Rabbinic Judaism

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Here we’re going to focus on a very particular stage in Jewish history. We’ll attempt to answer a basic question. If, as I said before, the faith and the behavior prescribed by Judaism derive primarily from the Bible, why is it that the Judaism we encounter today is so radically different from the biblical representation of that very same religious tradition?

The answer will lead us to a discussion on the origins and basic tenets of what we call Rabbinic Judaism. We will see the establishment of an alternative path of Jewish religious expression following the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans in the year 70 C.E. Here we’ll explain where the very notion of the Rabbinic model of leadership comes from, because it is conspicuously absent in the Bible. There are no rabbis in the Bible. There are priests, there are prophets and kings. We will be addressing here a very specific stage and development that would define Judaism until this very day.

  1. The Origins of Rabbinic Judaism: We find that the Judaism practiced today is radically different from everything known to us in the Bible. For instance, how do Jews worship? These changes are just a few of the major adjustments that resulted from was arguably the most dramatic event in Judaism’s long history, maybe only the holocaust is equal in drama: the destruction of the second Jewish Temple in the year 70 C.E. by the Romans.
  2. Rabbinic Judaism and the Synagogue: The Rabbinic period introduced a new system of daily public prayer. We know that synagogues existed even before the destruction of the temple. There, the Torah was read and a sermon was delivered. We have many sources that talk about this kind of activities, but not prayer. One of the main questions is when the prayer begins as a systematic daily Jewish expression of worship. Most probably, only in this post-temple period.
  3. What Rabbinic Judaism Really Means: The message we get in Rabbinic literature is: “yes, we have created an alternative lifestyle (but hopefully that temple will be rebuilt)” The success of Rabbinic Judaism was precisely in this balancing between obvious innovation and the stress on continuity with the written Bible.