The Book of Threes


Reading through portions of the Scriptures is a fixed part of Jewish liturgy, with the greatest emphasis put on the Torah, which is read through in its entirety in the synagogues over the course of every year. This is supplemented each week by a reading from the Nevi’im (Prophets), called the Haftarah (meaning supplement, commonly pronounced Haftorah), while other portions of Scripture, especially the Psalms, are included in the daily prayers.

There are other, special readings for various holy days, most notably the reading of what are called the Five Scrolls (Hebrew, chamesh megillot) on five of the major holy days. The Five Scrolls are the Song of Songs (or Song of Solomon), which is read on Passover (pesach) to commemorate God’s love relationship with His people; Ruth, which is read on Shavuot (Pentecost) because of the harvest imagery; Lamentations (called Eichah, based on the opening word, How), which is read on Tisha b’Ab (the Ninth of Av, the ultimate day of mourning on the Jewish calendar); Ecclesiastes (called Kohelet, based on the Hebrew word found in Ecclesiastes 1:1, meaning, “the preacher” or “the convener,” and translated “teacher” in the NIV), which is read on Sukkot, Tabernacles, in recognition of the transitory nature of life); and Esther, which is read on Purim, whose background is given in Esther 9:26-32.

Because the majority of Jews worldwide today are not observant (in fact, roughly 90 percent are not Orthodox; see #1), most of them are not familiar with their own Scriptures. In contrast, observant Jews tend to be very familiar with the portions of the Tanakh that are part of their liturgical and study cycle but not as familiar with other portions of the Tanakh, since they primarily study the Talmud and related legal literature.

As for the use of acronyms (as in Tanakh), it should be noted that there are literally hundreds of such acronyms in Judaism, and so Rabbi Moses ben Maimon (Maimonides) is called Rambam (based on the letters R-M-B-M) and Rabbi Moses ben Nachman (Nachmanides) is called Ramban (based on the letters R-M-B-N). Similarly, Rabbi David Kimchi is called Radak (based on the letters R-D-K) and Rabbi Levi ben Gershom is called Ralbag (based on the letters R-L-B-G).


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Three is the Magic Number

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