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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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David Lewis

David Lewis (1909–1981) was a Russian-born Canadian Rhodes Scholar, labour lawyer and social democratic politician. He was national secretary of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation from 1936 to 1950. As the United Steelworkers of America’s legal counsel in Canada, he played a central role in the creation of the Canadian Labour Congress in 1956 and in the New Democratic Party (NDP)'s formation in 1961. In 1962, he was elected as a Member of Parliament. He was the NDP's leader from 1971 to 1975. After his defeat in the 1974 Canadian election, he retired from politics. He spent his last years as a university professor and a newspaper travel correspondent. In retirement, he was named to the highest level of the Order of Canada for his political service. After a lengthy battle with cancer, he died in 1981. (Read more...)

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The Rhodes blood libel was an 1840 event of blood libel against Jews, in which the Greek Orthodox community accused Jews on island of Rhodes (then part of the Ottoman Empire) of the ritual murder of a Christian boy who disappeared in February of that year. Initially the libel garnered support from the consuls of several European countries, including the United Kingdom, France, the Austrian Empire, although later several supported the Jewish community. The Ottoman governor of Rhodes broke with the long tradition of the Ottoman governments (which had previously denied the factual basis of the blood libel accusations) and supported the ritual murder charge. The government arrested several Jewish subjects, some of whom were tortured and made false confessions. It blockaded the entire Jewish quarter for twelve days.

The Jewish community of Rhodes appealed for help from the Jewish community in Constantinople, who forwarded the appeal to European governments. In the United Kingdom and Austria, Jewish communities gained support from their governments. They sent official dispatches to the ambassadors in Constantinople unequivocally condemning the blood libel. A consensus developed that the charge was false. The governor of Rhodes proved unable to control the local fanatical Christians and sent the case to the central government, which initiated a formal inquiry into the affair. In July 1840, that investigation established the innocence of the Jewish community. Finally, in November of the same year, the Ottoman sultan issued a decree (firman) denouncing the blood libel as false. (Read more...)

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Weekly Torah Portion

Yom Kippur (יום כיפור)
Morning: Leviticus 16:1–34 and Numbers 29:7–11
Afternoon: Leviticus 18:1–30
The Weekly Torah portion in synagogues on Shabbat, Saturday, 10 Tishrei 5778—September 30, 2017
“For on this day atonement shall be made for you to cleanse you of all your sins.” (Leviticus 16:30.)

Leviticus 16:1–34:

The Scapegoat (painting by William Holman Hunt)

The text tells the ritual of Yom Kippur. After the death of Aaron's sons, God told Moses to tell Aaron not to come at will into the Most Holy Place, lest he die, for God appeared in the cloud there. Aaron was to enter only after bathing in water, dressing in his sacral linen tunic, breeches, sash, and turban, and bringing a bull for a sin offering, two rams for burnt offerings, and two he-goats for sin offerings. Aaron was to take the two goats to the entrance of the Tabernacle and place lots upon them, one marked for the Lord and the other for Azazel. Aaron was to offer the goat designated for the Lord as a sin offering, and to send off to the wilderness the goat designated for Azazel. Aaron was then to offer the bull of sin offering. Aaron was then to take a pan of glowing coals from the altar and two handfuls of incense and put the incense on the fire before the Most Holy Place, so that the cloud from the incense would screen the Ark of the Covenant. He was to sprinkle some of the bull’s blood and then some of the goat’s blood over and in front of the Ark, to purge the Shrine of the uncleanness and transgression of the Israelites. He was then to apply some of the bull's blood and goat’s blood to the altar, to cleanse and consecrate it.

Gorge du Verdon Goat 0254.jpg

Aaron was then to lay his hands on the head of the live goat, confess over it the Israelites' sins, putting them on the head of the goat, and then through a designated man send it off to the wilderness to carry their sins to an inaccessible region. Then Aaron was to go into the Tabernacle, take off his linen vestments, bathe in water, put on his vestments, and then offer the burnt offerings. The one who set the Azazel-goat free was to wash his clothes and bathe in water. The bull and goat of sin offering were to be taken outside the camp and burned, and he who burned them was to wash his clothes and bathe in water.

The text then commands this law for all time: On the tenth day of the seventh month, Jews and aliens who reside with them were to practice self-denial and do no work. On that day, the High Priest was to put on the linen vestments, purge the Tabernacle, and make atonement for the Israelites once a year.

Hebrew and English Text of Leviticus 16
Hear Leviticus 16 chanted

Numbers 29:7–11:

God told Moses to command the Israelites that on the tenth day of the seventh month they were to observe a sacred occasion, practice self-denial, and do no work. They were to present to God a burnt offering of a bull, a ram, and seven lambs without blemish. They were to accompany those sacrifices with meal offerings of choice flour mixed with oil. And they were to bring a goat for a sin offering, in addition to the sin offering of expiation and the regular offerings.

Hebrew and English Text of Numbers 29
Hear Numbers 29 chanted

Leviticus 18:1–30:

God prohibited any Israelite from uncovering the nakedness of his father, mother, father’s wife, sister, grandchild, half-sister, aunt, daughter-in-law, or sister-in-law. A man could not marry a woman and her daughter, a woman and her granddaughter, or a woman and her sister during the other’s lifetime. A man could not cohabit with a woman during her period or with his neighbor’s wife. Israelites were not to allow their children to be offered up to Molech. A man could not lie with a man as with a woman. God prohibited bestiality. God explained that the Canaanites defiled themselves by adopting these practices, and any who did any of these things would be cut off from their people.

Hebrew and English Text of Leviticus 18
Hear Leviticus 18 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 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)

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