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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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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

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 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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