Judaism is defined by the holy Torah. From the moment that G-d descended upon Mt. Sinai and gave His people the Torah, it has been the hallmark of Jews and Judaism for all time. Parents rocked their children with the hope that they would grow up to be true Torah scholars, and through good times and bad times, the words of Torah learning never ceased to spill forth from the mouths of the Jewish people.
The Torah is the Five Books of Moses that were handed to him from G-d at Mt. Sinai. The fundamental stories of the creation of the world, the Exodus from Egypt, along with all the 613 commandments are contained within, alongside countless other narratives and teachings.
Along with the Written Law, he received the Oral Tradition as well. This was transmitted orally from generation to generation to the master instructors of each generation who in turn taught it to the masses of their time. Eventually, with the advent of oppression and exile, the Rabbis saw the need to commit the Oral Tradition to writing; hence the Midrash, Mishna, Talmud etc. The rest is history – layers and layers of exegesis were developed thereafter, using the methods and ‘formula’ taught by Moses and recorded in the Oral tradition, to create the vast sea of Torah that exists today.
Ever tried putting together an appliance without reading the instruction manual first? That’s kind of what being a Jew without Torah study is like. The Torah is the manual for all Jewish observance. It contains all the Mitzvos (commandments) that a Jew is obligated to keep and tells us how to fulfill them. Essentially, it’s the instruction manual of Judaism.
Lesson for Life
Moreover, the word “Torah” translates” as “lesson.” In addition to being an instruction manual for Jewish observance, it is the ultimate “teacher,” containing timeless lessons and messages for all life. The stories are not merely historical narratives; the commandments are not just the pounding of the judge’s gavel; they are life lessons from the Teacher of all teachers – G-d.
Connection with G-d
When a Jew applies his mind to the Torah, he is not just engaging in an intellectual exercise. He is achieving the impossible – he is connecting his mortal mind with an immortal G-d. The annals of divine wisdom become engraved upon his mind. This connection with G-d is unparalleled.