Knowledgebase entries on Jewish texts, including core texts and lesser-known works.
Belonging to the era of the Amoraim (sing. Amora – אמורא). The Amoraim are the rabbis who formulated and transmitted the Gemara, or commentary on the Mishnah known collectively as Talmud, in the 3rd through 5th centuries CE. Amoraim lived in both Eretz Yisrael and Bavel (Babylonia, which is how Jews referred to Sassanian Persia […]
The Babylonian Talmud, referring to the Gemara as redacted in Bavel, the major Jewish community of antiquity outside of Eretz Yisrael. Also refered to as Shas.
בראשית רבתי – A late midrash on Sefer Bereshit that is attributed to the school of Moshe ha-Darshan of Narbonne in Provence, who was active during the first half of the 11th century. Bereshit Rabbati was known only by references to it until modernity, when a single Hebrew manuscript of it surfaced, which was published […]
חז”ל – “our Sages, of blessed memory,” the abbreviation for חכמנו זכרונם לברכה – Chakhmenu zikhronam li-verakhah, meaning the rabbis of the Mishnah and Talmud, the Tannaim and Amoraim, respectively. Variations are also used, such as רז”ל – Rabbotenu zichronam li-verakhah, “our Rabbis, of blessed memory.”
חומש – The five books of the Torah, the first five of Tanach: Bereshit, Shemot, Vayikra, Bemidbar, and Devarim (as we call them today); in English, via Greek and Latin: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. On other terms used for Chumash and its books, see my Introduction to Sefer Bereshit. As the Written Torah […]
The “Rabbinic Bible” or Tanach with multiple commentaries printed on the page alongside the text. Mikra (“scripture” or “verse”) refers in Hebrew to Kitvei Kodesh, writings that have sanctity, either as a whole (the way we use the terms Tanach or Bible) or in part (the way we use the terms pasuk or verse). Mikraot […]
The common meaning of parashah (plural: parshiyot; colloquially, “parsha”) is the weekly Torah portion. The Torah (also called Chumash, or the first five books of the Bible) is divided into sections read cyclically. Reading Cycles There are two cycles for reading: (1) An annual cycle of 54 portions, meaning that you read the entire Torah […]
שבת זכור – A special Shabbat and the second of the Four Parshiyot, Shabbat Zachor occurs on the Shabbat preceding Purim. The maftir comes from Ki Tetze, including the commandment to remember what Amalek did to Benei Yisrael, from which its name, Zachor (“remember”), is taken; the haftarah is Shmuel Alef 15:2-34.
ש”ס – An acronym for the Talmud, from shishah sedarim (שישה סדרים), the six orders into which both Mishnah and the Gemara on it are divided. Each order of the Mishnah contains multiple massekhtot (tractates, sing. massekhet), not all of which have commentary (Gemara) on them.
שלחן ערוך (“The Set Table”) – A code of Jewish law, written in 1563 by R. Yosef Karo, a Sefardi rabbi, which became accepted as authoritative and normative with the addition of glosses incorporating Ashkenazi practice by Rema. Shulchan Aruch is actually a summary of Karo’s important, and much larger, halachic work, the Beit Yosef. […]