I’m writing in a hurry hope it doesn’t come out sloppy. If yes, I’m sorry
This is in response to JOURNEYERBLOG’s article regarding the TaNaCH [the Hebrew Bible] I would like to present the view of the Jewish religion.
I first of all want to clarify that I’m one of those ‘some Ultra-Orthodox people’ in whose community the Bible is banned. I am as ultra as one can possibly be; I wear black hat and coat [even in the summer], my peyos [side locks] and beard meet at my chest, my first language was Yiddish, and I studied in a Yeshiva with virtually no secular studies. Had my nose been three times the size I wouldn’t blog, I’d make a mint modeling for the caricature section in Neo-Nazi magazines.
Anyway, my point is, that in my ‘ultra’ school I began learning Genesis when I was 6 and Joshua when I was 9, and Judges when I was 10. I do admit that there are extreme alt-ultra schools that keep the prophets out of the curriculum for children, for they don’t want them to think badly of Saul, David and the other prophets who’ve erred. This trend originated some 200 years ago when bible criticism was at it’s infancy within the community. The rabbi’s did try to ‘protect’ the faithful who endured thousands of years, not to be lured into a fleeting fashion that was based more in faithlessness than in true seeking. Some rabbi’s produced great works and eventually everyone went back to studying their bible.
I’m writing this, for I don’t want anyone to really think that there is such a thing of being religious without the bible. It’s absurd, misleading and delusional.
So, you will say religious Jews spend the majority of their time studying Talmud and the words of the rabbis rather than the words of the prophets. And that accusation is 100 percent accurate. For two reasons which are probably really one. The first is, for the Bible is not exactly clear on the specifics of Laws and Commandments, hence the need for Oral Law. We don’t have a phone to contact Moses and ask him exactly what he meant, and Moses would’ve been reckless had he not given over the meanings and details of every last word and Law. That tradition is still alive today. It existed since Moses. The second, is like when we study ancient works, we have to adapt the logic and understanding of the original law in order to apply it relevantly. When God says not to work on Sabbath, it gets all complicated with modern machinery etc. The same is with applying laws regarding oxen and donkeys to cars and trucks. Inscribing and iPhones. And the list never ends. The Karites, like so many different groups of successors, abandoned the Tradition and were hence pretty much lost.
It’s hard for me to address the point that God is not central in the bible and the Jews were pagans who worshipped all the Gods their neighbors did. Did you ever open a bible? Seriously, please tell me what is at the core of the Bible?
Did the Jews worship pagan gods? Of course they did (you don’t need ‘careful and critical reading and archaeology’ to see that, its all over the bible). Where the prophets proud of it? It was the worst of all their sins. Did God approve? He almost wiped out His nation for doing that. Was it something they did when they were behaving or when they were acting obnoxious? Now for some basic contextual understanding of the issue:
Abraham grew up in a pagan world and he came up with the idea that the gods everyone was worshipping are powerless. There must be a higher power; a Creator that shares His Glory and position with no one. That is the core of Abraham and the covenant God had with his children. God is not to the Jews what Ra is to the Egyptians. God has values, morals and very strict Laws; hundreds of them, in fact. God’s Laws begin with sanctifying His Name, loving Him, fearing Him, recite his Oneness twice daily, and whenever your on the way, and when you speak to your children, and you should put it on our doorpost and on our arms and between our eyes…. God is obsessed with us remembering his Oneness. That is what the bible is all about! That is why God took us out of Egypt. That is why God chose us in the first place. Whenever something bad happens, God says it’s because we didn’t keep His Laws. If all the aforementioned isn’t religion I’m not sure what you call religion.
The bible is has a serious code of law, commanding the Jews how to lead their lives from marital issues to monetary issues through faith issues. God has opinions about everything. And when we read the bible, its laws are not social standards they are the Word of God.
Now, regarding idol worshipping. God commands us to stay away from idols and their adherents, to kill all the Canaanites, and not to marry their offspring, not to do their witchery and not to follow their statutes, all for the fear that we might worship their gods. Why all the warning? Who needs to be told? Who wants to worship idols? The answer is everyone! In the time of the bible, the world was all about idols. Everything revolved around idols and therefore God knew the Jews will have a difficult time resisting. And a difficult time they had. They succumbed to the seductive culture of worshipping idols. And the prophets never stopped attempting to get them to quit. So, stating that the Jews worshipped many gods, and God too fought their battles, is misleading. It’s like saying the Jews were fidelitous [is that a word?] in marriage and part of it is cheating. It’s either or. And the Jews were at times in limbo from faith in God to that of the idols.
Regarding the rituals. Let me begin by a ritual that is very widespread in our ‘ultra’ circles, and I taught this to my two-year-old already. Whenever one reads from a bible and closes it, you kiss it. If it falls on the floor, you run as fast as you can pick it up and kiss it. For that is how common people show love. Not because God commanded, not because the prophets told us to. At the time of Abraham and his children, the way people expressed worship was through sacrifice. Abraham said “my father sacrificed to Ra, I’ll sacrifice to the Creator.” (and BTW the holidays at the calendar of agriculture is not a mystery. Had your father built you a business wouldn’t you go say thank you at every milestone? c’mon! The ancient does not believe? Only worship? In my bible their intertwined. Read the story of Abraham. Read the Shema.) Rituals are an expression; they are not what the faith is about. When the Jews got too into their sacrifices the prophets gave them hell for it.
“Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord?
To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry…” (1 Samuel 15:22)
An atheist Jew is an oxymoron! In the words of Saadia “Our nation is no nation, only with its Torah!”
“There is no coherent or unified theology about the nature of God and His workings amongst different Biblical authors and it does not really bother them either. These things are left to the individual and as long as one holds up the tribal honour and rituals nobody cares what they do or do not believe in.” Seriously, please open a bible… read the prophets… you clearly never have…
Just for the heck of it, a list of some verses regarding the God and His Oneness
Genesis 1:1, 2:1-3, 14:19,20,22, 18:14, 21:33, 24:3, Exodus 4:11, 7:17, 8:6,18, 9:14,15,16,29, 10:2, 14:4,18, 15:11,18, 18:11, 20:2,11,19, 23:13, 29:46, 34:14, Leviticus 11:45, 19:36, 25:23,38, 26:13,45, Numbers 15:41, Deuteronomy 4:9-24, 31-39, 5:6,7,15, 6:4,12,13,14,21, 7:9,18,19,21, 8:2,3,4,14-18, 9:3, 10:14,17,18,21,22, 11:2-7, 13:3,6,7,11,14, 17:3, 20:1, 26:8, 29:1,2,4,5, 32:6,39,40, 33:26,27, Joshua 2:11, 3:11, 4:24, 24:17,18, 1Samuel 2:2,3,6,10, 10:18, 12:6, 2Samuel 7:22, 22:32, 1Kings 8:23,27,60, 2Kings 19:15, Jeremiah 2:6, 5:22,24, 10:6-16, 14:22, 23:24, 27:5, 31:34, 32:17-21,27, 51:15-19, Isaiah 40:12-26,28, 41:4, 42:5, 43:10-13, 44:6-8,24, 45:5-7,12,18-23, 46:5,9,10, 48:13, 51:15, 66:1, Hosea 13:4, Amos 4:13, 5:8, 9:5,6, Jonah 1:9, Nahum 1:2-4, Zechariah 12:1, Psalm 8:4, 10:16, 11:4, 18:32, 19:1-7, 24:1,2, 29:10, 33:6-11, 65:7-14, 66:6-9, 68:8,9, 71:19, 74:12-17, 78:12-16,42-55, 81:11, 83:19, 86:8-10, 89:6-14, 95:1-7, 96:4,5, 100:3, 102:26, 104:1-35, 113:4,5, 114:7,8, 115:3-11, 119:73,89-91, 121:2, 124:8, 134:3, 135:5-21, 136:1-26, 139:5-16, 145:9,14-16, 146:1-10, 147:1-20, 148:1-14, 149:2, Job 4:17, 5:9,10, 9:2-12, 10:8-12, 12:9,10,13-25, 25:1-6, 26:6-14, 28:23-28, 34:13, 35:10, 36:22,23,26-37:24, 38:1-42:6, Proverbs 3:19,20, Ecclesiastes 3:11,14, Daniel 2:20-22, 3:33, 4:31,32,34, 5:23, 6:27,28, 9:15, Ezra 1:2, 5:11, Nehemiah 9:6, 1Chronicles 16:25,26, 17:20, 29:10-12,14-16, 2Chronicles 2:5, 6:14,18, 20:6, 36:23,