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 the oldest Abrahamic religion. Judaism is monotheistic, and widely an 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. 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 Tanakh, 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...)

Selected Article

The Western Wall is located in the Old City of Jerusalem at the foot of the western side of the Temple Mount. It is a remnant of the ancient wall that surrounded the Jewish Temple's courtyard, and is perhaps the most sacred site recognized by the Jewish faith outside of the Temple Mount itself. Just over half the wall, including its 17 courses located below street level, dates from the end of the Second Temple period. Constructed around 19 BCE by Herod the Great, the works were probably not finished during his lifetime. The remaining layers were added from the 7th century onwards. The Western Wall refers not only to the exposed section facing a large plaza in the Jewish Quarter, but also to the sections concealed behind structures running along the whole length of the Temple Mount, such as the Little Western Wall–a 25 ft (8 m) section in the Muslim Quarter.

It has been a site for Jewish prayer and pilgrimage for centuries; the earliest source mentioning Jewish attachment to the site dates back to the 4th century. From the mid-19th century onwards, various Jews tried, without success, to purchase rights to the wall. In the early 20th century, the wall became a source of friction between the Jewish community and the Muslim religious leadership, and outbreaks of violence at the foot of the wall became commonplace. After the 1948 Arab–Israeli War the wall came under Jordanian control and Jews were barred from the site for 19 years until Israel recaptured the Old City Six-Day War in 1967. (Read more...)

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Garden of the Righteous at Yad Vashem

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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...)

Picture of the Week



Silver items meant for decorating Torah scrolls.
They were in the Opatów Synagogue
until the Nazi occupation of Poland,
when they were lost (presumably stolen).

Credit: "Catalogue of stolen and missing cultural achievements"
Ośrodek Informacyjno-Koordynacyjny Ochrony Obiektów Muzealnych

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