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The Tanakh, Mishnah, Talmud, and Midrash form the cornerstone of the sacred literature of Judaism.

The primary text of Judaism is the Tanakh, also known as the Jewish Bible, the Hebrew Bible, or the Mikra. The Tanakh is made up of the Torah (Pentateuch), the Nevi'im (Prophets), and the Ketuvim (Writings). Tanakh is an acronym for these three books. The Tanakh is the chief canonical collection of texts in Judaism, and the source for the Old Testament used by Christians. The Masoretic text of the Tanakh is considered authoritative in Rabbinic Judaism, although modern Jewish scholars use a range of sources that may include the Septuagint and Syriac translations, the Samaritan Pentateuch, and the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The Tanakh is arranged into twenty-four books, although the Protestiant Christian translations that consist of basically the same text divide it into thirty-nine books. The Tanakh counts each of the volumes of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles as one book, combines Ezra and Nehemiah, and considered the Twelve Minor Prophets as a single book.

The Mishnah, sometimes spelled Mishna, is a written collection of oral Jewish traditions known as the Oral Torah. The first major work of Rabbinic literature, the Mishnah is arranged into six orders, and further divided into chapters, paragraphs, and verses. As Mishnah can refer to a single paragraph or verse of the larger work, the entirety of the collection is sometimes referred in the plural, Mishnayot.

The Babylonian Talmud states that there were either six hundred or seven hundred orders of the Mishnah, but Hillel the Elder arranged them into six orders for ease of memory. The six orders are Zeraim (Seeds), Moed (Festival), Nashim (Women), Nezikin (Damages), Kodashim (Holy Things), and Tohorot (Purities).

The Mishnah presents the oral traditions by example, citing actual cases that had been brought to judgment, usually including the debate and the judgment given by a notable rabbi, as well as the point of halakha, mitzvot, and spirit of the teaching that led to the decision.

The Mishnah does not create new law, but is rather a collection of existing traditions.

The Talmud is the main text of Rabbinic Judaism, and the primary source for Jewish religious law and theology. Generally, the term refers to the collection of literature known specifically as the Babylonian Talmud, although there was an earlier collection known as the Jerusalem Talmud. A reference to the Talmud without further qualification generally refers to the Babylonian version.

The Talmud includes the Mishnah and the Gemara, which is a rabbinical commentary and analysis of the Mishnah.

The group of rabbis who wrote the Mishnah are known collectively as the Tannaim, while those who wrote the Gemara are referred to as the Amoraim.

The Midrash is an interpretation or exegesis on the Written and Oral Torah written between 400-1200 CE.

When not capitalized, midrash may also refer to Judaic biblical interpretation or to the method used in interpretation, but when capitalized, Midrash refers to the collection of such interpretations.

Other writings that may be considered sacred Judaic literature include Halakha, which refers to the body of Jewish religious laws that were derived from the Written and Oral Torah, and often referred to simply as Jewish Law, although separate from the more secular laws of the Nation of Israel.

Others that may be elevated to the status of the sacred by some Jewish sects, but not others, include the Haggada, the Kabbalah, the Zohar, the Siddur and other prayer books, and perhaps other written works of Judaism not mentioned here.

Not all Jewish literature is sacred of course, but those that are considered such are the focus of topics found in this category.

 

 

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