Judaism

Explore how the Hebrew Bible and the Talmud inform the lives of Jews today, and how prayer books such as the Haggadah, used in worship and religious festivals, have helped sustain Jewish identity over many centuries.

Discovering Sacred Texts: Judaism

Discovering Sacred Texts: Judaism

We explore what it means to be Jewish today through some of Judaism’s most important sacred texts including the Torah, the Talmud, and the Haggadah.

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The Torah being read with the aid of a 'yad' which often referred to as a Torah pointer

The Torah

Article by:
Maryanne Saunders

The Torah has central importance in Jewish life, ritual and belief. Maryanne Saunders describes what the Torah is, what it includes and how it is used in worship and ritual.

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The finding of baby Moses. Illustration of three women gathered around a baby.

Women and gender in the Hebrew Bible

Article by:
Debbie Young-Somers

Rabbi Debbie Young-Somers takes a look at women within the Hebrew Bible, traditional and modern Jewish interpretation of the scripture and womens’ relationship with biblical education.

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Abstract pattern with guilded highlights, enlarged from the so-called Lisbon Bible

Illumination of Jewish biblical texts

Article by:
Ilana Tahan

Using a varied collection of Hebrew manuscripts, Dr Ilana Tahan explores the illumination of Jewish biblical manuscripts, looking at the religious grounds for artistic expression in the Bible, and the differences in styles between manuscripts produced in the Near East and those in Europe.

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A pair of hands holding a printed Hebrew prayer book.

Jewish prayer at home and in the synagogue

Article by:
Johnny Solomon

Rabbi Johnny Solomon explores the role of prayer within Jewish tradition, looking at its history, development and use within worship and rituals.

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miniature of Abraham being thrown into the furnace by Nimrod - from the Golden Haggadah

The Abrahamic religions

Article by:
Anna Sapir Abulafia

Dr Anna Sapir Abulafia looks at three of the Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and explores the role and narrative surrounding the figure of Abraham in their sacred texts and traditions.

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a hand turning a page of the Babylonian Talmud

Jewish Bible study

Article by:
Barry Dov Walfish

Barry Dov Walfish explains the development of biblical interpretation in Judaism, looking at key corpuses such as the Masorah, Targum and Midrash.

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manuscript page of Yiddish writing

Jewish languages

Article by:
Daniel Isaac

The Hebrew language is central to Judaism but several other languages have also been used in biblical translations and interpretations. Daniel Isaacs looks at the languages of Aramaic, Judaeo-Arabic, Djudezmo and Yiddish and their relationships to the Jewish sacred text.

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Detail of illuminated text from a Hebrew manuscript

Judaism introduction

Article by:
The British Library

An overview of the articles and British Library resources relating to Judaism

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Further themes

Buddhism

The Buddha lived over 2,500 years ago, yet his life and teachings continue to inform the lives of millions of Buddhists worldwide. Learn about the Buddha’s teachings, the different Buddhist traditions, and Buddhist meditation.

Christianity

From its origins on the shores of the Eastern Mediterranean to its expansion to every corner of the globe in modern times, discover how the production of biblical texts enabled Christianity to become the diverse faith it is today.

Devotional texts

From medieval Christian Books of Hours to the Sikh empress Rani Jindan’s prayer book, explore how devotional texts have helped believers make a personal connection with their faith.

Hinduism

From its origins as an oral tradition over 4,000 years ago, to contemporary retellings of its epic stories, Hinduism is characterised by seemingly limitless diversity. Discover more about Hinduism’s sacred texts and the colourful gods and goddesses that feature in them.

Illuminated texts

The British Library’s collection comprises some of the most beautiful, handwritten and illuminated sacred texts from many of the world’s religions.

Islam

As the unadulterated Word of God, the Qur’an is sacred to Muslims everywhere. Learn more about Qur’an and its content, and Islam’s other important sacred texts, such as the Hadith and Sunna.

Jainism

Characterised by principles of asceticism and non-violence, Jainism has its roots in India in the sixth century BCE. Discover more about Jainism’s sacred texts, its cosmology, and the religious views and practices of its adherents.

Judaism

Explore how the Hebrew Bible and the Talmud inform the lives of Jews today, and how prayer books such as the Haggadah, used in worship and religious festivals, have helped sustain Jewish identity over many centuries.

Living Texts

Whether retold from one generation to the next, or written down from one language into another, some sacred texts have evolved while others have remained the same throughout time, enriching and informing the lives of those that read them.

Pilgrimage, text and place

Explore the connections between sacred spaces and sacred texts.

Sacred texts

All faiths have their origins in texts, be they the word of God as revealed to prophets, oral stories retold by one generation to another over centuries, or written down in books. Explore the origins and developments of the world’s major faiths.

Sikhism

Discover more about the origins of the Sikh faith, the role of the Sikh Gurus in the compilation of its sacred texts, and the importance of prayer to Sikhs.

The Baha’i Faith

Emerging in the mid-19th century, the Baha’i Faith has grown rapidly from its Middle Eastern origins, and now has around 8 million adherents worldwide. Learn more about the founders of the Baha’i faith, and how they disseminated their beliefs.

Women, texts and faith

Explore the lives of women in the sacred texts of the world’s major faiths, and the changing ways in which women contribute to religious practice in contemporary society.

Zoroastrianism

With its roots in central Asia 3,500 years ago, Zoroastrianism has a rich history of interaction with the Abrahamic faiths, and of migration around the world. Learn more about this ancient religion, and the sacred texts that inform its beliefs.