Jewish Ethics: Comprehensive Study and Exam Content
Jewish Ethics Introduction Our goal in this unit is to become familiar with the ethical teachings of Judaism as they were developed and evolved in the ancient period. Judaism grew out of a gener al orientation toward monotheism in the Middle East over twenty five hundred years ago. Its emphasis on justice and the responsibility of the faithful to one God marked a new phase in social ethics and would later provide the foundation for the world’s two most dominant religions, Christianity, and Islam. Timeline 5000 BCE Rise of civilizations in the ancient Near East 1750 BCE Abraham, the first patriarch 1280 BCE Moses leads the Exodus from Egypt 1100 BC The first books of the Torah are written 1000 BCE David takes Jerusalem as his capital 950 BCE First Temple built by King Solomon 922 BCE The northern kingdom divides after Solomon’s death 750 BCE Rise of the prophets 722 BCE The Assyrians conquer the northern kingdom 586 BCE The Babylonians conquer Jerusalem and destroy the Temple 538 BCE The Persians conquer Babylon and enable the exiles to return 70 CE Romans siege Jerusalem and destroy the Temple 90 CE The canonization of the Hebrew Bible 200 CE The completion of Mishnah 500 CE The Babylonian Talmud Following the unit structure, we will explore: • early Judaism: origin and development; • Jewish scriptures: the tradition’s source texts for ethics; • the basic ethical teachings of early Judaism: the Ten Commandments; • classical Judaism and the rise of rabbinic culture; • the meaning of justice: the call of the prophets; • analysis and discussion of Jewish ethics: conduct, principles, worldview; • Jewish virtues and vices; • moral self and moral communityEthics in World Religions RLGN 1420 Unit 8 2 Learning objectives At the end of this unit you will be able to: 1. outline the historical and cultural context out of which Judaism emerged and describe the significance of Adam, Abraham, and Moses; 2. identify the main scriptural sources for Jewish law and belief and how the ethical teachings grew out of certain experiences of the Jewish people; 3. explain the different relationships that Jews have developed in interpreting scripture; 4. analyze Jewish ethics on the levels of conduct, principles, and foundation; 5. suggest what are some Jewish virtues; and 6. suggest what the early Jewish tradition defines as the moral self and the moral community. Required readings Read the following from the required textbooks: • The World’s Religions, chapter 10: Judaism: The way of Torah • Anthology of World Scriptures, chapter 10, Judaism Suggested viewing • My Religion Lab: The World’s Religions: Judaism • Chapter 10 in the Companion website for Anthology of World Scriptures (do not submit any exercises to your instructor) Instructional content Early Judaism: Origin and Development Using your text, The World’s Religions, write out the definitions for: • ethical monotheism • anthropocentric • eschatology • covenant Jewish Scriptures: The Tradition’s Source Texts for Ethics The World's Religions: chapter 10, “Stages of Development and Sacred Texts”: • “Origins and Ancestors” • “Moses and the Torah” • “The Rise and Fall of Ancient Israel: The Roles of Kings and Prophets” • "Return from Exile and the Birth of Judaism” • “Classical Judaism and the Oral Torah” • “Sadducees, Pharisees, and Other Movements As a study aid to sorting out the various scriptural texts that are mentioned above, and in Young, and that are excerpted from in Van Voorst, write out definitions of the following terms: • Tanak • Torah • Nevi’im • Kethuvi’im The Basic Ethical Teachings of Early Judaism What is the significance of the Ten Commandments and why were they important for the early Jewish community? • Discuss the relative merits of Holy War, as laid out in Deuteronomy 20: 1-20. • Explain how an “eye for an eye” is rendered in scripture, and why or why not this constitutes ethical behaviour. Classical Judaism and the rise of rabbinic culture What is the oral Torah and how did it come about? • Explain the differences between the Mishnah, Midrash, and the Talmud. • With reference to historical developments, why was there a shift in Judaism from the Temple to the synagogue? The meaning of justice: The call of the prophets Anthology of World Scriptures: chapter 10, "Women as Rulers and Prophets,” and “The Virtuous Wife With reference to “The Virtuous Wife,” and “Women as Rulers and Prophets” in Anthology of World Scriptures, outline and discuss the role of women in Jewish ethics. • Explain how the scriptural excerpt, “God’s Call to an Unfaithful People” in Anthology of World Scriptures, presents a challenge to other nations. Analysis of Jewish ethics: Conduct, principles, foundation After working carefully through the last two sections of the material and the accompanying readings, define the following terms, indicating how each relates to ethics: • The role of the prophets • The Ten Commandments • The Talmud • 613 mitzvot • Rabbi Hillel Jewish virtues and vices Moral self and moral community Answer the following question in a well-developed paragraph of ten to twelve sentences: • Explain why the Jewish worldview is monotheistic, and discuss how God’s law provides a framework for ethical behaviour toward Jews and non-Jews alike. Glossary of terms Abraham—ancestral father of the monotheistic traditions Anthropocentric—placing human beings at the centre of creation Kethuvi’im—portion of the Bible that focuses on the wisdom writings Moses—Jewish patriarch and bearer of the Ten Commandments Nevi’im—portion of the Bible that focuses on the writings of the prophets Noah—ancestral father and maker of the first covenant with God Oral Torah—Post-biblical commentaries, including the Mishnah, Midrash, and Talmud Prophets—figures who challenged injustice and renewed God’s law Torah—Also known as the Pentateuch or Five Books of Moses Additional readings Anderson, B. Bishop S. and Newman, J. Understanding the Old Testament. 5th ed. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2006. Feiler, Bruce. Abraham: A Journey to the Heart of Three Faiths. New York: William Morrow, 2002. Glatzer, Nahum. Hammer on the Rock: A Short Midrash Reader. Translated by Jacob Sloan. New York: Schocken, 1962. Neusner, Jacob. An Introduction to Judaism. Lousiville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1991. Petuchowski, Jakob., trans. and ed. Our Masters Taught: Rabbinic Stories and Sayings. New York: Crossroad, 1982. Yerushalmi, Yosef. Zakhor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1982.