It was great to see everyone again after the break, and wonderful to welcome some new faces! Welcome back, everyone!
We began today by looking at the Jewish Bible, which we call Tanakh: Torah + Nevi’im [Prophets] + Ketuvim [Writings]. The Jewish Bible contains those three. It has no New Testament, and we Jews do not refer to it as the “old testament.” As far as we are concerned, it’s sufficient in itself.
The Bible may come in a single volume, but it is a collection of 24 books that were composed in different times, to speak to different situations. The Torah tells the origin stories that make sense of who we are as human beings and as a Jewish People. The Prophets call us to account for our behavior in the world: they insist that human actions and words matter. The Writings are a library of Jewish voices and stories that speak to every mood, from anguish to exaltation to erotic love to despair.
I strongly recommend that you own a copy of the Tanakh, the Jewish Bible. How is our Bible different? There are differences in translation sometimes (all translation is commentary, remember!) but the big thing is the order of the books. A Christian Bible assumes that all the books are history-ish, and orders them in chronological order. A Jewish Bible classifies them as Torah, Prophets, and Writings, in descending order of holiness. Torah is Torah: every word in it has to be taken with the utmost seriousness (even if I seriously struggle with it). Job or Ruth or Esther are holy books, but not at the level of Torah. They comment on Torah, they ask questions of Torah, they expand on Torah. They are also not Prophets: the Prophets have their own unique role in our scripture, voices of challenge and rebuke.
Next meeting we’re into Rabbinic Judaism. Check the Syllabus (link at the top of the screen) for the readings. We’ll learn about Midrash and Mishnah, and a little about Talmud. Remember that we meet again on January 22.
Until then, enjoy your reading!
— Rabbi Adar