The Judaism Portal

Collection of Judaica (clockwise from top):
Candlesticks for Shabbat, a cup for ritual handwashing, a Chumash and a Tanakh, a Torah pointer, a shofar, and an etrog box.

Judaism (Hebrew: יַהֲדוּת Yahăḏūṯ) is an Abrahamic, monotheistic, and ethnic religion. It comprises the collective spiritual, cultural, and legal traditions of the Jewish people, having originated as an organized religion in the Middle East during the Bronze Age. Contemporary Judaism evolved from Yahwism, the cultic religious movement of ancient Israel and Judah, around the 6th/5th century BCE, and is thus considered to be one of the oldest monotheistic religions. Religious Jews regard Judaism as their means of observing the Mosaic covenant, which was established between God and the Israelites, their ancestors. Along with Samaritanism, to which it is closely related, Judaism is one of the two oldest Abrahamic religions.

Jewish religious doctrine encompasses a wide body of texts, practices, theological positions, and forms of organization. Among Judaism's core texts is the Torah, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, a collection of ancient Hebrew scriptures. The Tanakh, known in English as the Hebrew Bible, is also referred to as the "Old Testament" in Christianity. In addition to the original written scripture, the supplemental Oral Torah is represented by later texts, such as the Midrash and the Talmud. The Hebrew-language word torah can mean "teaching", "law", or "instruction", although "Torah" can also be used as a general term that refers to any Jewish text that expands or elaborates on the original Five Books of Moses. Representing the core of the Jewish spiritual and religious tradition, the Torah is a term and a set of teachings that are explicitly self-positioned as encompassing at least seventy, and potentially infinite, facets and interpretations. Judaism's texts, traditions, and values strongly influenced later Abrahamic religions, including Christianity and Islam. Hebraism, like Hellenism, played a seminal role in the formation of Western civilization through its impact as a core background element of Early Christianity. (Full article...)

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Excavated remains of a building tentatively identified as part of the Acra

The Acra was a fortified compound in Jerusalem of the 2nd century BCE. Built by Antiochus Epiphanes, ruler of the Seleucid Empire, following his sack of the city in 168 BCE, the fortress played a significant role in the events surrounding the Maccabean Revolt and the formation of the Hasmonean Kingdom. It was destroyed by Simon Maccabeus during this struggle. The exact location of the Acra, critical to understanding Hellenistic Jerusalem, remains a matter of ongoing discussion. Historians and archaeologists have proposed various sites around Jerusalem, relying mainly on conclusions drawn from literary evidence. This approach began to change in the light of excavations which commenced in the late 1960s. New discoveries have prompted reassessments of the ancient literary sources, Jerusalem's geography and previously discovered artifacts. Yoram Tsafrir has interpreted a masonry joint in the southeastern corner of the Temple Mount platform as a clue to the Acra's possible position. During Benjamin Mazar's 1968 and 1978 excavations adjacent to the south wall of the Mount, features were uncovered which may have been connected with the Acra, including barrack-like rooms and a huge cistern. (Read more...)

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South facade of the Château Pastré

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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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