The Roots Of Judaism And Christianity Essay — страница 3

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given the title of Rabbi, rallied the people for a new undertaking–the reconstruction of religious and social life. Using the institution of the Syanagogue as a center of worship and education, they adapted religious practice to new conditions. Their assembly, the Sanhedrin, was reconvened at Jabneh, and its head was recognized by the Romans and given the title of patriarch; the Diaspora Jews accepted his authority and that of the Sanhedrin in matters of Jewish law. Many Diaspora Jewish communities rebelled against Rome early in the 2d century; however, their rebellions were crushed, with much bloodshed. Still more bitter was the revolt of Palestinian Jewry led by Bar Kochba in 132; it was put down after three years of savage fighting. For a time thereafter observance of basic

Jewish practices was made a capital crime, and Jews were banned from Jerusalem. Under the Antonine emperors (138-92), however, milder policies were restored, and the work of the scholars was resumed, particularly in Galilee, which became the seat of the partriarchate until its abolition (c.429) by the Romans. There the sages called tannaim completed the redaction of the Mishnah (oral law) under the direction of Judah Ha-Nasi. In the 3d and 4th centuries scholarly activity in Palestine declined as a result of bad economic conditions and oppression by Christian Rome. Meanwhile, two Babylonian pupils of Judah ha -Nasi had returned home, bringing the Mishnah with them, and established new centers of learning at Sura and Nehardea. A period of great scholarly accomplishment followed,

and leadership of world Jewry passed to the Babylonian schools. The Babylonian Talmud became the standard legal work for Jews everywhere. Babylonian Jewry enjoyed peace and prosperity under the Parthian and Sassanian rulers, with only occasional episodes of persecution. In addition to the heads of the academies, the Jews had a secular ruler, the exilarch. This situation was not significantly changed by the Muslim conquest of the Persian empire. At the end of the 6th century, the heads of the academies had adopted the title of gaon (Hebrew, “excellency”), and the next four centuries are known as the gaonic period; communities throughout the world turned to the Babylonian leaders for help in understanding the Talmud and applying it to new problems. About 770 the sect of

Karaites, biblical literalists who rejected the Talmud, appeared in Babylonia. Despite the vigorous opposition of the great Saadia Ben Joseph Gaon and other leaders, the Karaites continued to flourish for centuries in various lands; today the sect has only a few small remnants. Jews had long been accustomed to living in neighborhoods of their own, for security and for ready access to a synagogue. From the 16th century, however, they were systematically compelled to live in walled enclosures, to be locked in at night and on Christian holidays, and to wear a distinguishing badge when outside the walls. The Jewish quarter of Venice (established 1516) was called the GHETTO, and this local name became a general term for such segregated areas. Cut off from normal relations with

non-Jews, few Jews had any idea of the cultural revival of the Renaissance. Even in the field of Jewish law they tended to a rigid conservatism. In Poland and Lithuania, social conditions also had a segregatory effect. The Jews continued to speak a German dialect, mixed with many Hebrew words and with borrowings from Slavic languages–now known as Yiddish). Intellectual life was focused on study of the Talmud, in which they achieved extraordinary mastery. They enjoyed a large measure of self- government, centralized in the Council of the Four Lands. Persecutions became more frequent, however, inspired by competition from the growing Christian merchant class and by overly zealous churchmen. In 1648 a rebellion of Cossacks and Tatars in the Ukraine–then under Polish rule–led

to an invasion of Poland, in which hundreds of thousands of Jews were massacred. Polish Jewry never recovered from this blow. A little over a century later, Poland was partitioned (1772, 1793, 1795) among Prussia, Austria, and Russia, and most of Polish Jewry found itself under the heartless rule of the Russian tsars. Some 18th-century liberals began to advocate an improvement of Jewish status; at the same time Moses Mendelssohn and a few other Jews were urging their coreligionists to acquire secular education and prepare themselves to participate in the national life of their countries. Such trends were intensified by the French Revolution. The French National Assembly granted (1791) Jews citizenship, and Napoleon I, although not free from prejudice, extended these rights to