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The Tanach

Together Torah, Nevi’im (Prophets) and Ketuvim (Writings) comprise what is known as the Tanach. This name for the Hebrew Bible is actually made up of the first letter of each of the three sections of the Bible.

T: for Torah
N: for Nevi’im
Ch: for Ketuvim

Torah

The Torah is made up of the first five books of the Hebrew Bible. Sometimes these are referred to as the Five Books of Moses. It may also be called the Chumash, which comes from the word five. The five books are:

  • Genesis. In Hebrew, B’reishit. This books recounts to story of creation and the lives of the patriarchs and matriarchs of the Jewish people.
  • Exodus. In Hebrew, Sh’mot. This books details the story of slavery in Egypt, the Exodus, and the Ten Commandments.
  • Leviticus. In Hebrew, Vayikra.  The third book of the Torah details the role of the priests and sacrifices in ancient Jewish practice. Leviticus includes many of the ethical and ritual laws that are still practiced today.
  • Numbers. In Hebrew, B’midbar. This book recounts the wandering of the ancient Israelites through the desert and spells out more of God’s laws
  • Deuteronomy. In Hebrew, Devarim. Moses, in his speeches to the Children of Israel offers them an ethical will, beseeching them to follow God’s ways as they prepare to enter the Promised Land.


Prophets

In Hebrew, this is called Nevi’im, and it is the second section of the Hebrew Bible. The Prophets are divided into two parts, the Early Prophets and the Later Prophets. It fell to the Prophets as messengers of God to rebuke the Israelites when they fell short of what God expected of them. The Prophets valued ethical behavior and exhorted the Israelites to return to God. Readings from the Prophets, called the Haftarah, were incorporated into the weekly Shabbat Torah service. Given its commitment to bringing the Prophetic vision to reality, Reform Judaism has paid close attention to the words of the Prophets.


Writings

The third section of the Hebrew Bible is called Ketuvim. In addition to history, these books contain some of the Bible’s most beautiful poetry. Among the twelve books are Psalms and Proverbs. Ketuvim also includes the five books known as scrolls. These are read at specific times and include the scrolls of Ruth, Lamentations and Esther.