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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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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Congregation Beth Elohim building 2.JPG

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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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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