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The Torah: Story, Law, and Poetry

In the tradition of Judaism, Torah, in the broad sense, refers to the substance of God’s divine revelation to Israel, thus offering divine teaching and guidance to His followers. The meaning of Torah has been mainly restricted in order to denote the first give books of the Hebrew Bible, or the Old Testament, also referred to as the Law or the Pentateuch. The content of the books has been attributed to Moses who was considered the initial receiver of God’s original revelation on Mount Sinai. The readings from the Torah form a crucial part of Jewish services, and its written books are preserved with great care in all synagogues, residing inside the ark of the Law. The importance of the Torah to the Jewish population is attributed to the pride in their beliefs, traditions, and cultural heritage.

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Torah’s readings, which are differentiated into fifty-four weekly sections called parashas, represent the core of the Sabbath morning service. During such services, a Torah scroll is taken out from its sacred place and read aloud. Therefore, the traditions that center around the reading and study of Torah are essential for building a strong relationship between God and Jews. The stories and laws told in the books offer a chronicle of world’s creation, the emergence of Abraham and Sarah’s family and their growing connection to the Creator, the exile and the subsequent redemption of the nation that later became Israel, as well as its journey across the desert before returning to the land of Canaan (MJL, 2020). Throughout their travels, the Israelites develop a strong covenanted relationship with God, which allowed them to learn the laws for governing society as well as establishing a proper method of worship.

The five books of Torah include Genesis (“Origins” or Bereishit), Exodus (“The Road Out” or Shemot), Leviticus (“Laws of the Levites” or Vayikra), Numbers (“The Census” of Bamidbar), and Deuteronomy (“Second Law” or Devarim) (MJL, 2020). The first book retells the story of how God created the universe, Noah and the flood, as well as the choosing of Abraham and Sarah as the central bearers of the covenant of God. In addition, it included the narratives of Jacob and his son Joseph living in Egypt. In Exodus, one learns about Moses who becomes the first prophet of God, who, after bringing down plagues to Egypt, tales the Israelites across the Red Sea, gives a revelation at Mount Sinai. Leviticus deals predominantly with the laws associated with sacrificial worship as well as dietary regulations and issues regarding purity and impurity (Harris, 2019). Numbers covers the story of Jews wandering in the desert, including the census of the Israelites and the Levy tribe and the subsequent rebellion against the leadership of Moses and Aaron. Finally, Deuteronomy represents the ultimate message of God to Jews prior to their crossing of the Jordan River into Israel. Moses reminds his followers that God redeemed them from Egypt and described the rewards associated for the following of the laws and the punishment for not obeying.

The history of the Jewish nation has shown that when the study of Torah is overlooked or abandoned, there is an increased assimilation of the people emergences. It has been suggested that without fail, every community of Jewish people in history that did not teach or study the Torah as one of their cultural priorities gradually disappeared through assimilation. Torah is seen as the vehicle for bridging Jews and God, through which they can interact and communicate, and by the means of the teachings written in it, God can fulfill the covenant with followers, thus sustaining and protecting them (“Why study Torah,” 2020). Therefore, it is not surprising that the study of Torah is highly important as it guides the life of an individual starting from their birth to their death.

The essential role of Torah in Judaism is the expectation that Jews cannot live without it, similar to “fish without water” (“Why study Torah,” 2020). This is because the Torah has evolved to become the very essence of the Jewish people, their traditions, without which they would have no existence. When the followers of Judaism study Torah, they are not exploring or re-reading an abstract or outdated text that belongs to ancient times. Rather, they consider its books the way in which God wants them to live on the earth, engaging in discovering the very essence of Judaism, which is the essence of themselves.

Torah remains a sacred text of Judaism that is much more than the retelling of myths and the laws that Jews are expected to follow. It is the center of the longstanding traditions and culture of the people of Israel as well as their struggles to reach freedom and practice their religion. It is intended to be studied end explore throughout one’s life to get closer in the covenant relationship with God and learn about the ways in which a Jew is intended to live their life.

References

Harris, R. (2019). Torah and transformation: The centrality of the Torah in the eschatology of 2 Baruch. Journal of Ancient Judaism, 10(1), 99-114.

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MJL. (2020). The Torah: Five books of story, law, and poetry divided into 54 weekly portions. Web.

Why study Torah. (2020). Web.

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