Torah (The Law)

The word Torah is commonly translated "law" but teaching would probably be a better translation. The Books of the Torah are also called the Books of Moses because traditionally Moses is considered the author, or the Pentateuch after the Greek for five scrolls. The Torah is read in the synagogue on a regular schedule. The portion or Parsha that is read each week follows the cannon order of the books. From these books the Jews have gleaned the 613 Mizvot or commands of the law. The word Torah is also used by the Jews in a broader sense to encompass all of their written and oral laws and traditions. The Mishna and Talmud are where these oral laws and oral traditions are written down and are often called the Oral Torah.  The sum of the written and oral Torah constitute the Halakhah or Jewish way of life.

The Torah is not purely a list of laws, although there is some of that. It is primarily a history that tells of the relationship between G-d and mankind in general and his people, Israel, in particular. This story illustrates the faithfulness of G-d and the unfaithfulness of most of mankind even much of Israel. There is a segment of humanity that remains faithful; is called the Remnant. The notion of the Remnant may be seen even in the early stories of the Torah but it is formally developed later by the prophets. This is also true of many of the notions that are associated with the Law. The Law is formally given through Moses at Mount Sinai but the law is present earlier on, in fact Jewish tradition has it that Torah was created first and the world created according to it.

The stories in the Torah are often short. They are easy to remember and tell. Often there are stories that are tied together with genealogies to show historical continuity. Some generations pass that have little impact on the 'story'. Some genealogies have historical asides buried in them. An example is the table of nations in Genesis 10.8-12 where we are told the story of Nimrod and the tower of Babel in the midst of what is called by many the table of nations.