Ask the Rabbi: What are the Jewish holy books?

In this question and answer post, in the Ask the Rabbi section, we ask, what are the Jewish holy books?


Here is a brief explanation of the books within Judaism. I hope that this explanation gives you a better understanding the Jewish holy books. You will see that there are a lot of them.

There are two Within the Jewish tradition there are two parts

The Written Torah: The Jewish Bible is comprised of three sections.

Part 1: The Torah, which is commonly known as the five books of Moses. They include the books of Genesis (Bereshit), Exodus (Shemot), Leviticus (Vayikra), Numbers (Bamidbar) and Deuteronomy (Devarim).

Part 2: Nevi'im, which includes the Jewish prophets. These include the books of Joshua, Judges, I Samuel, II Samuel, I Kings, II Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. The books of Nevi'im also include the later prophets, commonly known the "Trei Asar."

Part 3: Ketuvim, the Writings. The writings include the following books, the Books of Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel (although not all that is included in the Christian Canon), Ezra and Nehemiah, I Chronicles, and II Chronicles.

The Oral Torah:

The oral tradition is made up of the practical application of the Torah and other traditions that there passed down through out the generations. Originally it was forbidden to write a public record of the Oral Law, although, individuals wrote for themselves to help them remember the tradition.

The prohibition against writing the oral tradition existed for several reasons.

1. A written Oral Law could limit its scope.

2. The application of the Law requires interaction with a master teacher who can give the larger context. The Oral tradition was, therefore, passes down orally to make certain that the ideas were passes from generation to generation with the broader context and not relegated to a specific code.

3. With any knowledge, there are chances that elements are taking out of context and applied in ways there are not initially intended. Since God gave the Torah to the Jewish people so that they could foster their relationship with God, many believed that the oral tradition should remain beyond the reach of individuals where not Jewish.

The Mishnah

Judah the Prince or Judah I was a second-century rabbi and chief redactor and editor of the Mishnah. He was a key leader of the Jewish community during the Roman occupation of Judea. Wikipedia Born: 135 AD Died: 217 AD, Sepphoris, Israel

Rabbi Judah the Prince, also known as Rabbi or Rabbenu Hakadosh, was born is 135 CE and passed away in 217 CE. Rabbi was a key leader of the Jewish community during the Roman occupation of Judea. He realized that the Roman rule was only temporary and that eventually, the Jewish people would see more instability, and that the Jewish people would eventually scatter throughout the world.

It is for this reason; Rabbi found it necessary to codify the oral tradition is what is currently known as The Mishnah. The Mishna is a guidebook that spells out the major points of all the commandments.

The Mishnah is broken into six orders, 63 tractates, 525 chapters, and 4,224 Mishnayos. Rabbi concluded the Mishnah in the year 190 CE


זרעים - SEEDS: The laws relating to agriculture and Israeli crops; leaving offerings to the Priests and

the Levites; giving gifts to the poor

Berachot - ברכות, Peah - פאה, Dmai - דמאי, Kilayim - כלאים, Shvi'it - שביעית, Trumot - תרומות, Maasrot - מעשרות, Maasar Sheni – מעשר שני, Challah - חלה, Orlah - ערלה, Bikkurim - ביכורים

מועד - HOLIDAYS: The laws relevant to the Sabbath, the festivals, fast days, and other significant holidays

Shabbat - שבת, Eiruvin - עירובין, Pesachim - פסחים, Shekalim - שקלים, Yuma - יומא, Sukkah - סוכה, Beitzah - ביצה, Rosh Hashanah - ראש השנה, Taanit - תענית, Megillah - מגילה, Moed Katan – מועד קטן, Chagigah - חגיגה

נשים - WOMEN: The laws pertaining to the husband/wife relationship, starting from the marriage ceremony, to adultery, incest, divorce, vows and property.

Yevamot - יבמות, Kesubot - כתובות, Nedarim - נדרים, Nazir - נזיר, Sotah - סוטה, Gitin - גיטין, Kiddushin - קידושין

נזיקין - DAMAGES: The laws regarding civil jurisprudence and penal law; Rabbinic courts; errors in judgement; vows; punishments etc. Also deals with some religious criminal law, like pagan worship.

Bava Kama – בבא קמא, Bava Metzia – בבא מציעא, Bava Basra - בבא בתרא, Sanhedrin - סנהדרין, Makkot - מכות, Shevuot - שבועות, Ediyot - עדיות, Avodah Zarah - עבודה זרה, Avot - אבות, Horiyot - הוריות

קדשים - HOLY THINGS: The laws mainly pertaining to the Temple and its sacrifices. Also, laws on ritual slaughter, and kosher and non-kosher foods.

Zevachim - זבחים, Menachot - מנחות, Chullin - חולין, Bechorot - בכורות, Eiruchin - ערכין, Tmurah - תמורה, Krisus -כריתות, Meilah - מעילה, Tomid - תמיד, Middot - מדות, Kinim - קינים

טהרות - PURITY

The laws of ritual purity and impurity. Also, laws of women's menstrual cycles and family purity.

Keilim - כלים, Oholot - אהלות, Negoim - נגעים, Poroh - פרה, Taharot - טהרות, Mikvaot - מקואות, Niddah - נדה, Machshirin - מכשירין, Zavim - זבים, Tvul Yom - טבול יום, Yodayim - ידים, Uktzin - עוקצין

The Talmud

Based on the sections and text of the Mishnah, the Talmud, commonly referred to as the Gemara, is the compendium of Jewish law and thought.

The Talmud is made up of the Talmud Bavli, the edition developed in Babylonia, and edited at the end of the fifth century C.E.; the Talmud Yerushalmi is the edition compiled in the Land of Israel at the end of the fourth century C.E.


The following is a chart of the transmission of the Oral Tradition.