There are a lot of important pieces of Jewish literature and religious texts letting Jews to know and understand more and more about their religion and the meaning of being Jew. These writings are considered the most significant works for Judaism and their teachings and lessons have ruled this religion from its birth. The study of all this literature has been present for multiple generations and through history, new texts have been created, serving as the source of God’s directives for Jews.
The study of religious text must be a duty for all Jews because it is the way to understand and comprehend in a better way what the religion dictates. The learning through these writings must be periodical and there are a lot of methods to do it, like the Daf Yomi program which seeks that every Jew study one page of the Talmud – a religious Jewish text – each day, or the Mishneh Torah, which promotes the daily study of the Torah, or the Shnayim mikra ve-echad targum, a weekly training for the Torah. There are other important education methodologies for study these and other religious texts.
This article will be focused in the Torah, the principal Jewish writings.
Also known as the Pentateuch, it is the main reference for all Jews. The traditions and lessons found in the Torah could be written or spoken and they were transmitted by Moses – a prophet for Judaism – after God gave them to him. The Torah is formed by five books and it dictates the principal teachings for Jews, showing for those who read it a path to follow.
The five books included in the Torah talk about the creation of the world, the origins of the people of Israel, Moses and the God’s laws for the people of Israel. These manuscripts are:
This Hebrew word means “origin”. This book tells about the origin of the world and humans as the descendants from Adam. In other words, the Bereshit writings narrate the creation of humans and the world around them created by God. Besides, this text divulges the history of the three first Jewish patriarchs – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – which were significant figures for God’s revelations.
The Bereshit book also narrates talks about Joseph, who is considered one of the most significant figures in Judaism for being who take the people of Israel to Egypt. This manuscript also talks about the four matriarchs – Sarah, Rebekah, Leah and Rachel – and their influence in Israel.
Shemot means “exodus” and is the book where the prophet Moses acquires the God’s revelations, passing them to the people of Israel. It also talks about how he led them from Egypt to Mount Sinai, where they received and accepted God’s laws. This book also refers to the Tabernacle construction, which could be understood as a portable temple built for the people of Israel under God’s instruction given through Moses.
This book means “relating to the Levites” and lets Israeli people know how to use the Tabernacle and its purpose. Moreover, this manuscript tells about purity and impurity ritual and other ceremonies. The Vaykira book also talks about the 26 rewards and punishments dictated by God.
The meaning of Bamidbar is “numbering of the Israelites”. This book talks about how the people of Israel were commended for walking for 40 years in the dessert instead the Promised Land due to their questioning of God’s laws.
This book could be understood as “the second law”. In this text, Moses dies after giving to the people of Israel the new laws for not questioning God. Before Moses death, he saw the Promised Land and names Joshua as his successor for returning the people of Israel to Canaan.
This Hebrew word means commandment and refers to the 620 directives included in the Torah. The Mitzvah is divided into positive and negative instructions and it is composed for 613 directions established at Mount Sinai and the seven rabbinic mandates. In resume, the Mitzvah are all those commandment and teachings given by God to the people of Israel.
The concept of the Mitzvah also could be understood as the commitment and duty of every Jewish with the God’s laws included in the Torah. Put differently, it is the way how Jews adopt in their lives all those 613 teachings, lessons and directives given by God which are expressed in the Torah.
The study of the religious texts, specifically the Torah, gives to Jewish people the perfect basis for understanding their religion and what God instructed. The learnings from this sacred manuscript determine not only the foundation of Judaism but also lets Jews to prove and show their commitment with their religion and mandatories. Moreover, learning from the Torah gives them the possibility of establishing a better life path with Jewish commandments.