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Modern Judaism

Modern Judaism

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Modern Judaism

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  1. Modern Judaism

  2. Citizenship and Nations

  3. Moses Mendelssohn (1729-86) Judaism is a religion grounded in reason combined with revealed law; Jews can absorb the positive elements of culture.

  4. French Revolution • Declaration: "1) Men are born and remain free and equal in rights... 10. No one should be disturbed for his opinions, even in religion.” • 40,000 Jews in France in 1789 • Restricted from some professions, Jewish communities constitute another form of corporate body, denied some rights, but in control of others within Jewish communities • Some Jews from central Europe, others from Spain, distinguished by language and culture from other residents of France • 27 September 1791, National Assembly says that everyone is a citizen "who swears the civic oath... Jewish individuals who will swear the civic oath which will be regarded as a renunciation of all the privileges and exceptions introduced previously in their favor." (i.e., by swearing the citizen oath they lost their privileges to govern their own community.) • Does equality erase difference? Does inclusion mean assimilation? What does it mean to be a French individual?

  5. Dreyfus Affair • Alfred Dreyfus, Captain in French Army • In 1894 he was falsely accused of selling secrets to the Germans, he was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment on Devil’s Island. • Anti-Semitic French press used the case to suggest that he was a prime example of Jewish disloyalty. • In 1898 Emile Zola wrote an open letter supporting Dreyfus; France as divided over the issue. • 1899 Confessions, suicides, etc. make it clear that Dreyfus was innocent. • Finally cleared in 1906.

  6. Zionism • Theodor Herzl (1860-1904): After covering the Dreyfus Affair, he became a committed supporter of a national state for Israel. • Revival of Hebrew as a national language. • Jewish homeland as a national center. • (After WWII Israel finally becomes a modern nation state in 1948)

  7. Modern Religious Forms of Judaism

  8. Reform Judaism • Embrace Enlightenment idea of religion within the “limits of reason”-Judaism as a rational-ethical system rooted in prophetic ideal of justice. • Use of vernacular in synagogue prayers and sermons. • Rejected belief in literal coming of Messiah--look to coming Messianic Age. • Emphasize “religious community” over against need for specific land.

  9. Philadelphia Platform (1869) • The Messianic aim of Israel is not the restoration of the old Jewish state under a descendant of David, involving a second separation from the nations of the earth, but the union of all the children of God in the confession of the unity of God, so as to realize the unity of all rational creatures and their call to moral sanctification.
 • We look upon the destruction of the second Jewish commonwealth not as a punishment for the sinfulness of Israel, but as a result of the divine purpose revealed to Abraham, which, as has become ever clearer in the course of the world's history, consists in the dispersion of the Jews to all parts of the earth, for the realization of their high-priestly mission, to lead the nations to the true knowledge and worship of God.
 • The Aaronic priesthood and the Mosaic sacrificial cult were preparatory steps to the real priesthood of the whole people, which began with the dispersion of the Jews, and to the sacrifices of sincere devotion and moral sanctification, which alone are pleasing and acceptable to the Most Holy. These institutions, preparatory to higher religiosity, were consigned to thepast, once for all, with the destruction of the Second Temple, and only in this senseムas educational influences in the pastムare they to be mentioned in our prayers.
 • Every distinction between Aaronides and non-Aaronides, as far as religious rites and duties are concerned, is consequently inadmissible, both in the religious cult and in social life.
 • The selection of Israel as the people of religion, as the bearer of the highest idea of humanity, is still, as ever, to be strongly emphasized, and for this very reason, whenever this is mentioned, it shall be done with full emphasis laid on the worldembracing mission of Israel and the love of God for all His children.
 • The belief in the bodily resurrection has no religious foundation, and the doctrine of immortality refers to the after-existence of the soul only.
 • Urgently as the cultivation of the Hebrew language, in which the treasures of divine revelation were given and the immortal remains of a literature that influences all civilized nations are preserved, must be always desired by us in fulfilment of a sacred duty, yet it has become unintelligible to the vast majority of our coreligionists; therefore, as is advisable under existing circumstances, it must give way in prayer to intelligible language, which prayer, if not understood, is a soulless form.

  10. Orthodox • Reform: being true to the law of constant change; Orthodox: resisting change • Stick to the unchanging revelation of Sinai • Still, Orthodox Jews recognize the need to live in the modern world.

  11. Conservative • Seeks a compromise between Reform and Orthodox positions. • “Think whatever you like, do what the law requires.”

  12. Reconstructionism • Founded in America in the 1930’s by Mordecai Kaplan. • Judaism as the religion of the Jewish civilization (without supernatural overtones)

  13. Post-Shoa Theology

  14. Post-Shoa Theology • Emil Fackenheim: Holocaust challenges the Exodus and Exile traditions because it was the most orthodox and observant Jews who suffered the most, yet, God still acts in history giving the Jews a 614th commandment: the people must survive. • Richard Rubenstein: God died at Auschwitz; the Jews must go on, but without God. • Elie Wiesel: Only Jews have the chutzpah to argue with God; they have a right to be angry with God, but “Jews, do not despair.” God has broken the covenant, but Jews may still choose to keep it. • Irving Greenberg: “Momentary faith;” accept Jewish pluralism; Jews are free to accept or reject the covenant. • Marc Ellis: Jews cannot use the Holocaust as an excuse to oppress their Palestinian neighbors. • Orthodox (and ultra-Orthodox) theologies insist on the covenant.