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"Essential Judaism

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Table of Contents

Contents Acknowledgments A note to the reader Introduction Chapter 1 Service of the Heart: Prayer and Ritual The Jewish Idea of Prayer The Names of God The Role of the Rabbi The Blessings of Daily Life An Assortment of Blessings The Daily Services Before the Morning Service Tallit and Tzitzit Tefillin Shakharit/The Morning Service The Basic Structure of the Service Covering the Head Kaddish The Sh'ma The Amidah Minkhah/The Afternoon Service Ma'ariv/The Evening Service The Shabbat Services Kabbalat Shabbat/Welcoming the Sabbath and Ma'ariv Shakharit/Musaf Minkhah and Havdalah Festival Services The Synagogue Liturgical Music Home Rituals Mezuzah The Evolution of the Prayer Book The Rise of Denominations Reform Judaism Conservative Judaism Reconstructionism Modern Orthodox Ba'al Teshuvah Havurah Jewish Renewal Movement Gay and Lesbian Synagogues Women's Prayer Groups Shul Etiquette The Chosen People? Chapter 2 Rejoice in Your Festivals: The Jewish Year Sacred Time -- The Jewish Calendar Rosh Khodesh The Jewish Calendar The Festivals Shabbat The Thirty-nine Categories of Forbidden Work Special Sabbaths The High Holy Days Elul, a Month of Teshuvah Rosh Hashanah Days of Repentance Yom Kippur Sukkot The Sukkah Building the Sukkah The Four Species f0 Hoshanah Rabbah/The Great Hosannah Shemini Atzeret Simkhat Torah Hanukah Historical Roots Home Observance Tu b'Shevat Purim Pesakh Exile and Home The Bread of Affliction The Seder The Meaning of the Seder The Four Questions Counting the Omer Shavuot Yom ha-Shoah, Yom ha-Atzma'ut, Yom ha-Zikaron, and Yom Yerushalayim Minor Fast Days Tisha b'Av Special Readings for the Festivals Chapter 3 Birth to Death: A Jewish Life Cycle Birth Abortion Adoption Mamzerut Brit Milah Brit Habat -- the Baby-Naming Ceremony Pidyon Ha-Ben Parent and Child Jewish Education Bar/Bat Mitzvah Confirmation Engagement and Marriage The Jewish View of Marriage The Ketubah Engagement Before the Ceremony The Wedding Ceremony Levirate Marriage Intermarriage Prohibited Marriages Divorce Conversion to Judaism The Noahide Laws Who Is a Jew? Should Judaism Proselytize? Leaving the Fold Illness Aging Ethical Wills Death and Mourning Defiance and Acceptance Dying Right to Die? Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide Preparations for Burial Burial Mourning Unveiling and Yahrzeit The Afterlife Chapter 4 613 Ways: Living a Jewish Life The Mitzvot Gematria: Making the Letters Add Up Pikuakh Nefesh: To Save a Life Who's Counting? The 613 Mitzvot (According to Maimonides) Why Observe? Mind, Body, and Soul Halakhah: Mitzvot into Law Joseph Caro and the Shulkhan Arukh Opponents of Halakhah The Sadducees and the Karaites Reform Judaism Conservative Judaism Reconstructionism Reactions Within Orthodoxy The Mitzvot in Daily Life Gemilut Khasadim/Acts of Lovingkindness The Evil Tongue: Lashon Hara Tzedakah/Doing Justice The Ladder of Charity Ethics and Justice Laws Governing Loans Capital Punishment "An Eye for an Eye" Tikkun Olam/Repairing the World Sexuality The Mikveh Kashrut/Dietary Laws Kosher and Treif Meat and Dairy Buying Kosher Kosher Wine Taking Khallah Match But Don't Mix: Sha'atnez Chapter 5 In the Beginning: The Hebrew Bible The Tanakh The Books of the Hebrew Bible The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha What Is in the Hebrew Bible? The Torah The Parashiyot and the Haftarot Genesis/Bereishit Exodus/Shemot Leviticus/Vayikra Numbers/Bamidbar Deuteronomy/Devarim Biblical Measurements Making the Text Sing: Cantillation Torah Comes First The Nevi'im/The Prophets Joshua Judges I and II Samuel I and II Kings Isaiah Jeremiah Ezekiel The Twelve Minor Prophets The Role of the Prophets The Ketuvim/The Writings Tehillim/The Psalms Reading the Psalms Proverbs Job Shir ha-Shirim/Song of Songs Ruth Lamentations Kohelet/Ecclesiastes Esther Daniel Ezra and Nehemiah I and II Chronicles Reading the Book Some Key Bible Commentators Peshat Derash Remez Sod Who Wrote the Hebrew Bible? Chapter 6 The Rabbis Said: The Talmud and Other Rabbinical Writings<> Roots of Rabbinic Judaism From the Pairs to the Tannaim Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Torah "O You Scribes and Pharisees!" Tragedy, Dispersion, and the Writing of the Mishnah What Is in the Mishnah? What's in the Mishnah and the Talmud: Primary Subject Matter of the Tractates and Where They Appear How the Mishnah Works An Example from the Mishnah Tosefta and Baraita Gemara: The Task Continues A Time Line of Talmudic Scholars Yavneh: The First Great Academy Some Key Figures in Rabbinic Judaism Halakhah and Aggadah How the Gemara Works Palestinian Talmud versus Babylonian Talmud The Later Commentators Proliferation and Persecution A Page of Talmud Modern Talmudic Scholarship How to Study Talmud Daf Yomi Midrash Some Important Midrashic Texts Chapter 7 Jewish Mysticism: Emanations of the Eternal What Is Mysticism? The Chariot and the Chambers: Ancient Jewish Mysticism The Mysteries of Creation: Sefer Yetzirah Ten Sefirot Twice Over: Early Kabbalah and the Ashkenazi Hasidim Kabbalah in Spain Splendor: The Zohar The Tree of Life The Star of David The Lion Speaks: Lurianic Kabbalah The False Messiah: Shabbateanism Hasidic Mysticism Some Other Key Figures in Jewish Mysticism Kabbalah in the Twentieth Century Rabbi Kook Gershom Scholem and the Study of Mysticism Zalman Schachter-Shalomi and the Jewish Renewal Movement Meditation The Lasting Influence of Jewish Mysticism How to Study Kabbalah Chapter 8 The Philosophers: The Continuing Evolution of Jewish Thought Rabbis versus Philosophers Philo Judaeus (20 B.C.E.-50 C.E.) From the Writings of Philo Saadiah Gaon (882 C.E.-942 C.E.) From the Writings of Saadiah Gaon Maimonides (c. 1135 C.E.-1204 C.E.) 13 Principles of the Jewish Faith From the Writings of Maimonides Judah HaLevi (1075 C.E.-1141 C.E.) From the Writings of Judah HaLevi Baruch Spinoza (1632 C.E.-1677 C.E.) From the Writings of Baruch Spinoza Moses Mendelssohn (1729 C.E.-1786 C.E.) From the Writings of Moses Mendelssohn Franz Rosenzweig (1886 C.E.-1929 C.E.) Rosenzweig and Buber Translate Torah From the Writings of Franz Rosenzweig Martin Buber (1878 C.E.-1965 C.E.) From the Writings of Martin Buber Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907 C.E.-1972 C.E.) From the Writings of Abraham Joshua Heschel Joseph Soloveitchik (1903 C.E.-1993 C.E.) From the Writings of Joseph Soloveitchik Emmanuel Levinas (1906 C.E.-1995 C.E.) From the Writings of Emmanuel Levinas Chapter 9 Beyond the Rabbis: How Judaism Got Where It Is Today The Jews in the East Sworn Enemies: Hasidim and Mitnagdim "Why Do They Dress Like That?" Enlightenment and Emancipation The Jewish Question Sworn Enemies: Reform and Orthodox Sworn Enemies: The Rabbis and the Haskalah Yiddish: The "Mother Tongue" Ladino The Zionists Eliezer Ben-Yehuda Herzl and His Successors The Evolution of Anti-Semitism Sifting Through the Ashes Exiles' Return Feminism Remakes Jewish Theology The Temptations of Assimilation Appendix 1 Some Key Documents of Contemporary Jewish Belief Reform Judaism The Pittsburgh Platform, 1885 The Columbus Platform, 1937 A Centenary Perspective, 1976 The Doral Country Club Resolution, 1997?100th Anniversary of the Zionist Movement Conservative Judaism On Changes in Judaism -- Zecharias Frankel The Ideal Conservative Jew: Eight Behavioral Expectations -- Rabbi Jerome M. Epstein Reconstructionism Who Is a Reconstructionist Jew? Orthodoxy The Orthodox Jewish Congregational Union of America Founding Program of Agudat Israel (May 1912) Zionism The Basel Program -- Passed by the First Zionist Congress (1897) The Balfour Declaration Declaration of Israel's Independence, 1948 Appendix 2 A Time Line of Major Events Appendix 3 Where the Jews Are Today Appendix 4 Jewish Holidays, 1999-2006 Appendix 5 How Do I Know It's Kosher? An Orthodox Union Kosher Primer<> Glossary Sources and Resources: A Bibliography Index

About the Author

George Robinson is the recipient of a Simon Rockower Award for excellence in Jewish journalism from the American Jewish Press. His writing appears frequently in THE NEW YORK TIMES, THE WASHINGTON POST and NEWSDAY.


Ten years ago, Robinson entered a Reform synagogue for the first time since adolescence. He became an active congregant, but he discovered in his reincorporation of certain rituals and practices that he "was often baffled" by what occurred in the synagogue. This expansive tome attempts to provide the essentials of Judaism for novices, outsiders and those who, like Robinson, rediscovered their heritage as adults. It's an excellent introductory resource, vast but accessibly organized. Robinson first covers the most ritually significant Jewish prayers and walks the reader through a typical Shabbat service. He presents the basic facts about holidays and the Jewish calendar, then explores Jewish life-cycle rituals from bris to burial and includes a catch-all chapter on other practices such as Kashrut. By beginning with Jewish practice, rather than history or law, Robinson centers the core of Judaism in everyday life. The book's second half is a whirlwind tour of Torah and Talmud, Kabbalah and Jewish philosophers, with a key explanatory chapter on historical developments such as Hasidism and Zionism. Notably absent is the history of the Holocaust and the founding of Israel; Robinson notes that the Judaica sections of most bookstores already overflow with such historical information, and he explores instead the scope of Jews' reactions to those events. This is a valuable, sensitive one-volume guide to Jewish practice. (Mar.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Morton I. Teicher The Jerusalem Post Extraordinary....Robinson deserves our gratitude for his major contribution. Diane Cole The New York Times Book Review Ambitious and all-inclusive, from practical deeper, more abstract discussions. Michael Harrington The Philadelphia Inquirer An invaluable one-volume compendium.

Written by an informed layperson for a popular audience, this book can be understood and appreciated by Jew and non-Jew alike. Robinson, a former syndicated columnist, writes as a committed Reform Jew attempting to fairly present the viewpoints of the various modern Jewish movements (Conservative, Reconstructionist, Orthodox). The book is divided into nine chapters that focus on such issues as prayer and ritual, festivals, the life cycle, the Hebrew Bible, the Talmud, and Jewish mysticism. The appendix contains some key documents, a time line of major events, and a discussion of what is kosher. There is also a helpful glossary of Jewish terms. The book is extremely readable with a clean layout and highlighted sidebars. The best introduction to Judaism remains Milton Steinberg's concise Basic Judaism (1947), but this book is a welcome addition to the subject. Highly recommended for most libraries.--Paul M. Kaplan, Lake Villa Dist. Lib., IL Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

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