34. What is the Torah and the Tanakh?

34. What is the Torah and the Tanakh?

The material presented here is from a Jewish (not Messianic) perspective.  This information will be helpful for you to know what Jewish people believe. 

The Torah And Tanakh

The word “Torah” refers to the Five Books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. The word “Tanakh” refers to the entire Jewish Bible (the body of scripture known to Christians as the Old Testament.  Written Torah is often referred to as the Tanakh, which is an acrostic of Torah, Nevi’im and Ketuvim.

Here is a list of the books of written Torah, in the order in which they appear in Jewish translations. The Hebrew names of the first five books are derived from the first few words of the book. The text of each book is more or less the same in Jewish translations as what you see in the King James version of the bible, although there are some occasional, slight differences in the numbering of verses and there are a few significant differences in the translations.

TORAH (The Law):

  • *Bereishith (In the beginning…) (Genesis)
  • *Shemoth (The names…) (Exodus)
  • *Vayiqra (And He called…) (Leviticus)
  • *Bamidbar (In the wilder-ness…) (Numbers)
  • *Devarim (The words…) (Deuteronomy)

NEVI’IM (The Prophets):

  • *Yehoshua (Joshua)
  • *Shoftim (Judges)
  • *Shmuel (I &II Samuel)
  • *Melakhim (I & II Kings)
  • *Yeshayah (Isaiah)
  • *Yirmyah (Jeremiah)
  • *Yechezqel (Ezekiel)

*The Twelve (treated as one book)

  • *Hoshea (Hosea)
  • *Yoel (Joel)
  • *Amos
  • *Ovadyah (Obadiah)
  • *Yonah (Jonah)
  • *Mikhah (Micah)
  • *Nachum (Nahum)
  • *Chavaqquq (Habakkuk)
  • *Tzefanyah (Zephaniah)
  • *Chaggai (Haggai)
  • *Zekharyah (Zechariah)
  • *Malakhi (Malachi)

KETHUVIM (The Writings):

  • *Tehillim (Psalms)
  • *Mishlei (Proverbs)
  • *Iyov (Job)
  • *Shir Ha-Shirim (Song of Songs)
  • *Ruth
  • *Eikhah (Lamentations)
  • *Qoheleth (the author’s name) (Ecclesiastes)
  • *Esther
  • *Daniel
  • *Ezra & Nechemyah (Nehemiah) (treated as one book)
  • *Divrei Ha-Yamim (The words of the days) (Chronicles)

Torah Scrolls

The scriptures that we use in services are written on parchment scrolls. They are always hand-written, in attractive Hebrew calligraphy with “crowns” (crows-foot-like marks coming up from the upper points) on many of the letters.  You are not supposed to touch the parchment on these scrolls because your fingers’ sweat has acids that will damage the parchment over time. Instead, you follow the text with a pointer, called a Yad. “Yad” means “hand” in Hebrew, and the pointer usually is in the shape of a hand with a pointing index finger. The scrolls are kept covered with fabric, and often ornamented with silver crowns on the handles of the scrolls and a silver breastplate on the front.

The scrolls are kept in a cabinet in the synagogue called an “ark,” meaning “holy cabinet.”

Jewish scriptures are sometimes bound in a form that corresponds to the division into weekly readings.  Scriptures bound in this way are generally referred to as a chumash. The word “chumash” comes from the Hebrew word meaning five, and refers to the five books of the Torah.  A portion of the Torah is read each week during the service and in a year’s time the entire Torah will be read.  Then the whole process begins again.  Torah scrolls are greatly respected by Jewish people.  In fact there is a holiday that is celebrated that shows this.  It is called “Simkhat Torah,” which means “Rejoicing in the Torah.”