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Can I ask a religious question to you? I know that Jews can have different belief systems (like, if I'm not mistaken, some Jews only go by the books of the Bible the Moses wrote, where some go by the entirety of the Hebrew Scriptures), but in general, what is the belief system for what happens after death?
As far as I know, there aren’t any Jews who only go by the books of the Bible that Moses wrote - there could be some small sect that I haven’t heard of, but it’s definitely not a majority opinion. At the very least, most accept the full Tanakh (the five books of Moses + Prophets + Writings) as true. Most of the disagreement I know about comes with regards books that aren’t officially considered part of the Tanakh, like Maccabees. (And, obviously, we don’t go by the New Testament.)
You’ll find a fair bit of variation about what Jews believe about the afterlife, but one basic difference between us and Christianity is we do NOT believe in eternal damnation. Our idea of hell (Gehinnom) is rather different than the Christian idea - it’s more about the soul being purified and repenting than about punishment. Because of that, it’s not permanent. The maximum anyone stays there is 12 months.
Ideas of heaven are vague and vary considerably, but the bottom line is that it’s a place where the soul connects with God. Who exactly goes to heaven is also a source of disagreement. The Mishnah in Tractate Sanhedrin states “All Israel has a share in the world to come”, but there is disagreement about whether this means that all Jews are definitely going to heaven, or just that there is a place reserved for them in heaven if they merit it but they can forfeit it by being bad people.
Likewise, there is disagreement over whether heaven is only for Jews or if it’s for anyone who’s a good person. Sanhedrin also contains a debate about this topic between Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Joshua, with Rabbi Joshua holding the opinion that “the righteous of all peoples have a share in the World to Come”. I can’t speak for all Jews but on a personal level, this is the opinion I hold with.
Although we believe the soul moves on to heaven, we believe it is still in some sense connected to the body that once housed it, so visiting gravesites is considered meaningful and we have strict rules about not desecrating corpses.
Judaism also does include a concept of reincarnation, known as gilgul, so it’s not outside the realm of our beliefs to accept the idea that some souls don’t go straight to heaven or hell after they die, but are instead brought back to earth as a different person (or even an animal, according to some concepts of gilgul!)
Finally, there is the concept of Techiyat Hametim (Resurrection of the Dead), the idea that at some point in the future - generally considered to coincide with the coming of the Messiah - the dead souls will be brought back to life. While this is considered a fundamental belief in Judaism (it is one of Maimonides’ Thirteen Basic Principles of Jewish Faith), it’s a difficult concept to understand and it’s unclear exactly when or how this will happen, or how humanity will go forward from that point.
Beliefs about the afterlife are complicated and hard to understand sometimes, but I hope that helped!
I have a question for you about religion. I, unfortunately, don't know much about the Jewish religion, but as I understand it, Jews do acknowledge the Hebrew Scriptures. Am I right or do I have no idea what I'm talking about?
By the ‘Hebrew Scriptures’, I’m assuming you mean the Five Books of Moses?
If so, the answer is yes: The Jewish Bible is comprised of the Five Books of Moses (aka the Torah), as well as the books of the Prophets (Nevi’im - this includes the books of Joshua, Samuel, Kings, Ezekiel, etc.) and Writings (Ketuvim - this includes the books of Esther, Daniel, Psalms, etc.)
Together, the whole thing is referred to as the “Tanakh” (Torah + Nevi’m + Ketuvim) or the Torah (this is less accurate, as technically ‘Torah’ only applies to the Books of Moses, but the term is often used to apply to the whole thing).
The Torah, or Books of Moses (which is, I believe, the basis of what Christians refer to as the Old Testament) covers the time period from the beginning of the world up until the death of Moses and the preparation of the Jews to enter Israel after the Exodus. These books are the only ones believed to literally be the Word of God, written by Moses (with the exception of the short section dealing with the aftermath of his death, which is believed to have been written by Joshua) through a unique level of prophecy.
The books of the Prophets, or Nevi’im, cover the time period from when Moses’ disciple Joshua took over as leader to lead the Jews into Israel, up until the beginnings of the Babylonian Exile. These books are believed to have been written by various of the prophets, but on a lesser level of prophecy than Moses’, making these books less directly the word of God. They are therefore considered slightly less holy, though obviously still taken very seriously.
The Writings/Ketuvim don’t really cover a chronological period in a comparable way, but rather are exactly what they sound like - a collection of holy writings (though there are deeper themes that tie them together). These books are attributed to various authors, including King David (Psalms), King Solomon (Proverbs, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes) and the prophet Jeremiah (Lamentations). While these books are believed to have been written with divine inspiration, they are not on the level of prophecy, and are thus one level lower than the Nevi’im.
Together, these comprise the Jewish Bible.
I know for sure that Christians still accept the Torah/Books of Moses as true, and consider them your Old Testament. I’m not sure about the books of Prophets/Nevi’im and Writings/Ketuvim, but I’ve heard Christian preachers mention them from time to time so I’m pretty sure you guys do accept those as true as well, even if they’re not officially part of your Bible. You would probably know about this better than I would.
To my understanding, where the two religions break off is when it comes to what you call the New Testament, the books dealing with Jesus and his disciples. Unlike Christianity, Judaism rejects the divinity of Christ and does not consider him to have been the Son of God, thus the New Testament is not part of our Bible. This obviously also has much broader implications on the religions as a whole, since belief in Jesus supersedes many of the Old Testament commandments which Christians believe no longer need to be observed.
I believe that Christianity also rejects the Jewish Oral Torah, or Talmud (the Mishnah and the Gemara) and other later Jewish holy writings. But again, I’m sure you’d know that better than I would.
Yes, because the Ten Commandments are the only religious rules that people following the Abrahamic religions abide by, clearly. (It amazes me sometimes that outsiders seem to not understand that the Ten Commandments, while important, are just one small section of the Bible. Orthodox Judaism has 613 commandments that adherents are expected to comply with, and various sub-categories of those 613, although obviously all of those will not be relevant to one person. Yet somehow people seem to think that our religious doctrine begins and ends with the Ten Commandments.)
In fact, not only does Judaism prohibit rape, the Talmudic sages were light-years ahead of their time in recognizing that rape can occur within a marriage (or any relationship), and that the stereotypical “hold her down and force her” scenario is not the only form of rape. In an Orthodox marriage, it is forbidden for either partner to use sex as a form of manipulation, to have sex when they are angry at each other, or when one of the spouses is drunk. A husband is forbidden to force his wife into any sex act she doesn’t want to participate in, and he is forbidden to get her drunk or otherwise try to coerce her into it.
There are people today who would still deny that these situations are rape, and yet the Talmudic Sages were aware of it and made sure to stringently guard against it going as far back as the time of Ancient Rome.
Your move, Satanism.
Seriously people, follow what religious beliefs you want, but don’t validate your choice by putting another persons beliefs down.
^THIS. And it’s especially frustrating to me when these people are clearly so darn ignorant about the religions that they’re sneering at.
To be sure, I don’t doubt that this post was intended as a dig at Christianity, tumblr’s favorite Acceptable Target, and not Judaism or Islam. But forgetting that the Bible was ours long before Christianity came along is erasure in and of itself.
People seem to love the idea that the Abrahamic religions are uniquely oppressive and it is clearly much “cooler” to be against them, but what this ignores is that in fact Judaism, Christianity, and Islam were all incredibly progressive for the respective eras when they were founded. And are still a whole darn lot more progressive than many people seem to think.
I’m not saying there aren’t legitimate criticisms of any religion, because there surely are, but please, educate yourself before you open your mouth to try to use a religion that is thousands of years old as a punchline. I know it may be hard for you to imagine, but there might just be something you don’t know, here.
Likewise, I am on tumblr more than email. And one does not have to know you so well to come to the conclusion that AD would be the first to know anything about you. It is literally written all over your blog. I will pass on the message to my bird-brain. Random question sans context: do you have thoughts about what was the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden?
(Haha, I would publish this message even if I didn’t have anything to say about your next question just so AD could see that. xD)
As the the forbidden fruit… well, this is where my long years of Jewish schooling come in. I could cite you numerous, contradicting opinions from Biblical scholars over the years (pomegranate, fig, grapes, apple, and even wheat among them). However, my opinion is simply that we don’t know what it was, and that what the actual fruit looked like (if it even looked like any fruit we can imagine) isn’t really the most important thing, anyway.
However, when it comes to “what it was” in a deeper sense, I do have some thoughts (which are not originally mine, of course). I definitely do NOT believe that the fruit conferred “knowledge” in the sense that God would have preferred for us to be stupid or ignorant. Likewise, I do not believe that the fruit conferred “knowledge of good and evil” in the sense that God would have preferred for us to be sociopaths. Clearly, these explanations are ridiculous and simplistic, and have been used for centuries to justify telling people that seeking knowledge and forming their own opinions is wrong (a position that I strongly disagree with).
The explanation that makes the most sense to me is one given by Moses Maimonides (quoted here and here, among other places), which is, simply, this: the fruit did not give us knowledge of morality where there was none before. Rather, it changed our knowledge of morality, to the way we view “good” and “evil” today. Specifically, the fruit changed our knowledge of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ from an objective understanding to the more subjective terms we see them as now. Nowadays, the way we perceive “good” and “evil” is influenced by our own desires and our cultural norms, etc. whereas before Adam and Eve ate from the tree, this would not have been so. There was a simpler, purer understanding of morality, which was lost when Adam and Eve ate the fruit.
It’s a very complicated issue to understand, obviously, but I hope that helps. For that matter, I am not sure interpreting the fruit as a literal “fruit” like an apple or an orange that you could buy at the grocery store is the right approach, either. The Garden of Eden, whatever exactly it was, was a very mysterious place, and very different from the world we know today. It stands to reason that the “fruit” there would very likely not have been like fruit as we know it. At the very least, everything there was imbued with a very deep ideological significance beyond the superficial physicality. In other words, a “fruit” was not simply a “fruit”, but a manifestation of something much deeper and more important.
Whether you are religious or not, you do Biblical stories a disservice if you interpret them with childish simplicity. If something doesn’t seem to make sense, quite likely there is a reason for it and it will become clearer if you look at the story on a deeper level. I believe it’s a huge mistake when religious authorities tell people that having faith means not asking too many questions, because on the contrary, I think (and this has always been the Jewish approach) that the Bible was written specifically to MAKE you ask questions. And if you see something that seems strange or illogical, it is probably a sign that you SHOULD be asking questions, and quite likely these questions have been asked already long before you came along, and if you look at the answers of Biblical scholars who came before you, there is a deeper understanding to be gained.
That’s a very long answer, and I’m sorry for rambling a bit there, but basically: telling people not to use their brains is never a good idea. That’s the theme here, folks.
In last week’s Birds of Prey there was a moment we don’t see very much in DC Comics outside of Wonder Woman. As Helena Bertinelli prepared herself for batttle, the writer Gail Simone, had her take a moment to pray.
Helena is Catholic so it makes sense for her to pray. But I was still surprised by the moment. I’m used to Wonder Woman calling up on her Gods, but I can’t recall off-hand another character within DC stopping to pray.
Religion is such a personal and provocative topic. I imagine for most creators its easier to not to broach it and just leave it alone when writing characters. But when a character, like Helena, is about to risk severe injury and/or death it’s natural to want to steel oneself. Some will simply meditate. Some will strategize. And some will ask for help from their God.
I’m not sure I want to see people praying regularly in comics. I think it’s because such moments are so rare, it’s why the panels were so affecting. Or it could be simply my religious upbringing kicking in. But I liked it. It fit. It brought a new dimension to the character and to the fight.
What do you think?
I think it’s a mix of the rareness of visual praying within comics and the latent religious identification that many Western readers have with regards to the Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam). As a Huntress fan and Catholic, I found the scene quite lovely, with a soft but enduring message. Characters like Helena whose background have firm ties with religion makes scenes like this not seem heavy-fisted or forced. It’s not something that would be necessary for every issue that Helena appears in, but wonderful to see when the situation calls for her to pray.
^ I agree with this analysis. I think the important thing is that characterization always needs to come first. For a character like Helena, whose struggles with religion have always been a prominent aspect of her character, this scene feels natural and, more than that, extremely meaningful and powerful. However, if a similar scene were done with a character who has never been shown to have significant religious belief, I think it would come across as forced and preachy.
I was actually talking to my mother about this very scene yesterday, as an example of what I consider to be religion in comics done right. This scene is simple, character-driven, and, to me at least, incredibly powerful in the context of the storyline. Helena is heading off to a fight that, as far as she knows, will bring her death. She’s doing it out of her love and loyalty to Dinah. And her reaction, in what she thinks will be her last moments, is not to complain or get angry at the unfairness of her situation (which would be a completely understandable reaction), but to thank God for bringing meaning into her life. Whether you yourself are religious or not, I think that kind of grace and dignity in the face of death is just inspiring, period. This moment still gets me choked up, every time I read it.
I especially give credit to Gail Simone for how she writes religion in this scene and other places considering that she herself is an atheist. I have so much respect for her as a writer in that she can write characters of all different belief systems and cultures with such consideration, regardless of her own beliefs.
31, 35, 48, 61, 80
31) Believe in God/Belong to a religion of your own free will?
Yes, I do. It’s not something I discuss on tumblr much, but I am actually extremely religious and it’s something I believe in deeply.
35) Agree with ‘An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth’? (ignoring the religious relation to that saying)
No. First of all, even within the Biblical context, the passage in question is generally interpreted to mean that someone who inflicts that kind of harm has to pay the MONEY that is equivalent to the damage that they’ve done, not that the victim can literally go around knocking people’s eyes and teeth out. The Sages teach that this is because if the verse were interpreted literally, it would put the world into chaos, a philosophy I very much agree with.
In general, I think revenge is a very problematic concept and should be treated with extreme caution. I can’t come right out and say that I NEVER think it is justified to take revenge, but I think in general the correct thing to do is to focus on doing good and protecting the innocent, not on punishing those who you decide are “bad”. What gives you the authority to decide that?
48) Tattoos OR no tattoos?
No tattoos. I think many people tend to regret them after they get them, in any case. A temporary tattoo I would consider.
80) Reading OR Listening to music?
READING. No contest. I LIKE listening to music, but books are like oxygen to me.
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