The word “Torah” in Hebrew is derived from the root ירה, which in the hifil conjugation means “to guide/teach” (cf. Lev. 10:11). The meaning of the word is therefore “teaching”, “doctrine”, or “instruction”; the commonly accepted “law” gives a wrong impression. Other translational contexts in the English language include custom, theory, guidance, or system.
The term “Torah” is used in the general sense to include both rabbinic Judaism’s written law and oral law, serving to encompass the entire spectrum of authoritative Jewish religious teachings throughout history, including the Mishnah, the Talmud, the Midrash and more, and the inaccurate rendering of “Torah” as “Law” may be an obstacle to understanding the ideal that is summed up in the term talmud torah (תלמוד תורה, “study of Torah”).
The earliest name for the first part of the Bible seems to have been “The Torah of Moses”. This title, however, is found neither in the Torah itself, nor in the works of the pre-Exilic literary prophets. It appears in Joshua (8:31–32; 23:6) and Kings (I Kings 2:3; II Kings 14:6; 23:25), but it cannot be said to refer there to the entire corpus. In contrast, there is every likelihood that its use in the post-Exilic works (Mal. 3:22; Dan. 9:11, 13; Ezra 3:2; 7:6; Neh. 8:1; II Chron. 23:18; 30:16) was intended to be comprehensive. Other early titles were “The Book of Moses” (Ezra 6:18; Neh. 13:1; II Chron. 35:12; 25:4; cf. II Kings 14:6) and “The Book of the Torah” (Neh. 8:3), which seems to be a contraction of a fuller name, “The Book of the Torah of God” (Neh. 8:8, 18; 10:29–30; cf. 9:3).
Scholars usually refer to the first five books of the Hebrew Bible as the Pentateuch, a term first used in the Hellenistic Judaism of Alexandria, meaning five books, or as the Law, or Law of Moses. Muslims refer to the Torah as Tawrat (توراة, “Law”), an Arabic word for the revelations given to the Islamic prophet Musa (موسى, Moses in Arabic).
- Jewish Encyclopedia: Torah
- Great resource of Torah (for the Shabbat Torah portions)
- Three Complete Kosher Sefer Torah Scrolls for Study online (Congregation Beth Emeth of Northern Virginia)
- Sefer Torah Scroll for Study online with Megillot and commentaries
- Computer generated Sefer Torah for Study online with translation, transliteration and chanting (WorldORT)
- Online Torah Resources—weekly parsha pages, learning resources by topic
- Interlinear Pentateuch (with Idiomatic Translation, Samaritan Pentateuch and Morphology)
- Morris Jastrow (1905). “Pentateuch“. New International Encyclopedia.