Torah

Torah

The Torah (תּוֹרָה) is also known as the “Five Books of Moses” or the Pentateuch, meaning “five scroll-cases”.

The Hebrew names of the books are derived from the first words in the respective texts. The Torah consists of the following five books:

  • Genesis, Beresheeth (בראשית)
  • Exodus, Shemot (שמות)
  • Leviticus, Vayikra (ויקרא)
  • Numbers, Bamidbar (במדבר)
  • Deuteronomy, Devarim (דברים)
  • The first eleven chapters of Genesis provide accounts of the creation (or ordering) of the world and the history of God’s early relationship with humanity. The remaining thirty-nine chapters of Genesis provide an account of God’s covenant with the Biblical patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (also called Israel) and Jacob’s children, the “Children of Israel”, especially Joseph. It tells of how God commanded Abraham to leave his family and home in the city of Ur, eventually to settle in the land of Canaan, and how the Children of Israel later moved to Egypt. The remaining four books of the Torah tell the story of Moses, who lived hundreds of years after the patriarchs. He leads the Children of Israel from slavery in Ancient Egypt to the renewal of their covenant with God at Mount Sinai and their wanderings in the desert until a new generation was ready to enter the land of Canaan. The Torah ends with the death of Moses.

    The Torah contains the commandments of God, revealed at Mount Sinai (although there is some debate among traditional scholars as to whether these were all written down at one time, or over a period of time during the 40 years of the wanderings in the desert, while several modern Jewish movements reject the idea of a literal revelation, and critical scholars believe that many of these laws developed later in Jewish history). These commandments provide the basis for Jewish religious law. Tradition states that there are 613 commandments (taryag mitzvot).