Exploring World Religions

Exploring World Religions

Assignment #1 on Jewish Traditions
Provide thoughtful answers, drawing upon the assigned readings and information derived from websites or other sources but be sure to cite the sources that you use and provide careful documentation of your research (put citations in parentheses in the text of your answers and include a “sources cited” page if you include information other than the assigned readings–see example on the other side of this sheet).   Rather than simply repeating or paraphrasing general knowledge about the topics below, your answers should include your own reflections and insights based on your research. The assignment should be type-written, approximately 7-8 pages in length altogether. To receive full credit, post the assignment in the drop-box on the “Angel” site no later than midnight on Monday July 8th (sooner if you can).   Late assignments will be penalized 5 points for every day that they are late.

Part 1. Identifications (60 pts). Choose six terms from the following list and write at least one or two substantial paragraphs (approx 250-275 words each) explaining not only what the term refers to but also why it is important for our study of Judaism. 10 pts each.  An example of an appropriate answer is provided on the other side of this sheet.
Tanakh (Overall content, themes and religious significance)
Torah (Include discussion of both “oral” and “written” Torah)
Messiah (Development of the concept and Jewish views as distinguished from Christianity)
Sabbath (“Shabbat”)  (Background, basic requirements and reasons for observing them)    Yom Kippur (Background, basic requirements and reasons for observing them)
Passover (“Pesach”) (Background, basic requirements and reasons for observing them)
Kosher (Background, basic requirements and reasons for observing them)
Circumcision (“Bris”) (Background, basic requirements and description of ceremony)    Bar/Bat Mitzvah    (Background, basic requirements and description of ceremony)
Zionism (Historical factors and contemporary relevance for faith and practice)            Holocaust (Historical factors and contemporary relevance for faith and practice)

Part 2.  Essay (20 pts each). Choose both of the questions below and write approximately 2 pages each (600-800 words for each question)

1)  Write an essay that discusses the problem of anti-Semitism in Western Europe from the late Middle Ages to the twentieth century.  As discussed by Fisher, what were some of the main reasons for and examples of persecution against the Jews in the Middle Ages and early modern period in Europe?  How did this persecution intensify during the period known as the Holocaust and what were the results?   Reflect briefly upon the impact (especially in terms of faith issues) that anti-Semitic persecution has had upon Jewish communities over time.

2)  As noted by Fisher, four distinct forms of Judaism have developed in the contemporary world:  Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist and Orthodox (see the chart on p. 287 and the discussion on pp. 264-266 and 287-291).  Write an essay that explains the most important historical developments and distinct practices of two of these movements.   It is recommended that you do some research beyond the readings in Fisher (be sure to document your sources carefully).  Conclude by discussing how is it that each of these groups can be considered “Jewish.”  In other words, despite their differences, what do the two forms of Judaism you chose have in common?  Defend your answer.

An example of an answer for the term “Pentateuch” is as follows:

The word “Pentateuch” refers to the so-called five books of Moses at the beginning of the Tanakh—also known as the Hebrew Scriptures (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy).  According to Fisher, many traditional Jews believe that God revealed these books were revealed by God to Moses, who then wrote them down as a single document (Fisher, p. 238).  However, some contemporary scholars contend that these books represent a more developed oral tradition in which human authors “interpret the formation of Israel from a religious point of view” (Fisher, p. 238).   Whatever their origin, the books that comprise the “Pentateuch” can be considered the most sacred part of the Bible.
Selections from the Pentateuch are used throughout the assigned readings to illustrate important beliefs and practices, particularly with regard to the covenant relationship established between the Jewish people and their God.   Some of the events highlighted in the Pentateuch include the creation story, the banishment of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, the great flood during the time of Noah, the calling of Abraham and his descendants, the struggles endured by God’s people in Egypt, the Exodus from Egypt led by Moses and the giving of the Ten Commandments to the Hebrew people.  Throughout this material, God is described as directly intervening in human history to protect and bless those who are faithful and obedient to God.  Importantly, the events and stories described in the Pentateuch form the basis for spiritual teachings in Christianity and Islam as well as Judaism.


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