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Author Topic: Ornery U: Judaism 101
starLisa
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So... Ricky has changed the name of his Ornery U thread to "History of Judaism". Meaning what secular historians have to say about Judaism, rather than what Judaism has to say about itself. I have no idea whether anyone is interested in what Judaism says, but if so, feel free to ask away.

Note: I'm Orthodox. Which means that for the most part, any answers I give here, unless specified otherwise, will be from that POV. I'm willing to give answers from other POVs if asked, however, if I can.

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Carlotta
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Absolutely interested, starLisa! I'll try to think of some questions and post them later today!
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Paladine
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Maybe you could begin by explaining generally what Orthodox Judaism is, and how it's different from other movements. Also, as I understand it, there are a few different subsets of Orthodox Judaism. How do those work?

Also, I think I remembered hearing that you weren't born an Orthodox Jew, and that you converted to your faith. If that be the case, do you think you could share a bit of your conversion experience with us? (If I misremember, you've my apologies of course).

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Adam Masterman
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I would be curious to hear what, if anything, you expect to happen to you after you die.

Adam

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starLisa
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quote:
Originally posted by Paladine:
Maybe you could begin by explaining generally what Orthodox Judaism is, and how it's different from other movements. Also, as I understand it, there are a few different subsets of Orthodox Judaism. How do those work?

Until a little over 200 years ago, there were no movements to speak of. Judaism was what it was, and what it always had been. There had been movements along the way. A movement called the Sadducees started during Hellenistic times. It was made up of wealthy Jews, many of them from the priestly families, who craved acceptance as peers by the Greeks. They rejected most of Jewish law, because it cramped their style and got in the way of fraternizing with their Syrian and Egyptian counterparts.

The Sadducees didn't last long after the Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE. It was hard to get fellow Jews to see the wonder of Greek culture after the Greeks and Romans tried to destroy our people.

Around the 7th century CE, there was another movement. These were called Karaites. What happened here was that the office of the Exilarch in Babylon, which was held by descendents of the Davidic dynasty, had a succession dispute. The head of the Rabbinical academy at the time supported one son, and the other, furious at being passed over, created a movement that rejected anything the rabbis said.

There were other marginal movements. Some would call the advent of Hassidism a movement, but if it was, it was one in which Jewish law and the rabbinic tradition was still kept, so it isn't the kind of movement we're talking about.

During the middle ages, Jews tended to live separately from non-Jews. In separate communities, often with a certain degree of autonomy. There were Jews who stopped keeping Jewish law. Sometimes they returned, and sometimes they didn't. But it was an individual decision, and such Jews always acknowledged that they had left the tradition.

When the Enlightenment happened, and cultural doors were opened suddenly even to Jews, many Jews rushed out, desperate to no longer be forced out of mainstream European society. Like the Sadducees before them, they found Jewish observance to be an obstacle to social intercourse with non-Jews.

While Jews had left Judaism in the past, there'd never been so many all at once before. And there's safety in numbers. Groups of non-religious Jews started questioning why they should have to feel bad about having abandoned Judaism. They didn't like feeling guilty. Who does? And so some of these Jews created a movement called Reform. These Reformers claimed that Judaism was antiquated, and that the only parts of it which were of any value were the moral lessons they attributed to the prophets. They called themselves Reform because they claimed to be reaching back to a "prophetic tradition" that had been lost amid lots of laws that were no longer necessary.

This changed everything. Because now, it was possible to abandon Judaism, but claim to still be a part of it. This new path wasn't an abandonment, but adherence to a new movement. The Reform Movement. And since they needed a name for the Jews who rejected this movement, they came up with Orthodox. At first, this was actually a pejorative, and was used only by the Reformers. Over the last couple of centuries, however, it's become standard usage. But Orthodox Jews don't view Orthodoxy as a movement. Rather, we are Judaism. We're that which the movements moved away from, if you get my meaning.

In the early 1900s, there were Orthodox Jews who were observant, but who had adopted a lot of western and secularized thought. They felt an emotional connection to Judaism, but didn't really get it any more. At the same time, there were members of the Reform Movement who were uncomfortable with the speed at which the Reform Movement was moving away from traditional Judaism.

This came to a head at what became known as the Treife Banquet. It was a dinner held by the Reform Movement where shrimp and other outright non-kosher food was served. The more traditional Reformers stormed out, and they and their secular leaning Orthodox compatriots founded a new movement, which they called the Conservative Movement.

It's an interesting term, because it isn't conservative in the way that term is normally used. It's radically liberal compared to normative Judaism. But it was essentially the conservative wing of Reform, so it adopted that name. Some members of the movement have tried from time to time to change the name, but it's stuck.

In Israel, the Conservative movement has called itself "Mesorati", or "Traditional", attempting to cash in on the fact that many Israelis who aren't fully observant and don't identify as Orthodox do still keep much of Jewish observances and call themselves mesorati/traditional. As a PR gimmick, it was a pretty good one.

The Conservative Movement got rid of the entire rabbinic methodology and replaced it with German philosophy. Over the century plus that it's existed, it's gone almost as far away from traditional observance as the Reform Movement it once broke away from.

Most Conservative-identified Jews don't keep kosher, don't keep Shabbat, don't keep the laws of family purity. But the Conservative movement says that those laws are still important and that all Jews should keep them. They deny that the Oral Torah was given at Sinai, and in fact, most of them now deny that the Written Torah was given there as well.

The Reform Movement says you should do what gives you personal meaning. It's a cultural phenomenon, mostly. It makes no demands.

In terms of subgroups of Orthodox Jews, sure. There are such groups. Hassidic Jews are one such group. For the most part, they tend to be more into spirituality than non-Hassidim, though that's probably an overgeneralization. They also usually look to a charismatic leader, called their Rebbe, and treat him almost royally.

There are Chareidi, or "ultra-Orthodox" Jews, who are the ones you see wearing black hats and long black robes, and tend to avoid many elements of modern western culture. There are Yeshivish Jews, who are more interested in science and secular knowledge in addition to Torah knowledge, but are also very careful about how much contact they have with secular culture. And there are what we call left-wing Orthodox Jews, who are generally observant, but philosophically much closer to Conservative and Reform Jews.

That's pretty lengthy, and I'm not sure if I've answered what you wanted to know.

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starLisa
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quote:
Originally posted by Paladine:
Also, I think I remembered hearing that you weren't born an Orthodox Jew, and that you converted to your faith. If that be the case, do you think you could share a bit of your conversion experience with us? (If I misremember, you've my apologies of course).

I was born Jewish. A Jew doesn't have to convert to start being observant. As to why I became observant...? Well, it was a number of things. And it's strange, because, well, I remember once, a few years after I'd been Orthodox, I was talking to my father on the telephone. And he said, "I don't understand it. Honestly I don't. You have the worst authority problem of anyone I've ever met. Of all the things in the world that you'd get involved with, being an Orthodox Jew is the last one I'd have imagined." And he was right. I don't crave being told what to do. On the contrary, I chafe at it.

I went to an Orthodox Jewish day school for my last three years of high school. Not because I was interested in being Orthodox. But my cousins went there, and my parents had talked to me about it towards the end of eighth grade. My reaction at the time was, "No way are you sending me there!" But at the end of my freshman year in high school, I was working up my schedule for the following year, and found out I'd have to take Speech. Public speaking. Funny thing, but I was incredibly shy. This was like a death sentence, as far as I was concerned. I tried everything to squirm out of it, but nothing would work. I was stuck.

So I went to my parents, and said, "You know, I was thinking about that Orthodox school. It might actually be a really good place for me."

I wasn't the only non-Orthodox Jew in the school, but I don't like authority, and it kind of showed. I did get some background there, however.

Anyway, when I got to college, I signed up for a class called Jewish History from Antiquity. It was taught by this Marxist Reform Rabbi. And he came on slamming Judaism as a fake. He was so harsh about it and offensive about it and in-your-face about it that I felt obligated to argue with him. Which I did, pretty incessantly. It helped me get over my shyness, having to argue with him in front of the class. And because I didn't want to sound like an idiot, I spent a lot of time in the university library and the Hillel House library, reading up on the subject, so that I'd know what I was talking about.

Needless to say, I never convinced him of anything. But I did quite a job on myself.

Still, it wasn't enough to get me to be Orthodox. I liked having burgers at the Umrathskeller, and I liked ordering sausage pizza, and I liked doing what I wanted on Saturdays. And I knew intellectually that it was probably wrong, but it's not hard to partition things, you know?

And then this rabbi came to speak. He was a famous and rather controversial rabbi who was visiting from Israel. I went with a bunch of my friends, most of whom weren't Jewish. He didn't talk much about politics, but he talked a lot about Jewish identity. He didn't say anything I didn't already know and agree with at this point, but he made the points in a way that I couldn't really escape from them. I couldn't pretend any more than I didn't know what I knew. So I started being observant. It took a while, actually. Probably about 4 years until I was completely observant.

It's hard to stop doing things you like, even if you know you should. Look at all the smokers out there. And it's hard to be different. Becoming Orthodox is kind of like coming out. All of a sudden, you're this different person. People look at you differently. Treat you differently. Your world gets kind of odd.

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starLisa
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quote:
Originally posted by Adam Masterman:
I would be curious to hear what, if anything, you expect to happen to you after you die.

<shrug> I'm not sure. I'll find out eventually, I guess.

Judaism isn't really focused on the afterlife. We do absolutely say that there is one. But how it works exactly... that's a toughy.

Probably the best description I've ever seen is an essay by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan called Immortality and the Soul.

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RickyB
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OK, just to start the debates rolling:

Until a little over 200 years ago, there were no movements to speak of. Judaism was what it was, and what it always had been. There had been movements along the way. A movement called the Sadducees started during Hellenistic times. It was made up of wealthy Jews, many of them from the priestly families, who craved acceptance as peers by the Greeks. They rejected most of Jewish law, because it cramped their style and got in the way of fraternizing with their Syrian and Egyptian counterparts.

True in the beginning. The Sadducees at their origin, in the early-mid 2nd century BCE, were pretty much as Lisa describes, and their resistance to Pharisee innovations and new encumbering rules can be seen at least in part as resistance to rules that would hinder them from mingling with the ruling class. However:

"The Sadducees didn't last long after the Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE. It was hard to get fellow Jews to see the wonder of Greek culture after the Greeks and Romans tried to destroy our people."

This is inaccurate. See, a funny thing happened to the Sadducees over 200+ years - a process similar to the switch performed by the Donkey and Elephant. By the time the great revolt came around, Sadducees were among the more zealously separatist and militant. The main reason they didn't survive was that their entire separate entity was obviated by the destruction of the temple (they were the movement of priests). Another reason is that so many were physically wiped out in the revolt. So the reason Sadduceeism lost out after the destruction is not that they were perceived as treasonous, but because they were no longer relevant and wiped out.

More to follow.

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RickyB
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"And then this rabbi came to speak."

short guy, with a beard and a snarl? [Big Grin]

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kenmeer livermaile
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"Meaning what secular historians have to say about Judaism, rather than what Judaism has to say about itself."

Jews don't do history? Well knock me over with a yarmulke. Can we assume that said history involves both secular and Jewish scholars? And can we trust that they adhere, mostly, to academic standards irregardless of whether they eat pork or not?

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starLisa
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quote:
Originally posted by RickyB:
OK, just to start the debates rolling:

Until a little over 200 years ago, there were no movements to speak of. Judaism was what it was, and what it always had been. There had been movements along the way. A movement called the Sadducees started during Hellenistic times. It was made up of wealthy Jews, many of them from the priestly families, who craved acceptance as peers by the Greeks. They rejected most of Jewish law, because it cramped their style and got in the way of fraternizing with their Syrian and Egyptian counterparts.

True in the beginning. The Sadducees at their origin, in the early-mid 2nd century BCE, were pretty much as Lisa describes, and their resistance to Pharisee innovations and new encumbering rules can be seen at least in part as resistance to rules that would hinder them from mingling with the ruling class.

There were no so-called Pharisee innovations.

It's commonly said that the Pharisees were the rabbinic Jews. But that's not really the case. In fact, the rabbis of the Mishnah and Talmud mention the Pharisees. They were separatists who were extra strict, more than the rabbis were comfortable with. The Sadducees started calling the rabbis Pharisees (which means "separatists") as a means of grouping them in with the actual Pharisees.

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starLisa
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quote:
Originally posted by kenmeer livermaile:
"Meaning what secular historians have to say about Judaism, rather than what Judaism has to say about itself."

Jews don't do history? Well knock me over with a yarmulke. Can we assume that said history involves both secular and Jewish scholars? And can we trust that they adhere, mostly, to academic standards irregardless of whether they eat pork or not?

I'll try not to respond in kind to you, Ken. Yes, Jews do history. But there is a common secular brand of history which likes to deconstruct everything. Nothing is what it really claims to be. It's all a hoax. It's a very cynical worldview.
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kenmeer livermaile
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glad to hear Jews do history. You see, RickyB didn't title this 'Secular' History 101, so I thought we might need to clarify your comments.

Me, I have no horse in this race. I just like to see a well-maintained track with no potholes or mudpits.

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starLisa
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quote:
Originally posted by RickyB:
"And then this rabbi came to speak."

short guy, with a beard and a snarl? [Big Grin]

That's the one. Though I disagree about the snarl. I recognize the description, given what I know about you, however.

[ February 25, 2008, 03:45 PM: Message edited by: starLisa ]

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starLisa
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quote:
Originally posted by kenmeer livermaile:
glad to hear Jews do history. You see, RickyB didn't title this 'Secular' History 101, so I thought we might need to clarify your comments.

<shrug> I can't help what Ricky called his thread.
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hobsen
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quote:
Probably the best description I've ever seen is an essay by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan called Immortality and the Soul.
That is the best I have seen also. But the following does not solve the problem of identity or of the soul:
quote:
Let us try to envision such a memory transfer. Assume we have a person with an incurable disease where neither the body nor the brain can be salvaged. We clone a new body for this individual, brain and all. The possibilities of doing this have already been discussed at length in the literature. This new body has a blank new brain, capable of functioning, but without any memories or thought patterns. As a final step, we accomplish a memory transfer, bringing all the information from the sick person into the brain of the new body.
Suppose we clone three new bodies instead, and transfer all the information from the sick person into each of the three new brains. Then we have created at least two new souls.

Since the whole question does not seem to be of much importance for Judaism, this possibility is probably not worth discussing. But it does seem a point missing in Rabbi Kaplan's discussion.

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starLisa
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Maybe it would create new souls. Would that be a problem?
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kenmeer livermaile
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That, lisa of stars, is one of those terrific questions I inte4nd to deal with 3-4 novels down the road. Right now my current one is dealing with the question of whether we have souls or not. Not as a question that can be answered, but as a question virtually all of nus feel compelled to deal with and often base some of life's most crucial decisions upon. Like I wrote to myself 9 years ago:

"I am, like most of us, entranced by the theory of soul. Soft, feathery, glowing souls..."

*sigh* life is the most annoyingly persistent but consistently enthralling questions of all. Somedays, my consciousness feels to me like Daddy in the front seat of a long vacation outomobile trip, with life and its attendant issues as so many kids in the back seat incessantly asking , "Are we there yet? Are we ther yet? Huh? Huh?"

'There', of course, being the afterlife most of us hope exists.

nOTE: ANYMORE, WHEN i WROTE SOMETHING LIKE THE ABOVE, i CUT IT AND SAVE (CAPS ooops) it to my hard drive and delete it before posting. But for you, lisa, and you, Ricky, and you, o myriad sons and daughters of the physical and metaphysical seeds of Abraham, I will share.

Now, back to the nitpicking, awreddy. They're growing like fleas on a chihuahua.

[ February 25, 2008, 04:58 PM: Message edited by: kenmeer livermaile ]

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kenmeer livermaile
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"<shrug> I can't help what Ricky called his thread."

Glad to hear. It's a fine title.

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Carlotta
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starLisa,
You mentioned not being able to watch TV on Shabbat. (I'm assuming this is the same thing as the Sabbath?) Who decides what you can and can't do, and what's the underlying premise behind it? In my church, we are told to avoid unnecessary physical work on Sunday, but it's left open. So I don't do housework except for cooking and dishes, but I will do gardening projects because I enjoy them, to me they're not work. I've also heard that Sunday is supposed to be used for worshipping God, spending time with family, and doing good works (for Catholics) which is a little different than avoiding work. So, how does it work in orthodox Judaism?

Also, I heard something about having to get your wool tested to make sure it doesn't have any flax in it? Is there a rationale between "don't mix wool and flax" or is that itself the rule?

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starLisa
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quote:
Originally posted by Carlotta:
starLisa,
You mentioned not being able to watch TV on Shabbat. (I'm assuming this is the same thing as the Sabbath?)

Correct. The actually Hebrew is Shabbath. The "sh" became an "s" in the Greek translation, because there wasn't any "sh" sound in Greek. Most modern dialects of Hebrew have lost the "th" sound.

quote:
Originally posted by Carlotta:
Who decides what you can and can't do, and what's the underlying premise behind it?

The Bible says that we are not allowed to do any melacha on that day. That word is ordinarily translated as "labor", or "work", but that's not what it means. It means a particular type of creative activity. There are 39 categories of melacha, all enumerated in the Oral Torah. The best explanation of these 39 categories that I've seen can be found here.

Note that these are basic categories. Any time something new comes up, the question arises as to whether it fits into one of the categories. For example, zippers. When zippers were invented, it was necessary to determine whether it counted as a form of sewing. Yes, it's temporary, unlike actual stitches, but it needn't be. In the end, after taking everything into consideration, it was determined that zippers are okay to use on Shabbat.

Electricity, on the other hand, is not. Turning it on or off, that is. You can use electric lights that are already on, and some people allow the use of timers that are set prior to the beginning of Shabbat.

In theory, you could leave a TV on or set it on a timer. Watching it wouldn't really be a violation of any laws of Shabbat. But it would be inappropriate. Shabbat is a very special day, intended to be spent getting closer to God and being with family and the like. TV, while not forbidden, is something that almost no Orthodox Jew would watch on Shabbat.

quote:
Originally posted by Carlotta:
In my church, we are told to avoid unnecessary physical work on Sunday, but it's left open. So I don't do housework except for cooking and dishes, but I will do gardening projects because I enjoy them, to me they're not work. I've also heard that Sunday is supposed to be used for worshipping God, spending time with family, and doing good works (for Catholics) which is a little different than avoiding work. So, how does it work in orthodox Judaism?

Well, like that first link pointed out, you can move furniture (in theory) on Shabbat, so long as it's indoors. But carrying a paperclip outdoors would be a violation. So it's not really an issue of work.

quote:
Originally posted by Carlotta:
Also, I heard something about having to get your wool tested to make sure it doesn't have any flax in it? Is there a rationale between "don't mix wool and flax" or is that itself the rule?

That's one of the rules that's "just because God said so". Same with the laws of kashrut (keeping kosher). Why is cow kosher and pig not? Why is snapper kosher and catfish not? Just because. Some of our laws are like that.
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Carlotta
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awesome link! Thanks! It's answering a lot of my questions.
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Pete at Home
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quote:
Originally posted by starLisa:
quote:
Originally posted by RickyB:
OK, just to start the debates rolling:

Until a little over 200 years ago, there were no movements to speak of. Judaism was what it was, and what it always had been. There had been movements along the way. A movement called the Sadducees started during Hellenistic times. It was made up of wealthy Jews, many of them from the priestly families, who craved acceptance as peers by the Greeks. They rejected most of Jewish law, because it cramped their style and got in the way of fraternizing with their Syrian and Egyptian counterparts.

True in the beginning. The Sadducees at their origin, in the early-mid 2nd century BCE, were pretty much as Lisa describes, and their resistance to Pharisee innovations and new encumbering rules can be seen at least in part as resistance to rules that would hinder them from mingling with the ruling class.

There were no so-called Pharisee innovations.

It's commonly said that the Pharisees were the rabbinic Jews. But that's not really the case. In fact, the rabbis of the Mishnah and Talmud mention the Pharisees. They were separatists who were extra strict, more than the rabbis were comfortable with. The Sadducees started calling the rabbis Pharisees (which means "separatists") as a means of grouping them in with the actual Pharisees.

I'd never heard of this, Lisa.

So you would not consider Gamliel a Pharisee?

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Pete at Home
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"Watching it wouldn't really be a violation of any laws of Shabbat. But it would be inappropriate. Shabbat is a very special day, intended to be spent getting closer to God and being with family and the like. TV, while not forbidden, is something that almost no Orthodox Jew would watch on Shabbat."

What if something came on the television which the family found objectionable, upsetting? Would it be labor to turn the TV off, turn down the volume, kick the plug out, or put a cloth over it?

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Pete at Home
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quote:
Still, it wasn't enough to get me to be Orthodox. I liked having burgers at the Umrathskeller, and I liked ordering sausage pizza, and I liked doing what I wanted on Saturdays. And I knew intellectually that it was probably wrong, but it's not hard to partition things, you know?

And then this rabbi came to speak. He was a famous and rather controversial rabbi who was visiting from Israel. I went with a bunch of my friends, most of whom weren't Jewish. He didn't talk much about politics, but he talked a lot about Jewish identity. He didn't say anything I didn't already know and agree with at this point, but he made the points in a way that I couldn't really escape from them. I couldn't pretend any more than I didn't know what I knew. So I started being observant. It took a while, actually. Probably about 4 years until I was completely observant.

It's hard to stop doing things you like, even if you know you should. Look at all the smokers out there. And it's hard to be different. Becoming Orthodox is kind of like coming out. All of a sudden, you're this different person. People look at you differently. Treat you differently. Your world gets kind of odd.

I know that most Jews use the term "conversion" differently than other people use it. But what you describe, in our sense of the word of a change of religious commitment and affiliation sounds very much like what we call "conversion."
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starLisa
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quote:
Originally posted by Pete at Home:
quote:
Originally posted by starLisa:
quote:
Originally posted by RickyB:
OK, just to start the debates rolling:

Until a little over 200 years ago, there were no movements to speak of. Judaism was what it was, and what it always had been. There had been movements along the way. A movement called the Sadducees started during Hellenistic times. It was made up of wealthy Jews, many of them from the priestly families, who craved acceptance as peers by the Greeks. They rejected most of Jewish law, because it cramped their style and got in the way of fraternizing with their Syrian and Egyptian counterparts.

True in the beginning. The Sadducees at their origin, in the early-mid 2nd century BCE, were pretty much as Lisa describes, and their resistance to Pharisee innovations and new encumbering rules can be seen at least in part as resistance to rules that would hinder them from mingling with the ruling class.

There were no so-called Pharisee innovations.

It's commonly said that the Pharisees were the rabbinic Jews. But that's not really the case. In fact, the rabbis of the Mishnah and Talmud mention the Pharisees. They were separatists who were extra strict, more than the rabbis were comfortable with. The Sadducees started calling the rabbis Pharisees (which means "separatists") as a means of grouping them in with the actual Pharisees.

I'd never heard of this, Lisa.

So you would not consider Gamliel a Pharisee?

Depends which Rabban Gamliel. There was one who tried to bar the academy to students who weren't pious enough for him ("whose insides didn't match their outsides"). He might well have been a bit of a Pharisee, philosophically.
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starLisa
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quote:
Originally posted by Pete at Home:
"Watching it wouldn't really be a violation of any laws of Shabbat. But it would be inappropriate. Shabbat is a very special day, intended to be spent getting closer to God and being with family and the like. TV, while not forbidden, is something that almost no Orthodox Jew would watch on Shabbat."

What if something came on the television which the family found objectionable, upsetting? Would it be labor to turn the TV off, turn down the volume, kick the plug out, or put a cloth over it?

Putting a cloth over it would be fine. The other things would be violations.

True story. I was in Kansas City for a wedding, sharing a room with my sister at this hotel. The wedding was on Sunday late morning, so we were in the hotel for all of Shabbat.

The problem was, the doors had electronic keys. That meant that I couldn't use the door locks the entire day. Anyway, my sister, who isn't observant, was watching TV. I was sitting on the bed reading a book, ignoring the TV. And then she decided to go out. She got up and said, "Do you want me to turn off the TV?"

Ouch. The problem is, not only am I not permitted to do things which are a violation of Shabbat, but I'm also not allowed to participate in a fellow Jew doing so. Had my sister not been Jewish, I still couldn't have asked her to turn it off, but I could have said, "Sure" once she'd asked. But she's Jewish, just like I am, and the only thing I could do was say, "No, leave it on."

I could have left the room, but there was nowhere I could go. Everyone was out and about, and while I could have gone outside, I wouldn't have been able to carry anything with me, including my book, and I wouldn't have had any way of getting back into my room, since I wouldn't be able to use the key card.

I got to see the end of Space Camp and the entirety of The Hitcher that day. Which was the evilist, nastiest movie I've ever seen in my life, with the possible exception of Se7en.

Situations like that are far from the norm, but that was a day I'll remember for a looong time.

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Pete at Home
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There's more than one Rabban Gamliel cited in the Talmud?

"He might well have been a bit of a Pharisee, philosophically."

Ah. A bit of a Pharisee. Are you suggesting that Phariseeism among nonSaducee Jews was an incremental attribute rather than a defining affiliation? Just as we might say that someone was a bit of a conservative or a bit of a liberal? If it's a relativistic definition, that might explain why the Sadducees would characterize certain persons as Pharisees that might not have characterized themselves as such. (I assume that one could not be a Sadducee and a bit of a Pharisee, or a bit of a Sadducee, right?)

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starLisa
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quote:
Originally posted by Pete at Home:
I know that most Jews use the term "conversion" differently than other people use it. But what you describe, in our sense of the word of a change of religious commitment and affiliation sounds very much like what we call "conversion."

I hear what you're saying. But to us, conversion is a technical process, by means of which a person's actual identity changes. I mean, a woman converting to Judaism causes any children she bears after the conversion to be Jewish for life, not to mention herself. It's permanent, and not an issue of choice once it's done. Unlike conversion in the sense that it's used by others. That's why I felt I needed to clarify it.
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starLisa
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quote:
Originally posted by Pete at Home:
There's more than one Rabban Gamliel cited in the Talmud?

Yes. Rabban Gamliel the Elder was the grandson of Hillel the Elder, the one who said, "What is hateful to you, don't do to your fellow". Both his father and son were named Shimon, and his grandson was also named Rabban Gamliel. That's the one I was talking about. The one that Christians know about is the earlier one.

quote:
Originally posted by Pete at Home:
"He might well have been a bit of a Pharisee, philosophically."

Ah. A bit of a Pharisee. Are you suggesting that Phariseeism among nonSaducee Jews was an incremental attribute rather than a defining affiliation?

I don't know. John McCain is a bit of a Democrat. Joe Lieberman is a bit of a Republican. Ideological boundaries are rarely as opaque as we might like.

quote:
Originally posted by Pete at Home:
Just as we might say that someone was a bit of a conservative or a bit of a liberal?

Yes.

quote:
Originally posted by Pete at Home:
If it's a relativistic definition, that might explain why the Sadducees would characterize certain persons as Pharisees that might not have characterized themselves as such. (I assume that one could not be a Sadducee and a bit of a Pharisee, or a bit of a Sadducee, right?)

I wouldn't think that someone who identified as a Sadducee could reasonably be a bit of a Pharisee, but who knows? The convolutions a person can come to are endless.
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Pete at Home
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Thank you for the clarification.
quote:
Originally posted by starLisa:
a woman converting to Judaism causes any children she bears after the conversion to be Jewish for life, not to mention herself. It's permanent, and not an issue of choice once it's done.

Gerim that apostatize are still Jews?

Is there any Hebrew word that conveys the meaning of the religious/spiritual "conversion" that other religions speak of, without the issue of changed identity? Is there a word for the process of your change of heart when you decided to submit to strict observance?

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hobsen
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Is there any limit to the "children of a Jewish mother are Jewish" rule? It occurs to me that a billion people may be Jews without knowing it, including myself. All of us have had a great many ancestors in the last few thousand years. How are we to know someone in a maternal line leading to our mother was not a Jew?
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Pete at Home
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Well, if one member of your matrilinial line was a Jew, then they'd all have to be Jews.

But as I've tried unsuccessfully to beat through to folks on the BoM dna argument, your matrilinial and patrilinial make up a very small proportion of your total family tree.

If your mother's mother's mothers' mothers' mothers' mothers' mothers' mothers' mothers' fathers' mother was Jewish, that still would not make you Jewish.

It's still quite possible that your matrilinial line might be Jewish and you not know about it, but it's not that common.

Still, it's kind of amusing to consider that the fictional "descendant of the holy grail" character in "the DaVinci Code" would be considered Jewish, and trying to persuade her to become a practicing Jew would not be considered "prosetelyting." [Smile]

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starLisa
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quote:
Originally posted by Pete at Home:
quote:
Originally posted by starLisa:
a woman converting to Judaism causes any children she bears after the conversion to be Jewish for life, not to mention herself. It's permanent, and not an issue of choice once it's done.

Gerim that apostatize are still Jews?
With extremely rare exceptions. There's a category called chozer l'suro, which means one who returns to his error. But it specifically applies to a convert who apostasizes to idolatry, and so immediately that it's clear the conversion was a farce.

I had a friend in Israel who was a dorm counselor at a seminary I went to. She was a convert, and had too strong an attachment to her mother's Catholicism. Eventually, she started attending mass, albeit while keeping Jewish law in other ways. She acknowledged that she had no excuse for what she was doing (though it's been years, and she may have started rationalizing it by now), but lacked the moral strength not to do it.

I actually spoke with a rabbi I was learning with at the time in hopes that her conversion could be annulled, but no luck.

quote:
Originally posted by Pete at Home:
Is there any Hebrew word that conveys the meaning of the religious/spiritual "conversion" that other religions speak of, without the issue of changed identity? Is there a word for the process of your change of heart when you decided to submit to strict observance?

Repentance. Jews who return to being religious -- and it's considered returning, even for someone who was never religious -- are called ba'alei teshuva, or penitents. In English, we use BT for short. FFB means frum from birth, or raised religious. FBT is "flaming ba'al teshuva, or someone who recently became religious and is going a bit overboard.

I have friends who are converts who can easily pass for FFB. Me, I'm clearly BT.

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hobsen
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Thanks, Pete. I decided to take a break from posting when I realized I had made that error. A person has only one strictly maternal line of ancestry, although it probably has a lot of women on it about whom he knows nothing.
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seekingprometheus
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So who's the matrilineal "Eve?"

It can't be Sarah, because she didn't have any daughters, right?

Rebekah? Leah, Rachel and their handmaidens?

Is it simple descent from whoever the first Jewess was, or do children of converted mothers count?

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munga
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Girl children were rarely mentioned and certainly not counted. Sarah could certainly have had daughters and all the others too.
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starLisa
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quote:
Originally posted by hobsen:
Is there any limit to the "children of a Jewish mother are Jewish" rule? It occurs to me that a billion people may be Jews without knowing it, including myself. All of us have had a great many ancestors in the last few thousand years. How are we to know someone in a maternal line leading to our mother was not a Jew?

If you don't know, you don't know.
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starLisa
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quote:
Originally posted by seekingprometheus:
So who's the matrilineal "Eve?"

It can't be Sarah, because she didn't have any daughters, right?

Rebekah? Leah, Rachel and their handmaidens?

Is it simple descent from whoever the first Jewess was, or do children of converted mothers count?

There isn't just one. Until the revelation at Sinai, no one was born "Jewish". It was an individual choice for everyone. So Abraham had many sons, but only Isaac took on the religion he had taught. Isaac had twin boys, but only Jacob kept the religion.

At Sinai, God made us into a nation. He made it so that we were Jews by identity. Every woman who stood at Sinai is one of the matrilineal Eves of Judaism. As is every woman who ever converted to Judaism.

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Pete at Home
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quote:
Originally posted by seekingprometheus:
So who's the matrilineal "Eve?"

It can't be Sarah, because she didn't have any daughters, right?

Rebekah? Leah, Rachel and their handmaidens?

Is it simple descent from whoever the first Jewess was, or do children of converted mothers count?

Children of converted mothers count, of course. Rahab and Ruth were converts named in the Tenach account as ancestors of King David, and you don't get more Jewish than King David.

Yes, it's true that the Biblical account often does not name daughters, but I strongly doubt that Genesis would have referred to Sarah as "barren" if she'd had daughters.

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