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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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Baith Israel sanctuary

Congregation Baith Israel Anshei Emes is an egalitarian Conservative synagogue located at 236 Kane Street in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, New York City. It is currently the oldest continuously operating synagogue in Brooklyn. Founded as Baith Israel in 1856, the congregation constructed the first synagogue on Long Island, and hired Rabbi Aaron Wise for his first rabbinical position in the United States. Early tensions between traditionalists and reformers led to the latter forming Congregation Beth Elohim, a Reform synagogue, in 1861. The synagogue nearly failed in the early 1900s, but the 1905 hiring of Israel Goldfarb as rabbi, the purchase of its current buildings, and the 1908 merger with Talmud Torah Anshei Emes, re-invigorated the congregation. The famous composer Aaron Copland celebrated his bar mitzvah there in 1913, and long-time Goldman Sachs head Sidney Weinberg was married there in 1920. Membership peaked in the 1920s, but with the onset of the Great Depression declined steadily, and by the 1970s the congregation could no longer afford to heat the sanctuary. Membership has recovered since that low point; the congregation renovated its school/community center in 2004, and in 2008 embarked on a million-dollar capital campaign to renovate the sanctuary. (Read more...)

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Stanton Street Synagogue

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Temple Israel Memphis Everyday Entrance

Temple Israel is a Reform Jewish congregation in Memphis, Tennessee. It is the only Reform synagogue in Memphis, the oldest and largest Jewish congregation in Tennessee, and one of the largest Reform congregations in the United States. It was founded in 1853 by mostly German Jews as Congregation B'nai Israel. Led initially by cantors, in 1858 it hired its first rabbi, Jacob Peres, and leased its first building, which it renovated and eventually purchased. The synagogue was one of the founding members of the Union for Reform Judaism. It experienced difficulty during the Great Depression—membership dropped, the congregational school was closed, and staff had their salaries reduced—but conditions had improved by the late 1930s. In 1943 the synagogue changed its name to Temple Israel, and by the late 1940s membership had almost doubled from its low point in the 1930s. Rabbi Jimmy Wax became known for his activism during the Civil Rights era. In 1976 the congregation constructed its current building, closer to where most members lived. Wax retired in 1978, and was succeeded by Harry Danziger, who brought traditional practices back to the congregation. He retired in 2000, and was succeeded by Micah Greenstein. As of 2010, Temple Israel has almost 1,600 member families. Greenstein is the senior rabbi, and the cantor is John Kaplan. (Read more...)

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Cheese blintzes, traditionally consumed on Shavuot

Credit: Andrevan (talk)

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Weekly Torah Portion

Naso (נשא)
Numbers 4:21–7:89
The Weekly Torah portion in synagogues on Shabbat, Saturday, 12 Sivan, 5778—May 26, 2018
“The Lord bless you and protect you! The Lord deal kindly and graciously with you! The Lord bestow His favor upon you and grant you peace!" (Numbers 6:22–27.)

God told Moses to take a census of the Gershonites between 30 and 50 years old, who were subject to service for the Tabernacle. The Gershonites had the duty, under the direction of Aaron’s son Ithamar, to carry the cloths of the Tabernacle, the Tent of Meeting with its covering, the covering of tachash skin on top of it, the screen for the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, the hangings of the enclosure, the screen at the entrance of the gate of the enclosure surrounding the Tabernacle, the cords thereof, the altar, and all their service equipment and accessories. Moses was also to take a census of the Merarites between 30 and 50 years old. The Merarites had responsibility, under the direction of Ithamar, for the planks, the bars, the posts, and the sockets of the Tabernacle, and the posts around the enclosure and their sockets, pegs, and cords. Moses, Aaron, and the chieftains thus recorded the Levites age 30 to 50 as follows: Kohathites: 2,750; Gershonites: 2,630; and Merarites: 3,200; for a total of 8,580.

God directed the Israelites to remove from camp anyone with an eruption or a discharge and anyone defiled by a corpse, so that they would not defile the camp. God told Moses to direct the Israelites that when one wronged a fellow Israelite, thus breaking faith with God, and realized his guilt, he was to confess the wrong and make restitution to the one wronged in the principal amount plus one-fifth. If the one wronged had no kinsman to whom restitution could be made, the amount repaid was to go to the priest, along with a ram of expiation. Similarly, any gift among the sacred donations that the Israelites offered was to be the priest's to keep.

God told Moses to instruct the Israelites about the test where a husband, in a fit of jealousy, accused his wife of being unfaithful — the ritual of the sotah. The man was to bring his wife to the priest, along with barley flour as a meal offering of jealousy. The priest was to dissolve some earth from the floor of the Tabernacle into some sacral water in an earthen vessel. The priest was to bare the woman’s head, place the meal offering on her hands, and adjure the woman: if innocent, to be immune to harm from the water of bitterness, but if guilty, to be cursed to have her thigh sag and belly distend. And the woman was to say, “Amen, amen!” The priest was to write these curses down, rub the writing off into the water of bitterness, and make the woman drink the water. The priest was to elevate the meal offering, present it on the altar, and burn a token part of it on the altar. If she had broken faith with her husband, the water would cause her belly to distend and her thigh to sag, and the woman was to become a curse among her people, but if the woman was innocent, she would remain unharmed and be able to bare children.

grapes, forbidden to the nazirite

God told Moses to instruct the Israelites about the vows of a nazirite, should one wish to set himself or herself apart for God. The nazirite was to abstain from wine, intoxicants, vinegar, grapes, raisins, or anything obtained from the grapevine. No razor was to touch the nazirite’s head until the completion of the nazirite term. And the nazirite was not to go near a dead person, even a father, mother, brother, or sister. If a person died suddenly near a nazirite, the nazirite was to shave his or her head on the seventh day. On the eighth day, the nazirite was to bring two turtledoves or two pigeons to the priest, who was to offer one as a sin offering and the other as a burnt offering. That same day, the nazirite was to reconsecrate his or her head, rededicate the Nazirite term, and bring a lamb in its first year as a penalty offering. On the day that a nazirite completed his or her term, the nazirite was to be brought to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting and present a male lamb in its first year for a burnt offering, a ewe lamb in its first year for a sin offering, a ram for an offering of well-being, a basket of unleavened cakes, unleavened wafers spread with oil, and meal offerings. The priest was to present the offerings, and the nazirite was to shave his or her consecrated hair and put the hair on the fire under the sacrifice of well-being.

the positioning of the fingers of the Kohanim during the Priestly Blessing

God told Moses to instruct Aaron and his sons that they should bless the Israelites with this blessing: “The Lord bless you and protect you! The Lord deal kindly and graciously with you! The Lord bestow His favor upon you and grant you peace!”

Moses finished setting up the Tabernacle, and anointed and consecrated it, its furnishings, the altar, and its utensils. The chieftains of the tribes then brought their offerings — 6 draught carts and 12 oxen — and God told Moses to accept them for use by the Levites in the service of the Tent of Meeting. The chieftains then each on successive days brought the same dedication offerings for the altar: a silver bowl and silver basin filled with flour mixed with oil, a gold ladle filled with incense, a bull, 2 oxen, 6 rams, 6 goats, and 6 lambs. When Moses went into the Tent of Meeting to speak with God, Moses would hear the Voice addressing him from above the cover that was on top of the ark between the two cherubim, and thus God spoke to him.

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 (Orthodox)
Commentaries from Aish HaTorah (Orthodox)
Commentaries from the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation (Reconstructionist)
Commentaries from My Jewish Learning (trans-denominational)


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