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The Role of Jewish Sacred Texts in Judaism

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Jewish sacred texts are imperative in maintaining the Jewish heritage, encompassing areas of history, socio-cultural practices and morals & values. Through interpreting these texts, the justification for adherents actions and conduct of their lives are administered. They form the fundamental foundations or cornerstones of the Jewish followers from its inauguration to current contemporary society. These sacred texts include the Tanakh which is the 3 components of the Hebrew scriptures, as well as the Talmud, made up of the Mishnah and Gemara. Combined, these texts guide adherents to follow exemplary lives similar to their forefather Abraham who displayed a model life for Judaism. The Tanakh is an acronym of the name of the 3 modules of Jewish sacred texts: the Torah, Nevíim, and Ketúvim. All 3 must work in amalgamation rather than standalone as together, demonstrate the crucial principle beliefs of Judaism. At the core of the Hebrew scriptures is the Torah, also known as the Pentateuch and it is the foundational writings of the Jewish faith. They illustrate the creation of the world, God’s covenant with Abraham and his descendants, as well as the revelation at Mt. Sinai. Within the Torah, list 613 Mitzvot that distinctively clarify the rules and customs of how the Jewish adherents must conduct their lives in terms of dietary requirements, attire, and prayer. Some of these laws include, Not to wear garments made of wool and linen mixed together, To recite grace after meals, Not to eat flesh with milk and to ensure that scales and weights are correct.

Following Philosopher Maimonides(a pivotal individual in the teachings of Judaism), deduces that ‘ Every person among Israel is obligated to fix a time for Torah study by day and night…. They are part of the ancient traditions stretching back to Moses our teacher ’. Evident in this statement, the Torah is one of the most significant sacred texts to abide by, as it forms an inextricable link between past and present generations. This link through the scriptures given by God binds present societies with ancient influencers of Judaism over 5000 years ago, such as Moses. The Neviim or ‘the prophets’ are the next 8 books of the Tanakh and includes the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the Twelve Minor Prophets. The Neviim’s most prominent contribution to Jewish adherents is its historical accounts of Israel’s history and the claiming of the land for the Jews. The books are mainly prophetic and contain parables that teach morals and ethics to people straying from God’s ways. They also emphasise the importance of monotheism and worshipping one God. An example verse would be ‘Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, I myself have seen it, declares the Lord’. This verse explores notions of sinning and through the misuse and exploitation of Temple grounds as a merchant hotspot. The metaphor of ‘den of robbers’ represents the robbing of God worship and praise. Thus, this story teaches moral and ethic values and conduct of behaviour on worshipping grounds.

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This story is one of countless others in the Nevi’im that illustrate the morals of Jewish faith and standards. The final set of books in the Tanakh are the Ketuvim or ‘writings’ and are made up of David’s Psalms, Solomons, Proverbs, The 5 Scrolls, the Books of Ezra & Neemia and Chronicles. Divided into four sections, the Ketuvim include poetical books (Psalms, Proverbs, and Job), the Scrolls (Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther), prophecy (Daniel), and history (Ezra, Nehemiah, and I and II Chronicles). These texts are significant towards Jewish adherents as they educate and portray ethical ways to live. Its lyrical texts and poems offer insights to the Judaic practices during its time and is arguably an expression of the human voice. Extracts from the book of Psalms state ‘Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to advice’. Evident in this verse, the Ketuvim books depict human nature and the human condition during that time, and pose as almost a forewarning to future generations. This quote analyses the inherent flaw of mankind being stubborn and offers advice for upright living. These books offer wisdom and knowledge to followers and connect with aspects of the Torah. Thus the Tanakh is a vital sacred text as it possesses great importance to Jewish adherents in dictates certain facets of their lives. In following this multitude of laws, one may argue that the scriptures and sacred texts define a Jewish individual due to their strict lives.

As time progresses, the ancient scriptures including the Tanakh have transcended the barriers of time and are still present and followed in today’s society. Reconceptualised ideas and notions of the Torah have emerged with modern interpretations of the texts appearing through the 3 main denominations of Judaism. Each branch follows different interpretations and understandings of the text, thus suggesting the impact and significance it must have on adherents lives. The Tulmud essentially is a collection of discussions and comments by Rabbi’s on the Tanakh and law, customs and ethics. There are 2 editions of the Talmud, including the Babylonian and the Jerusalem edition. The Talmud as a commentary of the Torah is divided into two sections: the Mishnah and the Gemara. The Mishnah is the first collection of the Oral Law which are a set of teaching as well as interpretations and work effectively in complementing the Torah. The Gemara is a collection of Rabbinical comments that discuss areas of the Mishna.

The Talmud plays a significant role in Jewish adherents lives as it elucidates the logic behind Jewish practices and customs which ultimately assist followers in comprehending their faith and the rationale behind it. Also through comprehending the rabbinical comments, adherents may have a better understanding of their religion through the professional discussions opening pathways to interpretation. There are multiple teachings within the Oral Law such as ‘he who brings into his house more than 24 books brings confusion’. this quote ultimately establishes the importance of the Torah above any other book or text to Jewish adherents. Nevertheless, it can be heavily argued that the Jewish Sacred texts form the cornerstone for its adherence as they connect past and present generations through the scriptures transcending the barriers of time. These sacred texts contain parables and stories to educate adherence on how to conduct their lives as well as the 613 Mitzvot to abide by. Through discussions and Rabbinical comments of these sacred texts, adherents of Judaism obtain a better comprehension of their faith and have explanations behind their customs which avoid lapses of doubt in the faith of followers. Thus, Jewish sacred texts hold substantial importance in the lives of its adherents and the religion would have surpassed over time it has without them.

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