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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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Black Hebrew Israelites (also Black Hebrews, African Hebrew Israelites, and Hebrew Israelites) are groups of people of African ancestry situated mainly in the United States who believe they are descendants of the ancient Israelites. Black Hebrews adhere in varying degrees to the religious beliefs and practices of mainstream Judaism. They are generally not accepted as Jews by the greater Jewish community, and many Black Hebrews consider themselves—and not mainstream Jews—to be the only authentic descendants of the ancient Israelites. Many choose to self-identify as Hebrew Israelites or Black Hebrews rather than as Jews. Dozens of Black Hebrew groups were founded during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In the mid-1980s, the number of Black Hebrews in the United States was between 25,000 and 40,000. In the 1990s, the Alliance of Black Jews estimated that there were 200,000 African-American Jews; this estimate was based on a 1990 survey conducted by the Council of Jewish Federations. The exact number of Black Hebrews within that surveyed group remains unspecified. (Read more...)
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Weekly Torah Portion
The Weekly Torah portion in synagogues on Shabbat, Saturday, 10 Tamuz, 5778—June 23, 2018
“Moses lifted up his hand, and smote the rock with his rod twice; and water came forth abundantly . . . .” (Numbers 20:11.)
God told Moses and Aaron to instruct the Israelites the ritual law of the red cow (Hebrew "parah aduma") used to create water of lustration. The cow had to be without blemish, have no defect, and not have borne a yoke. Eleazar the priest was to take it outside the camp, observe its slaughter, and take some of its blood with his finger and sprinkle it seven times toward the Tabernacle. The cow was to be burned in its entirety along with cedar wood, hyssop, and crimson stuff. The priest and the one whom burned the cow were both to wash their garments, bathe in water, and be unclean until evening. The ashes of the cow were to be used to create the water of lustration. One who touched the corpse of any human being was to be unclean for seven days. On the third and seventh days, the person who had touched the corpse was to cleanse with the water of lustration and then be clean. One who failed to do so would remain unclean, would defile the Tabernacle, and would be cut off from Israel. When a person died in a tent, whoever entered the tent was to be unclean seven days, and every open vessel in the tent was to be unclean. In the open, anyone who touched a corpse, bone, or a grave was to be unclean seven days. A person who was clean was to add fresh water to ashes of the red cow, dip hyssop it in the water, and sprinkle the water on the tent, the vessels, and people who had become unclean. The person who sprinkled the water was then to wash his clothes, bathe in water, and be clean at nightfall. Anyone who became unclean and failed to cleanse himself was to be cut off from the congregation. The person who sprinkled the water of lustration was to wash his clothes, and whoever touched the water of lustration, whatever he touched, and whoever touched him were to be unclean until evening.
a red cow (painting “The World Cow” by Franz Marc)
The Israelites arrived at Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin, and Miriam died and was buried there.
The people were without water, and they complained against Moses and Aaron. Moses and Aaron fell on their faces at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, and the Presence of God appeared to them, telling them to take the rod and order the rock to yield its water. Moses took the rod, assembled the congregation in front of the rock, and said to them: “Listen, you rebels, shall we get water for you out of this rock?” Then Moses struck the rock twice with his rod, out came water, and the community and their animals drank. But God told Moses and Aaron: “Because you did not trust Me enough to affirm My sanctity in the sight of the Israelite people, therefore you shall not lead this congregation into the land that I have given them.”
Moses sent messengers to the king of Edom asking him to allow the Israelites to cross Edom, without passing through fields or vineyards, and without drinking water from wells. But the Edomites would not let the Israelites pass through, and turned out in heavy force to block their way, and the Israelites turned away.
At Mount Hor, God told Moses and Aaron: “Let Aaron be gathered to his kin: he is not to enter the land that I have assigned to the Israelite people, because you disobeyed my command about the waters of Meribah.” Moses took Aaron and his son Eleazar up on Mount Hor, and there he stripped Aaron of his vestments and put them on Eleazar, and Aaron died there. The Israelites mourned Aaron 30 days.
The king of Arad engaged the Israelites in battle and took some of them captive. The Israelites vowed that if God gave them victory, they would destroy Arad. God delivered up the Canaanites, and the Israelites killed them and destroyed their cities, calling the place Hormah.
The people grew restive and spoke against God and Moses, so God sent serpents that killed many of the Israelites. The people came to Moses, admitted their sin by speaking against God, and asked Moses to intercede with God to take away the serpents, and Moses did so. God told Moses to mount a serpent figure on a standard, saying: “If anyone who is bitten looks at it, he shall recover.”
The Israelites traveled on, and sent messengers to Sihon, king of the Amorites, asking that he allow them to pass through his country, without entering the fields or vineyards, and without drinking water from wells. But Sihon would not let Israel pass through his territory and engaged the Israelites in battle. The Israelites defeated the Amorites and took possession of their land and towns.
Then the Israelites marched on, and King Og of Bashan engaged them in battle. The Israelites defeated his forces and took possession of his country. The Israelites then marched to the steppes of Moab, across the Jordan River from Jericho.
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 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)