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Judaism (from the Greek Ioudaïsmos, derived from the Hebrew יהודה, Yehudah, "Judah") is the religion of the Jewish people, based on the principles and ethics embodied in the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh), as further explored and explained in the Talmud. Judaism is among the oldest religious traditions still practiced today and is considered one of the world's first monotheistic faiths. At the core of Judaism is the belief in a single, omniscient, omnipotent, and benevolent God, who created the universe and continues to govern it. In 2007, the world Jewish population was estimated to be 13.2 million people—41 percent in Israel and the other 59 percent in the diaspora. The traditional criterion for membership in Judaism or the Jewish people has been being born to a Jewish mother or taking the path of conversion.

Jewish tradition maintains that the history of Judaism begins with the Covenant between God and Abraham (c. 1800 BCE), the patriarch and progenitor of the Jewish people. According to the traditional Jewish belief, God also created another covenant with the Israelites (the ancestors of the Jewish people), and revealed his laws and commandments (Mitzvot) to them on Mount Sinai in the form of the Written Torah. Traditional Judaism also maintains that an Oral Torah was revealed at the same time and, after being passed down verbally for generations, was later transcribed in the Talmud. Laws, traditions, and learned Rabbis who interpret these texts and their numerous commentaries comprise the modern authority on Jewish tradition. While each Jew's level of observance varies greatly, the traditional practice of Judaism revolves around the study and observance of God's Mitzvot.

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Selected Article

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Congregation Beth Elohim is a Jewish Reform congregation located in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. Founded in 1861 as a more liberal breakaway from Congregation Baith Israel, in its first 65 years it attempted four mergers with other congregations, including three with Baith Israel, all of which failed. The congregation completed its current Classical Revival synagogue building in 1910 and its "Jewish Deco" (Romanesque Revival and Art Deco) Temple House in 1929. The congregation went through difficult times during the Great Depression, and the bank almost foreclosed on its buildings in 1946. Membership dropped significantly in the 1930s because of the Depression, and again in the 1970s as a result of demographic shifts. Programs for young children helped draw Jewish families back into the neighborhood and revitalize the membership. By 2006 Beth Elohim had over 1000 members, and, as of 2008, it was the largest Reform congregation in Brooklyn, the "oldest Brooklyn congregation that continues to function under its corporate name", and its pulpit was the oldest in continuous use in any Brooklyn synagogue. (Read more...)

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Stanton Street Synagogue








History Article

Bethlehem Overlooking.jpg

Bethlehem is a Palestinian city located in the West Bank, neighboring Jerusalem, with a population of 25,000 people. The capital of the Bethlehem Governorate of Palestinian Authority, its economy is primarily tourist-driven.

Bethlehem, which may be the same as the Biblical Ephrath, is first mentioned in the Tanakh as the place where the matriarch Rachel died, and her tomb stands at the entrance to Bethlehem. The valley to the east is where Ruth gleaned the fields and returned to town with Naomi. It was the home of Jesse, father of King David of Israel, and the site of David's anointment by the prophet Samuel. It was from the well of Bethlehem that they brought him water when he was hiding in the cave of Adullam.

Between 132 and 135 the city was reoccupied by the Romans after its capture during the Bar Kokhba revolt. Its Jewish residents were expelled by Hadrian. Bethlehem was sacked by the Samaritans in 529, but rebuilt by the Byzantine emperor Justinian I. It was conquered by the Arab Caliphate of 'Umar ibn al-Khattāb in 637. In 1099, Crusaders captured Bethlehem and replaced its Greek Orthodox clergy with a Latin one. This was expelled after the city was captured by Saladin. With the coming of the Mamluks in 1250, the city's walls were demolished, and were subsequently rebuilt during the rule of the Ottoman Empire. The British wrested control of the city from the Ottomans during World War I and it was to be included in an international zone under the 1947 Partition Plan. The city was annexed by Jordan in 1948, and occupied by Israel in 1967. Since 1995, Bethlehem has been governed by the Palestinian National Authority. (Read more...)


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A Yemenite shofar made from a horn of the greater kudu

Credit: Olve Utne (talk)




Featured Quote


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Judaism Jewish History Israel





Ki Teitzei (כי תצא)
Deuteronomy 21:10–25:19
The Weekly Torah portion in synagogues on Shabbat, Saturday, 14 Elul, 5778—August 25, 2018
“If you see your fellow’s ass or ox fallen on the road, do not ignore it; you must help him raise it.” (Deuteronomy 22:4.)

Moses directed the Israelites that when God delivered enemies into their power, the Israelites took captives, an Israelite saw among the captives a beautiful woman, he desired her, and wanted to marry her, the Israelite was to bring her into his house and have her trim her hair, pare her nails, discard her captive’s garb, and spend a month lamenting her father and mother. Thereafter, the Israelite could take her as his wife. But if he should find that he no longer wanted her, he had to release her outright, and not sell her for money as a slave.

If a man had two wives, one loved and one unloved, both bore him sons, but the unloved one bore him his firstborn son, then when he willed his property to his sons, he could not treat the son of the loved wife as firstborn in disregard of the older son of the unloved wife; rather, he was required to accept the firstborn, the son of the unloved one, and allot to him his birthright of a double portion of all that he possessed.

impalement of Judeans in a Neo-Assyrian relief
If a couple had a wayward and defiant son, who did not heed his father or mother and did not obey them even after they disciplined him, then they were to bring him to the elders of his town and publicly declare their son to be disloyal, defiant, heedless, a glutton, and a drunkard. The men of his town were then to stone him to death.

If the community executed a man for a capital offense and impaled him on a stake, they were not to let his corpse remain on the stake overnight, but were to bury him the same day, for an impaled body affronted God.

If one found another’s lost ox, sheep, ass, garment, or any other lost thing, then the finder could not ignore it, but was required to take it back to its owner. If the owner did not live near the finder or the finder did not know the identity of the owner, then the finder was to bring the thing home and keep it until the owner claimed it.

If one came upon another’s ass or ox fallen on the road, then one could not ignore it, but was required to help the owner to raise it.
mother sandpiper and egg in nest

A woman was not to put on man’s apparel, nor a man wear woman’s clothing.

If one came upon a bird’s nest with the mother bird sitting over fledglings or eggs, then one could not take the mother together with her young, but was required to let the mother go and take only the young.

When one built a new house, one had to make a parapet for the roof, so that on one should fall from it.

One was not to sow a vineyard with a second kind of seed, nor use the yield of such vineyard. One was not to plow with an ox and an ass together. One was not to wear cloth combining wool and linen.

One was to make tassels (tzitzit) on the four corners of the garment with which one covered oneself.

If a man married a woman, cohabited with her, took an aversion to her, and falsely charged her with not having been a virgin at the time of the marriage, then the woman’s parents were to produce the cloth with evidence of the woman’s virginity before the town elders at the town gate. The elders were then to have the man flogged and fine him 100 shekels of silver to be paid to the woman’s father. The woman was to remain the man’s wife, and he was never to have the right to divorce her. But if the elders found that woman had not been a virgin, then the woman was to be brought to the entrance of her father’s house and stoned to death by the men of her town.

If a man was found lying with another man’s wife, both the man and the woman with whom he lay were to die.

If in a city, a man lay with a virgin who was engaged to a man, then the authorities were to take the two of them to the town gate and stone them to death — the girl because she did not cry for help, and the man because he violated another man’s wife. But if the man lay with the girl by force in the open country, only the man was to die, for there was no one to save her.

If a man seized a virgin who was not engaged and lay with her, then the man was to pay the girl’s father 50 shekels of silver, she was to become the man’s wife, and he was never to have the right to divorce her.

No man could marry his father’s former wife.

God’s congregation could not admit into membership anyone whose testes were crushed, anyone whose member was cut off, anyone misbegotten, anyone descended within ten generations from one misbegotten, any Ammonite or Moabite, or anyone descended within ten generations from an Ammonite or Moabite. As long as they lived, Israelites were not to concern themselves with the welfare or benefit of Ammonites or Moabites, because they did not meet the Israelites with food and water after the Israelites left Egypt, and because they hired Balaam to curse the Israelites — but God refused to heed Balaam, turning his curse into a blessing.

The Israelites were not to abhor the Edomites, for they were kinsman, nor Egyptians, for the Israelites were strangers in Egypt. Great grandchildren of Edomites or Egyptians could be admitted into the congregation.

Any Israelite rendered unclean by a nocturnal emission had to leave the Israelites military camp, bathe in water toward evening, and reenter the camp at sundown. The Israelites were to designate an area outside the camp where they might relieve themselves, and to carry a spike to dig a hole and cover up their excrement. As God moved about in their camp to protect them and to deliver their enemies, the Israelites were to keep their camp holy.

If a slave sought refuge with the Israelites, they were not to turn the slave over to the slave’s master, but were to let the former slave live in any place the former slave might choose among the Israelites’ settlements and not ill-treat the former slave.

Israelites were forbidden to serve as cult prostitutes, and from bringing the wages of prostitution into the house of God in fulfillment of any vow.

Israelites were forbidden to charge interest on loans to their countrymen, but they could charge interest on loans to foreigners.


Israelites were required promptly to fulfill vows to God, whereas they incurred no guilt if they refrained from vowing.

A visiting Israelite was allowed to enter another’s vineyard and eat grapes until full, but the visitor was forbidden to put any in a vessel. Similarly, a visiting Israelite was allowed to enter another’s field of standing grain and pluck ears by hand, but the visitor was forbidden to cut the neighbor’s grain with a sickle.

A divorced woman who remarried and then lost her second husband to divorce or death was not allowed to remarry her first husband.

A newlywed man was exempt from army duty for one year so as to give happiness to his wife.

Israelites were forbidden to take a handmill or an upper millstone in pawn, for that would be equivalent to taking someone’s livelihood in pawn.

One found to have kidnapped a fellow Israelite was to die.

In cases of a skin affection, Israelites were to do exactly as the priests instructed, remembering that God afflicted and then healed Miriam’s skin after the Israelites left Egypt.

An Israelite who lent to a fellow Israelite was forbidden to enter the borrower’s house to seize a pledge, but was required to remain outside while the borrower brought the pledge out to the lender. If the borrower was needy, the lender was forbidden to sleep in the pledge, but had to return the pledge to the borrower at sundown, so that the borrower might sleep in the cloth and bless the lender before God.

Israelites were forbidden to abuse a needy and destitute laborer, whether an Israelite or a stranger, and were required to pay the laborer’s wages on the same day, before the sun set, as the laborer would urgently depend on the wages.

Parents were not to be put to death for children, nor were children to be put to death for parents: a person was to be put to death only for the person’s own crime.

Israelites were forbidden to subvert the rights of the stranger or the fatherless, and were forbidden to take a widow’s garment in pawn, remembering that they were slaves in Egypt and that God redeemed them. When Israelites reaped the harvest in their fields and overlooked a sheaf, they were not to turn back to get it, but were to leave it to the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow.
“The Olive Trees” (painting by Vincent van Gogh)
Similarly, when Israelites beat down the fruit of their olive trees or gathered the grapes of their vineyards, they were not to go over them again, but were leave what remained for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, remembering that they were slaves in Egypt.

When one was to be flogged, the magistrate was to have the guilty one lie down and be whipped in the magistrate’s presence as warranted, but not more than 40 lashes, so that the guilty one would not be degraded.

Israelites were forbidden to muzzle an ox while it was threshing. When brothers dwelt together and one of them died leaving no son, the surviving brother was to marry the wife of the deceased and perform the levir’s duty, and the first son that she bore was to be accounted to the dead brother, that his name might survive. But if the surviving brother did not want to marry his brother’s widow, then the widow was to appear before the elders at the town gate and declare that the brother refused to perform the levir’s duty, the elders were to talk to him, and if he insisted, the widow was to go up to him before the elders, pull the sandal off his foot, spit in his face, and declare: “Thus shall be done to the man who will not build up his brother’s house!” They shall then call him “the family of the unsandaled one.”

If two men fought with each other, and to save her husband the wife of one seized the other man’s genitals, then her hand was to be cut off.

Israelites were forbidden to have alternate weights or measures, larger and smaller, but were required to have completely honest weights and measures.

Israelites were required to remember what the Amalekites did to them on their journey, after they left Egypt, surprising them and cutting down all the stragglers at their rear. The Israelites were enjoined not to forget to blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.

Hebrew and English Text
Hear the parshah chanted
Commentary from the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the American Jewish University (Conservative)
Commentary from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (Conservative)
Commentary by the Conservative Yeshiva
Commentary by the Union for Reform Judaism (Reform)
Commentaries from Project Genesis (Orthodox)
Commentaries from Chabad.org (Orthodox)
Commentaries from Aish HaTorah (Orthodox)
Commentaries from the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation (Reconstructionist)
Commentaries from My Jewish Learning (trans-denominational)




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