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Judaism (Hebrew: יַהֲדוּת Yahăḏūṯ) is an Abrahamic, monotheistic, and ethnic religion comprising the collective religious, cultural, and legal tradition and civilization of the Jewish people. It has its roots as an organized religion in the Middle East during the Bronze Age. Modern Judaism evolved from Yahwism, the religion of ancient Israel and Judah, by the late 6th century BCE, and is thus considered to be one of the oldest monotheistic religions. Judaism is considered by religious Jews to be the expression of the covenant that God established with the Israelites, their ancestors. It encompasses a wide body of texts, practices, theological positions, and forms of organization.
The Torah, as it is commonly understood by Jews, is part of the larger text known as the Tanakh. The Tanakh is also known to secular scholars of religion as the Hebrew Bible, and to Christians as the "Old Testament". The Torah's supplemental oral tradition is represented by later texts such as the Midrash and the Talmud. The Hebrew 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...)
Joseph's Tomb is a funerary monument located at the eastern entrance to the valley that separates Mounts Gerizim and Ebal, on the outskirts of the West Bank city of Nablus, near the site of Shechem. Biblical tradition identifies the general area of Shechem as the resting-place of Joseph and his two sons Ephraim and Manasseh. Joseph's tomb has been venerated throughout the ages by Jews, Christians and Muslims. Post-biblical records about the Tomb's location at this site date from the 4th century. The present structure, a small rectangular room with a cenotaph, dates from 1868. Modern scholarship has yet to determine if the cenotaph is the ancient biblical gravesite. No sources prior to the 5th century mention the tomb, and the structure originally erected over it appears to have been built by the Samaritans.
Joseph's Tomb has witnessed intense sectarian conflict. Samaritans and Christians disputing access and title to the site in the early Byzantine period often clashed violently. After Israel captured the West Bank in 1967, conflict from competing Jewish and Muslim claims over the tomb became frequent. Though under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian National Authority after the signing of the Oslo Accords, it remained under IDF guard with Muslims prohibited. At the beginning of the Al-Aqsa Intifada in 2000, just after being handed over to the PNA, it was looted and razed by a Palestinian mob. Following Israel's reoccupation of Nablus in the 2002 Operation Defensive Shield, Jewish groups returned there intermittently. Recently the structure has been refurbished, with a new cupola installed, and visits by Jewish worshipers have resumed. (Read more...)
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Black Hebrew Israelites (also Black Hebrews, African Hebrew Israelites, and Hebrew Israelites) are groups of people of African ancestry situated mainly in the United States who believe they are descendants of the ancient Israelites. Black Hebrews adhere in varying degrees to the religious beliefs and practices of mainstream Judaism. They are generally not accepted as Jews by the greater Jewish community, and many Black Hebrews consider themselves—and not mainstream Jews—to be the only authentic descendants of the ancient Israelites. Many choose to self-identify as Hebrew Israelites or Black Hebrews rather than as Jews. Dozens of Black Hebrew groups were founded during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In the mid-1980s, the number of Black Hebrews in the United States was between 25,000 and 40,000. In the 1990s, the Alliance of Black Jews estimated that there were 200,000 African-American Jews; this estimate was based on a 1990 survey conducted by the Council of Jewish Federations. The exact number of Black Hebrews within that surveyed group remains unspecified. (Read more...)
Picture of the Week
Ben Retik lights the Menorah as President Barack Obama,
Vice President Joe Biden and First Lady Michelle Obama
take part in the Hanukkah Candle Lighting at the White House
Credit: official White House photo by Chuck Kennedy
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