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Judaica (clockwise from top): Shabbat candlesticks, handwashing cup, Chumash and Tanakh, Torah pointer, shofar and etrog box

Judaism (originally from Hebrew יהודה, Yehudah, "Judah"; via Latin and Greek) is the religion of the Jewish people. It is an ancient, monotheistic, Abrahamic religion with the Torah as its foundational text. It encompasses the religion, philosophy, and culture of the Jewish people. Judaism is considered by religious Jews to be the expression of the covenant that God established with the Children of Israel. Judaism encompasses a wide body of texts, practices, theological positions, and forms of organization. The Torah is part of the larger text known as the Tanakh or the Hebrew Bible, and supplemental oral tradition represented by later texts such as the Midrash and the Talmud. With between 14.5 and 17.4 million adherents worldwide, Judaism is the tenth largest religion in the world.

Within Judaism there are a variety of movements, most of which emerged from Rabbinic Judaism, which holds that God revealed his laws and commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai in the form of both the Written and Oral Torah. Historically, this assertion was challenged by various groups such as the Sadducees and Hellenistic Judaism during the Second Temple period; the Karaites and Sabbateans during the early and later medieval period; and among segments of the modern non-Orthodox denominations. Modern branches of Judaism such as Humanistic Judaism may be nontheistic. Today, the largest Jewish religious movements are Orthodox Judaism (Haredi Judaism and Modern Orthodox Judaism), Conservative Judaism, and Reform Judaism. Major sources of difference between these groups are their approaches to Jewish law, the authority of the Rabbinic tradition, and the significance of the State of Israel. Orthodox Judaism maintains that the Torah and Jewish law are divine in origin, eternal and unalterable, and that they should be strictly followed. Conservative and Reform Judaism are more liberal, with Conservative Judaism generally promoting a more traditionalist interpretation of Judaism's requirements than Reform Judaism. A typical Reform position is that Jewish law should be viewed as a set of general guidelines rather than as a set of restrictions and obligations whose observance is required of all Jews. Historically, special courts enforced Jewish law; today, these courts still exist but the practice of Judaism is mostly voluntary. Authority on theological and legal matters is not vested in any one person or organization, but in the sacred texts and the rabbis and scholars who interpret them.

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Jewish holidays include both Biblical and Rabbinic observances. Biblical days include the weekly Shabbat, considered the most important such day. There are the Three Pilgrimage Festivals of Passover, Shavuot, and Shemini Atzeret. The High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are times of repentance and prayer. Rosh Chodesh, the first day of each month, has some significance as well. Rabbinic enactments include Hanukkah and Purim, both celebrating religious and military victories. (Read more...)

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Simon Wiesenthal (1908–2005) was a Jewish-Austrian Holocaust survivor who became famous after World War II for his work as a Nazi hunter. He studied architecture and was living in Lviv at the outbreak of World War II. After being forced to work as a slave labourer in various Nazi concentration camps during the war, Wiesenthal dedicated most of his life to tracking down fugitive Nazi war criminals. In 1947 he co-founded the Jewish Historical Documentation Center in Linz, Austria, where he and others gathered information for war crime trials and helped refugees find lost relatives. He opened the Jewish Documentation Center in Vienna in 1961. He helped in locating Adolf Eichmann and preparing a dossier on Franz Stangl.

In April 1970, when Bruno Kreisky became the Austrian chancellor, Wiesenthal told the press that four cabinet appointees had been members of the Nazi Party. Kreisky called Wiesenthal a "Jewish Nazi" and likened his organisation to the Mafia. He later accused him of collaborating with the Nazis. In 1986, Wiesenthal was involved in the case of Kurt Waldheim, whose Nazi past was revealed in the lead-up to the 1986 Austrian presidential elections, although Wiesenthal had previously cleared him of any wrongdoing.

With a reputation as a storyteller, Wiesenthal wrote several memoirs that contain tales that are only loosely based on actual events. He died in Vienna on 20 September 2005, and was buried in Herzliya. The Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles is named in his honor. (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

Tzav (צו)
Leviticus 6.1–8:36
The Weekly Torah portion in synagogues on Shabbat, Saturday, 16 Adar II, 5779—March 23, 2019
"Such are the rituals of the burnt offering, the meal offering, the sin offering, the guilt offering, the offering of ordination, and the sacrifice of well-being." (Leviticus 7:37.)

God told Moses to command Aaron and the priests about the rituals of the sacrifices (korbanot in Hebrew). The burnt offering (’olah) was to burn on the altar until morning, when the priest was to clear the ashes to a place outside the camp. The priests were to keep the fire burning, every morning feeding it wood. The meal offering (mincha) was to be presented before the altar, a handful of it burned on the altar, and the balance eaten by the priests as unleavened cakes in the Tent of Meeting. On the occasion of the High Priest's anointment, the meal offering was to be prepared with oil on a griddle and then entirely burned on the altar. The sin offering (chattat) was to be slaughtered at the same place as the burnt offering, and the priest who offered it was to eat it in the Tent of Meeting. If blood of the sin offering was brought into the Tent of Meeting for expiation, the entire offering was to be burned on the altar. The guilt offering (asham) was to be slaughtered at the same place as the burnt offering, the priest was to dash its blood on the altar, burn its fat, broad tail, kidneys, and protuberance on the liver on the altar, and the priest who offered it was to eat the balance of its meat in the Tent of Meeting. The priest who offered a burnt offering kept the skin. The priest who offered it was to eat any baked or grilled meal offering, but every other meal offering was to be shared among all the priests. The peace offering (shelamim), if offered for thanksgiving, was to be offered with unleavened cakes or wafers with oil, which would go to the priest who dashed the blood of the peace offering. All the meat of the peace offering had to be eaten on the day that it was offered. If offered as a votive or a freewill offering, it could be eaten for two days, and what was then left on the third day was to be burned. Meat that touched anything unclean could not be eaten; it had to be burned. And only a person who was clean could eat meat from peace offering, at pain of exile. One could eat no fat or blood, at pain of exile. The person offering the peace offering had to present the offering and its fat himself, the priest would burn the fat on the altar, the breast would go to the priests, and the right thigh would go to the priest who offered the sacrifice. God instructed Moses to assemble the whole community at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting for the priests’ ordination. Moses brought Aaron and his sons forward, washed them, and dressed Aaron in his vestments. Moses anointed and consecrated the Tabernacle and all that was in it, and then anointed and consecrated Aaron and his sons. Moses led forward a bull for a sin offering, Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the bull’s head, and it was slaughtered. Moses put the bull’s blood on the horns and the base of the altar, burned the fat, the protuberance of the liver, and the kidneys on the altar, and burned the rest of the bull outside the camp. Moses then brought forward a ram for a burnt offering, Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the ram’s head, and it was slaughtered. Moses dashed the blood against the altar and burned all of the ram on the altar. Moses then brought forward a second ram for ordination, Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the ram’s head, and it was slaughtered. Moses put some of its blood on Aaron and his sons, on the ridges of their right ears, on the thumbs of their right hands, and on the big toes of their right feet. Moses then burned the animal's fat, broad tail, protuberance of the liver, kidneys, and right thigh on the altar with a cake of unleavened bread, a cake of oil bread, and a wafer as an ordination offering. Moses raised the breast before God and then took it as his portion. Moses sprinkled oil and blood on Aaron and his sons and their vestments. And Moses told Aaron and his sons to boil the meat at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting and eat it there, and remain at the Tent of Meeting for seven days to complete their ordination, and they did all the things that God had commanded through Moses.

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 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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