why is the torah important to judaism
What is the Torah? The Torah is the first part of the Jewish bible. It is the central and most important document of Judaism and has been used by Jews through the ages. Torah refers to the five books of Moses which are known in Hebrew as Chameesha Choomshey Torah. These are: Bresheit (Genesis), Shemot (Exodus), Vayicra (Leviticus), Bamidbar (Numbers), and Devarim (Deuteronomy). Jews believe that God dictated the Torah to Moses on Mount Sinai 50 days after their exodus from Egyptian slavery. They believe that the Torah shows how God wants Jews to live. It contains 613 commandments and Jews refer to the ten best known of these as the ten 10 statements. The Torah is written in Hebrew, the oldest of Jewish languages. It is also known as Torat Moshe, the Law of Moses. The Torah is the first section or first five books of the Jewish bible. However, Tanach is more commonly used to describe the whole of Jewish scriptures. This is an acronym made up from the first letter of the words Torah, Nevi im (prophets), and Ketuvim (writings). Similarly, the term Torah is sometimes used in a more general sense to incorporate Judaismвs written and oral law. This definition encompasses Jewish scripture in its entirety including all authoritative Jewish religious teachings throughout history. The word Torah has various meanings in English. These include: teaching, instruction and law. For Jews the Torah means all of these. How is the Torah used? The Torah scrolls are taken out from the Ark (Aron ha kodesh) and portions read in the synagogue three times each week. On Mondays and Thursdays small sections are read. The main reading is on the morning of Shabbat (Sabbath). Over the course of the year the whole scroll is read in sequence. This begins from the end of Sukkot which is an autumn festival.
The special portions for the readings are called parshioth and are usually three to five chapters in length. The reader has to be very skilled to read from the scroll because the letters are written without corresponding vowels. They have to know the portion very well to avoid making mistakes. The reading is conducted using an ancient tune and is sung rather than spoken. The scrolls are not directly touched when unfurled on the Bimah (raised platform in middle of the synagogue). A pointer or Yad (hand) is used instead. This is in the shape of a hand with an outstretched finger. The reading or chanting is performed by a person who has been trained in this task. However it may be carried out by the rabbi. It is a very great honour for a congregant to be asked to attend at a reading during a synagogue service. This is called having an Aliyah which is Hebrew for going up. The weekly portion or Sedrah is followed by the recitation of part of another of the Jewish holy writings. How is a Torah scroll constructed? The Torah scrolls are entirely handwritten in Hebrew by a sofer (scribe) on parchment from a kosher animal. This is usually a cow. It can take up to 18 months to complete the whole process from the complex preparation of the animal skins to the writing of the final words. Great accuracy is needed when the sofer writes the scroll. If he makes any mistakes it can make the whole scroll pasul (invalid). The completed scroll is known as a Sefer Torah from sefer which is the Hebrew for book. A Sefer Torah is so sacred to Jews it is said that if one is accidentally dropped in the synagogue the whole congregation must fast for 40 days. When Jewish communities have suffered persecution, great efforts would be made to preserve these scrolls.
This demonstrates just how symbolically and physically important the Torah is to Jews. Alongside the written law Jews believe God also told Moses the spoken or oral law. This is known as the Torah she bвal pei or literally Torah from the mouth. The letter Pei as well as being the Hebrew word for mouth is the 17th letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Pei has a numerical value of 80 which Jews believe is the age that Moses was when he led them out from slavery in Egypt. Although given at the same time this law was to be passed down orally from generation to generation. It is the information Jews need to practise fully the commandments in the written law. It was codified in the 2nd Century C. E.
To call the Torah the most sacred text in Judaism is an understatement. Without Torah, there would be no Judaism. Through the Torah, a Jewish person is connected to God. The Torah existed before God created the world, tradition says. Over the years Jewish scholars have taken a more scientific approach, recognizing that the Torah was written by human beings over a period of time. More Than a Book, or Five Books The simplest definition of The Torah is the first five books of the Tanakh, which is the Bible excluding the New Testament. But Torah can also refer to the Tanakh as a whole, or even to the entirety of Jewish law in both written form and in oral tradition. The Torah is a collection of stories, such as the Garden of Eden, MosesБ leading the Israelites out of Egypt and many others. Most importantly, the The Torah is the book of the law by which God commands the people of Israel to live. The first 10 are the most famous, but the Torah contains 613 commandments, or miztvot, throughout the text.
The 12th century Jewish philosopher Maimonides put together the master list. He found 248 affirmative commandments. The rest are all БdonБts. Б The mitzvot cover every aspect of daily life: food, business, religion, sex, etc. They address cosmic questions, such as the unity of God, and mundane ones like grooming and sanitation. The laws are not meant to be followed to the letter, impossible in the modern world. The Torah itself tells readers to consult wise men on points that need more interpretation. Judaism recognizes an oral tradition of laws and stories. This БOral TorahБ was also said to be imparted by God to Moses, but it was written down by the second century C. E. Rabbi Judah Hanasi called the book the Mishna, or Бteaching. Б Later, other rabbis felt at liberty to pitch in with their own interpretations. The compiled works of these rabbis, including the Mishna, over the ensuing three centuries became knows as the Talmud. This book and many subsequent commentaries provide guidance on how the Torah should be interpreted and its commandments followed. The Torah is not only a sacred text, it is a sacred object. Jews read a Torah portion weekly in synagogue. The reading uses a handwritten parchment Torah scroll, made from kosher animal skin. Even the Hebrew lettering has a significance, as it is written in lettering without vowel sounds and sung, not spoken. The parchment itself may not be touched, but is read with a Yad, a pointer shaped like a hand with the index finger raised. The reading ritual requires a high degree of skill and training. But the true significance of the Torah lies in its message, summarized by the first-century sage Rabbi Akiva in the single statement, БLove thy neighbor as thyself. Б
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