Jewish Rituals and Ceremonies

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Coping With Change: Jewish Rituals and Ceremonies

Coping With Change: Jewish Rituals and Ceremonies

Kenneth Pargament in his book The psychology of religion and coping, states the importance of religious beliefs during times of change, be it a moment of happiness or distress. While applying Pargament’s philosophy, this paper focuses on Judaism and the coping mechanisms offered during those times of change thru rituals and ceremonies. Although religious practices and levels of observance among the different branches of American Judaism have some variation, Orthodox, Conservative or Reform, they all share the same traditions. We will focus on the major traditional ceremonies and the rituals performed throughout the life span: birth, adolescence, adulthood and death. Pargament’s Theory of Coping

Pargament says that “perhaps the most dramatic signs of religious life comes from times of stress; making hardship, suffering and conflict the centers of concern for the major religions of the world” (Pargament, 1997). Because many people look towards religion as means to cope with adversity and life stressors, religion offers support, and helps them understand and deal with these problems through rituals and practices. It becomes a search for significance in relation to the sacred.

He focuses on the process of religious coping behavior with some emphasis on religious appraisals or attributions in response to various life stressors. He says that the ability to make meaning when faced with a stressful event often promotes successful coping, adaptation, and well-being. The spiritual process of seeking significance in an event can touch on all aspects of life, including work, interpersonal relationships, general philosophy of living, attitudes, and whatever that person's “God” may be (Pargament, 1997).

Overview of Judaism

Judaism is a monotheistic religious tradition based on the belief and practice of the Tanakh (Hebrew bible, equivalent to the old testament in Christianity) and Mishnah (written during the second century, is a compilation of the oral traditions and law dating back to the time of Moses) (Neusner, 1975). But Judaism is not only a religion; it is also a philosophy and way of living. Judaism believes in the covenant between God and the people of Israel at Mount Sinai, where God revealed his commandments to Moses. According to the Tanakh, the Jewish (Israelites at that time) are the people chosen by God to witness humanity and live by God’s expectations, as written in the scriptures, a life of high ethical and moral standards. These standards of living are embodied in the Halakhah, which is the Jewish religious law based on the Mitzvoth, or 613 commandments written in the Torah plus the 7 rabbinic commandments.

Through time, Judaism and its followers faced many adversities and atrocities (e.g. exile, persecution, socioeconomic changes and massacre) and Jews scattered to different nations. Despite the fact that Jews maintained their traditional practices and doctrine, their encounter with different cultures influenced changes in thought which led to modern Judaism. In the course of most of the twentieth century, Judaism remained orthodox; it is not until the industrial era that these changes became more obvious, especially due to the socioeconomic changes (Neusner, 1975). Presently, Judaism has been divided into three main branches: Orthodox, Conservative and Reform Judaism, with Reform Judaism having the most liberal view (believes that Jewish law should be regarded as a set of guidelines and not a list of restrictions required of all Jews).

For most Jewish denominations, Judaism considers a Jew any person who is born to a Jewish mother, and practices its teaching, or someone who is willing to convert into Judaism. Reform Judaism however, is less strict and some would sate that a child is Jewish if either parent is Jewish and...
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