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July 9, 2018 / conservadox

Happy religion?

While commenting on the parsha (in particular something about women vowing to afflict themselves and husbands’ veto power over same) Drazin and Wagner ask whether Judaism is a happy religion. They kind of suggest that it is, noting that there are more feast days etc than fast days.

However, I think we’ve kind of evolved. Biblical Judaism is more joyous; the only fast day is Yom Kippur, and even that is sort of joyous because we got purified of our sins.

But after the destruction of the Temples, the pendulum gradually swung in the other direction. Rabbinic Judaism piled fast day upon fast day, AND added two periods of mourning (sefirah and the Three Weeks) onto the fast days. Plus, in the middle ages and early modern period, rabbis imposed fasts as penance for all kinds of things.

I think the pendulum has swung a bit in favour of joyousness over the past century or so- more so in non-Orthodox Judaism (as minor fasts have gradually died) but even somewhat in Orthodox Judaism. (See here for an essay wondering whether this is so great). But I’m not sure how to prove or disprove that conjecture.

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