Hebraic Literature – Jewish Sacred Texts

In this book, Maurice Henry Harris translates 3 of Judaism’s most revered religious texts into English. Collectively they serve as an outstanding initiation into Judaism and the Hebraic culture. Harris performs an exhaustive examination of the archaic Hebrew transcripts and presents them in a style easily grasped by English speakers.

First, Harris renders the compilation of archaic Babylonian texts known as the Talmud, which expands on the Biblical canon. Next, he translates the Rabbinic writings and commentaries identified as the Midrash, many of which undertake to explain complex Bible verses. Last, Harris interprets the mystical Hebraic works known as the Kabbalah.

Hebrew literature includes archaic, medieval, and contemporary works written in the Hebrew language. They wrote Hebrew literature in many parts of the world during the ancient and medieval eras, whereas recent Hebrew literature is predominantly Israeli.

Bible text — Hebrew Script

The relevance of Judaism’s religious texts is much broader than their theological significance. These ancient chronicles not only contain Judaism’s religious doctrines but likewise the cultural, social and historical traditions of Hebrew society. In Israel, where views regarding Hebrew heritage stretches from the extreme-orthodox to the secular, religious writings denote various of purposes from a sacred, moral and real-world handbook to daily life, to an educational treasure on their history and culture.

The Torah, sometimes called the Pentateuch, or the five books of Moses, is the cornerstone of all Hebrew religious texts. It recounts the narrative of the Creation of the world, Yahweh’s covenant with Abraham and his descendants, the revelation of the 10 Commandments at Mt. Sinai, the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and their wanderings in the desert. Likewise, Torah implies instruction. The Pentateuch uses the word Torah to designate a distinct group of statutes; used in this way, Torah means “law,” and is generally translated as such.

 

Reading the Torah

Throughout the generations, Hebrew tradition proclaimed the Torah to have divine authorship, many academics and contemporary Hebraic scholars maintain that different writers composed the Torah incrementally over time, causing it to not only be an outline of Hebraic history but also its byproduct.

The Talmud is a written version, which originates from the 2nd century CE, of the Hebraic oral law and the commentaries on it. The word Talmud is derived from the Hebrew verb ‘to teach’ or ‘to learn’. It is the genesis from which the code of Hebrew Halakhah (law) was developed, and is an incorporating of the Mishnah and the Gemara. The Mishnah is the authentic written version of the oral law and the Gemara is a written record of the subsequent Rabbinic debates, including their differing viewpoints.

Midrash and Rabbinic readings “discern value in texts, words, and letters, as potential revelatory spaces,” writes the Hebrew scholar Wilda C. Gaffney. The word Midrash literally means “study,” but the term was also used to denote a Rabbinic work that interprets Scripture. These works contain interpretations and commentaries on the written Torah and the oral Torah; and non-legalistic Rabbinic literature and Hebraic religious laws.

 

Kabbalah is an academic component of Judaism that helps people with their perception of Rabbinic Judaism. The word “kabbalah” means “reception” and in Rabbinic Judaism the word expresses the reception of divine instruction. The Kabbalah is an assemblage of mystical concepts from the Rabbinic era, Kabbalah came about in the middle Ages as part of an accepted practice of Hebrew life that measured the extent of religious mysteries; outlined the avenues for communication with God; and gathered spiritual power for the atonement of the universe. Even though Kabbalah regarded its traditions as eternal revelations declared by God when he conceived the world, it was a cultural invention whose traditions and observances evolved in reply to shifts within Judaism and through their dealings with non-Jewish societies.

Maurice Henry Harris

British Rabbi

“Do not be daunted by the insurmountability of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work but neither are you free to abandon it.”

 

― Talmud Selections English, Hebraic Literature: Translations from the Talmud, Midrashim and Kabbala

Maurice Henry Harris was born on November 9, 1859, in London, England, and died on June 23, 1930, in New York City. He was educated in London before going to Columbia College in New York City, where he earned both his Masters and a Ph.D. degree in 1887. Later, he went to the Emanu-El Theological Seminary of New York City.  Harris was classified as a notable rabbi by Marquis Who’s Who. Maurice Henry Harris married Kitty Green, of London, on August 14, 1888, they had 3 children.

In 1883, Harris was appointed rabbi of Temple Israel of Harlem, New York, a position he kept till 1904. He was elected vice-president of the Society for the Aid of Jewish Prisoners, second vice-president of the New York Board of Jewish Ministers, and an administrator of the Jewish Protectory.

 

Amongst his most famous publications are: “The People of the Book: A Biblical History” (3 vols.); “Selected Addresses” (3 vols.); and Hebraic Literature. Harris also wrote articles for the “Jewish Quarterly Review” and the “North American Review.”

Books by Maurice H. Harris

A Thousand Years of Jewish History: from the days of Alexander the Great to the Moslem Conquest of Spain / (New York: Bloch Publishing, 1911) 

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