Jews are known as the people of the book, that book is the Torah, which is the five books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy). The Torah is the principal book of the Jewish people, and the Jewish bible (Tanakh) includes Torah, Nevi’im (the prophets), and Kethuvim (the writings). Many outside of Judaism don’t know that Jews read a portion of the Torah each and every Shabbat and study the many meanings and interpretations of it so that every year they have read the entirety of the Torah (at least) once.
…but, there is another Torah, an oral Torah known as the Talmud!
The Talmud is an exhaustive work, generally comprised of dozens of volumes, which elucidates the Torah, standardizes Jewish practices and beliefs, and outlines the Mitzvot (613 commandments) of Hashem. The Talmud was not simply made up by a group of Rabbis, it was written over a 700 year period, to outline the debates and consensus of the Jewish beliefs and practices of the time. The Talmud also delves deep into the Torah and extracts all of the key elements of what Hashem demands of his people (the Jews).
Some Reform Jews do not read Talmud, and it’s a real shame as there’s a wealth of information, traditions, history, and so much more that add to one’s overall Jewish life. Aside from the weekly Torah portion read, every day there’s a Talmud page read, uniformly by the whole of most branches of Judaism. The Talmud helps us to connect with our Jewish ancestors and to find new spiritual relevance in the teachings of the sages and rabbis of the past. Take for instance the Hannukiah, it was the Talmud that established that we place the candles right to left and light them left to right.
Many potential converts believe that they’ll convert and that’s the end of it, but truthfully that is just the beginning of a lifetime of study, learning, and genuinely being a Jew. There’s Judaism itself, which is a massive study, then there’s Kaballah, Mussar, getting involved in the synagogue, learning history and culture, so very much!
Currently, I’m rereading the Tanakh for the fourth time, and the Talmud for the first time (it’s huge), while still doing the Torah portion weekly to study. Every study and every time I read through the Torah I learn something new I didn’t notice the last read-through, a new hidden gem of wisdom. So give Talmud a chance, study the page a day, read Torah, truly immerse yourself into your studies and apply what you learn to your life. You’ll find it is ultimately rewarding…