The Languages of Monotheist Religions: A Linguistic Exploration in a Time of Turmoil in Israel and Palestine (part 3)

The art of interpretating Holy Scriptures in Judaism

The Haggadah, Targum, Midrash, Halakha, and Mishna are key elements of interpreting and applying the Hebrew Bible in Jewish tradition. Each of these concepts plays a specific role in the study and understanding of the Scriptures.

Targum: The Targum is a translation or paraphrase of the Hebrew Bible, often in Aramaic. It was created to assist those who did not understand Hebrew in comprehending the Scriptures during public readings in synagogues. Targums go beyond mere translation, including comments and explanations. The Targum Onkelos on the Pentateuch is one of the most well-known. Targums were essential for preserving and transmitting biblical teachings.

Midrash: Midrash is a form of rabbinic biblical interpretation that explores and delves into the narratives of the Hebrew Bible. It comes in two main types: Midrash Halakhah and Midrash Aggadah. Midrash Halakhah deals with legal aspects of Jewish law, while Midrash Aggadah explores broader topics such as values, morals, and spiritual teachings. Midrash employs various methods, including allegory and parable, to extract meaningful lessons from biblical texts.

Mishna: The Mishna is a compilation of oral Jewish laws accompanying the written Torah. It presents religious matters systematically, in contrast to Midrash. The Mishna covers various areas, including prayer, festivals, marriage, sacrifices, and more. It is organized into six orders, each addressing a different aspect of Jewish life. The Mishna is a central text in the Talmud, which is a broader collection of commentary and discussions on Jewish law.

Halakha: Halakha is the corpus of Jewish law that guides the religious and daily life of Jews. It is based on the interpretation of the Torah, particularly the Pentateuch, and covers a multitude of areas, from prayer to ethics, including kosher food and the Sabbath. Halakha relies on precise interpretation of Hebrew texts and the Talmudic jurisprudence that stems from these interpretations. Rabbis are the primary interpreters of Halakha and issue legal rulings to guide adherents in their religious observance.

Cite this blog post
Baudry Pierre (2023, October 26). The Languages of Monotheist Religions: A Linguistic Exploration in a Time of Turmoil in Israel and Palestine (part 3). Deciphering international politics - religion, economics and international affairs. Retrieved April 14, 2024, from

Baudry Pierre

Ph.D. CNRS/EPHE (Paris), Assistant professor.

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