Understanding Written and Oral Traditions in Judaism:
Part 1: The Written Tradition
Judaism as we know it is the culmination of thousands of years of growth and development shaped by the Written and the Oral Traditions. To
begin to understand Judaism, it is necessary to understand the process by which these traditions evolved from generation to generation. Over the next several months, we will provide a thumbnail sketch of the
Written and Oral Traditions.
The Written Tradition (Torah shel biktov) includes everything that was written in the Bible . It includes three parts: Torah, aka Five Books of
Moses and Pentateuch, serves as the foundation of Judaism; Nevi'im ("Prophets") starts where the Torah leaves off. It documents Joshua leading the Israelites into the Promised Land, includes stories from the
period of Judges and Kings and culminates with the Prophets; Ketuvim ("Writings") which includes the ost dramatic works of literature questioning the most basic questions about life and human existence. The
Book of Job, Song of Songs, Lamentations and Proverbs are all found in this third section of the Written Tradition. It includes a historical record of the Jewish People dating to the end of Babylonia captivity
around 500 B.C.E.
Our rabbis of old closed the Written Tradition with Chronicles I and II, forbidding anything else to be added to it. Everything that followed became a
part of the Oral Tradition which we will look at next month.