if we are to have durable sources of security for living.

The love which time cannot undermine, and which is available to under-gird us in our need for feeling at home in the world, is the love of God. The Holy Quran (2:165) says, “Yet there are men who take (for worship) others besides God, as equal (with God): They love them as they should love God. But those of Faith are overflowing in their love for God.”

One who recognizes God’s love is psychologically prepared for the arduous business of living. For His sense of security is based on unwavering foundations. The Holy Bible says, “The steadfast love of God endures all the day” (Psalm 52:1.)

During what periods of your life have you felt secure and insecure? How have you learned to live with a certain degree of existential insecurity?

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Posted in Faith and Religion Philosophy and Wisdom