Material Culture of Judaism Comparing to Islam’ s
By Thich nu Minh Tam
Judaism’ material culture flourished from ca.300 BCE – 650 CE.That time was the earliest of the five cultural languages that embellished Judaism.This is the Hellenistic and latter Byzantine culture of the ancient Mediterranean.
Not regarding about historical dates, we focus only on the main religious symbols which illustrate the foundation of Judaism comparing to Islam.
1)The Synagogue as a cultural puzzle:
When the Palestinian community was uprooted in the Babylonian Exile, and the Jerusalem Temple was destroyed, the need for communal worship become increasingly urgent.Most scholars, therefore, see the “house of assembly” as a creation of the Diaspora.The synagogue’s main function has been community prayer (beth tefillah), although it was associated with private prayer.Some scholars connect private prayer with the emergence of the Pharisees, a popular movement within late Second Temple Judaism. The synagogue is also associated with study and as such is called “beth midrash,” or “house of study.”It is not clear whether the “house of study” was part of the main sanctuary in antiquity or was adjacent to it, as is the practice today.Both the prayer and the study functions of the synagogue may be related to the centrality of scripture and its proper interpretation.The synagogue was also intended as a place of assembly, beth knesset,a place where town meetings were held and where business was conducted.From the first century A.D. to the present, the synagogue was also constructed in such a way as to function as a hospice, beth orhim.
The same function as the “Mosque” in Islam, a “place of prostration,” the mosque is a communal house of Prayer for the performance of the five daily canonical prayers (salat) required of devout Muslims in the Koran.According to Islamic tradition, prayer may be performed in any clean place, but communal prayer under the leadership of an Imam is preferable, especially for the important noonday prayer on Friday.Early mosques served the community as prayer halls and as places of assembly for legislative and judicial functions, a center of administration and as a place for the teaching of the Koran and Islamic traditions.Further more, mosques were also erected as commemorative monuments, serving pilgrims to the tombs of holy personages or sanctifying places associated with historical events.
2)Ark of the Torah:
The Ark of of the Torah is the chest or closet in the Synagogue that serves as the repository of the scrolls of the Torah.The ark is the major architectural element in the synagogue and traditionally is built into the “eastern” wall, the wall facing toward Jerusalem.
3)The Book in Judaic culture:
The central material object in Judaic culture is the Torah. It is venerated as the tangible traces of the Sinaitic words that brought Israel into covenantal relationship with the Creator of heaven and earth.For this reason, the Torah is always something more than a source of information.The Book’s cover is made of sewn animal hides or sheets of papyrus glued together end to end, these sturdy rolls protected the words inscribed upon them in inks compounded of ash and other vividly toned substances.We can also notice about copies of the Koran in Islam.From the earliest period, the Koran was written down on sheets of parchment or papyrus and bound in codex form.This is in contrast to the Jewish use of scrools, at least in preserving copies of the Torah.Typically, a Koranic codex is bound with leather or cardboard covers, with the bottom board having a flap that wraps around the loose page edges.The cover may be plain or attractively tooled, whereas the leaves exhibit the best quality of writing possible. (Corrigan, p.415)
4)The similar way of women’ dressing in Judaism and Islam as the symbolic vocabulary of Costume
Clothing in Judaism and Islam has its voice.It expresses what social class you belong to, level of education, and especially, it also illutrates a political as well as a religious statement.Here, we emphasize only on women’s costume to see somehow similar in Judaism and Islam style of women’s dressing.Biblical law prescribes no particular garments for women, but the Jews insist that married women in particular cover their hair as a sign of modesty.Along with covered hair, modesty for all women past puberty entailed keeping most of the body covered.Nearly all illustrations from premodern times portray women in long dresses or cloaks except where, as in certain Islamic lands, billowy pantaloons wear commonly worn by Muslim and Jewish women alike.In part of Islam, the strict Islamic practice requires the covering of women, with only the face and hads visible.The rest of the body is known as “awra,” and it must not be seen by anyone outside the mahram circle of close family.The main principle in women’s dress is modesty and not drawing any attention in public places to a woman’s sexual characteristics, which are reserved for her husband.Such dress signifies respectability and the observing of the proper boundaries.
In some sentences, we cannot express completely the religious and cultural meaning of such old religions as Judaism and Islam through material things, however, we are able to understand a little bit their belief or social life, at least it can help us to make a bridge of communication to each other and throughout the world.