Torah – First Five Books of Scripture

Torah – First Five Books of Scripture

The Torah (/ˈtɔːrəˌˈtrə/; Hebrew: תּוֹרָה‎, “instruction, teaching”) is the central reference of Judaism. It has a range of meanings. It can most specifically mean the first five books (Pentateuch) of the twenty-four books of the Tanakh, and it usually includes the rabbinic commentaries (perushim). The term “Torah” means instruction and offers a way of life for those who follow it; it can mean the continued narrative from Book of Genesis to the end of the Tanakh, and it can even mean the totality of Jewish teaching, culture and practice.[1] Common to all these meanings, Torah consists of the origin of Jewish peoplehood: their call into being by God, their trials and tribulations, and their covenant with their God, which involves following a way of life embodied in a set of moral and religious obligations and civil laws (halakha).

In rabbinic literature the word “Torah” denotes both the five books (Hebrew: תורה שבכתב‎‎ “Torah that is written”) and the Oral Torah (תורה שבעל פה, “Torah that is spoken”). The Oral Torah consists of interpretations and amplifications which according to rabbinic tradition have been handed down from generation to generation and are now embodied in the Talmud and Midrash.[2] According to rabbinic tradition, all of the teachings found in the Torah, both written and oral, were given by God through the prophet Moses, some at Mount Sinai and others at the Tabernacle, and all the teachings were written down by Moses, which resulted in the Torah that exists today. According to the Midrash, the Torah was created prior to the creation of the world, and was used as the blueprint for Creation.[3]

The majority of Biblical scholars believe that the written books were a product of the Babylonian captivity (c. 600 BCE), based on earlier written and oral traditions, which could only have arisen from separate communities within ancient Israel,[citation needed] and that it was completed by the period of Achaemenid rule (c. 400 BCE).[4][5] The 1979 discovery of fragments of the Hebrew Bible (Priestly Blessing from the Book of Numbers) at Ketef Hinnom dating to the late 7th century BC, and thus to before the Babylonian captivity, is the oldest evidence of elements of the Torah which were current before the Babylonian exile.[6][7][8][9][10]

Traditionally, the words of the Torah are written on a scroll by a scribe (sofer) in Hebrew. A Torah portion is read publicly at least once every three days in the presence of a congregation.[11] Reading the Torah publicly is one of the bases for Jewish communal life.

Torah – First Five Books of Scripture
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