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The interior of the Spanish Synagogue in Prague, Czech Republic

Judaism (originally from Hebrew יהודה, Yehudah, "Judah"; via Latin and Greek) is the ethnic religion of the Jewish people, comprising the collective religious, cultural and legal tradition and civilization of the Jewish people. Judaism is considered by religious Jews to be the expression of the covenant that God established with the Children of Israel. It encompasses a wide body of texts, practices, theological positions, and forms of organization. The Torah is part of the larger text known as the Tanakh or the Hebrew Bible, and supplemental oral tradition represented by later texts such as the Midrash and the Talmud. With between 14.5 and 17.4 million adherents worldwide, Judaism is the tenth largest religion in the world.

Within Judaism there are a variety of movements, most of which emerged from Rabbinic Judaism, which holds that God revealed his laws and commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai in the form of both the Written and Oral Torah. Historically, all or part of this assertion was challenged by various groups such as the Sadducees and Hellenistic Judaism during the Second Temple period; the Karaites and Sabbateans during the early and later medieval period; and among segments of the modern non-Orthodox denominations. Modern branches of Judaism such as Humanistic Judaism may be nontheistic. Today, the largest Jewish religious movements are Orthodox Judaism (Haredi Judaism and Modern Orthodox Judaism), Conservative Judaism, and Reform Judaism. Major sources of difference between these groups are their approaches to Jewish law, the authority of the Rabbinic tradition, and the significance of the State of Israel. Orthodox Judaism maintains that the Torah and Jewish law are divine in origin, eternal and unalterable, and that they should be strictly followed. Conservative and Reform Judaism are more liberal, with Conservative Judaism generally promoting a more traditionalist interpretation of Judaism's requirements than Reform Judaism. A typical Reform position is that Jewish law should be viewed as a set of general guidelines rather than as a set of restrictions and obligations whose observance is required of all Jews. Historically, special courts enforced Jewish law; today, these courts still exist but the practice of Judaism is mostly voluntary. Authority on theological and legal matters is not vested in any one person or organization, but in the sacred texts and the rabbis and scholars who interpret them.

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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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Jewish Orphanage of Berlin-Pankow

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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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V'Zot HaBerachah (וְזֹאת הַבְּרָכָה)
Deuteronomy 33:1–34:12
The Torah reading in synagogues on Simchat Torah, Tuesday, 23 Tishrei 5780—October 22, 2019
“There is none like God, O Jeshurun, who rides upon the heaven as your help, and in His excellency on the skies.’” (Deuteronomy 33:26.)

Before he died, Moses, the man of God, bade the Israelites farewell with this blessing: God came from Sinai, shone on them from Seir, appeared from Paran, and approached from Ribeboth-kodesh, lightning flashing from God's right. God loved the people, holding them in God's hand. The people followed in God's steps, accepting God's Torah as the heritage of the congregation of Jacob. God became King in Jeshurun when the chiefs of the tribes of Israel assembled. Moses prayed that the Tribe of Reuben survive, though its numbers were few. Moses asked God to hear the voice of the Tribe of Judah, restore it, and help it against its foes. Moses prayed that God would be with the Levites, who held God's Urim and Thummim, whom God tested at Massah and Meribah, who disregarded family ties to carry out God's will, who would teach God's laws to Israel, and who would offer God's incense and offerings. Moses asked God to bless their substance, favor their undertakings, and smite their enemies. Moses said that God loved and always protected the Tribe of Benjamin, who rested securely beside God, between God's shoulders.

"Zebulun . . . and Issachar . . . shall suck the abundance of the seas and the hidden treasures of the sand." (Deuteronomy 33:18–19.)

Moses called on God to bless the Tribe of Joseph with dew, the yield of the sun, crops in season, the bounty of the hills, and the favor of the Presence in the burning bush. Moses likened the tribe to a firstling bull, with horns like a wild ox, who gores the peoples from one end of the earth to the other. Moses exhorted the Tribe of Zebulun to rejoice on its journeys, and the Tribe of Issachar in its tents. They invited their kin to the mountain where they offered sacrifices of success; they drew from the riches of the sea and the hidden hoards of the sand.

"Gad . . . dwells like a lion." (Deuteronomy 33:20.) (brick panel from the Procession Way of Babylon, now at the Louvre)

Moses blessed the God who enlarged the Tribe of Gad, who was poised like a lion, who chose the best, the portion of the revered chieftain, who executed God's judgments for Israel. Moses called the Tribe of Dan a lion's whelp that leapt from Bashan. Moses told the Tribe of Naphtali, sated with favor and blessed by God, to take possession on the west and south. Moses prayed that the Tribe of Asher be the favorite among the tribes, dip its feet in oil, and have door bolts of iron and copper and security all its days. Moses said that there was none like God, riding through the heavens to help. Moses said that God is an everlasting refuge and support, Who drove out the enemy. Thus Israel dwelt untroubled in safety in a land of grain and wine under heaven's dripping dew. Who was like Israel, a people delivered by God, God's protecting Shield and Sword triumphant over Israel's cringing enemies.

The Death of Moses (illustration from a Bible card published 1907 by the Providence Lithograph Company)
The Death of Moses (illustration from the 1890 Holman Bible)

Moses went up from the steppes of Moab to Mount Nebo, and God showed him the whole land. God told Moses that this was the land that God had sworn to assign to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. So Moses the servant of God died there, in the land of Moab, at God's command, and God buried him in the valley in the land of Moab, near Beth-peor, although no one knew his burial place. Moses was 120 years old when he died, but his eyes were undimmed and his vigor unabated. The Israelites mourned for 30 days. Joshua was filled with the spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him, and the Israelites heeded him.

Never again did there arise in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom God singled out, face to face, for the signs and portents that God sent him to display against Pharaoh and Egypt, and for all the awesome power that Moses displayed before Israel.

Hebrew and English text
Hear the parshah chanted
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 (Orthodox)
Commentaries from Aish HaTorah (Orthodox)
Commentaries from the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation (Reconstructionist)
Commentaries from My Jewish Learning (trans-denominational)


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