Introduction to What Torah is

The foundation of Jewish belief is based on the Tanach (התנ”ך), which includes the Five Books of Moses (חמשה חומשי התורה), The Prophets and the Writings וכתובים) נביאים) – in total 24 Books. These 24 books cover 3500 years, from God created the world until the building of the 2nd Temple. In English this collection of books is called the Bible.

In our days, hundreds of thousands of people are studying the Torah every day to connect with God and get a greater understanding of his being. We believe in the Living Torah, that guides us in our everyday-life and we learn from the wisdom of our Rabbis the inner meaning of the Torah and how we should live.

What the Tanach is

The Tanach is much more than just a collection of history books. Here we learn about Gods plan for his creation the World, his relationship with humanity and primary with his Chosen Nation – the Jewish People.

To understand the depth of the Tanach we are depended on different commentaries that explain the different sentences (פסוקים).

Here are some of the most common:

  • Rashi
  • Or HaChaim
  • Sforno
  • Rashbam
  • Rabbeinu Bahya
  • Gur Aryeh
  • Kli Yakar
  • Malbim
  • Radak
  • Rambam
  • Torah Temima

Some of them have commentaries on the whole Tanach and some not. The most famous and common commentary is Rashi. Except his commentaries on the whole Tanach, you will also find his commentaries on Talmud.
Except for the commentaries we also have an ancient Aramaic paraphrase or interpretation of the Hebrew Bible called Targum (translation). The most famous Targum on the Chumash is Targum Onkelos.
Other Targum on parts of the Tanach is Tafsir Rasag, Targum Jerusalem, Targum Jonathan and Targum Neofiti. We will learn more about the Tanach in the dedicated pages about the subject.

The Oral Law

The Oral Law (Torah shel Ba´al Peh) can be explained as a legal commentary on the Torah. The purpose of the Oral Law is to explain how the 613 commandments of the Torah (the Written Law) should be carried out. Because by only reading the Torah, we don´t understand how to perform the different commandments and not even the 10 commandments that Moses received at Mount Sinai. For example, can we learn from the 4th commandment “Remember the Shabbos day to make it holy “, how to keep Shabbos and make it holy? No, we can´t. So, the Oral Law, the Mishna and Gemara teaches us what includes in this commandment. And one commandment can include more than one law (halacha).
We will learn more about the Oral Law in the dedicated pages on the subject.

Halachic works

  • Shulchan Aruch is the code of Jewish Law, which is the foundation of Jewish Law and was authored by Rabbi Josef Caro. Together with the commentaries, it is considered to be the most excepted Halachic work by all.
  • Mishneh Torah is a code of Jewish Law authored by Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, also known as RaMBaMor ”Rambam”.
  • Mishnah Berurah is a halachic work by Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan, better known as Chofetz Chaim. This work is a commentary of Orach Chayim.

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