Judaism is a religion of ethical monotheism. God is unique and the ultimate authority, but the utter and essential backbone of the entire religion is the Torah, comprised of the first five books of the Bible, attributed to Moses.
In addition to the Torah, the Hebrew canon includes the Nevi'im or the books of the prophets. Nevi'im are generally divided into two sections: the former prophets (comprised of twenty-two books) and the latter prophets, of which there are twelve. The writings of the twelve minor prophets are copied onto one scroll, so that they can be counted as one entry, so to speak. The total number of books in the Hebrew canon is thirty-nine, which was the number of scrolls on which they were originally written.
The Torah, the most important section of the Jewish Bible, is a series of narratives and laws that chronicle the beginning of the world through the death of Moses. Jewish people and Christians agree that Moses was the author of the five books. The study of the Torah is considered an act of worship for the Jews; it is read religiously each Sabbath. Over the course of a year, the entire Torah will be read on Sabbath and festival days. There are daily and weekly classes and groups for those who wish to study the Torah.
The Talmud, which means study or learning, is a reference to the interpretations of the Torah. It is the supreme sourcebook of law, as it takes the rules listed in the Torah and describes how to apply them to different circumstances. It's not actually a legal code — there are other works for that — but it is the ultimate source material used to decide all matters of Jewish law. The Mishnah is the first part of the Talmud.
There is a confession of faith called a Shema, made up of three scriptural texts from Deuteronomy and Numbers, that demonstrates the power and demands emanating from the Jewish God. Because the original requirement to study the Torah night and day was understandably tough, the Shema became the substitute as a minimum requirement. It is said that pious Jews hope to die with the words of the Shema on their lips. Here is a short extract:
And ye shall teach them (these words) to your children, talking of them, when thou sittest in thy home, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up … remember and do all My commandments, and be holy unto your God. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am the Lord your God.
The fifth of the Ten Commandments says that nobody shall work on the Sabbath. The Jewish Sabbath, Shabbat, starts at dusk on Friday and ends at dusk on Saturday. The synagogue has services Friday night and Saturday morning. Jews start the Sabbath by dressing up for a good meal and maybe some singing and celebration. Saturdays they go visiting friends and family and sit around reading the Torah. A ceremony called Havdalah marks the end of the Sabbath on Saturday evening. The family gathers, a candle is lit, and a box of sweet-smelling spices is passed around. If dinner is served after Havdalah, it must have been prepared earlier because cooking is not permitted on the Sabbath.