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יהדות ✡ Yahudut

By Levi Clancy for לוי on

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Judaism's religious foundations are the תַּנַ"ךְ‎ Tanakh (Hebrew bible) and the Torah therein; the two Talmuds (often said to comprise an oral Torah); and the Midrash.

Halakah is Jewish law. Its core is the written law contained in the Torah and the oral law contained in the Talmuds. The Torah comprises the first five books of the תַּנַ"ךְ‎ Tanakh (the תַּנַ"ךְ‎ Tanakh is also called the מקרא Mikra). There are two Talmuds, each containing the same משנה Mishnah but different גמרא gemara. A משנה Mishnah is a transcription of oral tradition; and a גמרא gemara is an accompanying texts that analyzes and exposits the oral tradition. The Talmuds are both based on the משנה Mishnah text by Rabbi Johanan ben Zaccai. While there are other משנה Mishnah, Rabbi Johanan ben Zaccai's is so authoritative that it is referred to simply as the משנה Mishnah; and the author can just be referred to as Rabbi. The תלמוד בבלי Talmud Bavli (Babylonian Talmud) has a גמרא gemara from Babylonian scholars; and the תלמוד ירושלמי Talmud Yerushalmi (Jerusalem Talmud, aka Palestinian Talmud), from Tiberias (after being ejected from Jerusalem by the Romans). Aggadah is Jewish exegesis of the Scripture, and is contained in the Midrash.

Orthodox scholars maintain a two Torahs, one source view. In this, the written Torah (in the Tanakh) was from the same time and source as the oral Torah (later transcribed into the משנה Mishnah). However, this view is not supported by critical historical analysis.

The often cited saying of Hillel, addressed to a heathen who wished to become a proselyte: zil gemor, 'Go, study.' Strack, p 5

Jewish history spans thousands of years and has undergone several transformations.

Judaism as it is known today has its roots in the aftermath of the destruction of the second temple.

הֲלָכָה‎ Halakha

הֲלָכָה‎ Halakha is a statement of Jewish law.

הֲלָכָה‎ Halakha (the body of Jewish law) is contained in the Torah and Talmud, with אַגָּדָה aggadah (additional, non-halakhic Jewish knowledge) in the Midrash. For a law to be halakhic, it must have been accepted for a long period; vouched for by a recognized authority (dibre Sofrim); supported by accepted scriptural proof (din); and approved by a majority vote. Plural halakoth refers to such laws individually and collectively.

From halak 'to go, follow,' means literally 'going, walking,' then figuratively: the teaching which one follows, the rule or statute by which one is guided, the categorical religious law. The expression wa-halakah kidbaraw occurs in the Mishna rarely, but frequently in the Baraithoth. Strack, p 6

The ברייתא baraitha (extranneous one) is the generic name for all tannaitic teachings and dicta not included in the Mishna of Rabbi. Hence it is in contradistinction to mathnithan (mishna).

It is often difficult to grasp the full sense of a Baraitha because we cannot form an opinion of the original context of which it formed a part. Then again the discussion in the Talmud points at times to a formulation at variance with the extant text. Baraithoth are adduced in the Palest. Talmud which are wanting in the Babyl., and vice versa; nevertheless we must not conclude that they were unknown. Statements which are cited in the Babyl. Talmud from a Baraitha appear frequently in the Palest. as dicta of an Amora. Strack, p 4-5

תרי”ג מצוות‎ Taryag mitzvot

אַגָּדָה Aggadah

אַגָּדָה Aggadah refers to scriptural interpretation outside the halaka.

ארון הספרים היהודי The Jewish Bookshelf

תַּנַ"ךְ‎ Tanakh

The Tanakh has three sections: תּוֹרָה Torah, נביאים Nevi’im and כתובים Ketuvim.

The תַּנַ"ךְ‎ Tanakh is the basis of Christianity's Old Testament. However, the Old Testament differs in that it is arranged slightly differently and is in fact more inclusive than the תַּנַ"ךְ‎ Tanakh. There are some ancient Hebrew texts that are in the Old Testament but not the תַּנַ"ךְ‎ Tanakh; this would include some of Judaism's most famous and cherished traditional stories like Chanukah. However, the New Testament is of course not part of Jewish canon nor tradition.

The תּוֹרָה Torah contains the written law, and is often called the Pentateuch.

תַּלְמוּד Talmud

תַּלְמוּד Talmud refers to the mishna and the אמוראים Amoraim's discussions joined to it.

There are two Talmuds, both based on the same mishna of Rabbi (the core text) but with different gemara (analysis). The Babylonian Talmud has gemara by אמוראים Amoraim in Babylonia; and the Palestinian/Jerusalemitic Talmud has gemara principally by אמוראים Amoraim in Palestine.

The Talmud contains both halakah and אַגָּדָה aggadah.

The Hebrew word משנה mishnah has various meanings based on the context. It usually refers to the Mishna which comprises the core text of the Talmud; this was written by יהודה הנשיא‎ Yehudah ha'Nasi (Judah ha-Nasi, also called just Rabbi).

However, more generally it can refer to the entire content of traditional law as it was at the end of the second century CE (this would include the baraitha). Also, mishna can refer to the sum of any particular teacher's teachings (Tannaim) active up to that date; a single statement of law, in which sense the term halakah was also employed; any collection of statements such as Mishnayaoth Gedoloth.

The משנה mishnah has six orders. Each order contains numerous tractates.
  1. זרעים Zera'im (Seeds)
    - 11 tractates -

    • ברכות Berakhot
    • פאה Pe'ah
    • דמאי Demai
    • כלאים Kil'ayim
    • שביעית Shevi'it
    • תרומות Terumot
    • מעשרות Ma'aserot
    • מעשר שני Ma'aser sheni
    • חלה Chalah

    • ערלה Orlah
    • ביכורים Bikkurim
  2. מועד Mo'ed (Festivals)
    - 12 tractates -

    • שבת Shabat

    • ערובין Eruvin
    • פסחים Pesachim
    • שְׁקָלִים Sheqalim

    • יומא Yoma
    • סוכה Sukah
    • ביצה Beitzah
    • ראש השנה Rosh Hashanah
    • תענית Ta'anit
    • מגילה Megilah
    • מועד קטן Mo'ed katan
    • חגיגה Hagigah
  3. נשים Nashim (Women)
    - 7 tractates -

    • יבמות Yevamot
    • כתובות Ketubot
    • נדרים Nedarim
    • נזיר Nazir

    • סוטה Sota
    • גיטין Gittin
    • קידושין Kiddushin
  4. נזיקין Nezikin (Damages)
    - 10 tractates -

  5. קדשים Kodashim (Holies)
    - 11 tractates -

  6. טהרות Tehorot (Purities)
    - 12 tractates -

גמרא Gemara refers to the analysis attached to the mishna; together with the mishna, this forms the Talmud. There are two sets of גמרא gemara (Babylonian and Jerusalemitic) and thus two Talmuds.

גמרא Gemara is from the Aramaic גמרא gemar. As a verb, it means to complete; and in the Baylonian Talmud also meaning to study, to master completely.

As a noun, it refers to knowledge acquired through study/learning.

גמרא Gemara has come to be the specific term for the so-called 'second constituent part of the Talmud,' i.e. the collection of the discussions relative to the Mishna at the hands of the Amoraim. This usage proceeds from 'completion' or 'perfection.' In this sense, however, the term, when it occurs in the current printed editions of the Talmud, comes from the hand of the censor who thus replaced the word 'Talmud' of the manuscripts and the older prints. Nevertheless, we abide by this modern usage, firstly, because of the circumscribed meaning which is free from ambiguity, and secondly, for the reason that at least one passage in the Talmud proves for it a more ancient lineage. Strack, p 5

מדרש ‎Midrash

מדרש ‎Midrash (pl Midrashim) refers to those literary works which contains mainly aggadic (rarely halakic) scriptural interpretations. Often then, Midrash is the title by which such a literary work is known.

The verb darash means, in post-biblical Hebrew, 'to search out a scriptural passage, expound it,' then also 'to find something by exposition.' Midrash denotes (a) in general, 'investigation,' both in the sense of 'study, theory,' and with the meaning of 'exposition'; (b) specifically with reference to occupation with the Scriptures. Hence Beth ha-Midrash 'house of study, where the scholars devoted themselves to the study of the Scriptures (the Law);' .... the Aramic equivalent derash, dersaha denotes both scriptural exposition and its concrete results. Darshan, Aramaic darosha, means 'expounder (of the Scriptures), preacher.' Strack, p 6

הַלּוּחַ הָעִבְרִי ha'luach ha'ivri (Jewish calendar)


Holiday calendar

שַׁבָּת‎ Shabbat
ראש השנה Rosh HashanahUsually translated as head of the year. However, the word also means chief, leader, crest, summit, top. In relation to the year, it is thus best translated as prow -- the front of a ship, the front of the year, representing the year as it sails through time.


Daily judaica

Netilat Yadayim cup Used in a ceremonial cleansing performed by pouring water over one's hands. Usually completed upon waking and before meals, this physical ritual symbolizes the cleansing of spiritual impurities, the traditional design if a cup with two handles allows for each hand to be purified, one at a time, without contaminating the other.

פושקע Pushke (aka Tzedakah box) A emblem of righteoust giving, eith a slit to gauge its fullness. The small container is kept in the home, ofice or synagogue to collect charitable donations. Tzedakah is the Jewish command met to provide for the less fortunate as a means of bringing justice to the world. It is often associated with tikkun loam a mystical concept connected to god's wok of repairing the eorld both spiritually and socially.

Mezuzah case embodies the tradition of slanting toward the room, implying that god and Torah are entering. A mezuzah is a small scroll inscribed with specific Torah verses enclosed in a decorative case attached to the doorpost of a house as a reminder of god's covenant with the Jewish people. It is tradition when passing through a door to touch a mezuzah and then kiss the fingers that touched it as an expression of respect for god.

תְּפִלּוֹת Tefilot (daily prayer) judaica


Tallit katan


Tzeniut (modesty)

Men's clothing and grooming



ציצית Zizit


Orthodox outfit

Women's clothing and grooming
Sabbath judaica

Havdalah set The Sabbath ritual of havdalah evokes all five senses, taste wine, smell spices, see flame, feel heat, hear blessings. Havdalah is celebrated when three stars can be seen in the sky on Saturday evening, marking the end of the Sabbath and the reentry into the workweek. The ceremony comprises the kiddush and other blessings said over a box full of sweet spices and a braided candle, which some believe symbolizes god's gift of light to adam.

חלה Chalah cover The חלה chalah, a braided egg bread made for the celebration if the Sabbath and other holidays, is covered as a symbolic gesture so thag the bread does nit become offended that its blessing is not recited first.

The Kiddush cup is used on the Jewish Sabbath and other holidays when a ritual blessing is performed over a cup of wine to proclaim the holiness of the day. The word kiddush is derived from the Hebrew for "sanctification"

Shabbat candlesticks hold two candles that are lit by the women of the household eighteen minutes before sundown to welcome shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath, bringing peace to the home. The lighting of the shabbat candles is followed by a family meal that begins with blessings over the wine and the חלה chalah. The Jewish Sabbath (Shabbat) is in many ways the centerpiece of Jewish life, and is meant as a day of rest and spiritual enrichment.

Other holiday judaica

The קערה ke'ara (Passover seder plate) holds the six items used for telling the story of the exodus. Orange recently for marginalized people.

The מַצָּה matse holds the seventh item, stack of three matsot.

The חַנֻכִּיָּה hanukiah (aka מנורת menorah).

The אֶתְרוֹג etrog box

Synagogue judaica

יד yad

Rimonim are finials at the ends of the two staves (wooden rollers)around whichthe Torah scroll is wound. They emulate the miter that the high priest wore on his head during ancien times. They chime as the Torah is carried through the synagogue.

Jewish civilization

Jewish history can be organized several different ways, including as a civilization.

Early beginnings

Below are some early mentions of the Hebrews in the Old Testament.

Hebrew (aka 'Apiru in Akkadian) was not a self-designation, so it is unclear if this truly referred to the early Israelites.

She called out to her servants and said to them “Look, he had to bring us a Hebrew to dally with us! This one came to lie with me; but I screamed loud. Genesis 39:14

The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women: they are vigorous. Before the midwife can come to them, they have given birth. Exodus 1:19

When the Philistines heard the noise of the shouting, they said, 'What does this great shouting in the camp of the Hebrews mean? 1 Sam 4:6

Below is a list of the Israelite tribes and their estimated populations Numbers 1.

Tribe# of ‘eleph# of menmen per ‘eleph

Pre-Monarchic Israel

Originally there had been no priestly caste in Israel; David and Solomon had both performed priestly functions. But gradually the Temple service and the interpretation of the Law had been to the tribe of Levi, who were supposed to have carried the Ark in the wilderness. (Armstong, p 89)

Monarchic Israel

United monarchy

The existence of Judah and Israel is referred to in Assyrian and other inscriptions, but the existence of a United Monarchy is subject to debate.

The first temple was built. Jerusalem was henceforth the center of Jewish religion.
The divided monarchy arose when Israel split into the separate kingdoms Israel and Judah.

Babylonian Exile

The Babylonian king seized the Levant, including Jerusalem, and destroyed the Temple and exiled the population.

How could Judaism endure? The Jews lost Jerusalem, which was leveled to a desert wasteland, and were exiled to Babylonia. And the temple was destroyed.

Return and Second Temple Era

Edict of Cyrus
First return to Jerusalem
(Persian I period)
538-450 BC

Persian I is markd by rebuilding of Jerusalem's Temple (520-515 BC) and Ezra's arrival in Jerusalem (458 BC). Leading figures of the First Return of Jews to the former land of Israel were: the prophets Zechariah and Haggai; a member of the Davidic line, Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel; and the High Priest Joshua.

Temple rebuilt520 - 515 BC515 BC marks a significant new era. This period is attested in Haggai 1-2, Zechariah 6:9-15 and Ezra 3.
Second return to Jerusalem
(Persian II period)
450-332 BCThe Second Return of Jews to the former land of Israel was pioneered by Ezra (arrived in 458 BC) and Nehemiah (arrived in 445 BC). Ezra began the return by forming a so-called purified community without foreigners (Ezra 7-10). When Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem around 445 BC, he had the Wall of Jerusalem rebuilt (Nehemiah 2-3, 4:15-17). There were conflicts with the current inhabitants of the land, including some remnants of Jews and the particularly troublesome Samaritans led by Sanballat I (2 Kings 17).

Greek era

Jerusalem was won by Alexander, but then his empire fractured upon his death. First Jerusalem fell under the rule of the Ptolemies (based in Egypt), and then under the Seleucids (based is Syria).


Post-Temple Era: Rabbinic Judaism

Movement away from Jerusalem. Decentralizatom. Rabbinical Judaism in a post temple era c first to fifth centuries ce

Offering of sacrifices was the main activity of temple, which wss not primarily a place of study and prayer. Libations, meal, bird and livestock sacrifices were performed. When the temple was destroyed, the priesthood presiding over the Jews went into exile and no longer had a role. The rabbis alleged that with the destruction of the temple, the practice of ritual sacrifice was to no longer be part of Jewish practice and the seat of Jewish power had to shift from priesthood to rabbanic and the method of worship from sacrifice to prayer and torah study.

During the latter second temple era the Jewish community fragments into different sects, all in Israel, whole priorily it was cohesive. The Pharisees, Saducees and Essenes were the sects. Essenes were isolated ascetics. Pharisees and Saducees are people who Jesus had to contend with according the bible. Pharisees and Saducees' primary dispute was whether there was more to Jewish life and bible than what was in the Hebrew bible. The Saducees alleged that practices without concrete textual sources were foreign intrusions. The Pharisees alleged that along with Moses' text they also received an oral tradition, and so the Pharisees thus had different forms of practice than the Saducees. Is it practical that piece of literature with finite verses and passages is the begin-all and end-all? And aren't there some passages too cryptic to understand on their own? There must have been accompanying instructions not included in the Hebrew bible. "You shall slaughter the animal as I have commanded you." -- but this does not give you instructions, leaving that part to the tradition. The Saducees and Pharisees had constant struggle over controlling the priesthood, ascending the altar, leading the sacrifices; they each did this in different ways. There was tremendous power struggling, bribery, corruption over control over the High Priest position and which practices were to be followed.

Talmud is a Rabbinical text. The libation service was done once in the morning and once in the afternoon. Pharisee and Saducee conflict over this act and the agricultural holiday where the water was poured on feet and the folks present pelted the priest with their etrogs.

Pharisees won the popularity vote essentially because of their notion of an afterlife. The NT and Qoran are replete with explicit remarks about the afterlife, while the OT is rather vague, nebulous and pauce. The Saducees, being literalists, said this was it and nothing really happened. The Pharisees assured that despite the boot of persecution upon the Jewry, there was an afterlife that discriminated between the virtuous and vicious. Josephus describes that the Saducees, in political arenas, garnered favor with the people by allying with this notion of the afterlife.

So far we have two Pharisee vs Saducee schisms, the temple practice and the afterlife.

Rabbinical tradition is an extension of the Saducee tradition. Oral tradition is a mandatory sacred trust that keeps the tradition out of gentile minds and necessitates a teacher-student chain of transmission instead of a broken chain of book knowledge.

However, oral tradition remains disorganized and uncodified until it begins to be forgotten. The first dispute based on loss of memory occurs in second century BC about semikhah and from here oral tradition unravels where multiple disputes arise. Thus oral tradition must committed to text so it is not forgotten. Judah the Prince committed the practices to writing. His text is known as the משנה Mishnah. The משנה Mishnah and the Talmud are the two written corpuses of Jewish oral tradition. Judah kept it terse to maintain its oral nature, but then the expansion and commentary was being forgotten so the Talmud was taken down as an expanded commentary on the משנה Mishnah. The Jerusalem/Palestinian Talmud (4th cent) and Babylonian Talmud (5th cent) are the two versions, with the latter being more authoritative. משנה Mishnah, Talmud and a few others altogether form the corpus of Rabbinical knowledge.

Cognitive dissonance, theodicy and reaction to temple destruction
Theodicy tries to explain why God does things that appear to be bad and try to understand why they are actually good.

One duty of the rabbis is to explain the destruction of the temple and how this bodes well someday. Rabbi Akiva and seeing the ruins of the temple, fox prowling, crying, his laughing. Also the passage about Asaph, the king, the canopy, the prince, and how this reconciles the loss'of the temple.

Amidst persecution, martyrdom is glorified. Haninah ben Tradyon's martyrdom and how killing a pious person is offense against the religion and the same force avenging the offense will avenge the martyr.

Rise of the Synagogue
These arose well before the temple's destruction and were places of prayer, community and study. Yet sacrifice could not be performed here because that was limited to the temple. It was a temple without sacrifice. Prayer replaces sacrifice, based on Hosea 14:3 -- 'and our lips will compensate for bulls.' The priesthood is replaced by the rabbinate. Ban on replicating Temple vessels.

A filactory black box?

Rabbinical rituals that invoke the centrality of Jerusalem
- praying toward Jerusalem
- Jerusalem in the amidah
- Breaking the Glass at the Jewish wedding ... no matter how full is your joy on this your happiest day, you cannot forget the Temple's destruction.
- The 9th of Ab as a fast day to commemorate the Temple's destruction

Messianism after the Temple's destruction
132-136 CE -- Second (Bar Kochba) Revolt
- Earliest revolts outside of Judea (Libya, Egypt, Cyprus)
- Jerusalem to be made a Roman colony (Dio Works LXIX 12-14)
- Foundation ceremony of Aelia Capitolina, replacing the Temple and replacing Jerusalem as a pagan city
- prohibition of circumcision by Romans Eusebius IV.6
///// The Bar Kochba is sometimes considered the second revolt, or the third following a minor one in between. One thing sparking it was the ruler Hadrian who founded Aelia Capitolonia in the decimated destroyed Jerusalem, a future capital for Rome's middle eastern provinces. Not only was Jerusalem ruined but a further slap in the face was this erection of a pagan edifice atop the temple mount. A revolt erupted in response by Simon Bar Koseba. Rabbi AK Iva hails Simon as the messiah and the revolt was largely successful at first until being quashed and the Romans didn't even allow the corpses of the Jewish army to be buried for years.

Aftermath of Bar Kochba
An insitutional and spiritual crisis -- Birkat ha-minim?
Center of Judaism migrates to Jabneh, then to Tiberias
Jerusalem rebuilt as Aelia Capitolina

Dangers of Messianism -- Bab Talmud Sanhedrin 97B, which warns that those who claim to predict the messiah are absolutely wrong. BT Ketubot 111A deals with the problemof pressing for a Messiah, though I'm unclear how.

For, not the Jews, avenges the destruction
Titus and the hammer and the gnat. BT Gittin 56B

First Roman WarAD 66-70First Jewish war against the Romans.
Jerusalem Falls70Fall of Jerusalem and destruction of the Temple.
Arab Conquest638Arab conquest of Jerusalem.
Jewish Massacre1099Crusader massacre of the Jews of Jerusalem.
Spain Expulsion1492Expulsion of the Jews from Spain.
Pale of Settlement1791Pale of Settlement established by Catherine the Great.
Napoleon Invades1799Napoleon invades Palestine from Egypt.
The אמוראים Amoraim were Aramaic-speaking Jewish scholars active from the time of the conclusion of the Mishna to about the end of the fifth century CE.

Singular אמורא amora, Palestinian Talmud plural אמוראים Amorin, Babylonian Talmud plural אמוראים Amorae, in English Amoraim.

The word תנא teni/tena means to hand down orally, study, teach, it has many derivatives of great significance.
MathnithaMathnitha translates as Hebrew mishna.
תנא Tanna, pl תנאים Tannaim

A תנא tanna (pl תנאים tannaim) (English Tannaite) is a teacher mentioned in the mishna, or at least from mishnic (Tannaitic) times; or one who hands down tannaitic statements. The latter is also called Hebrew Shonim.

The Amoraim, the teachers of the post-tannaitic period, had at their side in the schools men conversant with the oral law, who retained in their memory, and on occasion communicated, the statements of older authorities. At times these living libraries were spoken of as 'baskets full of books' (Ṣanna dimle sifre) in contradistinction to the 'eminent scholars' (Ṣurba merabbanan), and it was said of them that they destroy the world, ha-Tannaim meballe 'olam, insofar as they confined themselves to the subject-matter stripped of exposition and mode of application. Rab had a Tanna in the person of Isaac ben Abdimi. Such Tanaaim (in Hebrew Shonim) are referred to both in Palestine and in Babylonia to the end of the gaonic period. While written texts must have been available, recourse was had as a rule to the Tannaim or the reason that along with the textthey carried on its traditional meaning in however limited a degree. In consequence of lapses of memory on the part of these Tannaim, the Amoraim naturally experienced difficulties in interpreting the Mishna. A knowledge of Rabbi's Mishna is presupposed with every Amora as a matter of course. Stracj, p 4

Citing MishnaStatements of the Mishna are cited in the Talmud by means of tenan and tenayna, 'we have studied, we hand down.' In the Babylonian Talmud there are often tanni 'to propound explanations to the Mishna' (partic methanne, infinit tannoye).
Citing BaraithaRecognized statments from the Baraitha are introduced with the formula tena rabbanan 'our teachers have taught'; other citations of Baraitha, by means of tene and femin tanya (participle passive) meaning 'it has been taught' (with particles: we-hathanya, kidthanya). Frequently also tane peloni (so and so taught)

Jewish branches

Ethnic groups

  • Ashkenazim

    • Lithuanian

  • Mizrahi

    • Ethiopian

  • Sephardi

  • Yemenite


  • Karaite

  • Masorti

  • Orthodox

    • Haredi (Ultra-Orthodox)

  • Chasidim

  • Conservative

  • Reform/Progressive

  • Samaraitans
    Excluded from Jerusalem during the First and Second Returns, the Am Ha-Aretz built their own temple on Mount Gerizim in Samerina. Today the Samaritans, their descendents, still worship there and practice their own form of Judaism.


Strack, Hermann. Introduction to the Talmud and Midrash.