Welcome to Scribd. Sign in or start your free trial to enjoy unlimited e-books, audiobooks & documents.Find out more
Standard view
Full view
of .
Look up keyword
Like this
0 of .
Results for:
No results containing your search query
P. 1
Essential Judaism

Essential Judaism

|Views: 401|Likes:
Published by grothst
Through the sixty commandments that all Jews have to fulfill at some point in their lives, the book explores what an essential Judaism looks like.
Through the sixty commandments that all Jews have to fulfill at some point in their lives, the book explores what an essential Judaism looks like.

More info:

Published by: grothst on Mar 21, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


Read on Scribd mobile: iPhone, iPad and Android.
download as DOC, PDF, TXT or read online from Scribd
See more
See less





The well-recognized danger of missing the forest for the trees highlights thedanger, particularly in a religion of law such as Judaism, of losing sight of the goal of thesystem while busying oneself with the necessary details that were meant to contribute toachieving that goal. In the case of Judaism, that translates into the difficulty of observingits many laws while yet keeping an eye on the system’s overall goals and priorities.Knowing the forest, understanding what Judaism wants of its adherents in broadterms, can help several groups of people. First, and of greatest interest to this study, ithelps those who expend time and energy on acting Jewishly, in several ways. It easestheir reaping the intended benefits of the religion, since they know better how to directtheir efforts; it makes it more likely that they will recognize those benefits when theyaccrue, since they will be on the lookout for them; and, finally, it helps them direct their religious energies and priorities most effectively, avoiding the trap of getting caught up inissues of relative unimportance while neglecting vital concerns.
 Those who see a need to change the religion, for whatever reason, can use thiswork to tailor their suggested modifications so that they fit into the internal ethos of thesystem, that what they think should change still maintains the system’s own perspectiveand goals. It is easy to criticize a system by extrapolating from a particular detail to anegative characterization—the religion is overly concerned with money, or it is sexist, or racist, etc.—but those criticisms only deserve to be heard if they accurately understand
I mean here such incongruities as Jews who assiduously observe customs that arose latein the evolution of Judaism while neglecting explicit Biblical imperatives.
the whole system. So, too, whatever changes critics might suggest need to “blend in withthe neighborhood,” as an architect might say, need to fit with the goals and values of therest of the system. This study hopes to provide a convenient summary of those positivegoals and values.Finally, outsiders, those who do not partake of the religion either because of lack of interest, education, or because they are not Jewish, can often be misled by the particular observances of Judaism they see local Jews performing. It would be easy for the casual observer to assume that Judaism is a religion of ritual, focusing primarily onthe Sabbath, holidays, and eating rules; we hope that this review will provide a broader  picture of the kind of people and community Judaism seeks to produce.For all that the trees sometimes obscure the forest, they nonetheless are also what produces the forest; trying to encapsulate the goals of Judaism can only proceed fromassembling its various laws into some kind of working whole. Just like a forest of evergreens could not be said to have the goal of feeding a town, and a forest of fruit treescould not have the goal of greening an area throughout the year, the goals of BiblicalJudaism cannot be separated from the laws that guide the Jew in achieving those goals.
 Clifford Geertz, the celebrated anthropologist, made much the same point inintroducing “thick description” as the best way for anthropologists to describe a culture.By carefully watching the ceremonies and rituals of a society, and by understandingnatives’ view of that society, the outside observer could accurately portray and analyze itfor academic purposes. We are hoping here to provide a thick description of the positive
That the Torah sought to educate Jews already takes a stand on the issue of 
, the reasons for the commandments
 but that is a topic best left for another occasion. Readers will note that we have chosen to refer to the Torah as the source of Jewish law, leaving for another time a fuller definition of God’s role in the legislation of Torah law.2
side of Judaism, to use its details to portray the system as a whole.Thick description requires a judicious selection of only those details that usefullyinform us as to the larger issues, not including too many to be overwhelming, yet notleaving out relevant information. With a culture as complex as Judaism, selection alongthose lines is devilishly difficult. Let us spend a moment explaining how we cut thatmaterial to a manageable size.First, for reasons we will explain below, we have chosen to discuss only BiblicalJudaism, that originally legislated in the Torah. While we will analyze those laws withinusing the Rabbinic tradition of what they meant, we will not discuss the many later layersof Rabbinic legislation, which certainly affected and enriched the religion. Even so, weare left with too much material to be digested usefully within a reasonably sized study.The renowned twelfth-century
and philosopher, Moses Maimonides, provides a further way of subdividing Judaism into digestible portions in his enumerationof the 613 commandments that the Talmud asserted could be found in the Torah,
whichhe called
Sefer haMitsvot 
, the
 Book of the Commandments.
To appreciate Maimonides’comment, though, we need to remember that his enumeration assumes not only thevalidity of the Talmudic claim that the Torah ordained 613 commandments, but also that248 of them were positive commandments, meaning they require a person to take specificaction, and 365 were negative, meaning they prohibit certain actions.
That there were definitely and only 613 commandments was also a matter of debate; see Nahmanides’ questioning the assumption in his comments on the first of Maimonides’introductory principles to the book.
Makkot 23b.3

Activity (25)

You've already reviewed this. Edit your review.
1 thousand reads
1 hundred reads
cynomar liked this
syriusbyzness liked this
Leon Basin liked this
Leon Basin liked this
Bertran2 liked this
nukjean liked this
nukjean liked this
o0Enki0o liked this

You're Reading a Free Preview

/*********** DO NOT ALTER ANYTHING BELOW THIS LINE ! ************/ var s_code=s.t();if(s_code)document.write(s_code)//-->