Portal:Judaism

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Introduction

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Judaism ( Hebrew: יהדות‎, Yahadut; originally from Hebrew יהודה, Yehudah, " Judah", via Greek Ἰουδαϊσμός Ioudaismos; the term itself is of Anglo-Latin origin c. 1400) is an Abrahamic ethnic religion comprising the collective religious, cultural, and legal tradition and civilization of the Jewish people. Judaism is considered by religious Jews to be the expression of the covenant that God established with the Children of Israel. It encompasses a wide body of texts, practices, theological positions, and forms of organization. The Torah is part of the larger text known as the Tanakh or the Hebrew Bible, and supplemental oral tradition represented by later texts such as the Midrash and the Talmud. With between 14.5 and 17.4 million adherents worldwide, Judaism is the tenth largest religion in the world.

Within Judaism there are a variety of religious movements, most of which emerged from Rabbinic Judaism, which holds that God revealed his laws and commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai in the form of both the Written and Oral Torah. Historically, all or part of this assertion was challenged by various groups such as the Sadducees and Hellenistic Judaism during the Second Temple period; the Karaites during the early and later medieval period; and among segments of the modern non-Orthodox denominations. Some modern branches of Judaism such as Humanistic Judaism may be considered secular or nontheistic. Today, the largest Jewish religious movements are Orthodox Judaism ( Haredi Judaism and Modern Orthodox Judaism), Conservative Judaism, and Reform Judaism. Major sources of difference between these groups are their approaches to Jewish law, the authority of the Rabbinic tradition, and the significance of the State of Israel. Orthodox Judaism maintains that the Torah and Jewish law are divine in origin, eternal and unalterable, and that they should be strictly followed. Conservative and Reform Judaism are more liberal, with Conservative Judaism generally promoting a more traditionalist interpretation of Judaism's requirements than Reform Judaism. A typical Reform position is that Jewish law should be viewed as a set of general guidelines rather than as a set of restrictions and obligations whose observance is required of all Jews. Historically, special courts enforced Jewish law; today, these courts still exist but the practice of Judaism is mostly voluntary. Authority on theological and legal matters is not vested in any one person or organization, but in the sacred texts and the rabbis and scholars who interpret them. ( Full article...)

Selected Article

Baith Israel sanctuary

Congregation Baith Israel Anshei Emes is an egalitarian Conservative synagogue located at 236 Kane Street in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, New York City. It is currently the oldest continuously operating synagogue in Brooklyn. Founded as Baith Israel in 1856, the congregation constructed the first synagogue on Long Island, and hired Rabbi Aaron Wise for his first rabbinical position in the United States. Early tensions between traditionalists and reformers led to the latter forming Congregation Beth Elohim, a Reform synagogue, in 1861. The synagogue nearly failed in the early 1900s, but the 1905 hiring of Israel Goldfarb as rabbi, the purchase of its current buildings, and the 1908 merger with Talmud Torah Anshei Emes, re-invigorated the congregation. The famous composer Aaron Copland celebrated his bar mitzvah there in 1913, and long-time Goldman Sachs head Sidney Weinberg was married there in 1920. Membership peaked in the 1920s, but with the onset of the Great Depression declined steadily, and by the 1970s the congregation could no longer afford to heat the sanctuary. Membership has recovered since that low point; the congregation renovated its school/community center in 2004, and in 2008 embarked on a million-dollar capital campaign to renovate the sanctuary. ( Read more...)

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South facade of the Château Pastré

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Rudolf Vrba was Professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics at the University of British Columbia in Canada. In April 1944, Vrba and Alfréd Wetzler became the second and third of only five Jews to escape successfully from the German death camp at Auschwitz and pass information to the Allies about the mass murder that was taking place there. The 32 pages of information that the men dictated to horrified Jewish officials in Slovakia became known as the Vrba–Wetzler report. It is regarded as one of the most important documents of the 20th century, because it was the first detailed information about the death camp to reach the Allies that they accepted as credible. Although the report's release to the public was controversially delayed until after the mass transport of 437,000 Jews from Hungary to Auschwitz had begun on May 15, 1944, it is nevertheless credited with having saved many lives. Yehuda Bauer, Professor of Holocaust Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, has called Vrba "one of the Heroes of the Holocaust". ( Read more...)

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Tzedakah (charity) box, Charleston, 1820, silver, National Museum of American Jewish History.JPG

An elaborate tzedakah box

Credit:  Wmpearl (talk)

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Weekly Torah Portion

Korach (קרח)
Numbers 16:1–18:32
“You have gone too far, sons of Levi!” (Numbers 16:7.)
“The Punishment of Korah” (painting by Sandro Botticelli)
The Levite Korah son of Izhar joined with the Reubenites Dathan and Abiram sons of Eliab and On son of Peleth and 250 chieftains of the Israelite community to rise up against Moses. Moses told Korah and his band to take their fire pans and put fire and incense on them before God. Moses sent for Dathan and Abiram, but they refused to come. The next day, Korah and his band took their fire pans and gathered the whole community against Moses and Aaron at the entrance of the Tabernacle. The Presence of the Lord appeared to the whole community, and God told Moses and Aaron to stand back so that God could annihilate the others. Moses and Aaron fell on their faces and implored God not to punish the whole community. God told Moses to instruct the community to move away from the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, and they did so, while Dathan, Abiram, and their families stood at the entrance of their tents. Moses told the Israelites that if these men were to die of natural causes, then God did not send Moses, but if God caused the earth to swallow them up, then these men had spurned God. Just as Moses finished speaking, the earth opened and swallowed them, their households, and all Korah’s people, and the Israelites fled in terror. And a fire consumed the 250 men offering the incense. Gold told Moses to order Eleazar the priest to remove the fire pans – as they had become sacred – and have them made into plating for the altar to remind the Israelites that no one other than Aaron’s offspring should presume to offer incense to God.

The next day, the whole Israelite community railed against Moses and Aaron for bringing death upon God’s people. A cloud covered the Tabernacle and the God’s Presence appeared. God told Moses to remove himself and Aaron from the community, so that God might annihilate them, and they fell on their faces. Moses told Aaron to take the fire pan, put fire from the altar and incense on it, and take it to the community to make expiation for them and to stop a plague that had begun, and Aaron did so. Aaron stood between the dead and the living and halted the plague, but not before 14,700 had died.

almond blossoms

God told Moses to collect a staff from the chieftain of each of the 12 tribes, inscribe each man’s name on his staff, inscribe Aaron’s name on the staff of Levi, and deposit the staffs in the Tent of Meeting. The next day, Moses entered the Tent and Aaron’s staff had sprouted, blossomed, and borne almonds. God instructed Moses to put Aaron’s staff before the Ark of the Covenant to be kept as a lesson to rebels to end their mutterings against God. But the Israelites cried to Moses, “We are doomed to perish!”

God assigned the Levites to Aaron to aid in the duties of the Tent of Meeting. God prohibited any outsider from intruding on the priests as they discharged the duties connected with the Shrine, on pain of death. And God gave Aaron and the priests all the sacred donations and first fruits as a perquisite for all time for them and their families to eat. And God gave them the oil, wine, grain, and money that the Israelites brought. But God told Aaron that the priests would have no territorial share among the Israelites, as God was their portion and their share. God gave the Levites all the tithes in Israel as their share in return for the services of the Tent of Meeting, but they too would have no territorial share among the Israelites. God told Moses to instruct the Levites to set aside one-tenth of the tithes they received as a gift to God.

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