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Fascinating Facts: Exploring the Myths and Mysteries of Judaism

Fascinating Facts: Exploring the Myths and Mysteries of Judaism

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Fascinating Facts: Exploring the Myths and Mysteries of Judaism
Begins November 8th 2011 in Sudbury, MA

 

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Why do Jews use matchmakers? Who wrote the handwriting on the wall? What are the Jewish origins of the Deli Sandwich? Womb to Tomb 101 Facts and lots more. A fun course in Jewish cultural literacy, full of surprising facts, myths, and mysteries surrounding Jewish tradition and practice.

Lesson One: Jewish Myths, Misconceptions, and Urban Legends

In lesson one, we’ll take a look at some common Jewish myths that are rooted in non-Jewish attitudes and perspectives: Do Jews only believe in intimacy for procreation? Does preserving life always trump the performance of mitzvot? Can Jews with tattoos be buried in a Jewish cemetery? Do Jews believe in hell? Can a Jew convert out of the faith? Students will find the answers surprising and fascinating, and they might find that truth can sometimes be stranger than fiction.

Lesson Two: So You Think You Know Something About the Bible

Many of us learned the stories of the Bible in an innocent state of childhood, almost by osmosis. As adults, we often continue to take them at face value, without delving deeper into their meanings or considering whether the details we remember are tainted by popular misconceptions. In fact, every nuance of every story in the Torah has deep significance and can teach us profound lessons of life. Of course, to arrive at these lessons, we need to first get our “facts straight.”

In this lesson, we’ll focus on common assumptions and misunderstandings of classic biblical narratives: Was the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge an apple? Did all of the Jews leave Egypt? Do we really eat matzah because there was no time for the bread to rise when the Jews fled Egypt? Did the Jews actually cross over the Sea of Reeds? We’ll also explore some common misconceptions pertaining to Jewish law—such as whether Judaism promotes capital punishment and whether “an eye for an eye” is meant to be taken literally. If students are well versed in the Bible or have never even opened it, this lesson will shed a whole new light on studying Torah.

Lesson Three: Foods and Feasts

Most of us eat for the sake of pleasure—because food makes us feel good. Indeed, it seems that Jewish tradition revolves around food—and, in a way, it does. However, Judaism teaches that eating is not meant to be just a path to self-gratification, but a sacred act—a way of serving God.

In lesson three, we’ll explore intriguing Jewish facts pertaining to food: Why is pig considered the quintessential non-kosher food? What defines prohibited and permitted foods? What is the biblical source for determining whether a certain animal is kosher? Why do seemingly innocent foods require kosher certification? What’s so kosher about “kosher salt” anyway? This lesson will provide students with a refreshing understanding of the Jewish relationship with food and why it’s such a powerful part of our lives.

Lesson Four: Abracadabra: Or—It’s All Hebrew to Me

Hebrew is not just another language. The Hebrew tongue is holy and its words are the building blocks of the creation of the world. Unlike in other languages, Hebrew letters and words are not randomly assigned to the objects, people, and ideas to which they refer. We can uncover profound significance and meaning simply by exploring Hebrew linguistics and word roots and relationships.

By examining words associated with the Jewish calendar, this lesson will provide examples of how the Hebrew name for something, far from being arbitrary, is deeply significant and can offer greater insight into the heart of key Jewish concepts and ideas.

Lesson Five: Womb to Tomb

Jewish practices and ideas regarding the life cycle are some of the most firmly ingrained into the collective Jewish consciousness. Jewish traditions associated with birth, marriage, and death have been powerfully upheld throughout the generations, even in the most trying of circumstances. Indeed, the life-cycle milestones mirror stages of spiritual development, and their observances are therefore infused with the utmost sanctity.

Questions addressed in this lesson include: What is the significance of a birthday? Why is a stillborn circumcised? Why don’t women require circumcision? Must a husband see his prospective wife before marrying her? Can a woman be married against her will? The lesson will also discuss interesting baby-naming facts, the source of most wedding customs, and little-known facts about burial.

Lesson Six: Blessings, Curses, Omens, and Spirits

What we see—that which can be quantified and qualified by observation—is only one level of reality. In fact, Jewish philosophy teaches that there is a reality beyond what we can perceive with our limited senses. However, these worlds are not mutually exclusive: the physical and spiritual worlds are interwoven and interconnected, and as human beings, we are uniquely positioned between the two, thus allowing us to influence them both.

This lesson will explore often-misunderstood ideas regarding Jewish spiritual and mystical teachings, including the belief in miracles; the nature of Jewish belief in angels, spirits and the Satan; the uniqueness of blessings from the righteous; the power of the “evil eye”; the concept of mazal (energies associated with specific times); and how our thoughts and words can affect reality.

 

 



 

Goodbye New Year, Hello New You! (WARNING: Highly Annoying) from myJLI.com on Vimeo.


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