Chumash, from the root Ch-M-Sh, is probably best translated from Hebrew
as "fiver," (or possibly, if you understand Greek
, the Pentateuch
) referring to the first five books of the Judeo-Christian Bible
, ie. Torah
contained in it. It is the Hebrew equivalent of the term pentateuch
. The five books it contains are, in Hebrew
); Bereshit (Genesis
), Shemot (Exodus
), Vayikra (Leviticus
), Bamidbar (Numbers
), and Devarim (Deuteronomy
The five books are named, in Hebrew, after one of the first words in the book. These titles, however, are descriptive of the book. Bereshit, meaning "In the beginning (of)," is roughly equivalent to Genesis, but the rest of the books are not quite as parallel. Shemot, which means names, is from the first phrase in the book; "These are the names of the children of Israel who were coming toward Egypt." This is interesting becuase it is about the entrance to Egypt in the book of Exodus. The book also continues past the end of the Exodus proper, into the desert, and even past the giving of the ten commandments. Vayikra, "And (God) called..." is a discussion of the various commandments given to the Jews, focusing on the Levites, hence the English title, Leviticus. Bamidbar, meaning "in the desert", from "God spoke to moses in the desert..." is a description of the rest of the Jews travels in the wilderness, to the border of Israel. The English title, Numbers, is very interesting, being possibly the most descriptive, since the Jews were counted twice in the desert. Devarim, meaning "Words," from "And these were the words Moses spoke to Israel," is an extended exortation of Moses' to Israel before he died, explaining what the Jews needed to know before entering the land of Israel, repeating many earlier ideas and commandments, hence the English name, Deuteronomy.
The Chumash is typically further subdivided (by Jews) either into the Sidrot, the weekly portions read in Synagogue on Shabbos, or into Parshiot, the dividers (ie. whitespace) in the text of the written Torah Scroll, of which there are two types; Petuchot and Stumot. A Petucha is a typical paragraph end, where it is blank until the end of the line, whereas a Stuma is a tab in the middle of the text. These mark the beginning of chapters and sections, respectively. The writer of the Magna Carta decided that the christians needed a convenient way to divide the entire bible, and created chapters, which are often used to cite verse by number, and are typically also included in printed chumashim. These are sometimes at the beginning of a Petucha or Stumah, but sometimes are not, showing interesting but often subtle differences in how the Bible was understood differently by Jews and Christians.
There are 54 Sidrot, with eight pairs designated as "double" Sidrot, where two consecutive sidras are read in one week or not, depending on the length on the Jewish Calendar year, which varies. The sidrot were divided two ways in the times of the Talmud, with another method, that of a three year cycle, that was discarded around the year 1000. The Sidrot, like the Books of the Chumash, are named for a word at the beginning of the Sidra, usually a particularly important one thematically.
The text of the Chumash is unchanged from when it was first transcribed by Moses from God's words. This is one of the Rambam's thirteen principles of the Jewish faith. It is supported by the fact that every scroll of the bible currently known has the exact same text, including recently unearthed texts such as the Dead Sea Scrolls, which contain parts of the Chumash. A scroll of the Torah is considered disqualified if even a single letter is illegible, so scrolls are carefully kept, especially given that a scroll costs between $20,000 and $60,000, being handwritten in ink on leather parchment by specially trained scribes, typically taking several years to complete.
In the last several centuries, printed Chumashim have become availible, typically containing the text of the Chumash, the commentary of Rashi, and the translation to Aramaic by Onkelus, from around the 6th century. More elaborate versions of Chumashim exist, including translations to many languages, Chumashim with other ancient commentaries, or more modern hebrew commentaries, or english digests of various commentaries. Most of these also contain various other reading from synagogue throughout the year, such as the Haftorah, the five Megillot (the books of Ruth, Ester, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations, and Song of Songs), and more and more frequently, a text of the prayer service for sabbath as well.
Frequently, Sidrot are referred to as Parshiot, but this is an incorrect usage