The Jewish Religion: A Companion

The Jewish Religion: A Companion

The Jewish Religion: A Companion

The Jewish Religion: A Companion

Synopsis

How do Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform Judaism differ? Is caviar kosher? Who was Maimonides? What is current Jewish thought on Jesus, sex, abortion, feminism, and capital punishment? Spanning from biblical times to the present, The Jewish Religion offers a goldmine of information on Jewish belief and practice, wisdom and culture, history and tradition. Sweeping in scope and based on impeccable scholarship, this volume's 750 alphabetical entries range from Aaron to Zweifel to illuminate virtually every facet of the Jewish heritage. For example, the book explains Halakhah and Aggadah, the legal and non-legal sides of Jewish thought; traces the development of the Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform Movements; discusses Haskalah (the Jewish Enlightenment) and Hasidism; and explores the differences between the Spanish traditions of the Sephardim and the German traditions of the Ashkenazim. It examines the great philosophical questions underlying the Jewish faith; carefully examines Zionism, with its tension between religion and nationalism and its profound implications for the present and the future of Israel; and serves as a marvelous companion to Jewish religious and philosophical literature. Readers will find entries on all the books of the Old Testament--with compelling descriptions of the patriarchs, prophets, and law givers--on the oral and written Torah, on the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmud, and on the Kabbalah. Jacobs examines all the great Jewish thinkers--from Rashi, Akiba, and Judah the Prince, to Maimonides, Spinoza, and Martin Buber--and he describes the thought of the Baal Shem Tov, founder of Hasidism, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, father of the Reform movement, and Theodore Herzl, the originator of modern Zionism. Finally, the book is filled with information on popular customs, rituals, and religious services, covering all the major holidays, providing guidance on prayer and liturgy, and explaining the dietary laws in detail. It even offers step-by-step instructions for conducting the Passover Seder, preparing matzoh, kindling the Hannukah lights, building a sukkah, and much, much more. Here then is a matchless guide to Jewish religion, history, culture, and thought and a valuable repository of knowledge for both Jews and non-Jews alike.

Excerpt

The chief aim of this book is to help readers, Jewish and non-Jewish, to grasp more fully ideas and terms they encounter in works on the Jewish religion; hence the main Jewish beliefs, practices, and personalities are presented in dictionary form. Obviously, in a work of this kind, the selection of the topics to be examined depends on what the compiler considers to be most essential, an assessment that will not necessarily commend itself to all readers, some of whom may object to the inclusion of matters they consider to be of only peripheral interest and to the omission of those they feel to be significant. For all that, it is hoped that the book does succeed in elucidating the majority of Jewish religious concepts which the average reader is likely to come across in his or her reading. (This expression, a sop to political correctness, will be used only very sparingly. 'His', without the addition of 'or hers', is used in neither an exclusive nor a patronizing attitude towards women, but simply in order to avoid awkward circumlocution.) The numerous cross-references, marked by , will be of help in pursuing particular topics through the book. Brief bibliographies are supplied at the end of each article except where either no special work is available on the subject in English or where the subject is adequately covered by articles in the standard encyclopaedias and other works of reference, a list of which is found at the end of the book. The bibliographies appended to the articles are chiefly provided for further reading and discussion and do not always express the same viewpoint as that presented in the article itself. An apology is perhaps necessary for referring to my own writings in the bibliographies and for using them as the basis for many of the articles. It seemed pointless to refrain from using my own work where relevant but the material in my other books has not simply been copied as it stands; it has been revised both to fit in with the scheme of this book and to enable me to rethink my views on occasion. Painful though it is for an author to admit his mistakes, the Talmudic Rabbis, referred to frequently in this book, praise acknowledgement of errors in the quest for truth.

Biblical quotations are either from the Authorized Version (AV) or from the Jewish Publication Society of America's translation (JPS) in modern English, The AV is used especially for verses familiar to the English reader, for example in Psalm 90: 10: 'The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years' (AV) rather than the banal: 'The span of our life is seventy years, or given the strength, eighty years' (JPS). But where the JPS is more accurate, this version is quoted. Where the context requires it, for example in Rabbinic understanding of a biblical verse, I have supplied a translation which differs from both the AV and the JPS. Hebrew and Aramaic expressions are given in transliteration but always translated into English. It has become conventional among Jewish authors, when referring to dates, to avoid the terms BC and AD with . . .

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