Each religion has its sacred books; for Jews, the Torah is the sacred books of Judaism. I thought I’d write a few articles about the holy texts of the Jewish people for those who want to become better acquainted with Judaism.
So this sounds like Judaism 101, but let’s start with the Torah. What is the Torah? Most people know what the Torah is; even folks who’ve never encountered a Jewish soul know that the Torah is the first five books of the Bible, five books Christians share in common with us. The Torah is Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy and Numbers. A browse of the internet yielded this definition of the word “Torah:”
The term “Torah” (Hebrew: “teaching” or “instruction”, sometimes translated as “law”), refers either to the Five Books of Moses (or Pentateuch) or to the entirety of Judaism’s founding legal and ethical religious texts. —en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torah
The Torah or “law” was given to Moses by God on Mount Sinai after the people fled Egypt and wandered the wilderness for forty years.
I found a fitting description of the Jewish view of the Torah on the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs website and its description of Jewish Sacred Texts:
“The principal message of the Torah is the absolute unity of God, His creation of the world and His concern for it, and His everlasting covenant with the people of Israel. The Pentateuch both embodies the heritage of the Jewish people - retelling its history, setting forth its guiding precepts and foretelling its destiny - and carries universal messages of monotheism and social conduct, which have had tremendous impact on western civilization. Thus, the Torah is also the origin of certain non-Jewish traditions, among them the recognition of the Sabbath as a day of rest.”
The discussion surrounding the application of Torah to everyday life is fascinating. Jewish people go round and round about how literally to take the Torah, the rationale behind the actions, and what the rabbis have to say about applying Torah.
“... this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it.”
Judaism places a premium on tradition but also the habit of study. Studying Torah is one of the highest aspirations of every Jewish soul.
Next time we will talk about the Talmud.