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ḤUMMASH (Heb. חֻמָשׁ, "Pentateuch," from the root חָמֵשׁ, "five"), the first five books of the Bible. The ḥummash (pl. ḥummashim) is separately printed for use in the synagogue during the Reading of the Law when the worshipers follow individually the text of the section of the Pentateuch that is being read. It serves as a school text for Bible instruction and is usually printed with the Aramaic translation, Targum *Onkelos, and *Rashi's commentary. The more elaborate editions, called Mikra'ot Gedolot, also have the commentaries of Abraham *Ibn Ezra, *Naḥmanides, etc. In talmudic literature, the equivalent term for ḥummash is mikra (מִקְרָא), or Torah (תּוֹרָה), as distinct from the Prophets and the Writings. In modern times, ḥummashim with translations and commentary in the vernacular contributed to a more extensive knowledge of the Pentateuch (e.g., Samson Raphael *Hirsch's Pentateuch with English translation and commentary (6 vols., 1956–63), J.H. *Hertz's Pentateuch and Haftorahs (19622), A. Cohen's Soncino Chumash (19642)). In case of fire on the Sabbath, ḥummashim, even those printed in the vernacular, may be saved from the conflagration because they are considered to be "holy writings" (Shab. 16:1, also Sh. Ar., OḤ 334:12).

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.