Where our life journey begins and inheritance of offices of parents

“Our own life journeys begin where the previous generation’s journey ends, and this is the case throughout all the generations. This means that our own personal journeys began long ago, “along the Jordan from Beit Yeshimot to Avel Shittim, in the plains of Moav,” (ibid 33:49)

Israel’s final point of departure in the wilderness.

Together we entered into the promised land, and together we settled the land, and together we built the Holy Temple and together we went into exile and together we have witnessed Israel’s return to sovereignty in the land G-d promised, and each one of us, as individuals, chart our own life paths based on these coordinates of previous generations. Just as our pasts are intertwined, so are our futures, so long as we don’t stray from the path of Torah.”

(*in the Diaspora we joined all Israel this week with our double reading of Matot Maasei.)

When we were born we came from a family, which had its family-tree. Those who belonged to the very old generations who are part of the Blessed People are the lucky ones who can belong to the People of God. even when there have been many periods people tried to get rid of us, they were not able to destroy all those who carried the Most High Elohim in their heart.

No man ever succeeded to take away the Tanakh from our ancestors so that we today still can find the outlines of the history of the people who lived on this planet but also about the religion from the creation of humanity through to the 5th Century BCE which continued to give fire in the hearts of many.

The Phillip Medhurst Picture Torah 259. Judah. Genesis cap 49 vv 9-12. De Geyn.jpg
יְהוּדָה – An image of Judah from the Phillip Medhurst Collection of Bible Illustration

Lovely to know we can go back to the very wise man Abraham who we identify as the founding father of the Hebrews. It is from one of Abraham’s descendants, Judah that the religion and our people got its name. As one of the world’s oldest religions in history, Judaism is traced back to the Bronze Age when it was already an established religion in the Middle East.

Gemara, the first page of tractate Rosh Hashanah

Going back into our family history we may find that like all human beings there where lots of discussions and disagreements. Dissension(s) created machalokot or divisions and brought varied thoughts written down, throughout the centuries also providing several highly regarded writings and even notes or written down concerns which became considered ‘set-apart’ or sacred texts, like the commentative and interpretative writings Talmud and Midrash, which present historic Jewish legal rulings. The compilation of ancient teachings regarded as sacred and normative by Jews from the time it was compiled until modern times, are still so regarded by traditional religious Jews.
In its broadest sense we can say that the Talmud is a set of books consisting of the oldest authoritative postbiblical collection and codification of Jewish oral laws, systematically compiled by numerous scholars (called tannaim) over a period of about two centuries, the Mishna (“repeated study”), plus its rabbinic analysis and commentary the Gemara (Gemora, Gemarah “completion”), and certain auxiliary materials.

Today people would say that Judaism is made up of three main groupings which are the

  1. religious movement that has modified or abandoned many traditional Jewish beliefs, laws, and practices in an effort to adapt Judaism to the changed social, political, and cultural conditions of the modern world: Reform Judaism, also known as Liberal Judaism or Progressive Judaism.
  2. Orthodox Judaism, the collective term for the traditionalist branches of contemporary Judaism who adhere most strictly to traditional beliefs and practices. They advocate a strict observance of Jewish Law, or halakha, which is to be interpreted and determined only according to traditional methods and in adherence to the continuum of received precedent through the ages. It regards the entire halakhic system as ultimately grounded in immutable revelation, essentially beyond external and historical influence.
  3. Conservative Judaism, also known as Masorti Judaism the religious movement that seeks to conserve essential elements of traditional Judaism but allows for the modernization of religious practices in a less radical sense than that espoused by Reform Judaism.
    It regards the authority of Jewish law and tradition as emanating primarily from the assent of the people and the community through the generations, more than from divine revelation. It therefore views Jewish law, or Halakha, as both binding and subject to historical development.

It may perhaps be the same as in the other monotheist religions, Christianity and Islam, but we get the impression there is a huge amount of variety in religious practices in the different Jewish communities. Where the three main groups differ, is found in the interpretation of Jewish laws, but all three Judaism denominations are stemmed from ancient Rabbinic Judaism, often simply called Rabbinic Judaism, (or Rabbinism) the normative form of Judaism that developed after the fall of the Temple of Jerusalem (70 CE). Originating in the work of the Pharisaic rabbis, it was based on the legal and commentative literature in the Talmud, and it set up a mode of worship and a life discipline that were to be practised by Jews worldwide down to modern times.

Our ancestors (and we) base our faith on the belief that at Mount Sinai, Moses received from God the Written Torah (Chumash or Pentateuch) in addition to an oral explanation, known as the “Oral Torah,” that Moses transmitted to the people. From generation to generation our people learned about the rules and regulations the Bore had given to His People.

The tendency of causing Rabbinate inheritance and of possession of Rabbinate in the Ottoman Empire communities (“Kehilot”) and congregations (“Kehalim”) existed as a prominent phenomenon, especially from the last decades of the 16th century until the 18th centuries. But many communities and congregations objected the ideas of “Hezkat Rabbanot” ( possession of the Rabbinate) and “Yerushat Rabbanut” (Rabbinate inheritance).

Perhaps so many taking the freedom to give such importance to those human interpretations and ideas brought so many differences in the different communities. The influx of scholars in the communities caused many quarrels between candidates to the office of a communal rabbi, and in most cases the claims for possession and inheritance were not dominant in the Jewish communities, in contrary to the system of Rabbinate possession and Rabbinate inheritance which were practised in Ashkenaz (Germany) from the 15th century onward.
Those of the chosen people who lived in the Rhineland valley and in neighbouring France before their migration eastward to Slavic lands (e.g., Poland, Lithuania, Russia) after the military expeditions or Crusades (11th–13th century), moved around to escape scape that terror by (‘so called’) Christians, and got their descendants spread all over the West of Europe. After the 17th-century persecutions in eastern Europe, large numbers of these Jews resettled in western Europe, where they assimilated, as they had done in eastern Europe, with other Jewish communities.

Already in the Nazarene Jeshua his time there were different groups of religious leaders who wanted to have a higher place or wanted more to say about others. “Power” is an awful matter in society and its religion.

Since the days of the Mishna 1800 years ago, whenever Jews have had a serious ethical or legal problem, they have sent a written question to the rabbi of their choice who has written a detailed reply based upon the Bible, the Babylonian Talmud, commentaries to the Talmud and codes of Jewish law. These questions and answers are called responsa. There are over 9,000 volumes of responsa containing over 300,000 individual responsa. – responsa written by Conservative/Masorti rabbis

In the Ottoman Empire communities caused many cases of “Hasagat Gevul” (trespassing) and many Rabbis were threatened by such trespassing Rabbis. The Sheʾelot U-teshubot or Responsa literature written in the Ottoman Empire communities throughout the 16th-19th centuries relates to these topics, and teaches us a lot about the many practical ways which were done by Rabbis to protect their rights of holding the possession, on the one hand, and about their descendants who wanted to inheritance the offices of their parents, on the other way. Sometimes they used physic and verbal violence, turning to the Ottoman authorities or to the Moslem court- of-law and also interfered their supporters in the communities. The rabbis who wanted to overtake the office used the same ways of their opponents. But in the majority of strifes about these affairs, Rabbinate possession and Rabbinate inheritance, the two sides asked the decisions of the great deciders of the communities.

From the 17th century onward, acceptance of the ideas of Rabbinate possession and Rabbinate inheritance provided guidance and clearer guidelines to ensure that religious life went smoothly even when the majority of the deciders and communities were Sephardic, who had fled from Spain and Portugal, for the same reasons of persecution and mass expulsion from those countries by the Christians.

Those who came form Spain might also been influenced by external’ philosophy from the Moors or North African Muslims and North African Jews who had created dynamic systems of thought which contributed to the continuance of Spanish Jewry and the Marrano people. The false conversion was just a sham to protect themselves. By the mid-15th century those Marranos, who had been baptized but continued to practice Judaism in secret had formed a compact society and began to grow rich. They even managed to regain again some higher positions in the state, the royal court, and even in the church hierarchy. They intermarried with the noblest families of the land. The hatred directed against them by the old Christians, ostensibly because they were suspected of being untrue to their converted faith, was in fact directed indiscriminately against all conversos, or Jewish converts. With the Spanish Inquisition the Catholic Church leaders of Spain wanted to provide institutional control over the persecution of the Marranos. In the Spanish Inquisition’s first year (1480), more than 300 Marranos were burned, their estates reverting to the crown. The number of victims grew into tens of thousands.

It was Napoleon who made it safer for those who preferred to worship an Only One true God and not a Trinity. The French general, first consul (1799–1804), and emperor of the French (1804–1814/15), revolutionized military organization and training; sponsored the Napoleonic Code, the prototype of later civil-law codes; reorganized education; and established the long-lived Concordat with the papacy.
Being fed up with the religious controversy and battles the emperor wanted an end to the breach caused by the church reforms and confiscations enacted during the French Revolution, to apply the ideas of Montesquieu, Voltaire, or Rousseau. This haskalah or Enlightenment was spread among the educated classes by the many “societies of thought” that were founded at that time: masonic lodges, agricultural societies, and reading rooms. The Concordat was formally promulgated on Easter day, 1802, and brought freedom of religion, giving the Jews but also the non-trinitarian Baptists and Bible Students more security to be able to read and study freely their own Scriptures and have their own worship services.

Allegory of the Concordat of 1801, by Pierre Joseph Célestin François

Making that the Catholic priests would be paid by the state, Napoleon ensured that the Papal religion would not go in against the state. Protestants and Jews had been under the yoke of the Catholics. Nobody got along and conflicts flared up and down. reaching the hand to the Pope, after ten months of negotiation Napoléon and Pope Pius VII, the first consul (Napoleon) was given the right to nominate bishops; the bishoprics and parishes were redistributed; and the establishment of seminaries was allowed, but all had to recognise religious and political powers in society to be clearly distinct and having their freedom of speech and giving each other the freedom of development. The declaration that

“Catholicism was the religion of the great majority of the French”

had to make it clear that not all the French had to be Catholics. Having Catholicism not the official state religion, brought religious freedom, in particular with respect to Protestants (trinitarian as well as non-trinitarian) and Jews.

From then onwards our families could live without fear for prosecution, though that was going to change a century later, when some lunatic was convinced he could create a great Germanic Aryan Empire, bringing Jehudi back into hiding and several looking for better and safer surroundings away from Europe.

+++

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