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What’s The Jewish Bible

What Is The Torah

What is the Torah?

The Torah is the first part of the Jewish bible. It is the central and most important document of Judaism and has been used by Jews through the ages.

Torah refers to the five books of Moses which are known in Hebrew as Chameesha Choomshey Torah. These are: Bresheit , Shemot , Vayicra , Bamidbar , and Devarim .

Jews believe that God dictated the Torah to Moses on Mount Sinai 50 days after their exodus from Egyptian slavery. They believe that the Torah shows how God wants Jews to live. It contains 613 commandments and Jews refer to the ten best known of these as the ten 10 statements.

The Torah is written in Hebrew, the oldest of Jewish languages. It is also known as Torat Moshe, the Law of Moses. The Torah is the first section or first five books of the Jewish bible. However, Tanach is more commonly used to describe the whole of Jewish scriptures. This is an acronym made up from the first letter of the words Torah, Nevi im , and Ketuvim .

Similarly, the term Torah is sometimes used in a more general sense to incorporate Judaisms written and oral law. This definition encompasses Jewish scripture in its entirety including all authoritative Jewish religious teachings throughout history.

The word Torah has various meanings in English. These include: teaching, instruction and law. For Jews the Torah means all of these.

The Torah And The Bible

The Torah, Prophets and the Writings collectively make up The Hebrew Bible . The Bible is often referred to by the Hebrew acronym TaNaKh . Numerous editions and translations of the Bible and the Chumash can be purchased online. However, you can also read the entire Bible in Hebrew and English translation free of charge on Sefaria.

How Did Judaism Begin

Judaism began about 4000 years ago with the Hebrew people in the Middle East. Abraham, a Hebrew man, is considered the father of the Jewish faith because he promoted the central idea of the Jewish faith: that there is one God. At the time many people in the Middle East worshipped many gods. It is said that Abraham and his wife Sarah, who were old and childless, were told by God that their children would be as plentiful as the stars in the sky and that they would live in a land of their own — the Promised Land. This gradually came true.

Abraham’s son, Isaac had a son, Jacob, also called Israel. In this way the descendants of Abraham came to be known as the Israelites. God promised the Israelites he would care for them as long as they obeyed God’s laws. While still traveling, the Hebrews lived in Egypt where they were enslaved. Moses, a Hebrew, was chosen by God to lead the Hebrew people out of Egypt. Moses led the Hebrew people out of the Sinai Desert toward the promised land. At Mt. Sinai, God gave Moses the Law which would guide the Israelites to today. The laws were called the Ten Commandments and form the basis of the Torah, the book of Jewish law.

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Hebrew And Christian Bibles

Objections by Jews and others to the term “Old Testament” is based on a long-standing Christian tradition that the covenant between God and the Jews was fundamentally inadequate to deal with the problem of sin. Technically referred to as supersessionism, this attitude dates back to the Epistle to the Hebrews, whose author claimed that God had established His “new covenant” with mankind through Jesus: “By calling this covenant ‘new,’ He has made the first one obsolete and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear” .

The term “New Testament,” was later adopted by the Christian church to refer to their own scriptures and distinguish them from the sacred texts of Judaism, which the church also adopted as its own. Although most Christian denominations today formally reject the idea that God’s covenant with the Jews was invalidated by Jesus’ priestly ministry, most biblical scholars are sensitive to the historical implications of the term Old Testament and tend to avoid it in academic writing, as do those involved in interfaith dialog. The Hebrew term Tanakh is also sometimes used, but is less common than “Hebrew Bible” because of its unfamiliarity to non-experts.

The Jewish version of the Hebrew Bible differs from the Christian version in its original language, organization, division, and numbering of its books.

Who Is A Jew

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According to , a Jew is anyone who was either born of a Jewish mother or who in accordance with . and the larger denominations of worldwide accept the child as Jewish if one of the parents is Jewish, if the parents raise the child with a Jewish identity, but not the smaller regional branches. All mainstream forms of Judaism today are open to sincere converts, although conversion has traditionally been discouraged since the time of the Talmud. The conversion process is evaluated by an authority, and the convert is examined on his or her sincerity and knowledge. Converts are called “ben Abraham” or “bat Abraham”, . Conversions have on occasion been overturned. In 2008, Israel’s highest religious court invalidated the conversion of 40,000 Jews, mostly from Russian immigrant families, even though they had been approved by an Orthodox rabbi.

believes that Jewish identity can only be transmitted by patrilineal descent. Although a minority of modern Karaites believe that Jewish identity requires that both parents be Jewish, and not only the father. They argue that only patrilineal descent can transmit Jewish identity on the grounds that all descent in the Torah went according to the male line.

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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. The Torah includes both the narrative of the formation of the people of Israel and the laws defining the covenant that binds the people to God.

The Prophets is itself divided into two parts. The former prophets including the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings are narratives that explain the history of Israel from the perspective of Israels fulfillment of Gods covenant. The latter prophets including Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, along with 12 minor prophets report the exhortations of these fiery leaders to return to God and Torah.

The Writings include poetry and wisdom literature , short stories , and histories .

The Relationship With God

Jews believe that there is a single God who not only created the universe, but with whom every Jew can have an individual and personal relationship.

They believe that God continues to work in the world, affecting everything that people do.

The Jewish relationship with God is a covenant relationship. In exchange for the many good deeds that God has done and continues to do for the Jewish People…

  • The Jews keep God’s laws
  • The Jews seek to bring holiness into every aspect of their lives.

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Living Torah And Nach

Perhaps the first Orthodox translation into contemporary English was The Living Torah by Aryeh Kaplan which was published in 1981 by Moznaim Publishing. After Kaplan’s death in 1983, The Living Nach was translated in the same style by various authors.The Living Torah is available online.

Kaplan’s translation is influenced by traditional rabbinic interpretation and religious law, an approach followed by many later Orthodox translators. It also reflects Kaplan’s interest in Jewish mysticism.

The Living Torah is also notable for its use of contemporary, colloquial English. For example, it reverses the usual distinction between “God” and “Lord”, noting that in modern English “God” is more appropriate for a proper name. One writer cites these examples, emphasizing Kaplan’s modern translation:

  • Shemot 20:810 Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy. You can work during the six weekdays and do all your tasks. But Saturday is the Sabbath to God your Lord.
  • Vayikra 18:7 Do not commit a sexual offense against your father or mother. If a woman is your mother, you must not commit incest with her.
  • Vayikra 19:14 Do not place a stumbling block before the blind.
  • Vayikra 19:29 Do not defile your daughter with premarital sex.

Why Doesnt The Hebrew Bible Contain The New Testament

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Jewish tradition does not hold that the New Testament is part of Scriptural canon. Judaism does not see Jesus Christ as divine or the son of God. They are still waiting for the Messiah mentioned in the Old Testament, believing Jesus not to be the person who fulfilled that messianic role.

Because of this, Jewish and Christian perspectives will differ on the purpose of the Old Testament or Tanakh.

Christians see the Old Testament as the beginning of the story, and the New Testament as the completion of it. We see a lost world in need of a Savior, and a Savior enters the world starting in the New Testament.

This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit .

Jewish readers may see the Tanakh more as a guide for a way of life, especially in the Torah , instructional living, in essence.

Although, as mentioned in this article, many are still awaiting the Messiah described and foreshadowed in the Old Testament.

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord .

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Michael Friedlnder’s Jewish Family Bible

Michael Friedländer edited a Jewish Family Bible in English and Hebrew. It was published in England in 1881. The Friedländer edition is similar in style to the King James Version but diverges primarily in places where the King James translation reflects a Christian interpretation that is at odds with the traditional Jewish understanding. While it never gained wide popularity, it influenced the editors of the first JPS edition, and is cited as the basis for a revised translation found in the Koren Hebrew-English edition.

The Jewish Family Bible is currently available in a facsimile edition from Sinai Publishers.

Distinction Between Jews As A People And Judaism

According to , the underlying distinction between religion and ethnicity is foreign to Judaism itself, and is one form of the dualism between spirit and flesh that has its origin in philosophy and that permeated . Consequently, in his view, Judaism does not fit easily into conventional Western categories, such as religion, ethnicity, or culture. Boyarin suggests that this in part reflects the fact that much of Judaism’s more than 3,000-year history predates the rise of Western culture and occurred outside the West . During this time, Jews experienced slavery, anarchic and theocratic self-government, conquest, occupation, and exile. In the Diaspora, they were in contact with, and influenced by, ancient Egyptian, Babylonian, Persian, and Hellenic cultures, as well as modern movements such as the Enlightenment and the rise of nationalism, which would bear fruit in the form of a Jewish state in their ancient homeland, the . They also saw an elite population convert to Judaism , only to disappear as the centers of power in the lands once occupied by that elite fell to the people of Rus and then the Mongols. Thus, Boyarin has argued that “Jewishness disrupts the very categories of identity, because it is not national, not genealogical, not religious, but all of these, in dialectical tension.”

In contrast to this point of view, practices such as reject the religious aspects of Judaism, while retaining certain cultural traditions.

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Who Wrote The Bible

Where did the Bible come from? Traditionally, Jews have claimed that all five books of the Torah were revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai. The prophets were the authors of their own books as well as others that are attributed to them , and Kings David and Solomon each wrote several works .

Internal contradictions as well as shifts in language and outlook have convinced many modern scholars that the Torah and later historical narratives, as well as the books of the prophets and some of the writings, had multiple authors or redactors who edited traditional materials together, leaving some of the seams between the sources. Some of the critical theories that break apart the Bible into its various sources were initially suggested by Christian theologians who used their arguments to advance claims that later Judaism was a corruption of early biblical religion. Since that time, however, many Jewish scholars have integrated the insights drawn from a critical approach a Redactor or Redactors may have edited together different sources, but contemporary Jewish scholars may understand R as standing for Rabbenu, our Rabbi and teacher.

Judaism Means Living The Faith


Almost everything a Jewish person does can become an act of worship.

Because Jews have made a bargain with God to keep his laws, keeping that bargain and doing things in the way that pleases God is an act of worship.

And Jews don’t only seek to obey the letter of the law – the particular details of each of the Jewish laws – but the spirit of it, too.

A religious Jew tries to bring holiness into everything they do, by doing it as an act that praises God, and honours everything God has done. For such a person the whole of their life becomes an act of worship.

Being part of a community that follows particular customs and rules helps keep a group of people together, and it’s noticeable that the Jewish groups that have been most successful at avoiding assimilation are those that obey the rules most strictly – sometimes called ultra-orthodox Jews.

Note: Jews don’t like and rarely use the word ultra-orthodox. A preferable adjective is haredi, and the plural noun is haredim.

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Laws Of Ritual Purity

The describes circumstances in which a person who is tahor or ritually pure may become tamei or ritually impure. Some of these circumstances are contact with human or , seminal flux, vaginal flux, , and contact with people who have become impure from any of these. In Rabbinic Judaism, , members of the hereditary that served as in the time of the Temple, are mostly restricted from entering grave sites and touching dead bodies. During the Temple period, such priests were required to eat their bread offering in a state of ritual purity, which laws eventually led to more rigid laws being enacted, such as which became a requisite of all Jews before consuming ordinary bread.

Family purity

An important subcategory of the ritual purity laws relates to the segregation of menstruating . These laws are also known as , literally “separation”, or family purity. Vital aspects of halakha for traditionally observant Jews, they are not usually followed by Jews in liberal denominations.

Traditional keep menstruating women in separate huts and, similar to , do not allow menstruating women into their because of a temple’s special sanctity. Emigration to Israel and the influence of other Jewish denominations have led to Ethiopian Jews adopting more normative Jewish practices.

Development Of The Hebrew Bible Canon

There is no scholarly consensus as to when the Hebrew Biblecanon was fixed. Some scholars argue that it was fixed by the Hasmonean dynasty , while others argue it was not fixed until the second century CE or even later.

The book of 2 Maccabees, itself not a part of the Jewish canon, describes Nehemiah as having “founded a library and collected books about the kings and prophets, and the writings of David, and letters of kings about votive offerings” . The Book of Nehemiah suggests that the priest-scribe Ezra brought the Torah back from Babylon to Jerusalem and the Second Temple around the same time period. Both 1 and 2 Maccabees suggest that Judas Maccabeus also collected sacred books .

Rabbinic Judaism recognizes the 24 books of the Masoretic Text as the authoritative version of the Tanakh or Hebrew Bible.

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What We Can Learn From Jewish Bible Scholars

Is the Bible Jewish? That question may sound ludicrous, but Jews have been asking it for a long time. The editor of the Jewish Publication Societys 1917 translation of the Bible, a professor of Bible at the Reform movements Hebrew Union College, explicitly stated that his was a non-Jewish subject. Nor have things changed much in the century that has passed since then. A recent president of the Association for Jewish Studies reported that the Jewish Studies program at a prominent university included no courses in the Bible.

In order to address that issue, we hosted a conference for Jewish Bible scholars two years ago at Florida Atlantic University. In order to ensure a productive conversation, attendance was limited to 25. We, therefore, began by compiling a list of as many potential participants as we could find in the end, we were able to identify 40 possible invitees. We then narrowed that down, while trying to ensure geographic, gender, age, denomination, and institutional diversity. The result may not have been perfectly balanced, but it was probably roughly representative of the field as a whole. It was, therefore, striking to note several features of the final group, especially the differences between younger scholars and their older colleagues:

2) A significant number of the professors, including the Orthodox, were women.

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