The Wisdom of the Torah is an instruction in the central beliefs of three world religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. But by observing the Torah, or the Hebrew Bible, as a collected work of multiple authors spanning generations, the modern reader can look beyond its fundamental instruction. In these works, readers find many lyrical and timeless reflections on what it means to have faith and to be a member of the human race. The Wisdom of the Talmud presents a thorough history and overview of the Talmud, the rabbinical commentary on the Torah that was developed in the Jewish academies of Palestine and Babylonia. From man’s purpose and miracles to marriage and wellness to consciousness and community, the Talmud considers what it means to practice faith on a daily basis and through a changing world. In The Wisdom of the Koran, readers will discover a selection of key chapters such as “The Night Journey” and “The Cave,” footnotes to convey context and meaning, as well as several stories from Judeo-Christian history. This invaluable anthology is an excellent step toward greater understanding of one of the finest pieces of Arabic prose and the Muslim faith. The Wisdom of Muhammad is essential reading for anyone who wants to have a true understanding of Islam, and offers a compelling examination of the life and sayings of the Prophet. Covering a diverse range of topics, from marriage and civic charity to the individual’s relationship to God and the afterlife, the Prophet’s words dispel misconceptions about the history of the faith, its leader, and its core beliefs. The Wisdom of Buddha, drawn from the sacred books of Buddhism, reveals the insights and beliefs at the heart of the world’s fourth-largest religion. Covering the birth and death of the Buddha, as well as the major tenets of Buddhism, this collection offers a profound view of the Buddhist religion and its founder.
These five volumes from Philosophical Library’s groundbreaking Wisdom series are available in one volume for the first time.
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Five Volumes of Spiritual Wisdom
The Wisdom of the Torah The Wisdom of the Talmud The Wisdom of the Koran The Wisdom of Muhammad The Wisdom of Buddha
By Philosophical Library, Inc.
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2010 Philosophical Library, Inc.
All rights reserved.
The Books of the Torah
Following is a list of the books of Written Torah, in the order in which they appear in Jewish translations. First is listed the Hebrew name of the book, then an English translation of the Hebrew name (where needed). The Hebrew names of the first five books are the first key words mentioned in each book (i.e., "In the beginning ..." is the opening of Genesis.)
TORAH (The Law):
Bereishith (In the beginning ...) (Genesis)
Shemoth (The names ...) (Exodus)
Vayiqra (And He called ...) (Leviticus)
Bamidbar (In the wilderness ...) (Numbers)
Devarim (The words ...) (Deuteronomy)
NEVI'IM (The Prophets):
Shmuel (I & II Samuel)
Melakhim (I & II Kings)
The Twelve (treated as one book)
* Hoshea (Hosea)
* Yoel (Joel)
* Ovadyah (Obadiah)
* Yonah (Jonah)
* Mikhah (Micah)
* Chavaqquq (Habbakkuk)
* Tzefanyah (Zephaniah)
* Zekharyah (Zechariah)
KETHUVIM (The Writings):
Shir Ha-Shirim (Song of Songs)
Qoheleth (the author's name) (Ecclesiastes)
Ezra & Nechemyah (Nehemiah) (treated as one book)
Divrei Ha-Yamim (The words of the days) (Chronicles)
Timeline of the Torah and Judaic History
c. 2000–1500 B.C.E. Abraham and the Patriarchs
c. 1500–1200 B.C.E. Egypt, the Exodus; Moses received the Torah on Mt. Sinai
1200–1050 B.C.E. Settlement in the Land of Israel
1050–920 B.C.E. United kingdom under Saul, David and Solomon, with capital at Jerusalem
c. 950 B.C.E. Solomon begins building the Temple
920–597 B.C.E. Divided kingdom of Israel (north) and Judah (south)
722 B.C.E. Northern Kingdom destroyed by Assyria
701 B.C.E. Egyptians conquer Judah
605 B.C.E. Babylon conquers Egypt, now rules Judah
586 B.C.E. Destruction of the first temple
568–538 B.C.E. Babylonian Exile
516 B.C.E. Jerusalem ("Second") Temple completed
c. 500–400 B.C.E. The Torah, Five Books of Moses, is compiled and edited according to biblical scholarship
c. 250 B.C.E. "Septuagint" translation of Torah into Greek
167 B.C.E. Hasmonean (Maccabean) Revolt
70 C.E. Rome destroys the Second Temple
c. 90–150 Canonization of Hebrew Bible essentially complete
2nd century The ritual Passover seder feast was formalized
c. 200 The Oral Torah or Mishnah compiled and edited by Judah ha-Nasi
c. 300–600 Compilation of the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds
1040–1105 Rashi, French Bible and Talmud scholar and creator of line-by-line Commentary on the Torah
1178 Maimonides completes his code of Jewish law, the Mishneh Torah
c. 1295 The Zohar, Kabbalistic work of mystical teaching, composed
1475 First book printed in Hebrew (Rashi's commentary)
1492 Jews expelled from Spain
1565 Joseph Caro publishes Shulchan Arukh, the standard code of Jewish law and practice
1654 First Jewish settlement in North America at New Amsterdam
1700s Founding of Hasidism
1800s Founding of Orthodox, Reform and Conservative movements
1836 Yeshiva University founded
1897 Theodor Herzel convenes first Zionist Congress
1933–1945 The Holocaust (Shoah)
1948 State of Israel established
1950 Israeli Parliament passes the Law of Return
The Torah, or the Hebrew Bible, is the cornerstone of the Jewish religion and law. The Torah (meaning "Teaching") originally referred only to the Books attributed to Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. This "Torah of Moses" came to be known in Greek as the "five-volumed book," which we know in English as the Pentateuch. The Torah encompasses the whole of the Hebrew Bible (the body of scripture known to non-Jews as the Old Testament and to Jews as the Tanakh or Written Torah), together with the Talmud (Oral Law). An ever-expanding source of intellectual and emotional insight, the Written Torah provides knowledge to those who study it, and leads to a solid relationship with God for those who take it to heart and make it their own.
The Wisdom of the Torah contains selections that highlight the Hebrew Bible as a book of philosophy and literature, allowing the beauty and power of the writings themselves to touch the soul of the reader. Poems and proverbs, commandments and rituals, prophecies and praises: they all speak to us of a God who cares, who is engaged with his people. We can be a rebellious and stiff-necked lot, complaining in one breath and pleading for protection and mercy in the next—a fact of our humanity often reflected in the text. We are creatures of paradox, capable of achieving great heights or falling to great depths, sometimes from one moment to the next. One has to look no further than King David to find such greatness of faith and human frailty, yet he is a towering man of God: "The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?" There is much for a twenty-first-century seeker to find in the Torah about understanding, pride, forgiveness and stubborn allencompassing love.
The great men behind the Book who are represented here—Moses, David, Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah—have given the world words of hope for generations, and voiced expressions of despair with equal poignancy. Their inspired writings, only a portion of which are collected in this volume, have endured over millennia and continue to speak to us today. For affirmation of God's righteousness, look to Moses:
Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth.
My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass;
Because I will publish the name of the Lord: ascribe ye greatness unto our God.
He is the rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.
The poetry of David in Psalm Twenty-five extols the mercy and salvation that God promises:
Unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.
O my God, I trust in thee: let me not be ashamed, let not my enemies triumph over me.
Yea, let none that wait on thee be ashamed: let them be ashamed which transgress without cause.
Shew me thy ways, O Lord; teach me thy paths.
Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.
Remember, O Lord, thy tender mercies and thy loving-kindnesses; for they have been ever of old.
Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions: according to thy mercy remember thou me for thy goodness' sake, O Lord.
Solomon, the son of David, prayed not for wealth or a long life, or the defeat of his enemies; he asked God for an "understanding heart" that could judge fairly and know the difference between good and evil. God granted his request, and the Hebrew Bible states: "The whole world sought audience with Solomon to hear the wisdom God had put in his heart." (1 Kings 10:24) Truly God-inspired wisdom, the Proverbs of Solomon hold as much truth and beauty for us today as they ever did:
Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.
Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water: but a man of understanding will draw it out.
Treasures of wickedness profit nothing: but righteousness delivereth from death.
He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly.
A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones.
If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink: For thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the Lord shall reward thee.
The Song of Solomon, or Song of Songs, is often interpreted as an allegory that symbolizes the love between God and the Jewish people. As poetry, it is a celebration of a man and a woman seeing the world and each other through the eyes of love:
My beloved spake, and said unto me: Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.
For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone;
The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;
The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.
O my dove, that art in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs, let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely.
The prophet Isaiah's vision reveals both the depths of God's anger and the limitless compassion he felt toward the rebellious children of Israel. It also serves as a reminder that there is always hope for redemption, even in the darkest of times, if we choose it:
Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to evil;
Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.
Come now and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land;
But if you refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.
Jeremiah was known as "the weeping prophet" who was called by God to warn the people of Israel to repent from idolatry, prophesying the coming destruction because of the sins of the nation. The people did not heed his warning, and saw Jerusalem conquered by the Babylonians and the First Temple destroyed. Jeremiah laments the breaking of the covenant with the Lord and the consequences to be borne by generations to come:
Wherefore doth a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins?
Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord.
Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens.
We have transgressed and have rebelled: thou hast not pardoned.
Thou hast covered with anger, and persecuted us: thou hast slain, thou hast not pitied.
Thou hast covered thyself with a cloud, that our prayer should not pass through.
Thou hast made us as the off-scouring and refuse in the midst of the people.
All our enemies have opened their mouths against us.
Fear and a snare is come upon us, desolation and destruction.
Mine eye runneth down with rivers of water for the destruction of the daughter of my people.
Mine eye trickleth down, and ceaseth not, without any intermission,
Till the Lord look down, and behold from heaven.
But as man can bring about his own downfall, he can also strive for his own salvation. For all the sorrow it may cause, free will is a gift from God. There is always another path; there is always another choice. These great men of the Bible remind us that the God of truth, the God of tender mercies, the God of righteousness whose love has no bounds, is the God of our salvation. We are the heirs to the promises of the Twenty-third Psalm, and we can join with David in God's praise and the hope for deliverance that still echoes through the ages:
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; they rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
As you enter The Wisdom of the Torah, open your mind and heart to the words God whispers to you within its pages.
* * *
The following images are pages from an 18th century illuminated Haggadah that illustrates events in the life of Moses from the biblical book of Exodus, one of the original Five Books of Moses that began as the Torah.
A Haggadah is a collection of Jewish prayers and readings written to accompany the Passover seder, a ritual meal eaten on the eve of the Passover festival. The literal meaning of the Hebrew word Haggadah is a "narration" or "telling." It refers to a command in Exodus, requiring Jews to "tell your son on that day: it is because of that which the Lord did for me when I came forth out of Egypt."
A Note to the Reader
Torah means, in the literal Hebrew, instruction, or guidance, and is used in this sense by the ancient prophets and sages.
Prior to the first destruction of the great Temple in Jerusalem, by "Torah" the Hebrews meant the Books attributed to Moses. Shortly after the time of the second Temple, the final settlement of the Canon was made at Jamnia about 100 C.E. leading to the Bible's present form as codified by the seventh century rabbis known as Masoretes. Therefore, the Hebrew Bible in toto, as well as all Talmudic and later literature was often referred to as Torah.
The Hebrew Bible as it appears in our texts today is an anthology of thirty-nine books, reckoned as twenty-two, written for the most part in Hebrew, a little of it in Aramaic. (The uncanonized apocryphal sections are in Greek as well as Hebrew.) There is hardly any doubt that these books were written over a time stretching more than a thousand years. A much larger segment than commonly supposed is written in poetic and aphoristic form. In this sense the Torah is to be considered one of the world's greatest collections of pure literature.
Basically it contains five types of material:
(1) the legendary tales, frequently influencing faraway Asian story writers, as in India and Persia;
(2) the historical books (of remarkable accuracy, as shown by recent archaeological findings);
(3) the ritualistic codes with their 613 commandments and prohibitions as to diet, habitat, marriage, prayer service, sacrifices and legal procedure;
(4) the prophetic sermons on current political and social issues;
(5) the philosophical and poetical works.
In this present selection, based, with only a few changes, on the still and forever majestic King James translation, we have concentrated on the Hebrew Bible as a book of philosophy and literature, with no disrespect to the historic, prophetic, legendary or ritualistic attributes which have served and continue to serve many millions of believers as a guide in life and faith.
The present selection is to be taken as a treasury of divinely inspired poets and philosophers of perhaps the most heroic era in human history. It has been truly said that the Bible is an inspired as well as an inspiring book.
Pray tell me if there is anywhere, or was at any time, another volume of writings such as this, whose impact set aflame the lands between the Nile and the Euphrates more than three thousand years ago—a flame that has never ceased to burn all these millennia and has leapt from continent to continent, from tongue to tongue, from heart to heart.
Show me a village of people and I will find somewhere among them a trace of the Mosaic flame, be it in a book, a house of worship, a painting, a sculptured figurine, a phrase of music or the memory of a sage proverb from Solomon, the king of kings. And even in places where the Torah has been defiled and its people erased, you will find the ashes of Israel still glimmering to remind the forgetful.
The Torah cannot be forgotten nor can it be thrown aside. If one had such intent, he would have to rip out a thousand books from a thousand shelves, a thousand statues and portraits from a thousand walls, and a thousand temples and churches from land to land. For millennia the people of the East and the West have grown and flourished in the breath of the Torah. The songs of its inspired sages reverberated in the poets, the dramatists, the painters, the sculptors, the fabulists, the preachers, the statesmen, the legislators, the philosophers and the people at large, forever seeking justice.
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