Sketches of Jewish Social Life Term Paper

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However, Edersheim also points out that Jews were more child-centered than their contemporary cultures. One example of the Jewish reverence for children is that only Jews and one other culture had prohibitions against infanticide, while other cultures openly permitted the practice.

In chapter seven, Edersheim goes on to discuss the raising of Jewish children. Different ages of children had different roles and expectations. Children learned early on the protection of the Mesusah. In addition to formal instruction, children learned by observing their parents engage in rituals. The book of Proverbs is helpful to an understanding of how Jews were to raise their children. The most important part of the education of a Jewish child was religious education. Much of this instruction came as the result of children watching their parents, because Jews lived their religion as part of their daily lives. In addition to informal instruction, some children received formal instruction. While the degree of formal instruction was not dependent upon class, it was dependent upon gender; generally, only male children were entitled to extensive, formal religious instruction.

In chapter eight, Edersheim goes into greater depth regarding education. He starts out by saying that, under systems of heathenism, as civilization advances, morality declines. Instead, he posits that Bible-based societies are superior, especially in their treatment of the family. First, Jews were taught no knowledge outside of the laws of God. In fact, theology was the foundation of Jewish life. In fact, Jews were prohibited from learning heathen science or literature. The Jewish father was responsible for a child's elementary education, starting at about the age of three. Female children were not generally afforded the same educational opportunities as male children. At six, male children were sent to schools, at ten they studied the Mishnah, at fifteen the Talmud. However, Edersheim indicates that some females were given the opportunity to study religion like their male counterparts, even if these opportunities were generally discouraged by the Jewish population at large.

In chapter nine, Edersheim describes the various roles that women played in Israel. Women mingled freely in society and could achieve positions of importance and influence. Society was polygamous and it was relatively simple for people to obtain divorces. While other marriages occurred, love matches were the most encouraged, and people were discouraged from marrying for position or wealth. For Jewish males, marriage was viewed as a religious obligation, to be fulfilled by the age of 20. Women retained nominal ownership of their dowries. Brothers were required to support their sisters. Spouses had certain legal obligations towards one another. While men had more obligations, women's obligations were encompassed a larger area. For example, upon marriage, a woman's property became the property of her husband. However, Jews of both sexes were given relatively easy access to divorces, and a woman could divorce her husband if he chose to move their family from an urban to a rural setting or vice-versa. In fact, the ready access to divorce is one of the things that Edersheim mentions as one of the problems with Judaism that was causing God a significant amount of distress and prompted the creation of Jesus.

In chapter eight, Edersheim speaks about death and afterlife. First, he points out that Jews distinguished between bodily death and everlasting death. In addition, Jews believed that God was the one who determined whether someone would be permitted an afterlife. Jews also believed that children could be born sinful, because of the sins of the parents. Jews expected to live long lives and an early death could be punishment for sin. Jews had a religious responsibility to visit and tend to the ill and to show reverence for the dead. Jews were buried as soon after death as possible, had burial rights, and were buried outside the city. On the way to the cemetery there was a funeral oration. God only required mourning for the first day; any other mourning was prescribed by the elders. Deep mourning lasted for seven days, light mourning for 30 days, and mourners were to celebrate the anniversary of the death. Those things related to death could be done without prohibition on the Sabbath. Upon death, people had to account for their sins. Sin was believed to be determined by compliance with the laws. Furthermore, compliance with the laws was not based on whether or not a person observed the Ten Commandments, but on compliance with the myriad little laws regarding daily life that could be found in Leviticus.

In chapters 11 and 12, Edersheim discusses Jewish views on trade and commerce. Honest labor was to be rewarded, and was without shame. In fact, if one wanted to eat, he was to be prepared to work. This was in contrast to the sentiments expressed by the surrounding Greeks and Romans. People doing their best in honest trades were doing their part of God's work. Furthermore, many men were connected by work to the temple. It seems that Jewish laborers may have been involved in organizations that bore some similarity to modern-day trade unions. One of the reasons that labor became acceptable was that Jews were not in possession of their own land, which required them to engage in labor. Furthermore, Israel adopted business and commerce as a result of its downtrodden state. However, Mosaic law restricted a substantial amount of commerce between Jews and Gentiles. The acceptance of commerce marked a change from ancient Judaism, and reflected changes in the social and political climate of Israel and Palestine. In addition, as commerce became acceptable, a body of law developed governing commerce. These laws dictated the amounts to be sold, when weights were to be cleaned, what constituted a contract, and the remedies that could be pursued by buyers or sellers in the event of a bad bargain. Jewish law also contained certain restrictions on borrowing and lending, the most notable being a prohibition against usury that was so extreme that it oftentimes worked to penalize the lender.

In chapters 13 and 14, Edersheim discusses the Pharisees. First, he describes certain details of the life of a Pharisee. The first detail is that the Pharisees engaged in regular prayers at appointed times, and that those prayers took precedent over anything else. They were also required to pray when entering or leaving a village. According to Edersheim, the Pharisees appeared different from other men, whether because they looked self-satisfied or ostentatiously meek. There were different levels of Pharisees, and with each level, the zealous observance of Jewish laws increased. The Pharisees dressed differently from other Jews, and did not associate with those outside of their own particular rank and level. The combination of patriotism and religion made the Pharisees popular in Christ's time. In fact, they molded the face of Judaism, despite their relatively small numbers. The Pharisees were organized in a series of fraternities. While they claimed to have originated in the time of Ezra, the earliest mention of the term was in the time of the Maccabees. The four degrees were separated by their adherence to Levitical purity. The fraternity of the Pharisees was bound by two laws: the law of tithing and the law of purification. Originally, membership in one of the fraternities of the Pharisees was hereditary. However, Edersheim points out that the Pharisees found St. Paul's membership to be very problematic and changed their membership requirements in response to that problem.

In chapter 15, Edersheim describes the relation of the Pharisees to the Sadducees and Essenes, and to the Gospel of Christ. First, the Sadducees and the Pharisees were opposing factions. However, the Pharisees had attained such prominence that even the Sadducees followed regulations and rules established by the Pharisees. Unlike the Pharisees, the Sadducees believed that one was to follow the letter of the law, and not do more or less than required to do, and the sect developed as a reaction to the Pharisees. Furthermore, the Sadducees were primarily composed of members of the upper class, while the Pharisees included members of the lower class and women. In relation to the Gospel of Christ, the Sadducees did not deny the possibility of resurrection, but indicated that resurrection was not mentioned in the Torah. Both the Pharisees and the Sadducees attended the same temples as other Jews, and symbolized directions of religious thought, rather than the foundation of a new religion or sect. On the other hand, the Essenes did not mingle with society, practiced asceticism and self-denial, and did not marry. Edersheim concludes that none of the orders formed the foundation of the Christian church, because the early Christian church differed significantly from any of these smaller religious orders, even if they shared some common elements.

In chapters 16 and 17, Edersheim discusses synagogues. Presence at a synagogue was extremely important, and God was said to hear only those prayers…[continue]

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