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THE TORAH AND 'TORAH'
There is an essential difference between the words The Torah and 'Torah'.
When one speaks of 'The Torah', one refers to the Scroll of Torah, called the 'Sefer Torah' and which is found in the Holy Ark in all synagogues, or Jewish houses of worship. This scroll is handwritten on parchment or leather by a scribe, known as a Sofer.
When, however, we speak of Torah, we are referring to the whole concept of Jewish teachings. Thus when we say that Moses received ‘Torah’ at Mt Sinai, we do not mean that Moses received the scroll of Torah as we have it today. Rather, we mean that Moses was inspired at Sinai with the idea or concept of Torah which he then passed on to the Israelites.
This idea of Torah was later expanded upon and was later written down and edited into the form in which we have it today, in the Scroll of Torah. The Torah, that which is written on the scroll and is found in the Holy Ark, consists of the first five books of the Bible, known as the TaNakh, and is known as The Five Books of Moses.
This, of course, is not an entirely accurate description of them because:
a) Moses is not mentioned in all five books (not in the Book of Genesis)
b) Moses did not write the five books.
In Hebrew the Five Books are known as Khamishah Khoomshei Torah. When they appear in printed form, the book is known as a Khumash from the Hebrew word for 'five' (Khamesh). In English, we refer to such a printed book as a khumash or as a Pentateuch, which is really a Greek word, from the Greek 'penta' meaning 'five'.
The Torah is the most sacred part of the Bible, known as TaNakh. It contains the commandments and laws on which the Jewish religion is based, and thus can be described as being the foundation of the Jewish religion.
A Torah scroll is written entirely by hand in Hebrew characters. It is interesting to note that there are no vowels under the letters. Vowels were only added many centuries after the original text. The dedicated student should learn some basic Hebrew vocabulary in order to fully comprehend what is written.
To learn to read the original texts that relate to Torah, check out the Easy Learn Hebrew program. Learn to read Hebrew online, when it suits you and where it suits you!