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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The Western Wall is located in the Old City of Jerusalem at the foot of the western side of the Temple Mount. It is a remnant of the ancient wall that surrounded the Jewish Temple's courtyard, and is perhaps the most sacred site recognized by the Jewish faith outside of the Temple Mount itself. Just over half the wall, including its 17 courses located below street level, dates from the end of the Second Temple period. Constructed around 19 BCE by Herod the Great, the works were probably not finished during his lifetime. The remaining layers were added from the 7th century onwards. The Western Wall refers not only to the exposed section facing a large plaza in the Jewish Quarter, but also to the sections concealed behind structures running along the whole length of the Temple Mount, such as the Little Western Wall–a 25 ft (8 m) section in the Muslim Quarter.

It has been a site for Jewish prayer and pilgrimage for centuries; the earliest source mentioning Jewish attachment to the site dates back to the 4th century. From the mid-19th century onwards, various Jews tried, without success, to purchase rights to the wall. In the early 20th century, the wall became a source of friction between the Jewish community and the Muslim religious leadership, and outbreaks of violence at the foot of the wall became commonplace. After the 1948 Arab–Israeli War the wall came under Jordanian control and Jews were barred from the site for 19 years until Israel recaptured the Old City Six-Day War in 1967. (Read more...)

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Garden of the Righteous at Yad Vashem

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Excavated remains of a building tentatively identified as part of the Acra

The Acra was a fortified compound in Jerusalem of the 2nd century BCE. Built by Antiochus Epiphanes, ruler of the Seleucid Empire, following his sack of the city in 168 BCE, the fortress played a significant role in the events surrounding the Maccabean Revolt and the formation of the Hasmonean Kingdom. It was destroyed by Simon Maccabeus during this struggle. The exact location of the Acra, critical to understanding Hellenistic Jerusalem, remains a matter of ongoing discussion. Historians and archaeologists have proposed various sites around Jerusalem, relying mainly on conclusions drawn from literary evidence. This approach began to change in the light of excavations which commenced in the late 1960s. New discoveries have prompted reassessments of the ancient literary sources, Jerusalem's geography and previously discovered artifacts. Yoram Tsafrir has interpreted a masonry joint in the southeastern corner of the Temple Mount platform as a clue to the Acra's possible position. During Benjamin Mazar's 1968 and 1978 excavations adjacent to the south wall of the Mount, features were uncovered which may have been connected with the Acra, including barrack-like rooms and a huge cistern. (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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