Session 2 – Modern Day Judaism

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Session 2 – Modern Day Judaism

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Session 2 – Modern Day Judaism

In this next session we will be looking at modern day Judaism

Much of the information for this presentation was taken from the Christian Apologetic Research Ministry (CARM.ORG)

We will look at some popular sects of Judaism, their origins, doctrinal beliefs, and differences between them


Orthodox is the most traditional expression of modern Judaism. 

Orthodox Judaism

According to Orthodox Judaism, the entire Torah (which includes the "Written Torah," the Pentateuch, and the "Oral," the Talmud) was given to Moses at Mt. Sinai


American and Canadian Orthodox Jews are organized under the Orthodox Union, which serves over 1,000 synagogues in North America

The National Jewish Population Survey of 1990 asked 4.5 million adult Jews to identify their denomination, 6% of American Jews identified as being Orthodox


Orthodox Jews do not accept many of the changes that have crept into reformed Judaism (which we will examine in a moment) they do their most to be a true to the “origin” in their minds as they can

Orthodox Jews hold to practices such as:

Daily Worship

Dietary Laws

Traditional Prayers

Separation of men and women in synagogue


They’re also strict about following the Sabbath (Israel has Sabbath Elevators)

Which ancient sect of Judaism does this reflect the most?

The belief that the oral tradition or law is authoritative would align them with the Pharisees of the New Testament

Their practices would also match those of the Pharisees in many areas


Along with the Old Testament, the Talmud (And therefore the study of it) has been the all consuming focus of some Jewish people for the past 1500 years.

The Talmud

The Talmud was written down after the Bible was complete, between the second and fifth century AD

However, Jew’s believe it has existed as oral tradition since Mt. Sinai


Because of this belief the Talmud is know as the "Oral Torah," with the first five books of the Tanakh designated the "Written Torah."

To make matters a little more confusing, there are two Talmuds: the Jerusalem Talmud and the Babylonian Talmud.

The Jerusalem Talmud was composed around 500 A.D., and the Babylonian was completed around 600 A.D. (although the writing started earlier)


By the time we get to the 11th century, the Babylonian Talmud had become supreme and accepted, and today when we say “The Talmud” that’s what we are talking about

The Talmud consists of two parts, the Mishnah and the Gemara.

The Mishnah on one hand is rabbinic commentary on the Torah


The Gemara is rabbinic commentary on the Mishnah. (commentary on commentary)

The Mishnah

Zera'im ("Seeds") - blessings, tithes, temple offerings, agriculture

Mo'ed ("Set Feasts") - Sabbath laws and holiday observances

Nashim ("Women") - marriage and divorce


Tohorot ("Purities") - ritual purity & impurity

Each Order then contains seven to twelve subdivisions called tractates. There are a total of 63 tractates in the Mishnah

Nezikin ("Damages") - idolatry, matters of civil law, and the Pirke Avot

Kodashim ("Holy Things") - sacrificial system in the Temple, dietary laws


The Gemara ("completion") is primarily a commentary on the Mishnah.

There are 2,711 pages in the Babylonian Talmud

Like the Mishnah, it pertains to matters of Jewish law (


), but the Gemara also includes Jewish stories, legends, and sermons


"Food cooked entirely by Gentiles is forbidden; but if a third done by a Jew, it may be finished by a Gentile.”  (The Babylonian Talmud, Complete Soncino English Translation, Kindle Location 18805).

Example Passages:


name of the Messiah, as it is written, His [sc. the Messiah's] name shall endure for ever, and has exited before the sun



"If a husband or wife, or parents, were crucified in the town, the wife, the husband, or the children shall not live in that town, except it be as large as Antioch, and even then they must remove to another part. Until what term are they not allowed to live there? Till the flesh is totally destroyed, and the bones cannot be recognized any longer." (


, Michael L., transl., The Babylonian Talmud

, Volumes

1-10, 1918)


Their mission: "to create and sustain vibrant Jewish congregations wherever Reform Jews live." 

Reformed Judaism

Reform Judaism is the most liberal denomination of modern Judaism.

In the U.S., Reform Judaism is organized under the Union for Reform Judaism (used to be know as Union of American Hebrew Congregations)


Around 1.5 million Jews in 900 synagogues are members of the Union for Reform Judaism.

Reform Judaism arose in Germany in the early 1800s as a reaction to Orthodox Judaism and the Liberal German views

According to the same survey that we references earlier, 42 percent of American Jews regard themselves as Reform. 


Reformed Judaism made some changes to Judaism in the 19th Century

- There was a de-emphasis on Jews as a united people worldwide

- They no longer prayed for Jews to be returned to the homeland like others do

- Prayers and sermons recited in German instead of Hebrew


A lack of observance of the dietary laws.

Addition of organ music to the synagogue service

Some Reform rabbis advocated the abolition of circumcision

Some reformed congregations switched their Sabbath to Sunday to be more like the Christians around


For the most part the Talmud was rejected, Reformed rabbis prefer the ethical teachings of the Prophets (good for them).

In early days, reformed Judaism held to traditional Jewish monotheism, but would emphasized ethical behavior almost to the exclusion of ritual.

Even though this is the way they got started, reformed Judaism 100-200 years later (today) has reformed itself again in areas


They do however still acknowledge differences in rituals etc.

Things like the sense of Jewish people being united has been restored in many places

Some of the practices and religious rituals have been restored since the beginning

Doctrinally, Reformed Jews affirm the central doctrines of Judaism, which is God (monotheistic) the Torah, and Israel


They’re also: "committed to the full participation of gays and lesbians in synagogue life as well as society at large."

Reformed Judaism is more liberal than other “denominations” of Judaism

Hey allow women to become rabbis, cantors, and synagogue presidents

Interfaith families are welcomed


Conservative Judaism

Conservative Judaism (also known as Masorti Judaism outside the U.S.) is a moderate sect of Judaism that seeks to avoid the extremes of Orthodox and Reformed. 


The teachings of Zacharias Frankel (1801-75) provide the foundation for conservative Judaism today

Frankel broke from the Reform movement in Germany in the 1840s, insisting that Jewish tradition and rituals could not be pushed to the side.

He accepted both the Torah and Talmud as enduring authorities


In 1902, Solomon Schechter reorganized the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City and it became a flagship for Conservative Judaism

Conservative Jews observe the Sabbath and dietary laws, although some modifications have been made to the dietary laws.

Just like reformed Judaism, women may become Rabbis in conservative Judaism


In the United States Conservative Judaism has been relatively successful

The USCJ was founded in 1913 and today has membership of about 1.5 million Jews in 760 congregations.

Conservative Judaism it is represented by the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ).


Different studies have shown that what is taught by the organization, and what is believed and practiced by it’s members, have some level of disconnect

This would include the Shabbat, the dietary laws of eating Kosher, and the practice of prayer each day

Conservative Judaism teaches that Jewish law is normative, and that people should strive to live that way in their daily lives


Hasidic Judaism

Hasidic Judaism came about in the 12th-century (in Germany)

This is different from modern Hasidic movement which was founded in Poland in the 18th century by Israel ben Eliezer

The movement had emphasis on asceticism and mystical experience which was to be born out of love and humility before God.


The primary difference between modern Hasidism and its original form is the modern rejection of asceticism and more emphasis on everyday holiness

He’s commonly known as the Baal Shem Tov ("Master of the Good Name") or "the Besht" (an acronym for Baal Shem Tov).

Hisidism was heavily influenced by Kabbalah Judaism, which we’ll see in a moment


Kabbalah Judaism

Kabbalah is the mystical form of Judaism.

In general, Kabbalah refers to Jewish mysticism dating back to the time of the second Temple, approximately 400 years before Christ.

Just as Christianity has it’s mystical side (New Age Churches) And Islam has Sufi


It teaches that there is a divine being,

which is neither male nor female, that has 10 primary aspects to it called sephirot which are represented in the Tree of Life

Creation took place in a way/pattern that involved all aspects


There are different traditions on what the word means, some say it means “reception” while others say “tradition”

Kabbalah is also known as cabala, cabalah, kabala, caballah, qabala, qabalah, etc.

According to the belief, you don’t have to be Jewish to study Kabbalah, you can even integrate it into other religions (according to many who hold to it)


The Kabbalist is supposed to gain understanding and knowledge of God and himself by further understanding these 10 aspects of God, their relationship to each other, and then applying the principles learned to his own life to help him return back to God--

Kabbalah teaches the soul's pre-existence, and this goes along with the idea of past lives (not just future life)


Kabbalah is a way of life, it’s heavily based experience and not history or doctrine

Kabbalah interprets the first five book of the OT (and other areas of the OT) in a very mystical way

They believe there are hidden messages into the OT, that the shapes of the Hebrew letters have hidden meaning, that numerical values of the letters have messages, etc.


The problem is these “messages” often times contradicts the plain reading, and because of this you have different beliefs within Kabbalic Judaism

David A. Cooper, a Kabbalist, says, "Kabbalah does not lend itself to a straightforward definition or even a clear-cut history . . . it teaches us about the mysteries of life, how the creation works, where we are going, and how we get there."


Where are the foundations of Kabbalah found? The Zohar, the Zoar, and the Sepher Yetzirah, which are mystical commentaries and interpretations of the Bible (OT)

Many phrases are used when talking about Kabbalah, which shows it’s mysticism


with other realities









worlds of awareness integrate along a continuum


and lower realms of consciousness


of the finite with the infinite


of darkness




light of consciousness



(awareness of the i


of everything we do)


path to awareness




Kabbalah is popular among celebrities, who are said to "study" the religion. This would include people like Madonna, Elizabeth Taylor, Brittney Spears, and baseball player Alex Rodriguez.

Kabbalah is sometimes expressed by means of a bracelet worn by adherents.


The Zohar is the most important book in Kabbalah, so we will spend a moment on it

It’s allegedly a 2nd century A.D. collection of Aramaic texts/writings from various authors (Kabbalists) who were writing commentaries on the first five books of the OT

Despite the claims, it’s generally believed to have been authored by a 13


Century Jewish mystic named Moses De Leon (who lived 1250-1305 A.D.)


One reason for this late date is it never being mentioned in the Talmud (which would have commented on it if it was around)

Some additions were later added to the Zohar in the 14th Century

The book is said to contain special powers which you can gain by running a finger over the text (like you would if you were reading something in Braille) Christians rightfully reject the Zohar because of it’s teachings


"The Zohar says,' to create the world, It (



, Infinite Nothingness) emanated a secret spark (awareness) from which emerged and radiated all light. The upper world was constituted of this light. Then a [different dimension of] light, a light without brightness (lower consciousness), was fashioned into the lower world. As it is composed of unilluminated light, the lower world is attracted to the upper world."


The Zohar seems to include a prediction that the Messiah would coming in 1648, which was “fulfilled” in Shabbetai Zvi from Smyrna in Asia Minor

He gathered quite a few followers, and it eventually made the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire uncomfortable… He gave him the ultimatum “Convert to Islam or die” and our “Messiah” converted to Islam

He wasn’t the Messiah


Here is an example passage from the Zohar:

"This end of heaven is called Who. There is another below, called What. What distinguishes the two? The first, concealed one-called Who-can be questioned. Once a human being questions and searches, contemplating and knowing rung after rung to the very last rung - once one reaches there: What? What do you know? What have you contemplated? Or what have you searched? All this concealed, as before."


"When Concealed of all Concealed emerged on being revealed, it produced at first a single point, which ascended to become thought.  within, it drew all drawings, grave to all and ravings, carving within the conceal the holy lamp a graving of one hidden design, only of holies, a deep structure emerging from fat, called Mi, Who, origin of structure.  existent and nonexistent, deep and hidden, called by no name but



Seeking to be revealed, to be named, it garbed itself in a splendid, radiant garment and created (elleh), these.  Elleh attained the name:  these letters joined with those, culimnating in the name Elohim."

Christians should not be caught up in mystical teachings like these. Kabbalah also includes things like astrology which are very connected to the occult.


Memory Verse


11:25: “Lest

you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery,



partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in


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