Three covenants: Noahide (Noah and God), Abrahamic (Abraham and God), Mosaic (Moses and God). The cornerstone of Jewish religious attitudes is the covenant relationship between God and the people of Israel, as a total entity
means commandments, refers to 613 commandments given in the torah on mount sinai and the seven rabbinic commandments institiuted later
Define the “breath of life” (nefesh)
Animating principle –> God’s breath ([he] breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and the man became a living being). Nefesh is often translated “soul” in the sense of the personality, the quality of an individual that can become noble or debased, and neshamah or ruah are used to refer more explicitly to the life principle or life-breath
from the heavens, down to Sheol (Sheol is understood very physically, it exists immediately below the ground and also implies that heaven is directly above). Sheol as posthumous destination: Death as pale reflection of embodied existence, Focus: enjoyment of embodied life
Parallels: Death is not a utopia. There is no punishment or reward in Sheol, it is a final destination a place where one is cut off from God which one never returns. In a traditional lament there is no comfort in death
Among the followers of Hasidism, the ideal of redemption is captured in the concept of d’vekut (clinging or cleaving to God – mystic communion with God). Through singing, dancing, and contemplation on God, when one experiences d’vekut, then one’s soul becomes reunited with God, and all those souls who have shared in your countless bodily reincarnations as you journey to God also attain perfection in that moment
Ritual role: attending to the dead –> Tahara (analogous to a three act play: cleansing, purification, dressing in shrouds). A jewish ritual cleansing/purification of the deceased. Carried out by a special group of people, called chevra kadisha. Modesty remains important even in death (men cleanse men, females cleanse females) and the body is not left alone for the 24 hours
Define “sitting Shiva”
Shivah begins following the funeral service and lasts for seven days. The mourners sit shivah, that is, they remain at home – do not work, bathe, shave, change clothing, wear leather, or engage in sexual relations. In the house of mourning, it is customary to cover all the mirrors (to indicate disinterest in vanity and personal appearance). Friends and relatives provide food and see to the needs of the immediate family who are the principal mourners. The mourners sit on lowered chairs while the community comes to offer condolences and comfort as well as to honor the dead by speaking of them and remembering them. After this there is a secondary mourning period of 30 days.
Explain the early Hebrew understanding of death
humans are viewed as God’s creation and death is seen as punishment for Adam and Eve’s transgression
explain the relationship between the Genesis creation account and understandings of death
God is characterized by at least 2 attributes: he has the knowledge between good and evil and he cannot die. Thus, when Adam and eve gained knowledge of good and evil it was necessary that they be exiled from the guardian and made mortal (i.e., capable of death).
explain the Jewish ideas of resurrection
The first clear reference of the ressurection comes from the book of Daniel. God’s justice was never in question previous to Antiochus IV . He ushered in a period of unprecedented persecution based only on adherence to their faith. What would be the fate of those who died for their faith? To be denied their rightful length of days? To be cut off from God in death? It is in the context of these social and historical conditions that the doctrine of resurrection and a future beatific life after death comes to the fore in Jewish history. However, there was a diversity of view points. The sadducees rejected the idea of ressurection. The pharisees, another more popular group, carried forward the notion of ressurection. It is their emphasis on resurrection and the world to come that was inherited by the rabbis and irreversibly established in Jewish thought today. Then there were the Essenes (radical mystics) who believed in resurrection and their belief was inspired by direct physical experience by doing meditationand mystic techniques. they believed in immortality of the soul.
Explain the mystical perspective on death seen in Kabbalah
Kabbalah (reinterpreted the relationships with God) these mystical traditions are grounded in experiences. Belief in the pre-existence of souls and their transmigration throughout many lives (Multiplicity of souls, revolving” gilgul”). According to kabbalistic thought, the goal of the mystic is universal and personal healing or “repairing” of the fragmentation and disunity that characterizes the world and the individual. Until the resurrection, every soul has numerous opportunities through reincarnation to participate in the process of cosmic healing by developing spiritually, following God’s commandments and eventually reaching a state of perfect wholeness in union with God. Since a soul inhabits many bodies, however, during the course of its transmigration, it leaves its traces or “sparks” on each body and at the
time of resurrection each person shares in the “soul sparks” that have been associated body. “Thus, the resurrection of any one human affects the fate of the many other bodies which housed this particular soul”
Consider the relationship between Hebrew / Israelite views of death and those of their neighbours (specifically, the Canaanites, Babylonians, and Greeks)
Death was understood in a similar way in the early Greek literature (afterlife being a cold dark place according to Achilles)
Mesopotamian traditions- The distinction between Gods and humans is that Gods are immortal and human beings are not.
Caananites: the surrounding people- the mitzvot separates them from the Canaanites. Had multiple gods but chosen people by specific god (YHWH)
What is the shema?
Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.
Development of Judaism: Historical timeline
(2nd millennium - 536 BCE) Biblical Period
586/7 BCE → Destruction of the Temple of Solomon
(538 BCE - 70 CE) The Second Temple Period
(70 CE - 6th c. CE) The Rabbinic Period
Hebrew → Israelite → Jew (historical development)