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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

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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Monument to the Ghetto Heroes

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The Zagreb Synagogue in 1906

The Zagreb Synagogue was the main place of worship for the Jewish community of Zagreb in modern-day Croatia, from its construction in 1867 in the Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia within the Austrian Empire, until its demolition by the fascist authorities in 1941 in the Axis-aligned Independent State of Croatia.

The Moorish Revival synagogue was located on modern-day Praška Street and has been the only purpose-built Jewish house of worship in the history of the city. It was one of the city's most prominent public buildings, as well as one of the most esteemed examples of synagogue architecture in the region.

Since the 1980s, plans have been made to rebuild the synagogue in its original location, but due to various political circumstances, very limited progress has been made. The current major disagreements which inhibit the construction of a new synagogue concern the involvement of Jewish organizations in the reconstruction and the design and character of the new building. (Read more...)

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Siege of JerusalemfiMap.PNG

Map of the Siege of Jerusalem with the movements of the Roman army

Credit: Barosaurus Lentus (talk)

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Weekly Torah Portion

Pinchas (פנחס)
Numbers 25:10–30:1
The Weekly Torah portion in synagogues outside of Israel on Shabbat, Saturday, 24 Tamuz, 5776—July 30, 2016
“Moses spoke to the Lord, saying, ‘Let the Lord, Source of the breath of all flesh, appoint someone over the community . . . so that the Lord’s community may not be like sheep that have no shepherd.’” (Numbers 27:15-17.)

God announced that because Phinehas had displayed his passion for God, God granted Phinehas God’s pact of friendship and priesthood for all time. God then told Moses to attack the Midianites to repay them for their trickery luring Israelite men to worship Baal-Peor.

God instructed Moses and Eleazar to take a census of Israelite men 20 years old and up, and Moses and Eleazar ordered it done. The census showed the following populations by tribe: Reuben: 43,730; Simeon: 22,200; Gad: 40,500; Judah: 76,500; Issachar: 64,300; Zebulun: 60,500; Manasseh: 52,700; Ephraim: 32,500; Benjamin: 45,600; Dan: 64,400; Asher: 53,400; Naphtali: 45,400; totaling 601,730 in all.

The text notes parenthetically that when Korah’s band agitated against God, the earth swallowed them up with Korah, but Korah’s sons did not die. God told Moses to apportion shares of the land according to population among those counted, and by lot. The Levite men aged a month old and up amounted to 23,000, and they were not included in the regular enrollment of Israelites, as they were not to have land assigned to them. Among the persons whom Moses and Eleazar enrolled was not one of those enrolled in the first census at the wilderness of Sinai, except Caleb and Joshua.

The daughters of Zelophehad approached Moses, Eleazar, the chieftains, and the assembly at the entrance of the Tabernacle, saying that their father left no sons, and asking that they be given a land holding. Moses brought their case before God, who told him that their plea was just and instructed him to transfer their father’s share of land to them. God further instructed that if a man died without leaving a son, the Israelites were to transfer his property to his daughter, or failing a daughter to his brothers, or failing a brother to his father’s brothers, or failing brothers of his father to the nearest relative.

Moses strikes water out of the rock (painting by Nicolas Poussin)

God told Moses to climb the heights of Abarim and view the Land of Israel, saying that when he had seen it, he would die, because he disobeyed God’s command to uphold God’s sanctity in the people’s sight when he brought water from the rock in the wilderness of Zin. Moses asked God to appoint someone over the community, so that the Israelites would not be like sheep without a shepherd. God told Moses to single out Joshua, lay his hand on him, and commission him before Eleazar and the whole community. Joshua was to present himself to Eleazar the priest, who was to seek the decision of the Urim and Thummim on whether to go out or come in.

God told Moses to command the Israelites to be punctilious in presenting the offerings due God at stated times. The text then details the offerings for regular days, the Sabbath, Rosh Chodesh, Passover, Shavuot, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, and Shmini Atzeret.

Hebrew and English Text
Hear the parshah chanted
Commentary from the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the American Jewish University (Conservative)
Commentaries 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)

The Weekly Torah portion in synagogues in Israel on Shabbat, Saturday, 24 Tamuz, 5776—July 30, 2016—is Matot.


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