Portal:Judaism

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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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Georg Cantor

Georg Cantor was a German mathematician. He is best known as the creator of set theory, which has become a foundational theory in mathematics. Cantor established the importance of one-to-one correspondence between sets, defined infinite and well-ordered sets, and proved that the real numbers are "more numerous" than the natural numbers. In fact, Cantor's theorem implies the existence of an "infinity of infinities". He defined the cardinal and ordinal numbers, and their arithmetic. Cantor's work is of great philosophical interest, a fact of which he was well aware. Cantor's theory of transfinite numbers was originally regarded as so counter-intuitive—even shocking—that it encountered resistance from mathematical contemporaries such as Leopold Kronecker and Henri Poincaré and later from Hermann Weyl and L.E.J. Brouwer, while Ludwig Wittgenstein raised philosophical objections. Christian theologians (particularly Neo-Thomists) saw Cantor's work as a challenge to the uniqueness of the absolute infinity in the nature of God, on one occasion equating the theory of transfinite numbers with pantheism. Cantor's recurring bouts of depression from 1884 to the end of his life were once blamed on the hostile attitude of many of his contemporaries, but these bouts can now be seen as probable manifestations of a bipolar disorder. (Read more...)

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South facade of the Château Pastré

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Elie Wiesel at age 15

Night is a work by Elie Wiesel (pictured) about his experience with his father in the Nazi concentration camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald in 1944–1945. In just over 100 pages of a narrative described as devastating in its simplicity, Wiesel writes about the death of God and his own increasing disgust with humanity, reflected in the inversion of the father-child relationship as his father declines to a helpless state and Wiesel becomes his resentful caregiver. He was 16 years old when Buchenwald was liberated by the U.S. Army in April 1945, too late for his father who died in the camp after a beating. After some difficulty finding a publisher, Wiesel's work appeared in Yiddish in 1955 and French in 1958, and in September 1960 was published in English by Hill and Wang. Fifty years later it is regarded as one of the bedrocks of Holocaust literature. It is the first book in a trilogy—Night, Dawn, Day—marking Wiesel's transition from darkness to light, according to the Jewish tradition of beginning a new day at nightfall. "In Night," he said, "I wanted to show the end, the finality of the event. Everything came to an end—man, history, literature, religion, God. There was nothing left. And yet we begin again with night." (Read more...)

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Excavated stones from the wall of the Second Temple,
knocked onto the street below by Roman battering rams in on the 9 Av, 70 CE

Credit: Wilson44691 (talk)

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Weekly Torah Portion

Matot-Masei (מטות-מסעי‎)
Numbers 30:2–36:13
The Weekly Torah portion in synagogues on Shabbat, Saturday, 28 Tamuz, 5777—July 22, 2017
“You shall not defile the land in which you live, in which I Myself abide, for I the Lord abide among the Israelite people.’” (Numbers 35:34.)
the hills of Gilead (current day Jal'ad, Jordan)

Moses told the heads of the Israelite tribes God’s commands about vows. If a man made a vow to God, he was to carry out all that he promised. If a girl living in her father’s household made a vow to God or assumed an obligation, and her father learned of it and did not object, her vow would stand. But if her father objected on the day that he learned of it, her vow would not stand, and God would forgive her. If she married while her vow was still in force, and her husband learned of it and did not object on the day that he found out, her vow would stand. But if her husband objected on the day that he learned of it, her vow would not stand, and God would forgive her. The vow of a widow or divorced woman was binding. If a married woman made a vow and her husband learned of it and did not object, then her vow would stand. But if her husband objected on the day that he learned of it, her vow would not stand, and God would forgive her. If her husband annulled one of her vows after the day that he learned of it, he would bear her guilt.

God directed Moses to attack the Midianites, after which he would die. At Moses’ direction, a thousand men from each tribe, with Phinehas son of Eleazar serving as priest on the campaign with the sacred utensils and trumpets, attacked Midian and slew every man, including five kings of Midian and the prophet Balaam. The Israelites burned the Midianite towns, took the Midianite women and children captive, seized all their beasts and wealth as booty, and brought the captives and spoil to Moses, Eleazar, and the Israelite community at the steppes of Moab. Moses became angry with the army’s commanders for sparing the women, as they were the ones who, at Balaam’s bidding, had induced the Israelites to trespass against God in the sin of Peor. Moses then told the Israelites to kill every boy and every woman who had had sexual relations, but to spare the virgin girls.

Moses directed the troops to stay outside the camp for 7 days after that, directed everyone of them who had touched a corpse to cleanse himself on the third and seventh days, and directed them to cleanse everything made of cloth, hide, or wood. Eleazar told the troops to take any article that could withstand firegold, silver, copper, iron, tin, and lead — and pass them through fire to clean them, and to cleanse everything with water of lustration. Eleazar directed that on the seventh day they should wash their clothes and be clean, and thereafter be free to enter the camp.

God told Moses to work with Eleazar and the family heads to inventory and divide the booty equally between the combatants and the rest of the community. God told them to exact a levy for God of one item in 500 of the warriors’ captive persons and animals to be given to Eleazar, and one in every 50 of the other Israelites’ captive persons and animals to be given to the Levites. The total booty came to 675,000 sheep, 72,000 head of cattle, 61,000 asses, and 32,000 virgin women, which Moses and Eleazar divided as God had commanded.

The commanders of the troops told Moses that they had checked the warriors, and not one was missing, so they brought as an offering to God the gold that they came upon — armlets, bracelets, signet rings, earrings, and pendants — to make expiation for their persons before God. Moses and Eleazar accepted from them 16,750 shekels of gold, but the warriors in the ranks kept their booty for themselves.

The Reubenites and the Gadites, who owned much cattle, noted that the lands of Jazer and Gilead on the east side of the Jordan River suited cattle, and they approached Moses, Eleazar, and the chieftains and asked that those lands be given to them as a holding. Moses asked them if the rest of the Israelites were to go to war while they stayed on the east bank, and would that not undermine the enthusiasm of the rest of the Israelites for crossing into the Promised Land. Moses likened their position to that of the scouts who surveyed the land and then turned the minds of the Israelites against invading, thus incensing God and causing God to swear that none of the adult Israelites (except Caleb and Joshua) would see the land. They replied that they would build their sheepfolds and towns east of the Jordan and leave their children there, but then serve as shock-troops in the van of the Israelites until the land was conquered and not seek a share of the land west of the Jordan. Moses then said that if they would do this, and every shock-fighter among them crossed the Jordan, then they would be clear before God and Israel, and this land would be their holding. But Moses continued, if they did not do as they promised, they would have sinned against God.

Moses instructed Eleazar, Joshua, and the family heads of the Israelite tribes to carry out the agreement. So Moses assigned the Gadites, the Reubenites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh lands on the east side of the Jordan.

Moses recorded the various journeys of the Israelites from the land of Egypt as directed by God as follows: They journeyed from Rameses to Sukkoth to Etham to Pi-hahiroth to Marah to Elim to the Sea of Reeds to the wilderness of Sin to Dophkah to Alush to Rephidim to the wilderness of Sinai to Kibroth-hattaavah to Hazeroth to Rithmah to Rimmon-perez to Libnah to Rissah to Kehelath to Mount Shepher Haradah to Makheloth to Tahath to Terah to Mithkah to Hashmonah to Moseroth to Bene-jaakan to Hor-haggidgad to Jotbath to Abronah to Ezion-geber to Kadesh to Mount Hor. At God’s command, Aaron ascended Mount Hor and died there, at the age of 123 years. They journeyed from Mount Hor to Zalmonah to Punon to Oboth to Iye-abarim to Dibon-gad to Almon-diblathaim to the hills of Abarim to the steppes of Moab.

satellite image of the Land of Israel and its vicinity

In the steppes of Moab, God told Moses to direct the Israelites that when they crossed the Jordan into Canaan, they were to dispossess all the inhabitants of the land, destroy all their figured objects, molten images, and cult places, and take possession of and settle in the land. They were to apportion the land among themselves by lot, clan by clan, with the share varying with the size of the group. But God warned that if the Israelites did not dispossess the inhabitants of the land, those whom they allowed to remain would become stings in their eyes and thorns in their sides, and would harass the Israelites in the land, so that God would do to the Israelites what God had planned to do to the inhabitants of the land. God then told Moses to instruct the Israelites in the boundaries of the land, which included the Dead Sea, the wilderness of Zin, the Wadi of Egypt, the Mediterranean Sea, Mount Hor, the eastern slopes of the Sea of Galilee, and the River Jordan. Moses instructed the Israelites that the tribe of Reuben, the tribe of Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh had received their portions across the Jordan. God told Moses the names of the men through whom the Israelites were to apportioned the land: Eleazar, Joshua, and a chieftain named from each tribe.

God told Moses to instruct the Israelites to assign the Levites out of the other tribes’ holdings towns and pasture land for 2,000 cubits outside the town wall in each direction. The Israelites were to assign the Levites 48 towns in all, of which 6 were to be cities of refuge to which a manslayer could flee. The Israelites were to take more towns from the larger tribes and fewer from the smaller. Three of the six cities of refuge were to be designated east of the Jordan, and the other three were to be designated in the land of Canaan.

The cities of refuge were to serve as places to which a slayer who had killed a person unintentionally could flee from the avenger, so that the slayer might not die without a trial before the assembly. Anyone, however, who struck and killed another with an iron object, stone tool, or wood tool was to be considered a murderer, and was to be put to death. The blood-avenger was to put the murderer to death upon encounter. Similarly, if the killer pushed or struck the victim by hand in hate or hurled something at the victim on purpose and death resulted, the assailant was to be put to death as a murderer. But if the slayer pushed the victim without malice aforethought, hurled an object at the victim unintentionally, or inadvertently dropped on the victim any deadly object of stone, and death resulted — without the victim being an enemy of the slayer and without the slayer seeking the victim harm — then the assembly was to decide between the slayer and the blood-avenger. The assembly was to protect the slayer from the blood-avenger, and the assembly was to restore the slayer to the city of refuge to which the slayer fled, and there the slayer was to remain until the death of the high priest. But if the slayer ever left the city of refuge, and the blood-avenger came upon the slayer outside the city limits, then there would be no bloodguilt if the blood-avenger killed the slayer. The slayer was to remain inside the city of refuge until the death of the high priest, after which the slayer could return to his land. A slayer could be executed only on the evidence of more than one witness. The Israelites were not to accept a ransom for the life of a murderer guilty of a capital crime; the murderer was to be put to death. Similarly, the Israelites were not to accept ransom in lieu of flight to a city of refuge, enabling a slayer to return to live on the slayer’s land before the death of the high priest. Bloodshed polluted the land, and only the blood of the one who shed it could make expiation for the bloodshed.

Kinsmen of Zelophehad, a man of the tribe of Manasseh who had died without a son, appealed to Moses and the chieftains regarding Zelophehad’s daughters, to whom God had commanded Moses to assign land. Zelophehad’s kinsmen expressed the concern that if Zelophehad’s daughters married men from another Israelite tribe, their land would be cut off from Manasseh’s ancestral portion and be added to the portion of the husbands’ tribe. At God’s bidding, Moses instructed the Israelites that the daughters of Zelophehad could marry only men from their father’s tribe, so that no inheritance would pass from one tribe to another. And Moses announced the general rule that every daughter who inherited a share was required to marry someone from her father’s tribe, in order to preserve each tribe’s ancestral share. The daughters of Zelophehad did as God had commanded Moses, and they married cousins, men of the tribe of Manasseh.

Hebrew and English Text
Hear the parshah chanted
Commentaries from Conservative Judaism by the Jewish Theological Seminary
Commentary from Conservative Judaism by the American Jewish University
Commentary from Reform Judaism
Commentaries from Orthodox Judaism by Project Genesis
Commentaries from Orthodox Judaism by Chabad.org
Commentaries from Aish.com
Commentaries from Reconstructionist Judaism

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