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

Georg Cantor

Georg Cantor was a German mathematician. He is best known as the creator of set theory, which has become a foundational theory in mathematics. Cantor established the importance of one-to-one correspondence between sets, defined infinite and well-ordered sets, and proved that the real numbers are "more numerous" than the natural numbers. In fact, Cantor's theorem implies the existence of an "infinity of infinities". He defined the cardinal and ordinal numbers, and their arithmetic. Cantor's work is of great philosophical interest, a fact of which he was well aware. Cantor's theory of transfinite numbers was originally regarded as so counter-intuitive—even shocking—that it encountered resistance from mathematical contemporaries such as Leopold Kronecker and Henri Poincaré and later from Hermann Weyl and L.E.J. Brouwer, while Ludwig Wittgenstein raised philosophical objections. Christian theologians (particularly Neo-Thomists) saw Cantor's work as a challenge to the uniqueness of the absolute infinity in the nature of God, on one occasion equating the theory of transfinite numbers with pantheism. Cantor's recurring bouts of depression from 1884 to the end of his life were once blamed on the hostile attitude of many of his contemporaries, but these bouts can now be seen as probable manifestations of a bipolar disorder. (Read more...)

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Jewish Orphanage of Berlin-Pankow

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Elie Wiesel at age 15

Night is a work by Elie Wiesel (pictured) about his experience with his father in the Nazi concentration camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald in 1944–1945. In just over 100 pages of a narrative described as devastating in its simplicity, Wiesel writes about the death of God and his own increasing disgust with humanity, reflected in the inversion of the father-child relationship as his father declines to a helpless state and Wiesel becomes his resentful caregiver. He was 16 years old when Buchenwald was liberated by the U.S. Army in April 1945, too late for his father who died in the camp after a beating. After some difficulty finding a publisher, Wiesel's work appeared in Yiddish in 1955 and French in 1958, and in September 1960 was published in English by Hill and Wang. Fifty years later it is regarded as one of the bedrocks of Holocaust literature. It is the first book in a trilogy—Night, Dawn, Day—marking Wiesel's transition from darkness to light, according to the Jewish tradition of beginning a new day at nightfall. "In Night," he said, "I wanted to show the end, the finality of the event. Everything came to an end—man, history, literature, religion, God. There was nothing left. And yet we begin again with night." (Read more...)

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Weekly Torah Portion

Noach (נח)
Genesis 6:9–11:32
The Weekly Torah portion in synagogues on Shabbat, Saturday, 1 Cheshvan, 5775; October 25, 2014
“And God said to Noah and to his sons with him, ‘I now establish My covenant with you and your offspring to come, and with every living thing that is with you.’” (Genesis 9:8–10.)
Noah's Ark (painting by Edward Hicks)
Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his age, who walked with God. Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

God saw that all flesh on earth had become corrupt and lawless, and God told Noah that God had decided to bring a flood to destroy all flesh. God directed Noah to make an ark of gopher wood and cover it with pitch. The ark was to be 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide, and 30 cubits high, and have an opening for daylight near the top, an entrance on its side, and three decks. God told Noah that God would establish a covenant with Noah, and that he, his sons, his wife, his sons’ wives, and two of each kind of beast — male and female — would survive in the ark.

The Deluge (illustration by Gustave Doré)

Seven days before the flood, God told Noah to go into the ark with his household, and to take seven pairs of every clean animal and every bird, and one pair of every other animal, to keep their species alive. When Noah was 600 years old, the flood came, and that same day, Noah, his family and the beasts went into the ark, and God shut him in. The rains fell 40 days and 40 nights, the waters swelled 15 cubits above the highest mountains, and all flesh with the merest breath of life died, except for Noah and those with him on the ark.

Return of the Dove (painting by John Everett Millais)

When the waters had swelled 150 days, God remembered Noah and the beasts, and God caused a wind to blow and the waters to recede steadily from the earth, and the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. At the end of 40 days, Noah opened the window and sent out a raven, and it went to and fro. Then he sent out a dove to see if the waters had decreased from the ground, but the dove could not find a resting place, and returned to the ark. He waited another seven days, and again sent out the dove, and the dove came back toward evening with an olive leaf. He waited another seven days and sent out the dove, and it did not return. When Noah removed the covering of the ark, he saw that the ground was drying. God told Noah to come out of the ark with his family and to free the animals.

Then Noah built an altar to God and offered burnt offerings of every clean animal and of every clean bird. God smelled the pleasing odor and vowed never again to doom the earth because of man, as man’s imaginings are evil from his youth, but God would preserve the seasons so long as the earth endured.

God blessed Noah and his sons to be fertile and increase, and put the fear of them into all the beasts, which God gave into their hands to eat. God prohibited eating flesh with its life-blood in it. God would require a reckoning of every man’s and beast’s life-blood, and whoever shed the blood of man would have his blood shed by man, for in God’s image did God make man. God told them to be fertile and increase. And God made a covenant with Noah, his sons, and every living thing that never again would a flood destroy the earth. God set the rainbow in the clouds as the sign of God’s covenant with earth, so that when the bow appeared in the clouds, God would remember God’s covenant and the waters would never again flood to destroy all flesh.

Noah Cursing Canaan (illustration by Gustave Doré)

Noah was the first to plant a vineyard, and he drank himself drunk, and uncovered himself within his tent. Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father’s nakedness and told his two brothers. Shem and Japheth placed a cloth against both their backs and, walking backward, covered their father, without seeing their father’s nakedness. When Noah woke up and learned what Ham had done to him, he cursed Ham’s son Canaan to become the lowest of slaves to Japheth and Shem, prayed that God enlarge Japheth, and blessed the God of Shem.

Noah lived to the age of 950 and then died.

Genesis 10 sets forth the descendants of Shem, Ham, and Japheth, from whom the nations branched out over the earth after the flood. Among Japheth’s descendants were the maritime nations. Ham’s son Cush had a son named Nimrod, who became the first man of might on earth, a mighty hunter, king in Babylon and the land of Shinar. From there Asshur went and built Nineveh. Canaan’s descendants — Sidon, Heth, the Jebusites, the Amorites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, the Arkites, the Sinites, the Arvadites, the Zemarites, and the Hamathites — spread out from Sidon as far as Gerar, near Gaza, and as far as Sodom and Gomorrah. Among Shem’s descendants was Eber.

Tower of Babel (painting by Pieter Bruegel)

Everyone on earth spoke the same language. As people migrated from the east, they settled in the land of Shinar. People there sought to make bricks and build a city and a tower with its top in the sky, to make a name for themselves, so that they not be scattered over the world. God came down to look at the city and tower, and remarked that as one people with one language, nothing that they sought would be out of their reach. God went down and confounded their speech, so that they could not understand each another, and scattered them over the face of the earth, and they stopped building the city. Thus the city was called Babel.

Genesis 11 sets forth the descendants of Shem. Eight generations after Shem came Terah, who had three sons: Abram (who would become Abraham), Nahor, and Haran. Haran had a son Lot and two daughters Milcah and Iscah, and then died in Ur during the lifetime of his father Terah. Abram married Sarai, and Nahor married Haran’s daughter Milcah. Sarai was barren. Terah took Abram, Sarai, and Lot and set out together from Ur for the land of Canaan, but when they had come as far as Haran, they settled there, and there Terah died.

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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