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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 ethnic 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. It 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, all or part of 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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Tefillin (or phylacteries) are a set of small black leather boxes containing scrolls of parchment inscribed with verses from the Torah, which are worn by observant Jewish men during weekday morning prayers. Although "tefillin" is technically the plural form (the singular being "tefillah"), it is loosely used as a singular as well.The hand-tefillin, or shel yad, is placed on the upper arm, and the strap wrapped around the arm, hand and fingers; while the head-tefillin, or shel rosh, is placed above the forehead. The Torah commands that they should be worn to serve as a "sign" and "remembrance" that God brought the children of Israel out of Egypt. The tefillin each contain four portions: Exodus 13:1–10, 13:11–16, and Deuteronomy 6:4–9, 11:13–21, all of which mention the commandment. In the hand-tefillin, these are all written on one scroll, but in the head-tefillin each has its own scroll and compartment. (Read more...)

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Temple Sinai of Oakland

Temple Sinai is a Reform Jewish congregation located at 2808 Summit Street in Oakland, California. Founded in 1875, it is the oldest Jewish congregation in the East Bay. Its early members included Gertrude Stein and Judah Leon Magnes, who studied at Temple Sinai's Sabbath school, and Ray Frank, who taught them. Originally traditional, under the leadership of Rabbi Marcus Friedlander (1893–1915) Temple Sinai reformed its beliefs and practices. By 1914, it had become a Classical Reform congregation. That year the current sanctuary was built, a Beaux-Arts structure designed by G. Albert Lansburgh which is the oldest synagogue in Oakland. The congregation weathered four major financial crises by 1934. It has since been led by just three rabbis, William Stern (1934–1965), Samuel Broude (1966–1989), and Steven Chester (1989–present). In 2006 Temple Sinai embarked on a $15 million capital campaign to construct an entirely new synagogue campus adjacent to its current sanctuary. Groundbreaking took place in October 2007, and by late 2009 the congregation had raised almost $12 million towards the construction. As of 2010, the Temple Sinai had nearly 1,000 member families. The rabbis were Steven Chester, Jacqueline Mates-Muchin, and Andrea Berlin, and the hazzan was Ilene Keys. (Read more...)

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Weekly Torah Portion

Behaalotecha (בהעלותך)
Numbers 8:1–12:16
The Weekly Torah portion in synagogues outside of Israel on Shabbat, Saturday, 19 Sivan, 5779—June 22, 2019
“Is there a limit to the Lord’s power?” (Numbers 11:23.)
Menora Titus.jpg
God told Moses to tell Aaron to mount the seven lamps so as to give light to the front of the lampstand in the Tabernacle, and Aaron did so.

God told Moses to cleanse the Levites by sprinkling on them water of purification, and making them shave their whole bodies and wash their clothes. Moses was to assemble the Israelites around the Levites and cause the Israelites to lay their hands upon the Levites. Aaron was to designate the Levites as an elevation offering from the Israelites. The Levites were then to lay their hands in turn upon the heads of two bulls, one as a sin offering and the other as a burnt offering, to make expiation for the Levites. Thereafter, the Levites were qualified for the service of the Tent of Meeting, in place of the firstborn of the Israelites. God told Moses that Levites aged 25 to 50 were to work in the service of the Tent of Meeting, but after age 50 they were to retire and could stand guard but not perform labor.

At the beginning of the second year following the Exodus from Egypt, God told Moses to have the Israelites celebrate Passover at its set time. But some men were unclean because they had had contact with a corpse and could not offer the Passover sacrifice on the set day. They asked Moses and Aaron how they could participate in Passover, and Moses told them to stand by while he listened for God’s instructions. God told Moses that whenever Israelites were defiled by a corpse or on a long journey on Passover, they were to offer the Passover offering on the 14th day of the second month — a month after Passover — otherwise in strict accord with the law of the Passover sacrifice. But if a man who was clean and not on a journey refrained from offering the Passover sacrifice, he was to be cut off from his kin.

Starting the day that the Tabernacle was set up, a cloud covered the Tabernacle by day, and a fire rested on it by night. Whenever the cloud lifted from the Tent, the Israelites would follow it until the cloud settled, and there the Israelites would make camp and stay as long as the cloud lingered.

Holman Blowing the Trumpet at the Feast of the New Moon (crop).jpg

God told Moses to have two silver trumpets made to summon the community and to set it in motion. Upon long blasts of the two horns, the whole community was to assemble before the entrance of the Tent of Meeting. Upon the blast of one, the chieftains were to assemble. Short blasts directed the divisions encamped on the east to move forward, and a second set of short blasts directed those on the south to move forward. As well, short blasts were to be sounded when the Israelites were at war against an aggressor who attacked them, and the trumpets were to be sounded on joyous occasions, festivals, new moons, burnt offerings, and sacrifices of well-being.

In the second month of the second year, the cloud lifted from the Tabernacle and the Israelites set out on their journeys from the wilderness of Sinai to the wilderness of Paran. Moses asked his father-in-law (here called Hobab the Midianite) to come with the Israelites, promising to be generous with him, but he replied that he would return to his native land. Moses pressed him again, noting that he could serve as the Israelites’ guide.

They marched three days distance from Mount Sinai, with the Ark of the Covenant in front of them, and God's cloud above them by day. When the Ark was to set out, Moses would say: “Advance, O Lord! May Your enemies be scattered, and may Your foes flee before You!” And when it halted, he would say: “Return, O Lord, You who are Israel’s myriads of thousands!”

The people took to complaining bitterly before God, and God ravaging the outskirts of the camp with fire until Moses prayed to God, and then the fire died down.

The riffraff in their midst felt a gluttonous craving and the Israelites complained, “If only we had meat to eat! Moses in turn complained to God, “Why have You . . . laid the burden of all this people upon me? God told Moses to gather 70 elders, so that God could come down and put some of the spirit that rested on Moses upon them, so that they might share the burden of the people. And God told Moses to tell the people to purify themselves, for the next day they would eat meat. But Moses questioned how enough flocks, herds, or fish could be found to feed 600,000. God answered: “Is there a limit to the Lord’s power?”

Figures A Plague Inflicted on Israel While Eating the Quails.jpg

Moses gathered the 70 elders, and God came down in a cloud, spoke to Moses, and drew upon the spirit that was on Moses and put it upon the elders. When the spirit rested upon them, they spoke in ecstasy, but did not continue. Eldad and Medad had remained in camp, yet the spirit rested upon them, and they spoke in ecstasy in the camp. When a youth reported to Moses that Eldad and Medad were acting the prophet in the camp, Joshua called on Moses to restrain them. But Moses told Joshua: “Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord put His spirit upon them!”

A wind from God then swept quail from the sea and strewed them all around the camp, and the people gathered quail for two days. While the meat was still between their teeth, God struck the people with a plague.

Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses, saying: “He married a Cushite woman!” and “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us as well?” God heard and called Moses, Aaron, and Miriam to come to the Tent of Meeting. God came down in cloud and called out to Aaron and Miriam: “When a prophet of the Lord arises among you, I make Myself known to him in a vision, I speak with him in a dream. Not so with My servant Moses; he is trusted throughout My household. With him I speak mouth to mouth, plainly and not in riddles, and he beholds the likeness of the Lord. How then did you not shrink from speaking against My servant Moses!” As the cloud withdrew, Miriam was stricken with snow-white scales. Moses cried out to God, “O God, pray heal her!” But God said to Moses, “If her father spat in her face, would she not bear her shame for seven days? Let her be shut out of camp for seven days.” And the people waited until she rejoined the camp.

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 (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, 19 Sivan, 5779—June 22, 2019—is Shlach.


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