Torah (Hebrew Bible)
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Or one might read the Bible in light of the ongoing search for a life of sanctification and redemption, as the Rabbis did. How does the Bible relate to Jewish theology or religious practice? By turning our study of the Bible through the many and varied approaches adopted by Jews and non-Jews throughout the generations, we gain a valuable perspective on the Bible itself. The third section of the Tanakh, or Hebrew Bible, includes poetry, philosophy, history and stories.
The Contents of the Bible The Torah , or Five Books of Moses, retells the story of how the family of Abraham and Sarah became the people of Israel, and how they came back from exile in Egypt, under the leadership of Moses , to the border of the land of Israel, on the way stopping at Mount Sinai for the revelation of what are known as the Ten Commandments.
Commentaries Through the tradition of ongoing commentary, the laws, narratives, prophecies, and proverbs of the Bible find contemporary and eternal meaning. Who Wrote the Bible? At Mechon Hadar, an educational institution in New York City working to empower Jews to create and sustain vibrant, practicing, egalitarian communities of Torah learning, prayer and service. Join Our Newsletter Empower your Jewish discovery, daily. It ends with the death of Moses , just before the people of Israel cross to the promised land of Canaan.
Interspersed in the narrative are the specific teachings religious obligations and civil laws given explicitly i. Ten Commandments or implicitly embedded in the narrative as in Exodus 12 and 13 laws of the celebration of Passover. In Hebrew, the five books of the Torah are identified by the incipits in each book;  and the common English names for the books are derived from the Greek Septuagint and reflect the essential theme of each book:.
The Book of Genesis is the first book of the Torah. Jacob's name is changed to Israel, and through the agency of his son Joseph , the children of Israel descend into Egypt, 70 people in all with their households, and God promises them a future of greatness. Genesis ends with Israel in Egypt, ready for the coming of Moses and the Exodus. The narrative is punctuated by a series of covenants with God , successively narrowing in scope from all mankind the covenant with Noah to a special relationship with one people alone Abraham and his descendants through Isaac and Jacob.
The Book of Exodus is the second book of the Torah, immediately following Genesis.
The Contents of the Bible
The book tells how the Israelites leave slavery in Egypt through the strength of Yahweh , the god who has chosen Israel as his people. Yahweh inflicts horrific harm on their captors via the legendary Plagues of Egypt. With the prophet Moses as their leader, they journey through the wilderness to biblical Mount Sinai , where Yahweh promises them the land of Canaan the " Promised Land " in return for their faithfulness.
Israel enters into a covenant with Yahweh who gives them their laws and instructions to build the Tabernacle , the means by which he will come from heaven and dwell with them and lead them in a holy war to possess the land, and then give them peace. Traditionally ascribed to Moses himself, modern scholarship sees the book as initially a product of the Babylonian exile 6th century BCE , from earlier written and oral traditions, with final revisions in the Persian post-exilic period 5th century BCE.
The Book of Leviticus begins with instructions to the Israelites on how to use the Tabernacle, which they had just built Leviticus 1— This is followed by rules of clean and unclean Leviticus 11—15 , which includes the laws of slaughter and animals permissible to eat see also: Kashrut , the Day of Atonement Leviticus 16 , and various moral and ritual laws sometimes called the Holiness Code Leviticus 17— Leviticus 26 provides a detailed list of rewards for following God's commandments and a detailed list of punishments for not following them.
Leviticus 17 establishes sacrifices at the Tabernacle as an everlasting ordinance, but this ordinance is altered in later books with the Temple being the only place in which sacrifices are allowed. The Book of Numbers is the fourth book of the Torah. Numbers begins at Mount Sinai , where the Israelites have received their laws and covenant from God and God has taken up residence among them in the sanctuary. The people are counted and preparations are made for resuming their march.
The Israelites begin the journey, but they "murmur" at the hardships along the way, and about the authority of Moses and Aaron. For these acts, God destroys approximately 15, of them through various means. They arrive at the borders of Canaan and send spies into the land. Upon hearing the spies' fearful report concerning the conditions in Canaan, the Israelites refuse to take possession of it. God condemns them to death in the wilderness until a new generation can grow up and carry out the task. The book ends with the new generation of Israelites in the Plain of Moab ready for the crossing of the Jordan River.
Numbers is the culmination of the story of Israel's exodus from oppression in Egypt and their journey to take possession of the land God promised their fathers. As such it draws to a conclusion the themes introduced in Genesis and played out in Exodus and Leviticus: God has promised the Israelites that they shall become a great i.
Numbers also demonstrates the importance of holiness, faithfulness and trust: despite God's presence and his priests , Israel lacks faith and the possession of the land is left to a new generation. The Book of Deuteronomy is the fifth book of the Torah. Chapters 1—30 of the book consist of three sermons or speeches delivered to the Israelites by Moses on the plains of Moab , shortly before they enter the Promised Land. The first sermon recounts the forty years of wilderness wanderings which had led to that moment, and ends with an exhortation to observe the law or teachings , later referred to as the Law of Moses ; the second reminds the Israelites of the need to follow Yahweh and the laws or teachings he has given them, on which their possession of the land depends; and the third offers the comfort that even should Israel prove unfaithful and so lose the land, with repentance all can be restored.
Presented as the words of Moses delivered before the conquest of Canaan, a broad consensus of modern scholars see its origin in traditions from Israel the northern kingdom brought south to the Kingdom of Judah in the wake of the Assyrian conquest of Aram 8th century BCE and then adapted to a program of nationalist reform in the time of Josiah late 7th century BCE , with the final form of the modern book emerging in the milieu of the return from the Babylonian captivity during the late 6th century BCE.
The Talmud holds that the Torah was written by Moses, with the exception of the last eight verses of Deuteronomy, describing his death and burial, being written by Joshua. The modern scholarly consensus is that the Torah has multiple authors and that its composition took place over centuries. The consensus of scholarship is that the stories are taken from four different written sources and that these were brought together over the course of time to form the first five books of the Bible as a composite work.
Thus, the Pentateuch or Torah, as it is known by Jews comprises material taken from six centuries of human history, which has been put together to give a comprehensive picture of the creation of the world and of God's dealings with his peoples, specifically with the people of Israel.
Professor John Riches of the University of Glasgow. The Orthodox rabbinic tradition holds that the Written Torah was recorded during the following forty years,  though many non-Orthodox Jewish scholars affirm the modern scholarly consensus that the Written Torah has multiple authors and was written over centuries.
Fixing God's Torah: The Accuracy of the Hebrew Bible Text in Jewish Law
The Talmud Gittin 60a presents two opinions as to how exactly the Torah was written down by Moses. One opinion holds that it was written by Moses gradually as it was dictated to him, and finished it close to his death, and the other opinion holds that Moses wrote the complete Torah in one writing close to his death, based on what was dictated to him over the years.
The Talmud Menachot 30a says that the last eight verses of the Torah that discuss the death and burial of Moses could not have been written by Moses, as writing it would have been a lie, and that they were written after his death by Joshua.
Abraham ibn Ezra  and Joseph Bonfils observed [ citation needed ] that phrases in those verses present information that people should only have known after the time of Moses. Ibn Ezra hinted,  and Bonfils explicitly stated, that Joshua wrote these verses many years after the death of Moses. Other commentators  do not accept this position and maintain that although Moses did not write those eight verses it was nonetheless dictated to him and that Joshua wrote it based on instructions left by Moses, and that the Torah often describes future events, some of which have yet to occur.
All classical rabbinic views hold that the Torah was entirely Mosaic and of divine origin. According to Legends of the Jews , God gave Torah to the children of Israel after he approached every tribe and nation in the world, and offered them the Torah, but the latter refused it so they might have no excuse to be ignorant about it. The term often refers to the entire ceremony of removing the Torah scroll or scrolls from the ark , chanting the appropriate excerpt with traditional cantillation , and returning the scroll s to the ark. It is distinct from academic Torah study. Regular public reading of the Torah was introduced by Ezra the Scribe after the return of the Jewish people from the Babylonian captivity c.
In the 19th and 20th centuries CE, new movements such as Reform Judaism and Conservative Judaism have made adaptations to the practice of Torah reading, but the basic pattern of Torah reading has usually remained the same:. As a part of the morning prayer services on certain days of the week, fast days, and holidays, as well as part of the afternoon prayer services of Shabbat, Yom Kippur, and fast days, a section of the Pentateuch is read from a Torah scroll. On Shabbat Saturday mornings, a weekly section " parashah " is read, selected so that the entire Pentateuch is read consecutively each year.
The division of parashot found in the modern-day Torah scrolls of all Jewish communities Ashkenazic, Sephardic, and Yemenite is based upon the systematic list provided by Maimonides in Mishneh Torah , Laws of Tefillin, Mezuzah and Torah Scrolls , chapter 8. Maimonides based his division of the parashot for the Torah on the Aleppo Codex. Conservative and Reform synagogues may read parashot on a triennial rather than annual schedule,    On Saturday afternoons, Mondays, and Thursdays, the beginning of the following Saturday's portion is read.
TaNaK / Old Testament
On Jewish holidays , the beginnings of each month, and fast days , special sections connected to the day are read. Jews observe an annual holiday, Simchat Torah , to celebrate the completion and new start of the year's cycle of readings. Torah scrolls are often dressed with a sash, a special Torah cover, various ornaments and a Keter crown , although such customs vary among synagogues. Congregants traditionally stand in respect when the Torah is brought out of the ark to be read, while it is being carried, and lifted, and likewise while it is returned to the ark, although they may sit during the reading itself.
The Torah contains narratives, statements of law, and statements of ethics. Rabbinic tradition holds that Moses learned the whole Torah while he lived on Mount Sinai for 40 days and nights and both the Oral and the written Torah were transmitted in parallel with each other. Where the Torah leaves words and concepts undefined, and mentions procedures without explanation or instructions, the reader is required to seek out the missing details from supplemental sources known as the Oral Law or Oral Torah.
According to classical rabbinic texts this parallel set of material was originally transmitted to Moses at Sinai, and then from Moses to Israel. At that time it was forbidden to write and publish the oral law, as any writing would be incomplete and subject to misinterpretation and abuse. However, after exile, dispersion, and persecution, this tradition was lifted when it became apparent that in writing was the only way to ensure that the Oral Law could be preserved.
Other oral traditions from the same time period not entered into the Mishnah were recorded as Baraitot external teaching , and the Tosefta. Other traditions were written down as Midrashim. After continued persecution more of the Oral Law was committed to writing. A great many more lessons, lectures and traditions only alluded to in the few hundred pages of Mishnah, became the thousands of pages now called the Gemara.
Gemara is written in Aramaic, having been compiled in Babylon. The Mishnah and Gemara together are called the Talmud. The rabbis in the Land of Israel also collected their traditions and compiled them into the Jerusalem Talmud. Since the greater number of rabbis lived in Babylon, the Babylonian Talmud has precedence should the two be in conflict. Orthodox and Conservative branches of Judaism accept these texts as the basis for all subsequent halakha and codes of Jewish law, which are held to be normative.
Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism deny that these texts, or the Torah itself for that matter, may be used for determining normative law laws accepted as binding but accept them as the authentic and only Jewish version for understanding the Torah and its development throughout history. Humanistic Judaism is willing to question the Torah and to disagree with it, believing that the entire Jewish experience, not just the Torah, should be the source for Jewish behavior and ethics.
Kabbalists hold that not only do the words of Torah give a divine message, but they also indicate a far greater message that extends beyond them. Exodus In a similar vein, Rabbi Akiva c. In other words, the Orthodox belief is that even apparently contextual text such as "And God spoke unto Moses saying Manuscript Torah scrolls are still scribed and used for ritual purposes i.
They are written using a painstakingly careful method by highly qualified scribes. This has resulted in, according to B. Barry Levy, "The popular assumption that no changes were ever introduced into copies of the Bible during rabbinic times. The fidelity of the Hebrew text of the Tanakh, and the Torah in particular, is considered paramount, down to the last letter: translations or transcriptions are frowned upon for formal service use, and transcribing is done with painstaking care.
An error of a single letter, ornamentation, or symbol of the , stylized letters that make up the Hebrew Torah text renders a Torah scroll unfit for use, hence a special skill is required and a scroll takes considerable time to write and check. According to Jewish law, a sefer Torah plural: Sifrei Torah is a copy of the formal Hebrew text handwritten on gevil or klaf forms of parchment by using a quill or other permitted writing utensil dipped in ink.
Written entirely in Hebrew , a sefer Torah contains , letters, all of which must be duplicated precisely by a trained sofer "scribe" , an effort that may take as long as approximately one and a half years. Most modern Sifrei Torah are written with forty-two lines of text per column Yemenite Jews use fifty , and very strict rules about the position and appearance of the Hebrew letters are observed. The later practice, when applied to the Torah, is considered heresy by the Orthodox Jewish community.
As such, much modern day Bible commentary written by non-Orthodox authors is considered forbidden by rabbis teaching in Orthodox yeshivas. Some classical rabbinic commentators, such as Abraham Ibn Ezra, Gersonides, and Maimonides, used many elements of contemporary biblical criticism, including their knowledge of history, science, and philology.
Their use of historical and scientific analysis of the Bible was considered acceptable by historic Judaism due to the author's faith commitment to the idea that God revealed the Torah to Moses on Mount Sinai. The Modern Orthodox Jewish community allows for a wider array of biblical criticism to be used for biblical books outside of the Torah, and a few Orthodox commentaries now incorporate many of the techniques previously found in the academic world, e.
Non-Orthodox Jews, including those affiliated with Conservative Judaism and Reform Judaism, accept both traditional and secular approaches to Bible studies. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Canonical collection of Hebrew scripture. For other uses, see Tanakh disambiguation. This article is about the Jewish text. Genesis Exodus Leviticus Numbers Deuteronomy. Tanakh Torah Nevi'im Ketuvim. Important figures. Religious roles. Culture and education. Ritual objects. Major holidays. Other religions. Related topics. Canons and books. Christian biblical canons. Deuterocanon Antilegomena.
Authorship and development. Authorship Dating Hebrew canon.
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