Mysteries of Judaism
My twenty-fifth book “Mysteries of Judaism” examines the history and practices of the Jewish holidays and shows that none of the holy days observed today are identical to the divine mandates in the Torah. Jews today observe Rabbinical Judaism, not Torah Judaism. The book shows why the rabbis had to change how the holy days were celebrated and, in most instances, totally eliminate the biblical reason for the day and develop a new holiday.
This fact should surprise no one because changed conditions require new laws. Even the law giver Moses, as I show in my book, changed many of the laws at the end of his career in the book of Deuteronomy, laws he reported from God in the earlier biblical books.
Alterations were also required because many of the biblical holidays focused on sacrifices which ceased to exist when the Temple was destroyed in 70 CE. For example, one biblical holiday, Passover, which was mandated for the fourteenth day of the first month, ceased to exist and was absorbed into The Feast of the Unleavened Bread, a seven day holiday beginning on the fifteenth. Two holidays, Yom Teruah and Yom Hakippurim, took new names and practices. Two dropped and added practices, one radically, Shavuot, and one more subtly, Sukkot. Even the Shabbat was altered by the rabbis allowing acts that the Bible prohibited and prohibiting dozens of acts not mentioned in the Torah.
The book does not advocate that Jews should not observe the changed holidays. Jews can observe all of the holiday practices while recognizing that the rabbis had to modify many biblical laws and practices because of changed circumstances. These changes are called the “Oral Torah.” While they are innovations, they are based on the text or spirit of Torah laws, often, as the Talmud states, hanging onto the Torah by a thread.
Just as the biblical holidays were changed and new practices added that are not in the Bible, I show in the second section of the book that there are many laws and practices that many Jews consider basic to Judaism that they are not in the Bible. Some were taken from pagan cultures. I also show in this section some ancient imaginative interpretations, called midrashim, that ostensibly explain what the Torah is saying in a clever and fascinating manner, but which fails to reveal the plain meaning of the Torah text. These midrashim are frequently included in rabbinical sermons.
In the last section of my book, I address some of the many discriminatory practices against women in Judaism and arguethat since the rabbis changed Judaism markedly in the past, why couldn’t they do so again today and allow women to participate equally in Judaism.
While my book focuses for the most part on Jewish holidays and practices, the book is significant for non-Jews as well. For the book makes clear that while Christianity and Islam drew holidays and practices from Judaism, they did not, as many think, draw from Torah Judaism but from Rabbinic Judaism, which is markedly different from what is mandated in the Hebrew Bible.