Torah (Tora, Thora; "Doctrine", in Hebrew)

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TORAH (Tora, Thora; "doctrine", in Hebrew)

The book of Jewish scripture on which religious law (Halakhah) is based. According to Jewish tradition the Torah was given by God himself to the Jewish people through the intermediary Moses. Scholars, however, believe that it is an assembly of diverse ancient texts relating to the Exodus to Sinai. The Torah consists of the first five books of the Hebrew Bible. Ancient Jewish translations of these books into Greek were the basis of the Christian Old Testament, and are referred to as the Pentateuch (Law of Moses), which is a collection of five texts: Genesis (Bereshit, in Hebrew), Exodus (Shemot), Leviticus (Vayiqrʾa), Numbers (Bamidbar) and Deuteronomy (Devarim). Modern Hebrew versions of the Torah exist both as a printed book within the larger printed Hebrew Bible and as a handwritten scroll used in synagogue rituals.

Although some ultra-Orthodox rabbinic sages regard the Torah as being older than the creation of the world, a representation of the principle at the heart of reality, most modern Jewish scholars view it in the light of European intellectual traditions of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Some interpret it not as a set of laws demanding obedience but as an expression of unchanging moral and ethical values. Others perceive it as the record of profound personal religious experiences. For the majority, it embodies the unique Jewish spiritual and cultural experience as it has developed through the ages. The Torah is the foundation of religious and historical Judaism, its fundamental affirmation being the oneness of God. Thus the study of the Torah remains a powerful unifying force in world Jewry.

Many Orthodox Jews interpret the Torah (especially Genesis 15 and 17) as containing pledges and commandments amounting to a covenant between God and the Jewish people, as descendants of Abraham, including God's promise of the Holy Land to the Jews.

SEE ALSO Bible;Moses;Talmud.