¶ 1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 The Catholic world of central Europe, into which the Jews intruded as a foreign body, had a clear understanding of eschatology, which encompassed the Trinity of God, the divinity of the Saviour, Virgin Birth, and the central role of faith, sin, and salvation. In contrast, the religion of the Jews was perceived by its gentile surrounding as an arbitrary assortment of dry ceremonies devoid of any spirituality, a perception that was promulgated in a series of publications by converted Jews.1 The heading of this chapter has been chosen to emphasize this discrepancy of perspective.
¶ 2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 Jews understand themselves as descendants of a Middle-Eastern desert tribe who maintain an existential pact between themselves and their single, largely abstract deity: in return for their trust in him and submission to his law, they are promised their land, existential protection, and generational continuity. Some key events, such as the near sacrifice of Isaac, the exodus from Egypt, and the destruction of the Temple provide additional structure. The history and nature of this contract is outlined in a foundation document, the Torah, and further expanded in the other nineteen books of the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible). This relationship, based on obligations, is concretized by a bevy of commandments (mitzvoth), together forming the Jewish law (Halacha). The many commands – both positive obligations and negative prohibitions – are divided into two major sections: first, the “Commandments from the Torah” and second, the “Laws Instituted by the Rabbis.”
¶ 3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 This secondary group is subdivided further into laws that secure the observation of the Commandments from the Torah, thus preventing accidental violation by building a “security zone” (gezeirah) around them, comprised of commandments created by the rabbis unrelated to biblical laws for the purpose of public welfare (takhanah) and customs (minhag).2 Regional, local, and temporal customs are recognized. In principle, all commandments are binding, but earlier commandments take precedence over later ones. The customs apply only under the appropriate temporal and local conditions.
1Pfefferkorn, Speculum adhortationis Iudaice ad Christu[m]; Salomon, Jüdisches Ceremonien; Majern, Minhāgim das ist.
2Pollack, “An Historical Explanation,” 195–216.;