Since Jews have for centuries understood the Bible through the eyes of
the Talmud, it may be fair to say that the Talmud has exerted more direct
influence on Jews and Judaism than has any other work, including the Bible.
Midrash means search out. The Midrash is a collection of expositions
(explanations or interpretations) of the Bible. These literary works were
started more than 2,000 years ago. There are many types of Midrash (legal,
ethical, social, etc.). Perhaps the most famous Midrasheem (plural form of
Midrash) are the expositions on the five books of Moses.
Zohar means radiance or splendor. The origins of the Zohar are
not entirely clear. It is possible that, from A.D. 500 to A.D. 1800, the Zohar
had more influence upon Jewish minds and spirits than any other work. The
Zohar contains many essays explaining important points of the five books of
Moses. It includes a great number of complex philosophical writings about
the nature of the soul, creation, infinity, life after death, and other issues
vital to every religion.
The Shulchan Aruch
The Shulchan Aruch is the Prepared Table. A handbook on Jewish life
compiled by Joseph Karo in Palestine in the 1550s, the Shulchan Aruch is
meant to be a summary of Jewish law as it is found in the Talmud. It offers
in a precise and brief form the dos and donts of the daily Jewish life.
The Siddur is the prayer book. It is a rich collection of Jewish literature
reflecting the development of Jewish life. The Siddur contains material from
all the primary sources listed above. It is the single greatest source of
independent Jewish learning today. The first printed Siddur appeared in
148630 years after the Gutenberg Bible was published.
THE JEWISH CALENDAR
According to tradition, the Jewish calendar started with the creation of
the earth, 3,760 years and 3 months before the beginning of the Christian
era. To find the year in the Jewish calendar, one must add 3,760 to the date
in the Gregorian calendar; for example, the year 1980 in the Gregorian
calendar is the year 5740 (1,980 plus 3,760) according to the Jewish calendar.
This system will not work to the exact month because the Jewish year begins
in the autumn rather than in midwinter. During the winter of 1982-1983, the
Jewish year is 5743.
The Jewish year is based upon the lunar cycle and normally consists of
12 months. The months are alternately 30 and 29 days long. In order to keep
the holy days and festivals within the season for which they were established,
a leap year was created for the Jewish calendar. The familiar solar calendar