Working towards a Bachelor of Arts, Simran writes articles on modern history, art theory, religion, mythology, and analyses of texts.
The Hebrew Scriptures
The Hebrew Scriptures are imperative for maintaining the principal beliefs of the Jewish faith. The Jewish faith relies on three principles: the belief in one G-d, the covenant, and divinely inspired laws.
The Tanakh (Torah, Nevi’im, Ketuvim, Nevi’im) and the Talmud are fundamental in maintaining these principles. This is due to their content, which inspires applying the stated principal beliefs. These applications promote the “three pillars (or mitzvot) of” Judaism: the studying of the “Torah, …the service of God (avodah), and... acts of loving-kindness (gemilut chasadim).” (Pirkei Avot 2: 1 - Talmud)
Therefore, the Tanakh and the Talmud play a crucial role in preserving the principal beliefs of the Jewish faith.
The world stands on three things: on the Torah, on the service of God, and upon acts of loving kindness
— Pirkei Avot 2: 1 - Talmud
The Torah is paramount in sustaining maintain all three principal beliefs of Judaism. The Torah consists the first five of the books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.
The Shema prayer found in Deuteronomy is considered to be the “centre point… of pray for Jews throughout all times.” It holds the principal belief of one G-d, divinely inspired laws, and promotes the “pillar” of studying Torah (Pirkei Avot 2: 1 - Talmud) It states, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one [...] if you listen to these commandments… I will give rain to your land.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Deuteronomy 11:13-21)
This reinforces the two principal beliefs as its first verse acknowledges G-d as “one.” Additionally, the prayer describes the good fortune that will come if His divinely inspired “commandments” are followed. Furthermore, it promotes the “pillar” of studying the Torah (Pirkei Avot 2: 1 - Talmud) through mezuzah.
That practice allows Jews to revise into principles found in the Torah. This makes the “pillar” alive to Jews as they are engaged by the prayer on a daily basis. Henceforth, the Shema prayer reveals the absolute importance of the Torah in maintaining Jewish principal beliefs
The Talmud is fundamental in maintaining the principal belief of divinely inspired laws. The Talmud is an extensive rabbinical commentary of the Torah compiled after 200 CE. It comprises of the Mishnah and the Gemara. Without it, the Torah alone would be “insufficient” in providing a proper guide to Jewish life. Thus, the Talmud keeps the principal belief and “pillar” of “loving kindness” (Pirkei Avot 2: 1 - Talmud) relevant to every Jew. In subsection Pirkei Avot, the Mishnah extends on how the “word stands on… loving kindness.” (Pirkei Avot 2: 1 - Talmud)
To express this mitzvah or “pillar”, some Jews participate in tzedakah, where those who are in need are provided food, clothing, or shelter. This supports the principal belief of divinely inspired laws and “pillar” of “loving kindness” (Pirkei Avot 2: 1 - Talmud), as the Talmud makes it practical. Furthermore, in section Moe-ed, the Mishnah discusses on one of the Ten Commandments, “remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.”(Exodus 20:8)
To illustrate, it quotes not to “roast meat, onions, or eggs” during Sabbath. As a result, cooking during the Sabbath is forbidden in contemporary Judaism. As shown, the Talmud clarifies the mitzvah, thus making the principal belief applicable to all Jews. Thus, the Talmud makes the principal belief of divinely inspired laws relevant to all Jews.
The principal belief in one G-d is preserved by the Ketuvim. The Ketuvim is an ancient anthology of poems, music, psalms, which were composed between 6-2th century BCE. It contains 11 books divided into four categories: poetry (eg. Psalms), the Megillot (eg. Solomon), prophecy (Daniel), and history (eg. Ezra). These books are commonly recited at Jewish liturgies and celebrations “aimed at praising” G-d.
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Through the Psalms, the Ketuvim supplements and maintains the “pillar” of “service of God” (Pirkei Avot 2: 1 - Talmud) and principal belief of one G-d, who is omnibenevolent, omniscient, and omnipotent. The Psalm 113-118 states, “The LORD is exalted above all nations; His glory is above the heavens…. Praise the LORD, for He is good, His steadfast love is eternal. ”
The wording of “the LORD” sustains His title of being the only supreme being. The quote affirms G-d’s omnipotence, as He is described to be “above all nations.” Furthermore, how G-d is expressed as “good” and has “eternal” love maintains his characteristic of omnibenevolence. How this reinforces the “pillar” of “service of God” (Pirkei Avot 2: 1 - Talmud) is shown through the Hallel.
During the Hallel, Psalm 113-118 recited in liturgies and major festivals including the Pesach, Shavuot, Sukkot. This makes the “pillar” and the principal belief living because Jews are united to serve through prayer. Ultimately, the Ketuvim plays a vital role in maintaining the principal belief in one G-d by making it living to all Jews.
The Nevi’im is essential for maintaining the principal belief of the covenant. The Nevi’im reveals the history of the Israelites between 1245-273 BCE, including their conquest of the promised land (Israel), and its division. It contains 8 books, which are divided into two parts: the former prophets (eg. Joshua, Judges), and the latter prophets (eg. Isaiah ,Jeremiah).
It primarily follows the Mosaic Covenant, which G-d promised three blessings, including promised land to be holy “among all nations.”(Ex. 19:5). In exchange, the Ten Commandments and the Abrahamic covenant are to be followed. For example, G-d commanded in the book of Joshua, “make flint knives and circumcise the Israelites again.” (Josh. 5)
This demonstrates how the book of Joshua reinforces the importance of the Abrahamic covenant in maintaining a relationship with G-d. For this reason, it became a requirement for the Israelites to enter the holy land. Furthermore, the book reveals a list of “defeated kings of the land whom the Israelites” conquered as the result of the covenant. It strengthens the principal belief of the covenant since it depicts G-d fulfilling His promise to His people. Consequently, the book of Joshua illustrates the crucial role the Nevi’im plays in reinforcing the Jewish belief of the covenant.
The Torah is important for retaining all three principal beliefs of Judaism and the “pillar” of studying the Torah (Pirkei Avot 2: 1 - Talmud). This is shown through the Shema and its application through the Mezuzah. The principal belief in divinely inspired laws and the “pillar” of “loving kindness” (Pirkei Avot 2: 1 - Talmud) is made relevant to all Jews due to the Talmud.
Its ethical application through the tzedakah and the laws behind Sabbath illustrates that. The Ketuvim makes the principal belief of one G-d and the “pillar” of “service of God” (Pirkei Avot 2: 1 - Talmud) alive to all Jews. This is highlighted by the Hallel, which is recited in rituals and ceremonies. The Nevi’im maintains the principal belief of the covenant, which is seen through the book of Joshua. Ergo, the principal beliefs of Judaism will remain living and dynamic due to its Hebrew Scriptures.
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© 2017 Simran Singh
Alexander James Guckenberger from Maryland, United States of America on April 05, 2019:
Andrew Petrou from Brisbane on November 30, 2017:
Thank you for this excellent summary.