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Chumash (Hebrew: חומש, pronounced [xuˈmɑʃ]; also Humash) is one of the Hebrew names for the Five Books of Moses, also known as the Pentateuch or Torah. The word comes from the Hebrew word for five, chamesh. A more formal term is Chamishah Chumshei Torah, "five fifths of the Law".
Origin of the term
The word "Chumash" may be a misreading of chomesh, meaning "one-fifth", alluding to any one of the five books: as the Hebrew חומש has no vowel signs, it could be read either way. It could also be regarded as a back-formed singular of chumashim/chumshei (which is in fact the plural of chomesh).
In early scribal practice there was a distinction between a Sefer Torah, containing the entire Pentateuch on a parchment scroll, and a copy of one of the five books on its own, which was generally bound in codex form, like a modern book, and had a lesser degree of sanctity. The term chomesh strictly applies to one of these. Thus, Chomesh Bereshit strictly means "the Genesis fifth", but was misread as Chumash, Bereshit and interpreted as meaning "The Pentateuch: Genesis", as if "Chumash" was the name of the book and "Bereshit" the name of one of its parts.
In the legal codes, such as Maimonides' Mishneh Torah, it is laid down that any copy of the Pentateuch which does not comply with the strict rules for a Sefer Torah, for example because it is not a parchment scroll or contains vowel signs, has only the same sanctity as a copy of an individual book (chomesh). In this way, the word chomesh (or chumash) came to have the extended sense of any copy of the Pentateuch other than a Sefer Torah.
The word chumash generally only refers to "book" bound editions of the Pentateuch, whereas the "scroll" form is called a Sefer Torah ("book [of the] Torah").
In modern Jewish practice:
- A printed Chumash usually sets out the Hebrew text of the Torah with vowel points and cantillation marks, separated into its 54 constituent parshiyot (weekly reading portions), together with the haftarah for each parsha and, often, translations and notes.
- A Chumash-Rashi also contains the Targum of Onkelos and the commentary of Rashi, and usually has no vernacular translation of the text.
- A multi-volume set in Hebrew only, including the entire Tanakh with masoretic notes, Targumim and several classical commentaries, is referred to as Mikraot Gedolot.
- see also Jewish English Bible translations
- Gutnik Chumash with commentary from the Lubavitcher Rebbe
- The Pentateuch and Haftorahs, London 1937, known as the "Hertz Chumash", containing the commentary of former British Chief Rabbi Joseph H. Hertz
- Stone Edition (Published by Artscroll/Mesorah Publishers: ISBN 0-89906-014-5) (Referred to as The ArtScroll Chumash)
- Soncino Chumash, ed. A. Cohen, containing notes summarizing the traditional commentaries
- Torah and the Haftarot, translation by Philip Birnbaum (Hebrew Publishing Company, 1983. ISBN 0884844560)
- Etz Hayim Humash (Published by the Jewish Publication Society of America ISBN 0-8276-0712-1): associated with Conservative movement
- The Torah: A Modern Commentary Revised Edition. W. Gunther Plaut, ed. New York: Union for Reform Judaism, 2006: associated with American Reform movement
- Cf. the misunderstanding of "Tur" to mean the entirety of the Arba'ah Turim.