J E W I S H L I T E R A T U R E
There are six very important and widely studied works which are used in
all branches of Judaism:
The Shulchan Aruch
The 39 books of the Hebrew or Jewish Bible are divided into three main
sections. Each section has a Hebrew name:
To-rah (meaning Law or Teaching), also known as Pentateuch
It is customary to combine the sounds from the beginning of each section
title to form the acronym TaNak. This acronym refers to the entire Jewish
The most precious and revered object in the synagogue is the Torah. The
Torah is in the form of a scroll made of parchment. It was originally hand-
printed on animal skins. It contains the five books of Moses (the first five
books of the Bible), and must be written by hand. Only a Torah in good
condition may be used for worship services.
The Torah is read in its entirety over a period of 3 years (the Palestinian
cycle) or over a 1-year period (the Babylonian cycle). The Babylonian cycle is
the one most commonly used. The Torah has always been at the very center
of Jewish spiritual life.
The Talmud is from the Hebrew Lomed which means study or
teaching. It has often been called a sea of learning. The Talmud contains
all of the Jewish religious laws. The Talmud also contains prayers, social
ethics, parables, history, poetry, and much more. It contains the contribu-
tions of over 2,000 scholars and sums up a thousand years of religious and
social thought of the Jewish people.