In Judaism, the Torah stands for Teaching or Doctrine.
The Torah is central to the Jewish faith. In its literal translation (ה ָורֹתּ,), it stands for Teaching or Doctrine. The Torah understood in this fashion consists of the Written Torah and the Oral Torah.
The Written Torah (Torah Shebichtav) contains the first five books of the canon of twenty four holy books (Tanakh) of Judaism. Therefore, the written Torah, known as Moses’ Pentateuch, constitutes the first Five Books of the Hebrew Bible, known to Christians as the Old Testament.
The Oral Torah (Torah Shebe’alpeh) is, in the simplest terms, the entire interpretative tradition of the Written Torah. It contains the Talmud, the Code of Jewish Law (Halacha), numerous commentaries and Midrashim
According to the Jewish tradition, the teachings contained in the Torah, both in its written and oral form, were revealed to Moses and the Jews on Mount Sinai and during their journey from Egypt to the Promised Land, written down by Moses and retold from generation to generation. A set of principles concerning the rewriting of the Torah would guarantee the consistency of the message.
The traditional form of the Written Torah is the Torah Scroll. The task of rewriting the Torah is conducted by scribes known as Sofers, while the rules governing this activity are very rich and diverse. Their superior goal is to ensure absolute consistency of the message. Scribes do not necessarily need to be rabbis, but acquiring the knowledge and calligraphic skills demanded from them by the community constitutes a very serious challenge.
The Torah consists of the following books:
- Genesis (Hebrew: Bereszit)
- Exodus (Hebrew: Szemoth)
- Leviticus (Hebrew: Wajikra)
- Numbers (Hebrew: Bemidbar)
- Deuteronomy (Hebrew: Devarim)
The Hebrew titles of the books of the Torah originate from the first words of each book (compare the notion of “Incipit”). Hence, “Bereshit” translates to “in beginning”, Szemoth to “Names”, Wajikra to “and He called”, Bemibdar to “in the desert of” and Devarim to “Words”.