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Glossary of Judaism

Glossary of Jewish Terminology

❶Of far more immediate concern to the average Jew were the circumvention of Talmudic prohibitions against usury, relaxation of prohibitions regarding traffic with Gentiles in wines, and adoption of severe disciplinary measures, such as excommunication, against informers or those appealing, in cases involving Jews, to the Gentile authorities. Kippot range in size from a small round beanie that covers only the back of the head to a large, snug cap that covers the whole crown.

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Alexandrian, combining Judaism and Platonism and acting as a precursor of Neoplatonism. Also called Sepher Torah. Switch to new thesaurus. Conservative Judaism - Jews who keep some of the requirements of the Mosaic law but allow for adaptation of other requirements as some of the dietary laws to fit modern circumstances.

Reform Judaism - the most liberal Jews; Jews who do not follow the Talmud strictly but try to adapt all of the historical forms of Judaism to the modern world. Passover supper , Seder - Judaism the ceremonial dinner on the first night or both nights of Passover. Ark , Ark of the Covenant - Judaism sacred chest where the ancient Hebrews kept the two tablets containing the Ten Commandments.

Menorah - Judaism a candelabrum with seven branches used in ceremonies to symbolize the seven days of Creation. Tabernacle - Judaism a portable sanctuary in which the Jews carried the Ark of the Covenant on their exodus.

Qabbala , Qabbalah , Cabala , Cabbala , Cabbalah , Kabala , Kabbala , Kabbalah - an esoteric theosophy of rabbinical origin based on the Hebrew scriptures and developed between the 7th and 18th centuries. Cabalism , Kabbalism - the doctrines of the Kabbalah. Orthodox Judaism - beliefs and practices of a Judaic sect that strictly observes Mosaic law. Conservative Judaism - beliefs and practices of Conservative Jews. Megillah - Judaism the scroll of parchment that contains the biblical story of Esther; traditionally read in synagogues to celebrate Purim.

Torah - Judaism the scroll of parchment on which the first five books of the Hebrew Scripture is written; is used in a synagogue during services.

Talmudic literature - Judaism ancient rabbinical writings. Midrash - Judaism an ancient commentary on part of the Hebrew scriptures that is based on Jewish methods of interpretation and attached to the biblical text.

Jewish rye , Jewish rye bread - Judaism bread made with rye flour; usually contains caraway seeds. Kabbalist , Cabalist - a student of the Jewish Kabbalah. Sabbatarian - one who observes Saturday as the Sabbath as in Judaism. Feast of Booths , Feast of Tabernacles , Succos , Succoth , Sukkoth , Tabernacles - a major Jewish festival beginning on the eve of the 15th of Tishri and commemorating the shelter of the Israelites during their 40 years in the wilderness.

Hebrew calendar , Jewish calendar - Judaism the calendar used by the Jews; dates from BC the assumed date of the Creation of the world ; a lunar year of days is adjusted to the solar year by periodic leap years. Aggadah aliyah ark Ark of the Covenant Assideanism baalebos bar mitzvah bas mitzvah bat mitzvah bath mitzvah blintze challah Channukah Channukkah Chanukah Chanukkah Chasidism cheder Conservative Judaism.

References in classic literature? All were silent; for none thought it safe, in the presence of the Grand Master, to avow any interest in the calumniated prisoner, lest he should be suspected of leaning towards Judaism. From the time of John Hyrcanus the Sadducees generally held a higher position than the Pharisees and were favoured by the Jewish rulers.

They similarly rejected the inspiration of the prophetic books of the Bible, as well as the Pharisaic beliefs in angels, rewards and punishments in the world to come, providential governance of human events, and resurrection of the dead.

Proselytes converts to Judaism, though not constituting a class, became increasingly numerous in Palestine and especially in the Diaspora the Jews living beyond Palestine. Scholarly estimates of the Jewish population of this era range from , to 5,, in Palestine and from 2,, to 5,, in the Diaspora , the prevailing opinion being that about one-tenth of the population of the Mediterranean world at the beginning of the Christian era was Jewish.

Such numbers represent a considerable increase from previous eras and must have included large numbers of proselytes. In a probable allusion to proselytism, in bce the Jews of Rome were charged by the praetor with attempting to contaminate Roman morals with their religion. The first large-scale conversions were conducted by John Hyrcanus and Aristobulus I , who in and bce , respectively, forced the people of Idumaea in southern Palestine and the people of Ituraea in northern Palestine to become Jews.

Outside the pale of Judaism in most, though not all, respects were the Samaritans , who, like the Sadducees, refused to recognize the validity of the Oral Law; in fact, the break between the Sadducees and the Samaritans did not occur until the conquest of Shechem by John Hyrcanus bce.

On the one hand, the picture of normative Judaism is broader than at first believed, and it is clear that there were many differences of emphasis within the Pharisaic party. On the other hand, supposed differences between Alexandrian and Palestinian Judaism are not as great as had been formerly thought. In Palestine, no less than in the Diaspora, there were deviations from Pharisaic standards. Despite the attempts of the Pharisaic leaders to restrain the wave of Greek influence, they themselves showed at least superficial Hellenization.

In the first place, as many as 2, to 3, words of Greek origin are found in the Talmudic corpus, and they supply important terms in the fields of law, government, science, religion, technology, and everyday life, especially in the popular sermons preached by the rabbis. When preaching, the Talmudic rabbis often gave the Greek translation of biblical verses for the benefit of those who understood only Greek.

The prevalence of Greek in ossuary burial inscriptions and the discovery of Greek papyri in the Dead Sea caves confirm the widespread use of Greek, though it seems few Jews really mastered it. Talk either Hebrew or Greek. Many of the anecdotes told about the rabbis have Socratic and Cynic parallels. There is evidence of discussions between rabbis and Athenians, Alexandrians, Roman philosophers, and even the emperor Antoninus Pius reigned — ; despite all of these discussions, only one rabbi, Elisha ben Abuyah early 2nd century , appears to have embraced gnosticism , accepting certain esoteric religious dualistic views.

Again, the parallels between Hellenistic rhetoric and rabbinic hermeneutics are in the realm of terminology rather than of substance, and those between Roman and Talmudic law are inconclusive. Part of the explanation of this may be that, although there were 29 Greek cities in Palestine, none was in Judaea , the real stronghold of the Jews.

Until its destruction in 70 ce , the most important religious institution of the Jews was the Temple in Jerusalem the Second Temple, erected — bce. Although services were interrupted for three years by Antiochus IV Epiphanes — bce and although the Roman general Pompey —48 bce desecrated the Temple in 63 bce , Herod lavished great expense in rebuilding it.

The high priesthood itself became degraded by the extreme Hellenism of high priests such as Jason and Menelaus , and the institution declined when Herod began the custom of appointing high priests for political and financial considerations.

That not only the multitude of Jews but the priesthood itself suffered from sharp divisions is clear from the bitter class warfare that ultimately erupted in 59 ce between the high priests on the one hand and the ordinary priests and the leaders of the populace of Jerusalem on the other.

Although the Temple remained central in Jewish worship, synagogues had already emerged as places for Torah reading and communal prayer and worship during the Babylonian Exile in the 6th century bce , if not even earlier. In any case, in the following century Ezra stood upon a pulpit of wood and read from the Torah to the people Nehemiah. Some scholars maintain that a synagogue existed even within the precincts of the Temple; certainly by the time of Jesus , to judge from the references to Galilean synagogues in the Christian Scriptures, synagogues were common in Palestine.

Hence, when the Temple was destroyed in 70, the spiritual vacuum was hardly as great as it had been after the destruction of the First Temple bce. The chief legislative, judicial, and educational body of the Palestinian Jews during the period of the Second Temple was the Great Sanhedrin council court , consisting of 71 members, among whom the Sadducees were an important party.

In addition, there seems to have been a Sanhedrin, set up by the high priest, which served as a court of political council, as well as a kind of grand jury. During the Hellenistic-Roman period the chief centres of Jewish population outside Palestine were in Syria, Asia Minor , Babylonia, and Egypt, each of which is estimated to have had at least one million Jews. The large Jewish community of Antioch —which, according to Josephus, had been given all the rights of citizenship by the Seleucid founder-king, Seleucus I Nicator died bce —attracted a particularly large number of converts to Judaism.

In Antioch the apocryphal book of Tobit was probably composed in the 2nd century bce to encourage wayward Diaspora Jews to return to their Judaism. As for the Jews of Asia Minor, whose large numbers were mentioned by Cicero —43 bce , their not joining in the Jewish revolts against the Roman emperors Nero reigned 54—68 ce , Trajan reigned 98— , and Hadrian reigned — would indicate that they had sunk deep roots into their environment. In Babylonia in the early part of the 1st century ce , two Jewish brothers, Asinaeus and Anilaeus, established an independent minor state; their followers were so meticulous in observing the Sabbath that they assumed that it would not be possible to violate it even in order to save themselves from a Parthian attack.

In the early 1st century ce , according to Josephus, the royal house and many of their entourage in the district of Adiabene in northern Mesopotamia were converted to Judaism; some of the Adiabenian Jews distinguished themselves in the revolt against Rome in The largest and most important Jewish settlement in the Diaspora was in Egypt.

There is evidence papyri of a Jewish military colony at Elephantine Yeb , Upper Egypt , as early as the 6th century bce. These papyri reveal the existence of a Jewish temple—which most certainly would be considered heterodox—and some syncretism mixture with pagan cults.

Alexandria , the most populous and most influential Hellenistic Jewish community in the Diaspora, originated when Alexander the Great assigned a quarter of the city to the Jews. Until about the 3rd century bce the papyri of the Egyptian Jewish community were written in Aramaic ; after that, with the exception of the Nash papyrus in Hebrew, all papyri until ce were written in Greek. Similarly, of the Jewish inscriptions from Egypt, all but five are written in Greek.

The process of Hellenistic acculturation is thus obvious. The most important work of the early Hellenistic period—dating, according to tradition, from the 3rd century bce —is the Septuagint , a translation into Greek of the Hebrew Scriptures, including some works not found in the traditional Hebrew canon. As revealed in the Letter of Aristeas and the works of Philo and Josephus, the Septuagint was itself regarded by many Hellenized Jews as divinely inspired. The translation shows some knowledge of Palestinian exegesis and the tradition of Halakhah the Oral Law ; but the rabbis themselves, noting that the translation diverged from the Hebrew text, apparently had ambivalent feelings about it, as is evidenced in their alternate praise and condemnation of it, as well as in their belief that another translation of the Scriptures into Greek was needed.

The fact that the temple at Leontopolis in Egypt was established c. It is significant that the Palestinian rabbis ruled that a sacrifice intended for the temple of Onias might be offered in Jerusalem. The temple of Onias made little impact upon Egyptian Jewry, as can be seen from the silence about it on the part of Philo, who often mentions the Temple in Jerusalem. The temple of Onias, however, continued until it was closed by the Roman emperor Vespasian reigned 69—79 ce in The chief religious institutions of the Egyptian Diaspora were synagogues.

As early as the 3rd century bce , there were inscriptions mentioning two proseuchai , or Jewish prayer houses. In Alexandria there were numerous synagogues throughout the city, of which the largest was so famous that it is said in the Talmud that he who has not seen it has never seen the glory of Israel.

In Egypt the Jews produced a considerable literature most of it now lost , intended to inculcate in Greek-speaking Jews a pride in their past and to counteract a sense of inferiority that some of them felt about Jewish cultural achievements.

In the field of history, Demetrius near the end of the 3rd century bce wrote a work titled On the Kings in Judaea ; perhaps intended to refute an anti-Semitic Egyptian priest and author, it shows considerable concern for chronology.

In the 2nd century bce a Jew who used the name Hecataeus wrote On the Jews. Cleodemus Malchus , in an attempt to win for the Jews the regard of the Greeks, asserted in his history that two sons of Abraham had joined Heracles in his expedition in Africa and that the Greek hero had married the daughter of one of them.

On the other hand, Jason of Cyrene c. In addition, 3 Maccabees 1st century bce is a work of propaganda intended to counteract those Jews who sought to win citizenship in Alexandria. The Letter of Aristeas , though ascribed to the Egyptian king Ptolemy II Philadelphus — bce , was probably composed by an Alexandrian Jew about bce to defend Judaism and its practices against detractors. Egyptian Jews also composed poems and plays, now extant only in fragments, to glorify their history.

Philo the Elder c. At about the same time, a Jewish poet wrote a didactic poem, ascribing it to the pagan Phocylides , though closely following the Bible in some details; the author disguised his Jewish origin by omitting any attack against idolatry from his moralizing.

A collection known as The Sibylline Oracles , containing Jewish and Christian prophecies in pagan disguise, includes some material composed by a 2nd-century- bce Alexandrian Jew who intended to glorify pious Jews and perhaps win converts.

A Jewish dramatist of the period, Ezekiel c. Fragments of one of them, The Exodus , show how deeply he was influenced by the Greek dramatist Euripides — bce. Whether or not such plays were actually presented on the stage, they edified Jews and showed pagans that the Jews had as much material for drama as they did. The greatest achievements of Alexandrian Judaism were in the realm of wisdom literature and philosophy. In a work on the analogical interpretation of the Law of Moses, Aristobulus of Paneas 2nd century bce anticipated Philo in attempting to harmonize Greek philosophy and the Torah.

He used allegory to explain anthropomorphisms in the Bible and asserted that the Greek philosophers were indebted to Moses. The Wisdom of Solomon , dating from the 1st century bce , shows an acquaintance with the Platonic doctrine of the preexistence of the soul and with a method of argument known as sorites , which was favoured by the Stoics see Stoicism.

During the same period, the author of 4 Maccabees showed an intimate knowledge of Greek philosophy , particularly of Stoicism. By far the greatest figure in Alexandrian Jewish literature is Philo, who has come to be recognized as the first Jewish theologian. His use of Greek philosophy, particularly that of Plato, to explicate the ideas of the Torah and his formulation of the Logos Word, or Divine Reason as an intermediary between God and the world helped lay the foundations of Neoplatonism , gnosticism , and the philosophical outlook of the early Church Fathers.

Philo was a devotee of Judaism neither as a mystic cult nor as a collateral branch of Pharisaic Judaism. With his profound knowledge of Greek literature—and despite his almost total ignorance of Hebrew—he tried to find a way in which Judaism could appropriate Hellenic thought. There was also a Jewish community in Rome, which numbered perhaps 50, To judge from the inscriptions in the Jewish catacombs , it was predominantly Greek-speaking.

References by Roman writers, particularly Tacitus 56— ce and the satirists, have led scholars to conclude that the community was influential, that it observed the Sabbath and the dietary laws, and that it actively sought converts. The Hellenization of the Diaspora Jews is reflected not merely in their literature but even more in various papyri and art objects. As early as bce , Hecataeus of Abdera, a Greek living in Egypt, had remarked that under the Persians and Macedonians the Jews had greatly modified the traditions of their fathers.

Other papyri indicate that at least three-fourths of Egyptian Jews had personal names of Greek rather than Hebrew origin. The only schools mentioned are Sabbath schools intended for adults; this suggests that Jews were extremely eager to gain admittance for their children to Greek gymnasia , where quite obviously they would have had to make compromises with their Judaism.

Again, there are a number of violations from the norms of Halakhah which precluded the charging of interest for a loan: There are often striking similarities between Jewish and Greek documents of sale, marriage, and divorce in Egypt, though some of this—as with the documents of the Elephantine Jewish community—may be due to a common origin in the law of ancient Mesopotamia.

The charms and apotropaic amulets are often syncretistic, and the Jews can hardly have been unaware of the religious significance of symbols that were still very much filled with meaning in pagan cults. The fact that the Jewish community of Alexandria was preoccupied in the 1st century bce and the 1st century ce with obtaining rights as citizens—which certainly involved compromises with Judaism, including participation in pagan festivals and sacrifices—shows how far they were ready to deviate from earlier norms.

Philo mentions Jews who scoffed at the Bible, which they insisted on interpreting literally, and others who failed to adhere to biblical laws that they regarded as mere allegory; he writes too of Jews who observed nothing of Judaism except the holiday of Yom Kippur.

Christian writers later similarly attacked the Jews for refusing to give up the Torah. The Jews of Egypt were at least loyal in their contributions of the Temple tax and in their pilgrimages to Jerusalem on the three festivals. Virulent anti-Semitism and massacres perpetrated by non-Jews in Egypt apparently discouraged actual apostasy and intermarriage, which were not common.

During this period, literature was composed in Palestine in Hebrew , Aramaic , and Greek ; the original language of many of these texts remains disputed by scholars, and the works that have survived were apparently composed by more than one author over a considerable period of time.

Of the works originally composed in Hebrew, many—including Ecclesiasticus , 1 Maccabees, Judith , Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs , Baruch , Psalms of Solomon —existed only in Greek during the remainder of the Hellenistic period. They and many of the Dead Sea Scrolls are generally conscious imitations of biblical books, often reflecting the dramatic events of the Maccabean struggle and often tinged with apocalyptic themes involving the dramatic intervention of God in history.

Sometimes, as in Jubilees and in the Pseudo-Philo work, these accretions are intended to answer the questions of heretics, but often, particularly in the case of Josephus, they are apologetic in presenting biblical heroes in a guise that would appeal to a Hellenized audience.

Apocalyptic trends, given considerable impetus by the victory of the Maccabees over the Syrian Greeks, were not as was formerly thought restricted to Pharisaic circles. They were as is clear from the Dead Sea Scrolls found in other groups as well and are of particular importance for their influence on both Jewish mysticism and early Christianity.

These books, which have a close connection with the biblical Book of Daniel , stress the impossibility of a rational solution to the problem of theodicy. They also stress the imminence of the day of salvation, which is to be preceded by terrible hardships, and presumably reflected the current historical setting. In the First Book of Enoch there is stress on the terrible punishment inflicted upon sinners in the Last Judgment , the imminent coming of the messiah and his kingdom, and the role of angels.

The sole Palestinian Jewish author writing in Greek whose works are preserved is Josephus. His account of the war against the Romans in his Life —and, to a lesser degree, in the Jewish War —is largely a defense of his own questionable behaviour as the commander of Jewish forces in Galilee.

But these works, especially Against Apion and Jewish Antiquities , are also defenses of Judaism against anti-Semitic attacks. Under Roman rule a number of new groups, largely political, emerged in Palestine.

Their common aim was to seek an independent Jewish state. They were also zealous for, and strict in their observance of, the Torah. Unlike the Zealots , however, they did not refuse to pay taxes to the Romans. The Zealots, whose appearance was traditionally dated to 6 ce , were one of five groups that emerged at the outset of the first Jewish war against Rome 66—73 ce , which began when the Jews expelled the Romans from Jerusalem, the client king Agrippa II fled the city, and a revolutionary government was established.

The Zealots were a mixture of bandits, insurgents from Jerusalem, and priests, who advocated egalitarianism and independence from Rome. The Sicarii Assassins , so-called because of the daggers sica they carried, arose about 54 ce , according to Josephus, as a group of bandits who kidnapped or murdered those who had found a modus vivendi with the Romans.

It was they who made a stand at the fortress of Masada , near the Dead Sea, committing suicide rather than allowing themselves to be captured by the Romans Only some of the Essenes were celibate. Like the Essenes and the Dead Sea sects, they adopted a monastic lifestyle and opposed the way in which sacrifices were offered in the Temple.

On the basis of paleography, carbon testing , and the coins discovered in the caves, most scholars accept a 1st-century date for them. A theoretical relationship of the communities with John the Baptist and the nascent Christian groups remains in dispute, however. The sectaries have been identified variously as Zealots, an unnamed anti-Roman group, and especially Essenes. It has long been debated whether gnosticism originated in the apocalyptic strains of Judaism that were prevalent when the Temple was destroyed in Although it is doubtful that there is any direct Jewish source of gnosticism, some characteristic gnostic doctrines are found in certain groups of particularly apocalyptic 1st-century Jews—the dichotomy of body and soul and a disdain for the material world, a notion of esoteric knowledge, and an intense interest in angels and in problems of creation.

Indeed, Jesus himself may now be classified as an apocalyptic prophet whose announced intentions were not to abrogate the Torah but to fulfill it. It is possible to envision a direct line between Jewish currents, both in Palestine and the Diaspora in the Hellenistic Age, and Christianity—particularly in the traditions of martyrdom , proselytism, monasticism , mysticism , liturgy, and theology and especially with the doctrine of the Logos Word as an intermediary between God and the world and as the connection of faith and reason.

In general, moreover, Christianity was more positively disposed toward Hellenism than was Pharisaism, particularly under the leadership of Paul , a thoroughly Hellenized Jew. Even after Paul proclaimed his opposition to observance of the Torah as a means of salvation, many Jewish Christians continued the practice. Among them were two main groups: The number of Jews converted to any form of Christianity was extremely small, as can be seen from the frequent criticisms of Jews for their stubbornness by Christian writers.

In the Diaspora, despite the strong influence of Hellenism, there were relatively few Jewish converts, though the Christian movement had some success in winning over Alexandrian Jews. There were four major stages in the final break between Christianity and Judaism: When Pompey entered the Temple in 63 bce as an arbiter both in the civil war between John Hyrcanus II and Aristobulus I and in the struggle of the Pharisees against both Jewish rulers, Judaea in effect became a puppet state of the Romans.

During the civil war between Pompey and Julius Caesar c. Because he was by origin an Idumaean, he was regarded by many Jews as a foreigner. When the emperor Caligula reigned 37—41 ordered that a statue of himself be erected in the Temple, a large number of Jews proclaimed that they would suffer death rather than permit such a desecration.

In response, the governor of Syria, Petronius , succeeded in getting the emperor to delay. The procurators of Judaea, being of equestrian knightly rank and often of Oriental Greek stock, were more anti-Jewish than the governors of Syria, who were of the higher senatorial order.

The last procurators in particular were indifferent to Jewish religious sensibilities; and various patriotic groups, to whom nationalism was an integral part of their religion, succeeded in polarizing the Jewish population and bringing on the first war with Rome in The climax of the war, as noted earlier, was the destruction of the Temple in 70, though, according to Josephus , Titus sought to spare it.

The papyri indicate that the war against Trajan —involving the Jews of Egypt, Cyrenaica , Cyprus , and Mesopotamia though only to a minor degree those of Palestine —was a widespread revolt under a Cyrenian king-messiah, Lukuas-Andreas, aimed at freeing Palestine from Roman rule. In — the same spirit of freedom inspired another uprising, the Second Jewish Revolt , led by Bar Kokhba , who may have had the support of the greatest rabbi of the time, Akiba ben Joseph 40— c.

Having suffered such tremendous losses on the field of battle, Judaism turned its dynamism to the continued development of the Talmud. After the defeat of Bar Kokhba and the ensuing collapse of active Jewish resistance to Roman rule — , politically moderate and quietist rabbinic elements remained the only cohesive group in Jewish society. With Jerusalem off-limits to the Jews , rabbinic ideology and practice, which were not dependent on the Temple , priesthood , or political independence for their vitality, provided a viable program for autonomous community life and thus filled the vacuum created by the suppression of all other Jewish leadership.

The Romans , confident that the will for insurrection had been shattered, soon relaxed the Hadrianic prohibitions of Jewish ordination , public assembly, and regulation of the calendar and permitted rabbis who had fled the country to return and reestablish an academy in the town of Usha in Galilee. The strength of the rabbinate lay in its ability to represent simultaneously the interests of the Jews and the Romans, whose religious and political needs, respectively, now chanced to coincide.

The rabbis were regarded favourably by the Romans as a politically submissive class, which, with its wide influence over the Jewish masses, could translate the Pax Romana the peace imposed by Roman rule into Jewish religious precepts. To the Jews, on the other hand, the rabbinic ideology gave the appearance of continuity to Jewish self-rule and freedom from alien interference. The rabbinic program fashioned by Johanan ben Zakkai and his circle replaced sacrifice and pilgrimage to the Temple with the study of Scripture , prayer, and works of piety, thus eliminating the need for a central sanctuary in Jerusalem and making Judaism a religion capable of practice anywhere.

Judaism was now, for all intents and purposes, a Diaspora religion, even on its home soil. Any sense of real break with the past was mitigated by continued adherence to purity laws dietary and bodily and by assiduous study of Scripture, including the legal elements that historical developments had now made inoperable.

The reward held out for scrupulous study and fulfillment was the promise of messianic deliverance—i. Above all these rewards was the assurance of personal resurrection and participation in the national rebirth. Apart from the right to teach Scripture publicly, the most pressing need felt by the surviving rabbis was for the reorganization of a body that would revive the functions of the former Sanhedrin and pass judgment on disputed questions of law and dogma. Accordingly, a high court was organized under the leadership of Simeon ben Gamaliel reigned c.

In the ensuing struggle for power, Gamaliel managed to concentrate all communal authority in his office. Armed with wealth, Roman backing, and dynastic legitimacy which the patriarch now traced to the house of David , Judah sought to standardize Jewish practice through a corpus of legal norms that would reflect accepted views of the rabbinate on every aspect of life.

The Mishna that soon emerged became the primary reference work in all rabbinic schools and constituted the core around which the Talmud was later compiled see Talmud and Midrash. It thus remains the best single introduction to the complex of rabbinic values and practices as they evolved in Roman Palestine. By ce several such compilations were circulating in Jewish schools and were being utilized by judges. While adhering to the structural form of these earlier collections, Judah compiled a new one in which universally accepted views were recorded alongside those still in dispute, thereby largely reducing the margin for individual discretion in the interpretation of the law.

Neither compilation elucidated the processes by which decisions had been elicited, and various authorities therefore set about collecting the Midrashic discussions of their schools and recording them in the order of the verses of Scripture. During the 3rd and 4th centuries, Midrashim on the Pentateuch were compiled and introduced as school texts. Fundamentally legal in character, this literature regulated every aspect of life; the six divisions of the Mishna—on agriculture, festivals, family life, civil law , sacrificial and dietary laws, and purity—encompass virtually every area of Jewish experience.

Accordingly, the Mishna also recorded the principal Pharisaic and rabbinic definitions and goals of the religious life. The rabbinic program of a life dedicated to study and fulfillment of the will of God was thus a graded structure in which the canons of morality and piety were attainable on various levels, from the popular and practical to the esoteric and metaphysical.

Innumerable sermons and homilies preserved in the Midrashic collections, liturgical compositions for daily and festival services, and mystical tracts circulated among initiates all testify to the deep spirituality that informed Rabbinic Judaism. The promulgation of the Mishna initiated the period of the lecturers or interpreters , teachers who made the Mishna the basic text of legal exegesis. The curriculum now centred on the elucidation of the text of the standard compilation, harmonization of its decisions with extra-Mishnaic traditions recorded in other collections, and the application of its principles to new situations.

Amoraic studies have been preserved in two running commentaries on the Mishna, known as the Palestinian or Jerusalem Talmud and the Babylonian Talmud , reflecting the study and legislation of the academies of the two principal Jewish centres in the Roman and Persian empires. Talmud is also the comprehensive term for the whole collections, Palestinian and Babylonian, containing Mishna, commentaries, and other matter.

The schools were the primary agencies through which the rabbinic way of life and literature was communicated to the masses. Primary schools had long been available in the villages and cities of Palestine, and tannaitic law made education of male children a religious duty. Introduced at the age of five or six to Scripture, the student advanced at the age of 10 to Mishna and finally in midadolescence to Talmud, or the processes of legal reasoning.

Regular reading of Scripture in the synagogue on Mondays, Thursdays, Sabbaths , and festivals, coupled with concurrent translations into the Aramaic vernacular and frequent sermons, provided for lifelong instruction in the literature and the various teachings elicited from it. The amoraic emphasis on the moral and spiritual aims of Scripture and its ritual is reflected in their Midrashic collections, which are predominantly homileticalrather than legal in character.

An amoraic sermon conceded that, of every 1, beginners in primary school, only one would be expected to continue as far as Talmud. In the 4th century, however, there were enough advanced students to warrant academies in Lydda, Caesarea, Sepphoris, and Tiberias in Palestine , where leading scholars trained disciples for communal service as teachers and judges. In Caesarea —the principal port and seat of the Roman administration of Palestine, where pagans, Christians, and Samaritans maintained renowned cultural institutions—the Jews too established an academy that was singularly free of patriarchal control.

The outstanding rabbinic scholar there, Abbahu c. Because he combined learning with personal wealth and political power, he attracted some of the most gifted students of the day to the city. About the studies and decisions of the authorities in Caesarea were compiled as a tract on the civil law of the Mishna. Half a century later, the academy of Tiberias issued a similar collection on other tracts of the Mishna, and this compilation, in conjunction with the Caesarean material, constituted the Palestinian Talmud.

Despite increasing tensions between some rabbinic circles and the patriarch, his office was the agency that provided a basic unity to the Jews of the Roman Empire. Officially recognized as a Roman prefect, the patriarch at the same time sent representatives to Jewish communities to inform them of the Jewish calendar and other decisions of general concern and to collect an annual tax of a half shekel, paid by male Jews for his treasury.

As titular head of the Jewish community of Palestine and as a vestigial heir of the Davidic monarchy, the patriarch was a reminder of a glorious past and a symbol of hope for a brighter future.

How enduring these hopes were may be seen from the efforts to gain permission to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. The adoption of Christianity as the religion of the empire had no direct effect on the religious freedom of the Jews. The ever-mounting hostility between the two religions, however, resulted in severe curtailment of Jewish disciplinary rights over their coreligionists, interference in the collection of patriarchal taxes, restriction of the right to build synagogues , and, finally, upon the death of the patriarch Gamaliel VI about , the abolition of the patriarchate and the diversion of the Jewish tax to the imperial treasury.

Mediterranean Jewry was now fragmented into disjointed communities and synagogues. But the principles of the regulation of the Jewish calendar had been committed to writing in approximately by the patriarch Hillel II , and this, coupled with the widespread presence of rabbis, ensured the continuity of Jewish adherence. Even the restrictions on synagogal worship and preaching imposed by the Eastern emperor Justinian I reigned — apparently had no devastating effect.

A new genre of liturgical poetry, combining ecstatic prayer with didactic motifs, developed in this period of political decline and won acceptance in synagogues in Asia Minor as well as beyond the Euphrates.

In the increasingly unfriendly climate of Christendom, Jews were consoled by the knowledge that in nearby Babylonia then under Persian rule a vast population of Jews lived under a network of effective and autonomous Jewish institutions and officials. Steadily worsening conditions in Palestine drew many Jews to Persian domains, where economic opportunities and the Jewish communal structure enabled them to gain a better livelihood while living in accordance with their ancestral traditions.

About , two Babylonian disciples of Judah ha-Nasi , Abba Arika known as Rav and Samuel bar Abba, began to propagate the Mishna and related tannaitic literature as normative standards.

As heads of the academies at Sura and Nehardea, respectively, Rav and Samuel cultivated a native Babylonian rabbinate, which increasingly provided the manpower for local Jewish courts and other communal services.

While the usual tensions between temporal and religious arms frequently existed in Babylonia, the symbiosis of exilarchate and rabbinate endured until the middle of the 11th century. Paradoxically, Babylonian rabbinism derived its theological and political strength from its fundamentally unoriginal character. Legal and theological adaptations generated by the new locale and the needs of the times inevitably produced changes in the religious tradition.

The laws of agriculture, purity, and sacrifices all of necessity fell into disuse. The principles embodied in these laws, however, and the core of the legal and theological system—consisting of faith in the revelation and election of Israel, the requirement that the individual live by the canons of Jewish civil and family law , and the network of communal institutions modeled on those of Palestinian Judaism—remained intact, thereby ensuring a basic continuity and uniformity among rabbinically oriented communities everywhere.

Because historical circumstances made Babylonia the mediator of this tradition to all Jewish communities in the High Middle Ages 9th—12th centuries , the Babylonian version of Jewish religion became synonymous with normative Judaism and the measure of Judaic authenticity everywhere. Whereas Palestinian rabbis had complied with imperial decrees of taxation as legitimate de facto—and this was all that Samuel had in mind—Babylonian teachers now rationalized governmental authority in this respect as legitimate de jure, thus enjoining upon the Jews political quietism and submissiveness as part of their religious doctrine.

In all other areas of civil law, the Jews were instructed by their rabbis to file suit in Jewish courts and thus to conduct their businesses as well as their family lives by rabbinic law. While the rabbis could impose their discipline more effectively in matters of public law than in private religious practice, the density of the Jewish population in many areas of Parthia northeastern Iran and Babylonia facilitated the application of moral and disciplinary pressures.

The most effective vehicle for the dissemination of their teachings was the academies, where judges and communal teachers were trained; among these institutions, those of Sura and Pumbedita remained preeminent. Frequent public lectures in the synagogues of the academies on Sabbaths and festivals were capped by public kalla study-course assemblies for alumni of the schools during the two months, Adar February—March and Elul August—September , when the lull in agricultural work freed many to attend semiannual refresher instruction.

These meetings were followed by regular popular lectures during the festival seasons that soon followed. Thus, while rabbis constituted a distinct class within the community, their efforts were oriented toward making as much of the community as possible members of a learned and religious elite. The dissemination of the Palestinian Talmud probably stimulated the Babylonians to follow suit by collecting and arranging the records of study and decisions of their own academies and courts.

The Babylonian Talmud, which apparently underwent several stages of redaction c. As had been the case with the Mishna, the redaction of the Babylonian Talmud was later designated by authorities as marking the end of a period in Jewish history. The enduring vigour of Jewish faith during these centuries is graphically demonstrated by the missionary activity of Jews throughout the ancient Middle East , especially in the Arabian Peninsula. Jewish missionaries, however, continued to compete with Christian missionaries and thus helped to lay the groundwork for the birth of an indigenous Arabic monotheism — Islam —that was to alter the course of world history.

The lightning conquests in the Middle East, North Africa , and the Iberian Peninsula by the armies of Islam 7th—8th century created a political framework for the basically uniform i. The heads of the two principal academies were now formally recognized by the exilarch, and through him by the Muslim caliphs the civil and religious heads of the Muslim state , as the official arbiters of all questions of religious law and as the religious heads of all Jewish communities that came under Muslim sway.

Religious questions and contributions were solicited from all Jewish communities, and these, along with formal gaonic replies responsa , were regularly publicized at the semiannual kalla convocations. Under the strong leadership of Yehudai, gaon of Sura presided — , the Babylonian rabbinate made vigorous efforts to replace Palestinian usage wherever it was still in vogue—including the study of Palestinian amoraic legal literature—with Babylonian practice and texts, thus making the Babylonian Talmud the unrivalled standard of Jewish norms.

Indeed, even in Palestine the Babylonian corpus displaced its older rival and caused the study of Palestinian Talmudic literature to be confined to circles of legal specialists. The firm—and occasionally oppressive—tactics of exilarchs and geonim generated anti-rabbinic reactions in the form of sectarian and messianic revolts, especially in outlying areas where enforcement was difficult.

Inspired in part by ancient Palestinian sectarian doctrines and in part by Muslim usage, the sects were by and large quickly and forcefully suppressed. In the 8th century, according to the traditional Rabbinite account, Anan ben David , a disaffected member of the exilarchic family, founded a dissident group, the Ananites, later known as the Karaites Scripturalists.

The exact relationship between the followers of Anan and the later Karaites, however, remains unclear. The term itself first appeared in the 9th century, when various dissident groups coalesced and ultimately adopted Anan as their founder, though they rejected several of his teachings. The new group advocated a threefold program of rejection of rabbinic law as a human fabrication and therefore as an unwarranted, unauthoritative addition to Scripture; a return to Palestine to hasten the messianic redemption; and a reexamination of Scripture to retrieve authentic law and doctrine.

Under the leadership of Daniel al-Qumisi c. A barrage of Karaite treatises presenting new views of scriptural exegesis stimulated renewed study of the Bible and the Hebrew language in Rabbinite circles as well. The most momentous consequence of these new studies was the invention of several systems of vocalization for the text of the Hebrew Bible in Babylonia and Tiberias in the 9th and 10th centuries.

The annotation of the Masoretic traditional, or authorized text of the Bible with vocalic, musical, and grammatical accents in the Tiberian schools of the 10th-century scholars Ben Naftali and Ben Asher fixed the Masoretic text permanently and, through it, the morphology of the Hebrew language for Karaites as well as Rabbinites. In the face of sectarian challenges, the geonim intensified their efforts against any deviation from Rabbinite norms.

They began to issue handbooks of Jewish law that set forth in concise and unequivocal terms the standards for correct practice.

The geonim , however, were powerless to halt several social developments in the 9th century that progressively undermined their hold even on Rabbinite communities. A renaissance of Greek philosophy and sciences in Arabic translation, coupled with the progressive urbanization of the upper classes of all religious and ethnic groups in the centres of political, commercial, and cultural activity, generated a new intelligentsia that cut across religious and ethnic lines.

Widespread skepticism concerning basic doctrines of faith such as creation, revelation, and retribution was most poignantly represented by latitudinarianism the tendency to be flexible and tolerant about deviations from orthodox beliefs and doctrines and by antinomian gnostic groups that denied divine providence and omniscience see antinomianism. Karaites joined philosophically oriented intellectuals in heaping scorn on popular Rabbinite customs that smacked of superstition and, above all, on Talmudic homilies that referred to God in anthropomorphic terms.

Gaonic difficulties were compounded by the rise in North Africa and Spain of populous and wealthy Jewish communities that, thanks to the development of their own local schools and talent, ignored the Babylonian academies or favoured one over the other with religious queries and, in consequence, with financial contributions. To the delight of dissidents and the chagrin of the faithful, competition between the Babylonian academies turned to internecine hostility.

Occasional revolts against exilarchic taxation and administration in outlying areas of Persia had to be quelled with armed force. The Palestinian Rabbinites had revived their own academies, and their presidents now not only appealed for support in other Diaspora lands but challenged the authority of the Babylonians to serve as final arbiters on matters of public import, such as the regulation of the calendar. By the Rabbinite community of Babylonia was in a state of chaos and dissolution. His gaonate, however, gave an official stamp to his many works, which responded to the ideological challenges to Rabbinism by restating traditional Judaism in intellectually cogent terms.

His translation of the Bible into Arabic and his Arabic commentaries on Scripture made the rabbinic understanding of the Bible accessible to masses of Jews. His poetic compositions for liturgical use provided the stimulus for the revival of Hebrew poetry. His efforts made Judaism philosophically respectable and the study of philosophy a religiously acceptable pursuit. To be sure, able geonim such as Sherira and his son Hai — exercised enormous influence over the Judeo-Arabic world through hundreds of legal responsa issued in the course of their successive terms — at Pumbedita.

Despite the fundamental uniformity of medieval Jewish culture, distinctive Jewish subcultures were shaped by the cultural and political divisions within the Mediterranean basin, in which Arabic Muslim and Latin Christian civilizations coexisted as discrete and self-contained societies.

Two major branches of rabbinic civilization developed in Europe: Distinguished most conspicuously by their varying pronunciation of Hebrew, the numerous differences between them in religious orientation and practice derived, in the first instance, from the geographical fountainheads of their culture—the Ashkenazim plural of Ashkenazi tracing their cultural filiation to Italy and Palestine and the Sephardim plural of Sephardi to Babylonia—and from the influences of their respective immediate milieus.

While the Jews of Christian Europe wrote for internal use almost exclusively in Hebrew, those of Muslim areas regularly employed Arabic for prose works and Hebrew for poetic composition. Whereas the literature of Jews in Latin areas was overwhelmingly religious in content, that of the Jews of Spain was well endowed with secular poetry and scientific works inspired by the cultural tastes of the Arabic literati.

Most significantly, the two forms of European Judaism differed in their approaches to the identical rabbinic base that they had inherited from the East and in their attitudes to Gentile culture and politics. In Muslim Spain , Jews frequently served the government in official capacities and, therefore, not only took an active interest in political affairs but engaged in considerable social and intellectual intercourse with influential circles of the Muslim population.

Since the support of letters and scholarship was part of state policy in Muslim Spain, and since Muslim savants traced the source of Muslim power to the vitality of the Arabic language , scripture, and poetry, Jews looked at Arabic culture with undisguised admiration and unabashedly attempted to adapt themselves to its canons of scholarship and good taste. The cultured Jew accordingly demonstrated command of Arabic style and the ability to display the beauty of his own heritage through a philological mastery of the text of the Hebrew Bible and through the composition of Hebrew verse, now set to an Arabic metre.

Since Arabic philosophers and scientists promulgated the compatibility of Greek philosophy with the revelation to Muhammad, rationalist study of the Jewish classics and defense of rabbinic faith in philosophical terms became dominant motifs in the Andalusian Jewish schools in southern Spain. The period of feverish literary creativity in classical Jewish disciplines as well as in the sciences in Spain has been called the golden age of Hebrew literature c.

Jewish culture of this age was distinguished by the supreme literary merit of its Hebrew poetry, the new spirit of relatively free and rationalist examination of hallowed texts and doctrines, and the extension of Jewish cultural perspectives to totally new horizons—mathematics, astronomy, medicine, philosophy, political theory, aesthetics , and belles-lettres.

Noteworthy too was the frequent overlapping of the Sephardic religious leadership with the new Jewish courtier class. The effort to recapture the vitality and beauty of biblical poetry stimulated comparative philological and fresh exegetical research that yielded new insights into the morphology of the Hebrew language and into the historical soil of biblical prophecy. In the revival of Hebrew poetry, liturgical as well as secular, that translated the new preoccupation with language and beauty into art, Andalusian Jewry saw its greatest achievements.

Solomon ibn Gabirol c. But the most enduring consequence of the new temper was the redefinition of religious faith in the light of Greco-Arabic philosophical theories. The exposition of faith in Neoplatonic terms by Solomon ibn Gabirol , the defense of Rabbinism using Aristotelian categories by Abraham ibn Daud c. Beginning in the 13th century, a new class of philosophers sponsored the translation of Arabic literature into Hebrew and of Hebrew and Arabic literature into Latin ; they brought Jews and their thought into the mainstream of Western philosophy and gained for them the position of middlemen of culture between East and West.

The salient trends of Sephardic Judaism did not imply relegation of the rabbinic class to a secondary role. Rather, they shaped a fresh approach to rabbinic texts that paralleled in many respects those adopted in biblical exegesis. Strict adherence to consistency, systematization, and philological exactitude yielded new codes that often diverged from gaonic judgments. A digest of Talmudic law by Isaac Alfasi — placed the Sephardic rabbinate on a self-reliant footing and epitomized its method of getting at the essentials of Talmudic law by sidestepping contingent discussions.

In this area too, it was Moses Maimonides who brought the Sephardic principles of comprehensiveness, lucidity, and logical arrangement to their apex through his code of Jewish law, Mishne Torah. Written in Mishnaic Hebrew, the work remains the only comprehensive treatment of all of Jewish law, including those fields that are not applicable in the Diaspora agriculture, purity, sacrifices, Temple procedure.

Sephardic Jewry suddenly encountered a discrete, mature, Jewish culture that for centuries had been developing independently and along quite different lines. The Ashkenazic Jewry, into whose communities the Sephardim had been thrust by political events, regarded their own heritage and the Christian world in which they lived from a perspective shaped exclusively by rabbinic categories.

They drew their school texts and the values that determined their judgments from the Talmud and the Midrash. Sensing no intellectual challenge in Christian faith, which they regarded with thinly concealed contempt , they constituted for the most part a merchant class that lived in urban centres under the protection of ecclesiastical and temporal rulers but also under their own complex of laws and institutions. Except for mercantile relations, Christian society was closed to them, thanks largely to age-old ecclesiastical prohibitions forbidding all social intercourse with Jews.

With the Arab conquest of Spain and the rise of the Carolingians the dynasty that ruled western Europe in the 8th and 9th centuries , the decade interlude of suppression by the Visigoths — came to an end, and the Roman precedent of toleration and autonomy again became the rule. Merchants and rabbis moved from Italy to France and the Rhineland and infused new energies into the Jewish communities there.

An indigenous religious leadership began to emerge at the very time that Andalusian Jewry was entering its golden age. The First Crusade —99 unleashed a tide of hatred, periodic violence, and progressive restrictions on Jewish activities in the Rhineland, but the communities affected had attained sufficient resilience to reestablish their communal institutions shortly afterward and to continue the cultivation of their deeply ingrained traditions.

By Ashkenazic Jewry had established a culture of its own, with an indigenous literature that ranged from the popular homily to the esoteric tract on the nature of the divine glory. Study of the Bible and the Talmud was oriented toward a mystical pietism in which prayer and contemplation of the secrets embedded in the liturgy were to lead to religious experience. Significantly, the fathers of the Ashkenazic tradition were remembered as liturgical poets and initiates into divine mysteries, and the early codes of the Franco-German schools were heavily weighted with discussions of liturgical usage.

After the Second Crusade —49 , the German Jewish mystics also called Hasidim , or pietists placed heavy emphasis on the merits of asceticism , martyrdom , and penitence, thus adapting to a Jewish idiom the features of saintliness then current in Christian Europe.

For the masses of Jews, the cultural fare consisted principally of biblical tales and instruction as interpreted by rabbinic Midrash , the lives of scholars and saints, and liturgical poetry reaffirming the election of Israel and faith in messianic redemption. The chief vehicle of popular instruction consisted of anthologies from the rabbinic writings and commentaries on Scripture, of which the most popular was that of Rabbi Solomon ben Isaac of Troyes — , known as Rashi , the acronym formed from the initials of his name in Hebrew.

For the more advanced student, Rashi composed a succinct commentary on the Talmud that achieved an authority approaching that of the text itself. As living sources of law and values, the Bible and the Talmud had an impact on public and private, as well as secular and religious, affairs.

Taking their cue from Talmudic precedent and from Christian ecclesiastical procedures of their own times, the Ashkenazic rabbis occasionally gathered in regional synods to enact legislation on problems of a general nature for which there was no adequate precedent in the literature.

Among the most enduring of these measures were the prohibition of bigamy and arbitrary divorce and severe economic penalties for abandonment of wives. Of far more immediate concern to the average Jew were the circumvention of Talmudic prohibitions against usury, relaxation of prohibitions regarding traffic with Gentiles in wines, and adoption of severe disciplinary measures, such as excommunication, against informers or those appealing, in cases involving Jews, to the Gentile authorities.

Expressing gnostic doctrines in rabbinic guise, the devotees of Kabbala devised an esoteric vocabulary that reinterpreted the Bible and rabbinic law as allegories of the various modes in which God is manifested in a spiritual universe, access to which was reserved for initiates.

Indeed, in the early 13th century some of the mystics lent their support to a campaign that condemned the study of philosophy as generating skepticism, latitudinarianism, and disrespect for traditional literature. Developments within the two major Jewish communities of medieval Europe were complicated by their uncertain relationship with the Christian community surrounding them.

By all accounts, Christians and Jews had been on relatively good terms until the 11th century. In the early Middle Ages there were frequent contacts between Christians and Jews, who intermarried and shared language and culture.

In the Carolingian era some bishops even complained that the Jews were favoured too much by Carolingian rulers. The situation became more complicated after about the year , as Christian society began a process of reorganization that contributed to the marginalization of the Jews and other groups.

Although the Jews did not endure unrelenting persecution and even enjoyed a cultural renaissance in the 12th century that paralleled a Christian one, they faced an increasingly hostile community that created a new theological image of the Jews and undermined the place of the Jews in society. In the opening decade of the 11th century, Jews in various parts of Europe faced violent attacks and forced conversions that led some, according to one account, to commit suicide rather than accept baptism.

Attacks against the Jews and full-scale massacres of Jews would occur throughout the rest of the Middle Ages, most notably at Mainz in the Rhineland in , in England in —90, in Franconia in , and in France in The image of the Jews among Christians worsened, and numerous anti-Semitic stereotypes appeared in the 12th century.

The most notorious example of these was the blood libel , which alleged that the Jews killed Christian boys and used their blood to make unleavened bread.

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Judaism definition is - a religion developed among the ancient Hebrews and characterized by belief in one transcendent God who has revealed himself to Abraham, Moses, and the Hebrew prophets and by a religious life in accordance with Scriptures and rabbinic traditions. Definitions of terms related to Judaism. Related Books. New Jewish Encyclopedia Penguin Dictionary of Judaism De Lange, Nicholas.

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Judaism definition, the monotheistic religion of the Jews, having its ethical, ceremonial, and legal foundation in the precepts of the Old Testament and in the teachings and commentaries of the rabbis as found chiefly in the Talmud. See more. Key Terms on Judaism Learn with flashcards, games, and more — for free.