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, 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.
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[update], 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...)
"The Lord! The Lord! A God compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in kindness and faithfulness, extending kindness to the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin." (Exodus 34:6–7.)
God instructed Moses that when he took a census of the Israelites, each person 20 years old or older should pay a half-shekel ransom, to avoid a plague. God told Moses to assign the proceeds to the service of the Tent of Meeting. God told Moses to place a copper laver between the Tent of Meeting and the altar, so that Aaron and the priests could wash their hands and feet in water when they entered the Tent of Meeting or approached the altar to burn a sacrifice, so that they would not die. God directed Moses to make a sacred anointing oil from choice spices. God told Moses to use it to anoint the Tent of Meeting, the furnishings of the Tabernacle, and the priests. God told Moses to warn the Israelites not to copy the sacred anointing oil's recipe for lay purposes, at pain of exile. God directed Moses make sacred incense from herbs to burn in the Tent of Meeting. As with the anointing oil, God warned against making incense from the same recipe for lay purposes. God informed Moses that God had endowed Bezalel of the Tribe of Judah with divine skill in every kind of craft. God assigned to him Oholiab of the Tribe of Dan and granted skill to all who are skillful, that they might make the furnishings of the Tabernacle, the priests’ vestments, the anointing oil, and the incense. God told Moses to admonish the Israelites nevertheless to keep the Sabbaths, on pain of death.
Then God gave Moses two stone tablets inscribed by the finger of God. Meanwhile, the people became impatient for Moses’ return, and implored Aaron to make them a god. Aaron told them to bring him their goldearrings, and he cast them in a mold and made a molten golden calf. They exclaimed, “This is your god, O Israel, who brought you out of the land of Egypt!” Aaron built an altar before the calf, and announced a festival of the Lord. The people offered sacrifices, ate, drank, and danced. God told Moses what the people had done, saying “let Me be, that My anger may blaze forth against them and that I may destroy them, and make of you a great nation.” But Moses implored God not to do so, lest the Egyptians say that God delivered the people only to kill them off in the mountains. Moses called on God to remember Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and God’s oath to make their offspring as numerous as the stars, and God renounced the planned punishment. Moses went down the mountain bearing the two tablets. Joshua told Moses, “There is a cry of war in the camp,” but Moses answered, “It is the sound of song that I hear!”
Moses with the Tablets of the Law (painting by Rembrandt)
When Moses saw the calf and the dancing, he became enraged and shattered the tablets at the foot of the mountain. He burned the calf, ground it to powder, strewed it upon the water, and made the Israelites drink it. When Moses asked Aaron how he committed such a great sin, Aaron replied that the people asked him to make a god, so he hurled their gold into the fire, “and out came this calf!” Seeing that Aaron had let the people get out of control, Moses stood in the camp gate and called, “Whoever is for the Lord, come here!” All the Levites rallied to Moses, and at his instruction killed 3,000 people, including brother, neighbor, and kin. Moses went back to God and asked for God either to forgive the Israelites or kill Moses too, but God insisted on punishing only the sinners, which God did by means of a plague. Then God dispatched Moses and the people to the Promised Land, but God decided not to go in their midst, for fear of destroying them on the way. Upon hearing this, the Israelites went into mourning. Moses asked God whom God would send with Moses to lead the people. Moses further asked God to let him know God’s ways, that Moses might know God and continue in God’s favor. And God agreed to lead the Israelites. Moses asked God not to make the Israelites move unless God were to go in the lead, and God agreed. Moses asked God to let him behold God’s Presence. God agreed to make all God’s goodness pass before Moses and to proclaim God’s name and nature, but God explained that no human could see God’s face and live. God instructed Moses to station himself on a rock, where God would cover him with God’s hand until God had passed, at which point Moses could see God’s back.
God directed Moses to carve two stone tablets like the ones that Moses shattered, so that God might inscribe upon them the words that were on the first tablets, and Moses did so. God came down in a cloud and proclaimed: “The Lord! The Lord! A God compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in kindness and faithfulness, extending kindness to the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; yet He does not remit all punishment, but visits the iniquity of parents upon children and children’s children, upon the third and fourth generations.” Moses stayed with God 40 days and 40 nights, ate no bread, drank no water, and wrote down on the tablets the terms of the covenant. As Moses came down from the mountain bearing the two tablets, the skin of his face was radiant, and the Israelites shrank from him. Moses called them near and instructed them concerning all that God had commanded. When Moses finished speaking, he put a veil over his face. Whenever Moses spoke with God, Moses would take his veil off. And when he came out, he would tell the Israelites what he had been commanded, and then Moses would then put the veil back over his face again.