Portal:Judaism

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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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A Kohen (plural: Kohanim) is a direct patrilineal descendant of Aaron, the brother of Moses. In the times of the Temple, Kohanim performed nearly all of the services there, where they were divided into twenty-four family groups, and led by the Kohen Gadol. They also recite the Priestly Blessing to the congregation in synagogues. Kohanim receive twenty-four gifts, only a few of which apply today. They are given precedence in many matters, including the reading of the Torah. Kohanim are also subject to a few prohibitions, including marrying a divorcee and entering a cemetery. (Read more...)

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Jewish Orphanage of Berlin-Pankow

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History Article

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Simon Wiesenthal (1908–2005) was a Jewish-Austrian Holocaust survivor who became famous after World War II for his work as a Nazi hunter. He studied architecture and was living in Lviv at the outbreak of World War II. After being forced to work as a slave labourer in various Nazi concentration camps during the war, Wiesenthal dedicated most of his life to tracking down fugitive Nazi war criminals. In 1947 he co-founded the Jewish Historical Documentation Center in Linz, Austria, where he and others gathered information for war crime trials and helped refugees find lost relatives. He opened the Jewish Documentation Center in Vienna in 1961. He helped in locating Adolf Eichmann and preparing a dossier on Franz Stangl.

In April 1970, when Bruno Kreisky became the Austrian chancellor, Wiesenthal told the press that four cabinet appointees had been members of the Nazi Party. Kreisky called Wiesenthal a "Jewish Nazi" and likened his organisation to the Mafia. He later accused him of collaborating with the Nazis. In 1986, Wiesenthal was involved in the case of Kurt Waldheim, whose Nazi past was revealed in the lead-up to the 1986 Austrian presidential elections, although Wiesenthal had previously cleared him of any wrongdoing.

With a reputation as a storyteller, Wiesenthal wrote several memoirs that contain tales that are only loosely based on actual events. He died in Vienna on 20 September 2005, and was buried in Herzliya. The Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles is named in his honor. (Read more...)

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An illuminated ketubah

Credit: Beinecke Rare Book &
Manuscript Library

Yale University

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Featured Quote

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Judaism Jewish History Israel

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Behaalotecha (בהעלותך)
Numbers 8:1–12:16
The Weekly Torah portion in synagogues on Shabbat, Saturday, 19 Sivan, 5778—June 2, 2018
“Is there a limit to the Lord’s power?” (Numbers 11:23.)
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God told Moses to tell Aaron to mount the seven lamps so as to give light to the front of the lampstand in the Tabernacle, and Aaron did so.

God told Moses to cleanse the Levites by sprinkling on them water of purification, and making them shave their whole bodies and wash their clothes. Moses was to assemble the Israelites around the Levites and cause the Israelites to lay their hands upon the Levites. Aaron was to designate the Levites as an elevation offering from the Israelites. The Levites were then to lay their hands in turn upon the heads of two bulls, one as a sin offering and the other as a burnt offering, to make expiation for the Levites. Thereafter, the Levites were qualified for the service of the Tent of Meeting, in place of the firstborn of the Israelites. God told Moses that Levites aged 25 to 50 were to work in the service of the Tent of Meeting, but after age 50 they were to retire and could stand guard but not perform labor.

At the beginning of the second year following the Exodus from Egypt, God told Moses to have the Israelites celebrate Passover at its set time. But some men were unclean because they had had contact with a corpse and could not offer the Passover sacrifice on the set day. They asked Moses and Aaron how they could participate in Passover, and Moses told them to stand by while he listened for God’s instructions. God told Moses that whenever Israelites were defiled by a corpse or on a long journey on Passover, they were to offer the Passover offering on the 14th day of the second month — a month after Passover — otherwise in strict accord with the law of the Passover sacrifice. But if a man who was clean and not on a journey refrained from offering the Passover sacrifice, he was to be cut off from his kin.

Starting the day that the Tabernacle was set up, a cloud covered the Tabernacle by day, and a fire rested on it by night. Whenever the cloud lifted from the Tent, the Israelites would follow it until the cloud settled, and there the Israelites would make camp and stay as long as the cloud lingered.

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God told Moses to have two silver trumpets made to summon the community and to set it in motion. Upon long blasts of the two horns, the whole community was to assemble before the entrance of the Tent of Meeting. Upon the blast of one, the chieftains were to assemble. Short blasts directed the divisions encamped on the east to move forward, and a second set of short blasts directed those on the south to move forward. As well, short blasts were to be sounded when the Israelites were at war against an aggressor who attacked them, and the trumpets were to be sounded on joyous occasions, festivals, new moons, burnt offerings, and sacrifices of well-being.

In the second month of the second year, the cloud lifted from the Tabernacle and the Israelites set out on their journeys from the wilderness of Sinai to the wilderness of Paran. Moses asked his father-in-law (here called Hobab son of Reuel the Midianite) to come with the Israelites, promising to be generous with him, but he replied that he would return to his native land. Moses pressed him again, noting that he could serve as the Israelites’ guide.

They marched three days distance from Mount Sinai, with the Ark of the Covenant in front of them, and God’s cloud above them by day. When the Ark was to set out, Moses would say: “Advance, O Lord! May Your enemies be scattered, and may Your foes flee before You!” And when it halted, he would say: “Return, O Lord, You who are Israel’s myriads of thousands!”

The people took to complaining bitterly before God, and God ravaging the outskirts of the camp with fire until Moses prayed to God, and then the fire died down.

The riffraff in their midst felt a gluttonous craving and the Israelites complained, “If only we had meat to eat! Moses in turn complained to God, “Why have You . . . laid the burden of all this people upon me? God told Moses to gather 70 elders, so that God could come down and put some of the spirit that rested on Moses upon them, so that they might share the burden of the people. And God told Moses to tell the people to purify themselves, for the next day they would eat meat. But Moses questioned how enough flocks, herds, or fish could be found to feed 600,000. God answered: “Is there a limit to the Lord’s power?”

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Moses gathered the 70 elders, and God came down in a cloud, spoke to Moses, and drew upon the spirit that was on Moses and put it upon the elders. When the spirit rested upon them, they spoke in ecstasy, but did not continue. Eldad and Medad had remained in camp, yet the spirit rested upon them, and they spoke in ecstasy in the camp. When a youth reported to Moses that Eldad and Medad were acting the prophet in the camp, Joshua called on Moses to restrain them. But Moses told Joshua: “Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord put His spirit upon them!”

A wind from God then swept quail from the sea and strewed them all around the camp, and the people gathered quail for two days. While the meat was still between their teeth, God struck the people with a plague.

Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses, saying: “He married a Cushite woman!” and “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us as well?” God heard and called Moses, Aaron, and Miriam to come to the Tent of Meeting. God came down in cloud and called out to Aaron and Miriam: “When a prophet of the Lord arises among you, I make Myself known to him in a vision, I speak with him in a dream. Not so with My servant Moses; he is trusted throughout My household. With him I speak mouth to mouth, plainly and not in riddles, and he beholds the likeness of the Lord. How then did you not shrink from speaking against My servant Moses!” As the cloud withdrew, Miriam was stricken with snow-white scales. Moses cried out to God, “O God, pray heal her!” But God said to Moses, “If her father spat in her face, would she not bear her shame for seven days? Let her be shut out of camp for seven days.” And the people waited until she rejoined the camp.

Hebrew and English Text
Hear the parshah chanted
Commentary from the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the American Jewish University (Conservative)
Commentaries 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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