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Challenges of Death: Judaism

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Professor walter sisto

on 12 June 2017

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Transcript of Challenges of Death: Judaism

-14 million people
History of Judaism
-one of the oldest religions practiced

Father of Hebrew people-Israelite-Jews
One day when Abraham was left alone to watch over his father's idol shop, he destroyed all the idols except one and put the hammer he had used to cause the destruction in the surviving idol's hand. When his father returned, he was extremely astonished. Clever Abraham told his father that the "idols got into a fight and the big one smashed all the others." His father told him not to be silly and that the idols have no life or power and that they can't do anything. Abraham's only answer was "Then why do you worship them?"
2 stories
1 Now the LORD said unto Abram: 'Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto the land that I will show thee.
2 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and be thou a blessing.3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and him that curseth thee will I curse; and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed. (Gen 12: 1-3)
Holy Texts
1-Torah, the first five books of Moses or the Pentateuch
-There is also the Tanakh, which includes the Torah and is similar to the Christian old testament, and many others such as the Talmud, the Midrash and the Responsa.
(Five books of Christian Old Testament)
Bereshit (Genesis)
Shemot (Exodus)
Vayikra (Leviticus)
Bamidbar (Numbers)
Devarim (Deuteronomy
-Nevi'im (Prophets)-Joshua-Ezekiel
-Ketuvim (Writings)- Wisdom (psalms) and Historical (chronicles) books
24 books
Rosh Hashanah is the official Jewish New Year's day.
Yom Kippur is a day of atonement
-repent for the sins of the previous year.
Sukkot happens five days after Yom Kippur
-set up "booths" to sleep under in reminder of the Israelites who lived in the wilderness
1- Stress is on History!!!
The Story of Israel tells you who God is!!
Shift from nature/metaphysics/cosmological (find in Eastern Religions)
Story begins with:
-God creation of humankind, Adam and Eve
2 important events
1-Call of Abram
2-Call of Moses
The Burning Bush
-Abrahamic Covenant
10 Commandments
Sinai Covenant
-God demands justice from human beings, but human beings have the
/audacity to argue that God be just!!
-Two-Way Street
-Marriage Contract-intimate, involves love and compassion
-Heart of Torah is ethical Life
-towards God (1-4); towards neighbor (5-10)
=be holy (qadash)/ set apart=example of compassion and mercy
Obedience of Faith is always held in tension with demands of justice
Jacob and angel?
Abraham and Sodom
Main Holy Days
Hanukkah celebrates the victory of the Maccabees over the Syrian army of Antiochus Epiphanes.
-Eight day holiday.
Passover (Pesach) is a week-long holiday
-commemorates the Exodus from Egypt
Jews Today
Derives from the Pharisee/Rabbinic schools
70 C.E.
-Destruction by Rome
-Destruction of Temple cult
The real name for the Jewish God is Yod-Hei-Vav-Hei (YHVH). They never call God by name, however, and instead refer to him as "my Lord" or equivalent terms.

It is also considered blasphemy to throw away a document on which you have written "God". To avoid this, G-d or an equivalent of "my Lord" is substituted.
most important part of the prayer service in Judaism
-morning and night
Hear Oh Israel,
The Lord is your God
Ethics-Front and center!!
Not save the world but make it holy
-613 commandments to embody justice and mercy of God for all nations
Talmudic Debate
-Wrestle with God's Word
-God is found in the thrust and parry of argument
Rabbinic Judaism
Hasidic Judaism
-18th-century Eastern Europe by Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov "Master of the Divine Name" as a reaction against overly legalistic Judaism.
-Joy is the appropriate response to suffering
-Devotion, Enthusiasm, Clinging to God= Essence of Torah
-Righteous mystic that could change the mind of God
-Sadness is the root of all Sin
-God is in all things
-Sanctify natural tendencies
God is One = God is all there is!!!
Tzaddick-Righteous Man
World is like a Palace
and we are like visitors
Fool: caught up in the wealth
Wise Visitor: not distracted by the wealth and luxury of the palace and go directly to the king
-the wealth is all an illusion
God hides in creation
Asceticism/self-denial is not appropriate
-Creation is not an end in itself
-means to enjoy God
-God creates the world
-withdraws his power and might to create space for us
-God is hidden in all things but also the cause of all things
God's humility elicits our humility
How do we do this?
Kavannah (meditative prayer)
-Stop thinking about self
-Start thinking about God
--> attached and cling to God (devekut)
spiritual realization-->buring enthusiasm--> deeds of love (mitzvot)
Act out of love
-repair the world;reveal the divine spark!
-Ethical tradition-questions the norm itself
-Not simply what is Good, but what is the Good itself
Protest that stays within the Jewish Faith
faith that renounces protest
Protest that renounces faith
God sends misfortune to test him
-allows Devil to punish him
-takes away crops, children, and home
1-Job-refuses to blame God (job 1,2, 42)
-patient sufferer
2 stories
2-Job accuses God of injustice (6:24-29)
Job is a formative story in Jewish ethics
puts God on trial
God's Defense!
Eliphaz-innocent do not suffer, only the guilty suffer
Zophar-Job has forgotten or repressed his wrongdoing
Bildad-God is by definition just, so Job must have committed an evil
God overwhelms with God's majesty!
-Job repents
God repudiates his friends
-did not tell the truth about God, as did Job
-send them to ask Job to pray for them
What is the point for an Hasidic Jew?
You can not only argue with God
You can WIN!!
Important event in the narrative position of Chutzpa
-Job wins the argument by God's omission
Abraham Joshua Heschel
Way of Audacity
Prayer-is a radical commitment, a dangerous involvement in the life of God
-God is an outcast, God is in captivity...
-prayer allows us to identify with the stranger
-Tzaddik-identify and suffer with others
-praying for peace in Vietnam, we are spiritually vietnamese, their agony/hope is ours
-we participate in their suffering through God who participates in their suffering
-Indifference to evil is worse than evil
Heschel's Ethic
Prophet holds God and Humankind together in one thought
-Where there is man, there is GOD!
-segregation is idolatry
-it segregates God!
-My God, not your god!!
The duty of religious people to integrate social and spiritual concerns
=evil of sacred dualism
Even in the criminal there is God
-how you treat him is how you treat GOD!!!
-Challenge authority, even God, when we perceive injustice
Greatest Sin-know about an injustice and do nothing
Oppose God in defense of his creation
whenever we welcome each other, we welcome God
Brief Comparison of Ethical Traditions
-Tradition of chutzpa similarity with MLK's ethics
-Righteous action is to help the oppressed
-parallels Sermon on the Mount
-parallels Islamic stress on Jihad of heart, tongue, and hand
-way of audacity also shares much in common with Gandhi's way of asceticism in its practice of civil disobedience
-Contrast to Buddhist ethics-ethical judgements are required
-not even God, the Holy, a holy one are exempt
-practice of upaya is unacceptable
-not omnipartiality but taking the position of the other/stranger...taking the side of the oppressed
-Thich Naht Hanh-dualism, God does not want this
Both Islam and Christianity-issue with chutzpa and God
God is the author of Justice!!!
-Incapable of injustice
"God draws with crooked lines"
THIS LIFE = OUR participation IN HISTORY
-A dialogue/relationship with God
What about Rebirth??
-stress on self-expression of this personality
-->essence of human life is a creation of meaning
--->God judges this meaning
-personhood is not the paradigm of reality
-personhood is one of the many categories of being
1900-1700 BCE
(Age of the Patriarchs)

1500-1200 BCE
(Exodus and Settlement)

1025-928 BCE
(United Kingdom)

1000-586 BCE
(First Temple Period)

928 BCE-Division of Kingdom
Judah (Southern) and Israel (Northern)

722 BCE
(Assyrian Conquest)

586 BCE
(Babylonian Conquest)

539-333 BCE
(Persian Period)

333-63 BCE
(Hellenistic Period)

63BCE-313 CE
(Roman rule)

70 CE
(Destruction of the second temple)

(state of Israel)

Heaven, Hell, Resurrection
and Divine Justice

-God is one among many tribal Gods
-view before Moses
-God is the one universal God with no equal
-Yahweh (YHWH)
More on Moses
-God and the PEOPLE of Israel
-stress is on the collective not individual
Afterlife and Death
Death-body returns to dust and life breath returns to God
-no longer a living soul but a dead soul
-personality continues to exist
What was Death for Israelite/Hebrews?
Parallels Mesopotamian underworld
Pre-exilic Period (1250-586 BCE)
"the land of gloom and deep darkness" (Job 10:21)
For the Sheol cannot praise thee, death can not celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth. The living, the living, he shall praise thee, as I do this day: the father to the children shall make known thy truth. (Isaiah 38:18-19)
-future of Israel not the afterlife of the individual
I Samuel 28:8-14
The Witch of Endor
-out of earth
-disturbs Samuel
-Tomorrow you will with me
Part II-History and Development of Doctrine on Death and the Afterlife
586-63 BCE
"Ghenna" (Hell)
-is a garbage dump, but also where child sacrifice by fire was performed
-Wicked are condemned here
Book of Daniel (164 BCE)
-Torah’s Sheol is synthesized with the resurrection of the dead
"At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people--everyone whose name is found written in the book--will be delivered. Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt." (NIV; Dan 12:1-2)
Why is the afterlife is vague and inconclusive during the first 1500 years of Jewish history?

-reaction to cults that stressed this
-distinguish itself from pagan neighbors
By 220 CE
-Mishnah includes it as an article of faith for Rabbinic Judaism (Pharisees)
Sadducees-priestly class during 333 BCE-70 CE
-reject book of Daniel and idea of Resurrection
Dan 12- becomes key text to interpret other verses that allude to Resurrection (Isa 26:19; Ezek 37:11-12)
-no consensus on what Resurrection will entail
-current bodies?
-When? before or after final Judgement?
PART II: DEATH AND Funeral Customs
Sheva-period of mourning
Mourner Kaddish
May His great Name grow exalted and sanctified
in the world that He created as He willed.ikhon
May He give reign to His kingship in your lifetimes and in your days, and in the lifetimes of the entire Family of Israel, swiftly and soon.

(Mourners and Congregation:)
(Amen. May His great Name be blessed forever and ever.)

Blessed, praised, glorified, exalted, extolled, mighty, upraised, and lauded be the Name of the Holy One

(Mourners and Congregation:)
(Blessed is He. beyond any blessing and song,
praise and consolation that are uttered in the world. Amen)

May there be abundant peace from Heaven and life upon us and upon all Israel.

(Mourners and Congregation:) (Amen)

He Who makes peace in His heights, may He make peace, upon us and upon all Israel. Now say:

(Mourners and Congregation) (Amen)
-BEFORE 2nd century CE
-Not universally accepted:
4 He said, 'Prophesy over these bones. Say, "Dry bones, hear the word of Yahweh.

5 The Lord Yahweh says this to these bones: I am now going to make breath enter you, and you will live.

6 I shall put sinews on you, I shall make flesh grow on you, I shall cover you with skin and give you breath, and you will live; and you will know that I am Yahweh." '

Ezek 37: 4-6
1-belief is a natural extension of faith in God's justice!!
Body is holy
-not ultimately dispensable
-a part of you
-the body and history are viewed positively
-Faithfully following the Torah = Great Suffering!!
Effects Funeral/End-of Life Practices
luz- bone at the base of spine-cannot is basis of the new body
-Not emphasize the importance of the afterlife
-35% of US Jews do not believe in an afterlife

3-Stress is on the blessing in this life, not afterlife
-Collective identity, not personal salvation
-Torah does not focus on afterlife
4-Unique voice in sea of Christian voices
2-Lack of coherence
-stress on audacious questioning/wrestling with issues as opposed to the solutions
-result is various beliefs that seem strange to modern people
Jews today- tend to reject notions of heaven and hell
-Loose theories of what happens to you after death
Yes-Kabbalah and Hasidic Judaism
3- repair this fragmentation/disunion
-every soul has numerous opportunities/lives to do so
-leave "soul sparks" in all bodies we inhabit
Resurrection is universal in scope!!!
Part I: Background
versus Eastern Religions (Hindu, Buddhism)
Burial customs differ around the world
Differ from ancient Jewish practices
example-ancient rabbinic custom
1-anoint deceased
2-stand and sit ritual
3-overturn bed
4-cover upper lip
ancient customs remain:
-respect and honor the body
-close coffin/ bury quickly
1-Preparation of the Body
After Death
Chevra Kadisha (Jewish Funeral Home)
-wash and purify the body; cover in white shroud
-signify equality of all people, and wealth means nothing to God
Place Body on a simple wooden board, covered with a cloth and lowered into the grave
Funeral Service
-Read Psalm 23
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness[b] for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, will fear no evil...
-Eulogy-Rabbi or family
-Memorial Prayer
-Mourner's Kaddish
Funeral Procession
-7 stops is custom
-grave site
family/friends assist in covering the casket
-principal mourners pass through two lines formed by those present who recite words of comfort
-ritual change to comforting the bereaved
-discourages displays of flowers and encourages gifts of charity in name of the deceased
-sign of grief
-tear own garments
-tear a black ribbon at the cemetary and wear for 7 days
-mourners remain at home for 7 days
-"sit shivah"
-no work, bathe, shave, change clothes, no TorAH
-cover all of the mirrors
-30 days after-gradually enter society
-all restrictions are lifted
Law of karma versus Divine Justice
Life is valued above all else
-any act taken to shorten a life is forbidden
-exception "pulling the plug"
-since we are all from ADAM
-saving one life is like saving the human race
-destroying one life is like destroying the human race
3-Do not Fear Death
-part of God's plan
-firm belief that those live a good life will be rewarded
-has meaning
Chevra Kaddisha (burial society)
-The body is never left alone until after burial
-may not eat, drink, or perform a commandment in the presence of the dead.
RESPECT FOR THE Dead!......Do not mock!
-Volunteers of the same sex
-Wash body, dress, and wrap in a white shroud
-Place earth from Israel in their mouth
-Rituals prayers are said
-burying a Met Mitzvah (no one to bury them)
-Responsible for all aspects of the funeral
Chevra Kadisha
1-Hotzaah-removal of the remains from place of death
2- Hashkavah-ceremony of lowering the body to the floor
-close the eyes and the mouth of the deceased, -straighten the limbs and lower the deceased onto a sheet that is placed on the floor.

-feet of the deceased are placed pointing to the door, the head elevated on a pillow and the whole body completely covered with another sheet.

-lit candle — a symbol of the soul — is placed at the head of the deceased.
-collect all of the effects of death
-blood soaked clothes to be transported with the dead
-Shomer/Watchmen stand vigil with the body
-honoring/guarding the dead
-soul is in the body-giving comfort to it
-recite the psalm to further comfort the soul
-neither sleep, eat, engage in idle talk or move from body, unless relieved (except for emergency!)
-based on Ecclesiastes 5:15
-within 3 hours the funeral
-thorough washing then
-ritual bath-pouring a continuous flow of water over the body
-maintain dignity of the deceased (cover body parts!)
-head never faces downward
-circumcision of babies and naming
-Dressing of the Dead
-simple, white shrouds that symbolize
before God
exception-martyrs-buried in clothes that they were martyred in
-wooden to allow body to return to dust ("dust unto dust")
-nothing in casket
-open hands to symbolize nobody can carry possessions to the next world
-close casket-never opened again
-"wake" is not Jewish custom
-Shivah is like the wake
-Funeral service is Yekara DeShichva
respect, honor, and endearment of the deceased.
2-tearing of garments/ Ker'iah
-ritual tearing of outer garments for the bereaved
-wear for 7 days and then mend
-choose wisely!!
3-reading of the psalms and proverbs
4-memorial prayer
-10 men over 13 to recite the Kadddish at grave site
Funerary Custom
-respect the dead
-ideal burial
-same day before nightfall
-no burials on Sabbath or Holy Days
-wear torn outer clothing for the duration of this time
-pray and recite kaddish, NO VERSES OF COMFORT
Days 1-3--most intense mourning

-sit close to or on the ground
no pleasurable activities!!!!!
Part III-Care for the Dying
Living Wills
-except reformed Jews, not open to it
-want to see family as much as possible
-if Friday, find extra pillow and bedding for visitor
-want Rabbi to visit and pray with them
-try to accommodate
-no universal teachings on specific medicines/medical treatments
-reject aggressive treatments
-God is in charge
-natural course of things is how God does things
-preserve life as long as possible without heroic efforts
-respectful of time for prayer and confession
-make distinction between ordinary and extraordinary means
But different interpretations in Jewish Law
-Brain Death!!?? (many agree today)
-no breath in nostrils or lack of heart beating
When does death occur?
Reject :
1-Organ Donation
-"sound mind" then no funeral
-no mourning?
In US:
1-One-third (35%) of all U.S. Jews identify as Reform Jews

2-18% identify with Conservative Judaism,

3-10% with Orthodox Judaism

4-6% with a different denomination, such as the Reconstructionist or Jewish Renewal movements
revealed to Moses
1-opportunity to finish unfinished work
2-option as opposed to 12 months in Hell
“to be gathered to one’s kin” (Cf. Gen 25:8; Gen 35:29; Gen 49: 29)
notion of afterlife
1- Holocaust-Destruction of the Human body
Renaissance of Jewish afterlife
-stress afterlife and Resurrection
-Sheol = Hell (Gahenna)
-12 month purgative period
Heaven (Gan Eden)
No-Most Jews
-some reformist and reformed Jews
1) Death Process
2) Hibbat ha-kever (pangs of the grave)-when the Spirit goes through a 3-7 day period that releases the soul from attachment to the body;
3) Gahenna-Emotional Purification;
4) Lower Gad Eden-Final completion of the Personality;
5) Upper Gan Eden-soul experiences paradise and consciousness continues to mature;
6) Tzor ha-hayyim (Store house of souls)-the soul receives its directive for its next reincarnation;
7) Preparation for Rebirth.
Jewish Afterlife Synthesis-Rabbi Simcha Paull Raphael
-Gigul (wheel of rebirth)
What is Resurrection??
WE are not whole without that body and history
-we will get our bodies back
-in some new way for a final judgement
-Soul is returned to the body
Various traditions about final judgment and resurrected body
bury with sand from Jerusalem
No clear doctrine of Afterlife in the Torah
-stress is on gift of this life
-rewards in this life for fulfilling the Covenant
Not a Body and Soul, but a....
Nefesh Hayyah [living spirit] (Gen 2:7)
nefesh = breathe, soul, life force, vital energy
Nefesh Met [Dead spirit] (Leviticus 21:11; Numbers 6:6)
-Soul without energy
"for an intelligent [righteous] man, the path of life leads upward, in order to avoid Sheol below." (Proverbs 15:24)
1-place for punishment
-precursor for Hell
Jewish stress is not on the afterlife
-Begin to stress more as questions about Divine Justice arise
-Jerusalem is destroyed, Jews are butchered, and exiled to Babylon

Rabbinic Judaism
HOPE-Resurrection!! and Heaven (Gan Eden)!!
2-Before 164BCE
-Judgement-stress is on the COLLECTIVE not INDIVIDUAL Judgement
-confront and reject Jesus
5-Renaissance in Jewish afterlife
Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake; Some to everlasting life, others to reproach and everlasting disgrace. (Dan 12: 1-2)
2-waiting place
Halakha or Halakhah or Jewish Law
-Governs dying and funeral
-Orthodox (strict) and Reform (reference)
1) Visit the sick,

2) the confession of the dying (Viduy)

3) the threshold of Death (Goses).
-most descriptive about how to care for dying and deceased
Mitzvah or Commandment associated with each
(a) Praying for him.
(b) Cleaning and mopping the room, or making sure that his relatives do so, or seeing to any other material needs of the patient.
(c) Speaking to him in an understanding manner, to encourage, strengthen, and calm him; sitting with him or watching him if he so requests
-forbids mourning to begin until the person has died
-not corpse in-waiting!
-prayer and meditation on life
Life Review?
Confession of sins to God and make amends with loved ones
I acknowledge before You, Hashem, my God and God of my fathers, that my recovery or death is in Your hands. May it be Your will that You heal me completely, but if I die, may my death be atonement for all the mistakes, sins, and rebellions I have erred, sinned, and rebelled before You. May my portion be in Gan Eden, and may You allow me to be in the World to Come, which lies in store for the righteous
Short Prayer
Goses-person in last hours of life
Dying is never alone and disturbed as little as possible
prayers said with or on behalf of the dying:
“Hear O Israel, the Lord is our YHVH, the Lord, the One and Only” (Deut 6:4)
moment of death:
Psalms: 121, 130, 92
I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.

2 My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.

3 He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.

4 Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.

5 The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand.

6 The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.

7 The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.

8 The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.
1-Preparation of the body,


Death begins three periods
3 guiding principles of Mitzvah
1-Respect Dignity
3-Comfort the Living
-Synagogue or cemetery
like wake service
-Begins with Kaddish at funeral
- 7 days of mourning
-transform home into place of mourning
-Jewish "Wake" tradition
Shivah kits
-chairs low to the ground
-period is to reminisce, to share thoughts and stories but also have a safe space to express emotions related to loss of a loved one
Day 7-work out of home around block then back into home-New Life without the Dead
-meal of consolation
-unlock doors
-no Torah!
-members from Synagogue visit
-wear kar'iah
-wear ker'iah clothes
-Father of Judaism/Christianity/Islam
(Moshe Rabbenu)
Clear teachings on Heaven (Gan Eden); Hell (Gahenna) and Resurrection
Sheol? (Place of Dead/Afterlife)
-waiting place until Resurrection, and then eternity in heaven or hell
Interesting Facts
No, I shall go down to Sheol to my son, mourning.” (37:35)
What is Sheol?
In Torah-vague
-place of dead??
-No dominant tradition yet!
Post-Exilic Period
3-Sheol also equated with Gehenna (Hell)
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