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Judaism’s Holy Book

Perhaps for today, we can just focus on Judaism’s Holy Book. So how do we define that?

Is it the Torah? the Bible? the Talmud? the Old Testament? the Pentateuch? the “Five Books of Moses”? the Tahakh books? the Hassidic teachings? the Zohar? the books of the Kabbalah?

One of the challenges of the different paths of Judaism is you will get a “yes” for many of those questions depending on who you ask. And even more confusing is that many of these titles reference the same thing (the Torah = the Pentateuch = the Five Books of Moses; they refer to the same text…).

The Bible in Christianity is defined as combining both the Old and New Testaments. For Judaism and the Jewish people, the Bible refers to the “Hebrew Bible,” or the TaNaKh books. (This is the section that Christianity refers to as the Old Testament.)

The Tanakh books are comprised of three sections. The first of those sections is the Torah itself, or the Pentateuch. In English we refer to it is the “Five Books of Moses” or the first 5 books of the Old Testament. “Torah” means teaching or instruction, thus the profound importance placed on this section.

The Rabbis of two thousand years ago were not privy to the initiatory knowledge that the hereditary priesthood—the Kohanim—possessed for at least a millennium prior to the Rabbis’ time.

The hereditary priesthood was prohibited from discussing it with outsiders; and in the fierce clashes between the priesthood and the new rabbinical circles that took place around the fall of the Second Temple, the rabbis won (with a little help from the Romans). But, irony of ironies, the “torch of Judaism” that now passed to them was missing some of the most important, esoteric teachings that described and enabled access to the God of Israel as a direct, experiential reality…

As a result, thousands of Rabbis were driven to author a large body of texts (63 tractates in all) known as the Talmud. It includes the teachings and opinions of thousands of Rabbis dating through the 5th century CE. It includes subjects including halakha, Jewish ethics, philosophy, customs, history, and many other topics. In Rabbinical Judaism the Talmud is the holy book.

At the iAiS-MaKoM Spiritual Retreat Center, it is the Torah itself that is seen as Judaism’s holy book. The Center’s distinctive mission is to teach the recovered precious esoteric knowledge embedded in the pages of the Torah itself.