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Question

Is the Old Testament the same as the Torah? What is Talmud and when was it written? What is Judaism's most important book (like the Bible is for Christians)? What sacred text is the source of Judaism?

Answer

Judaism refers to the first five books of the Hebrew Bible (we don't use the term Old Testament) as the Torah. There are three sections to the Hebrew Bible or as it is called in Hebrew "TaNaKH:" Torah, Prophets, Writings.

The Talmud generally refers to the Mishnah - the first codification of law by Rabbi Judah the Prince in 200 CE - and the Gemara which is a commentary and discussion of the Mishnah. There are two Talmuds; the Yerushalmi or Jerusalem Talmud that developed in what was ancient Palestine/Israel and the Babylonian Talmud, both edited and concluded approximately by 600 CE.

Jewish law and history begins with the Torah and I believe that most would agree that it is the most sacred source in Judaism, although we practice today Rabbinic Judaism based upon the Torah and subsequently the Talmud.

Best Wishes,

Rabbi Barry Dov Lerner
Foundation for Family Education (FFFE)

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