12 Transformative Sefarim: Why Na”Kh?

Na” Kh
Na”Kh is the acronym for Neviim (Prophets) & Ketuvim (Writings).  Together they make up the second. slightly less-sacred texts of what is called the TaNa”Kh – 19 of its 24 books:

Altogether they include:

The 5 Books of the Torah;

The Eight Books of the Prophets (Neviim)

The Eleven  Books of the Sacred Wrtings (Ketuvim)

This body of work is given a somewhat lesser degree of sanctity than the Torah because they are not dictated by God and transcribed word-for-word by Moshe,  as tradition views the Torah.  The Neviim transmitted God’s message ‘filtered’ , that is, in their own words.  Ketuvim were divinely inspired, but not dictated to the authors at all.

Traditionally, Na”Kh  is dated much later than the Torah, with some sections not even canonized until the 2nd century CE.  The decision to include a text in the canon had less to do with its provenance and more to with its relevance and significance.  (for example, the Sages chose  to include Mishle (Proverbs), Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) and Song of Songs (Shir Hashirim) and reject Ben Sirah.

If we take the books of YehoshuaShoftim (Judges) we follow the conquest and settlement of Canaan by the tribes and trace the history of the land through a succession of kings and prophets.  Aside from the beginning of the Nevi’im,  historical events actually take a back seat to the prophecies, forming the backdrop for the dramatic narratives which unfold, much like a stage for a series of prophetic soliloquies.  When the sages analyze the prophecies and the writings, they ignore the contexts, for the most part, and focus on the content.  This lent the narratives a special timelessness, which allowed the sages to apply the prophecies to any situation they chose.

If the Torah’s intent was to chronicle the entry of Avraham’s descendants  into Canaan (demonstrating how God kept his side of the bargain) and establishing the Divine laws by which it should live, the books of Nevi’im are the follow-up  which show, sometimes, through cautionary tales, how  keeping the laws safeguard the empire and  violating the laws led to its destruction.  If we take the phrase in Shoftim “In those days there was no king in Israel. Each did as he thought proper” (Shofetim 21:25)  (“בימים ההם אין מלך בישראל איש הישר בעיניו יעשה” (שופטים כ”א, כ”ה) metaphorically, the book foreshadows the fate of the nation until the destruction of the temple – and even in exile – when the people didn’t have a ‘King’.

Ketuvim on the other hand, is a body of works designed to be appreciated as timeless wisdom. Iyov (Job) could have been a contemporary of Moshe or Avraham or may not have existed at all.  It doesn’t matter. And even if it is connected to an historical time period – such as Ruth or Esther – its importance is related more to its timeless meaning than its historicity

The TaNa”Kh, then s transformative not only because it is our national & collective heritage, but also because it defines our origin and charts the journey towards our collective aspirations.

About Sidney Slivko

There are so many things I enjoy doing -- teaching, reading, editing, art, networking, computers -- and thank God, I am able to integrate all of them. I am one of the original Jewish Studies teachers to use computer technology and multi-media in Jewish education (Mishna-mation, Hypertext Talmud, Guided Social Simulations & gaming for learning Jewish values, media and drama). I got into this because that's where the students were, and I was fortunate to have principals and school heads that believed in me and allowed me to use my creativity to reach them. Since coming to Israel in 1997 as a fellow in the Melton Senior Educators' Program, I have been expanding my apps and my reach, and still continue to look for new and creative ways to use the media.
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