Jewish Religious Texts - All Hebrew Textbooks Described and Explained

Jewish religious texts number in the tens of thousands of books. The Hebrew Bible, or as known to Orthodox Jews the Tenach is the main text in Judaism. The Orthodox Jewish Bible, the Old Testament is a text that Orthodox Jews believe was received from Hashem (God) through his prophet Moses.

The Tenach (written by some tanach, tanakh) is the only part of Jewish texts which was originally intended to be written. All other Jewish religious texts, including the Mishnah and Talmud, were originally slated to be studied orally. See later on how this changed. The Hebrew Bible, the Tenach is divided in three divisions, and the word Tenach (tanach, tanakh) is an acronym for:

  • Torah
  • Nevi'im
  • Ketuvim
  • Torah - is divided in five books as follows: Genesis (in Hebrew - Bereshit,) Exodus (in Hebrew - Shmot), Leviticus (in Hebrew - Vayikra), Numbers (in Hebrew - Bamidbar), and Deuteronomy (in Hebrew - Dvarim), in reference to their themes (in Hebrew according to the wording of their initial verses).

    Orthdox Jews study the Hebrew Bible, (also called Chumash, which means in Hebrew means five - for the five books) on a weekly basis.

    The Chumash is divided on weekly portion. This portion is read by Orthodox Jews in synagogue on Sabbath (Saturday) direct from a Torah Scroll. Besides the Torah reading, Orthodox Jews will study the weekly Torah portion a whole week.

    There are many great commentaries on the Hebrew Bible, as part of the great library of Jewish religious texts. The greatest commentary on the Chumash, is Rashi. Rashi is an acronym of Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaki, the medieval French Rabbi who authored the great commentary. Rashi is considered to be the "father" of all commentaries. The leading Jewish religious texts including the Torah, Tenach (tanach, tanakh), and the Talmud are headed by Rashi's commentary.

    Orthodox Jews will study the Hebrew bible, the Torah with Rashi on a weekly basis. Almost every Chumash in print will have Rashis commentaries on the page. All young kids from approximately age seven learn in Cheder, Yeshiva and School Chumash with Rashi.

    Nevi'im - Prophets (N'bhi'im‎). Nevi'im starts after the death of Moses, from the start of the leadership of Yehoshusa, disciple of Moses, who escorted the Jewich people to the holy land of Israel. Nevi'im is usually divided in two parts:

  • Nevi'im Rishonim - Former Prophets which contains the books of Joshua through Kings, mostly in a narrative nature. It includes the following books:
    1. Joshua (Yehoshua)
    2. Judges (Shofetim)
    3. 1 Samuel (Shmuel Aleph
    4. 2 Samuel (Shmuel Bet)
    5. 1 Kings (Melachim Aleph)
    6. 2 Kings (Melachim Bet)

  • Nevi'im Aharonim - Latter Prophets, which contain the books from Isaiha through Malachi. Most of the contents are in biblical poetry style.
    1. Isaiah (Yeshayah)
    2. Jeremiah (Yerimyah)
    3. Ezekiel (Yechezkel)
    4. Trei Asar (Twelve) - This book contains the small books of twelve prophets: 1) Hosea (Hoshaya), 2) Joel (Yoel), 3) Amos (Amos), 4)Obadiah (Ovadyah), 5) Jonah (Yonah), 6) Mihah (Michah), 7) Nahum (Nachum), 8) Habakkuk (Chavakkuk), 9) Zephaniah (Tzephanyah), 10) Haggai (Chaggai), 11) Zehariah (Zecharyah), 12) Malaahi (Malachi)

    Ketuvim - Writings (Kesivim) The third part of the Tenach (written by some tanach, tanakh) Hebrew Bible. Ketuvim consists of the following:

  • Group I: The Three Poetic Books
    1. Psalms (Tehillim)
    2. Proverbs (Mishlei)
    3. Job (`Iyyov)

  • Group II: The Five Scrolls (Hamesh Megillot)
    1. Shir ha-Shirim (Song of Songs)
    2. Ruth (Ruth)
    3. Eikhah (Lamentations)
    4. Kohelet (Ecclesiastes)
    5. Esther (Esther)

  • Group III: Other Historical Books
    1. Daniel (Daniel)
    2. Ezra (Ezra-Nehemiah)
    3. Divrei ha-Yamim (Chronicles)

    Mishnah & Talmud

    As explained in the page on Orthodox Jews Belief , Orthodox Jews believe that the Hebrew Bible is not complete without the Talmud. Hashem (God) verbally explained to Moses all the laws of the Jews, and accordingly that's how the Jewish Bible should be explained. The Mishnah and Talmud are the front runners of Jewish Religious Texts by Orthodox Jews. Kids start studying Mishnah approximately at age Seven, and Talmud at age Nine.

    The Mishnah is divided in Sixty Tractates, each of them covering a different area in Orthodox Jewish Law. It is mostly simple laws, without explanation or sources, although full of arguments.

    Talmud is a deep explanation of the Mishnah. While Mishnah states mainly simple Halachos (Jewish Law), the Talmud will explain it in depth, adding understanding with the sources of the Hebrew Bible.

    More Jewish Religious Texts

    After the Mishnah and Talmud came many commentary. Each generation of Orthodox Judaism added it's explanation and deeper explanation in Jewish law and Philosophy. All works of great Jewish scholars will explain either the Jewish Bible, Mishnah, Talmud or its commentaries. It is rare to find an Orthodox Jewish book not based on the above.

    Wanna know more on Orthodox Jews Culture of studying hebrew texts? Read here.

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