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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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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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Garden of the Righteous at Yad Vashem

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Beth Hamedrash Hagadol

Beth Hamedrash Hagadol is an Orthodox congregation that was, for over 120 years, located in a historic synagogue building at 60–64 Norfolk Street in Manhattan, New York, on the Lower East Side. It was the first Eastern European congregation founded in New York City and the oldest Orthodox Russian Jewish congregation in the United States. Founded in 1852 by Rabbi Abraham Ash as Beth Hamedrash, it split in 1859, with the rabbi and the bulk of the members renaming their congregation Beth Hamedrash Hagadol. Rabbi Jacob Joseph, the first and only Chief Rabbi of New York City, led the congregation from 1888 to 1902 . The congregation's building, a Gothic Revival structure built in 1850 and purchased in 1885, was one of the largest synagogues on the Lower East Side, and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1999. In the late twentieth century the congregation dwindled and was unable to maintain the building, which had been damaged by storms. Despite funding and grants, the structure was critically endangered. As of 2008 the Lower East Side Conservancy was trying to raise an estimated $4.5 million for repairs, with the intent of converting it to an educational center. (Read more...)

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A plate of Hamentashen, a pastry often eaten on Purim

Credit: Northamerica1000 (talk)

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Weekly Torah Portion

Ki Tisa (כי תשא)
Exodus 30:11–34:35
The Weekly Torah portion in synagogues on Shabbat, Saturday, 16 Adar, 5775; March 7, 2015
"The Lord! The Lord! A God compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in kindness and faithfulness, extending kindness to the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin." (Exodus 34:6–7.)
God instructed Moses that when he took a census of the Israelites, each person 20 years old or older should pay a half-shekel ransom, to avoid a plague. God told Moses to assign the proceeds to the service of the Tent of Meeting. God told Moses to place a copper laver between the Tent of Meeting and the altar, so that Aaron and the priests could wash their hands and feet in water when they entered the Tent of Meeting or approached the altar to burn a sacrifice, so that they would not die. God directed Moses to make a sacred anointing oil from choice spices. God told Moses to use it to anoint the Tent of Meeting, the furnishings of the Tabernacle, and the priests. God told Moses to warn the Israelites not to copy the sacred anointing oil’s recipe for lay purposes, at pain of exile. God directed Moses make sacred incense from herbs to burn in the Tent of Meeting. As with the anointing oil, God warned against making incense from the same recipe for lay purposes. God informed Moses that God had endowed Bezalel of the Tribe of Judah with divine skill in every kind of craft. God assigned to him Oholiab of the Tribe of Dan and granted skill to all who are skillful, that they might make the furnishings of the Tabernacle, the priests’ vestments, the anointing oil, and the incense. God told Moses to admonish the Israelites nevertheless to keep the Sabbaths, on pain of death.
Moses Cast Down the Tablets of the Law (painting by Domenico Beccafumi)
Then God gave Moses two stone tablets inscribed by the finger of God. Meanwhile, the people became impatient for Moses’ return, and implored Aaron to make them a god. Aaron told them to bring him their gold earrings, and he cast them in a mold and made a molten golden calf. They exclaimed, “This is your god, O Israel, who brought you out of the land of Egypt!” Aaron built an altar before the calf, and announced a festival of the Lord. The people offered sacrifices, ate, drank, and danced. God told Moses what the people had done, saying “let Me be, that My anger may blaze forth against them and that I may destroy them, and make of you a great nation.” But Moses implored God not to do so, lest the Egyptians say that God delivered the people only to kill them off in the mountains. Moses called on God to remember Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and God’s oath to make their offspring as numerous as the stars, and God renounced the planned punishment. Moses went down the mountain bearing the two tablets. Joshua told Moses, “There is a cry of war in the camp,” but Moses answered, “It is the sound of song that I hear!”
Moses with the Tablets of the Law (painting by Rembrandt)
When Moses saw the calf and the dancing, he became enraged and shattered the tablets at the foot of the mountain. He burned the calf, ground it to powder, strewed it upon the water, and made the Israelites drink it. When Moses asked Aaron how he committed such a great sin, Aaron replied that the people asked him to make a god, so he hurled their gold into the fire, “and out came this calf!” Seeing that Aaron had let the people get out of control, Moses stood in the camp gate and called, “Whoever is for the Lord, come here!” All the Levites rallied to Moses, and at his instruction killed 3,000 people, including brother, neighbor, and kin. Moses went back to God and asked for God either to forgive the Israelites or kill Moses too, but God insisted on punishing only the sinners, which God did by means of a plague. Then God dispatched Moses and the people to the Promised Land, but God decided not to go in their midst, for fear of destroying them on the way. Upon hearing this, the Israelites went into mourning. Moses asked God whom God would send with Moses to lead the people. Moses further asked God to let him know God’s ways, that Moses might know God and continue in God’s favor. And God agreed to lead the Israelites. Moses asked God not to make the Israelites move unless God were to go in the lead, and God agreed. Moses asked God to let him behold God’s Presence. God agreed to make all God’s goodness pass before Moses and to proclaim God’s name and nature, but God explained that no human could see God’s face and live. God instructed Moses to station himself on a rock, where God would cover him with God’s hand until God had passed, at which point Moses could see God’s back.
Moses with Radiant Face (painting by José de Ribera)
God directed Moses to carve two stone tablets like the ones that Moses shattered, so that God might inscribe upon them the words that were on the first tablets, and Moses did so. God came down in a cloud and proclaimed: “The Lord! The Lord! A God compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in kindness and faithfulness, extending kindness to the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; yet He does not remit all punishment, but visits the iniquity of parents upon children and children’s children, upon the third and fourth generations.” Moses stayed with God 40 days and 40 nights, ate no bread, drank no water, and wrote down on the tablets the terms of the covenant. As Moses came down from the mountain bearing the two tablets, the skin of his face was radiant, and the Israelites shrank from him. Moses called them near and instructed them concerning all that God had commanded. When Moses finished speaking, he put a veil over his face. Whenever Moses spoke with God, Moses would take his veil off. And when he came out, he would tell the Israelites what he had been commanded, and then Moses would then put the veil back over his face again.
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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