Notes for Religious Studies 369:
Introduction to Judaism
The Belief in One God
Daily ritual declaration of the
(Deuteronomy 6:4 ff.):
Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.
"And you shall love your neighbour as yourself"--Rabbi Akiva says: This is a great principle in the Torah.
Ben Azai says: "This is the book of the generations of mankind"--this is an even greater principle.
Implies belief in common humanity:
[Idea of Noachide covenant: The seven laws that are obligatory on all humanity].
Rejection of polytheism.
Rejection of idolatry (worship of physical representations of God)
Names of God: Tetragrammaton / "Lord"; El[ohim] / "God": Mercy and Justice.
(belief in independent power of absolute evil).
[--> implications re: Satan]
Implications re: Christian beliefs in incarnation, trinity.
Personal God--often described as father-figure.
as intermediary between God and the physical created world.
Definitions of Jewish heresies: e.g., Mishnah's definigion of those who have "no share in the world to come":
Torah from Heaven
[Does not affect their status as Jews].
Medieval philosophical formulations of monotheism--based on Greek and Muslim concepts of divine unity:
The existence of one incorporeal God is subject to rational proof.
If so, how could humanity have fallen into idolatrous belief?
Maimonides' explanation: confusing God's instruments (e.g., heavenly bodies) with God himself.
God is not only one (i.e., not one of many deities), but also not composite. --> Problem of multiple divine attributes [Saadiah: a function of limited human intelligence and language, but the multiplicity does not exist in God].
Personality and emotions cannot be ascribed to God.
: Two kinds of attributes may be used in legitimate religious discourse:
Attributes of action: Metaphoric analogy between result and "motive."
Negative theology: Denial of the attribute's opposite: e.g.: We cannot understand what God's "wisdom" really is; but we can deny any ignorance or stupidity in God.
Problematic status of ten
: Are they part of God or emanations from God?
Erotic and sexual themes, especially to describe the relationship with the
. Mythic approach.
Some denominations have proposed non-theistic or non-supernatural formulations of Jewish theology: Mordecai Kaplan in
Divine Goodness and Theodicy
Biblical belief in a benevolent God who wants to bestow blessings on the world.
Some later works (especially Job and Ecclesiastes) raise the question of undeserved suffering.
Rabbinic texts stress that God is the source of (apparent?) evil as well as good.
Medievals deal with the "problem of evil": How can an all-powerful and beneficent God allow evil in the universe?
Maimonides: Evil is not a reality, but only the absence of good.
Humans do not see God's larger scheme, so we are unqualified to judge the ultimate extent of evil.
Equated evil with disharmony and division in the realm of the Sefirot, leading to interruptions in the flow of blessings into our world.
Evil is associated with the strengthening of God's aspect of strict justice (the Left Side).
Kabbalistic tradition speaks in graphic terms of a satanic realm--the
). In some systems there is an entire evil parallel "universe" with its own ten Sefirot.
Lurianic Kabbalah: Evil is explained through the myth of the "breaking of the vessels": When the
tried to project its light into primordial vessels, they were unable to contain the light and shattered. Therefore, reality consists of a mixture of sparks of
(goodness) and broken
(evil). Through the performance of religious commandments, the sparks are separated from the shards and "elevated" to their proper state of holiness.
Post-Holocaust theologians have generally avoided attempts to explain evil, especially in terms that would place blame on the victims.