What Do We Mean by the Term "Torah?"
The Hebrew word, torah (תורה), is derived from a root that was used in the realm of archery, yareh (ירה). Yareh means to shoot an arrow in order to hit a mark. The mark or target, of course, was the object at which the archer was aiming. Consequently, torah, one of the nouns derived from this root, is, therefore, the arrow aimed at the mark, The target is the truth about God and how one relates to Him. The torah is, therefore, in the strict sense instruction designed to teach us the truth about God. Torah means direction,teaching, instruction,or doctrine.
There are at least two other related Hebrew words derived from the same root as torah. The first is the word for teacher, moreh (מורה). A moreh is one who imparts instruction to his/her students. The second important word is parent, horeh (הורה). This indicates to us that one of the primary roles for a parent is to teach and instruct the child.
Since the term torah means instruction or teaching, the traditional Jewish world uses torah in a very broad sense. For example, sometimes the Talmud, the authoritative compendium of Oral Law, is referred to as Torah. Along these lines, traditional rabbinic Judaism adheres to what is referred to as the Oral Torah. Let us explain.
According to the sages, the Oral Torah was communicated to Moses on Mount Sinai along with the written Torah (the Scriptures). This oral communication was transmitted orally through the generations until Rabbi Yehudah haNasi was granted authority to inscribe it. His edition of Oral Torah is called The Mishnah. The Mishnah was completed roughly around 200 in the Common Era. In the following two to three hundred years, rabbinic sages in Israel and Babylonia wrote commentaries on Rabbi Yehudah haNasi's Mishnah. These commentaries are called The Gemara. The Gemara was combined with the Mishnah into one work called The Talmud. The Gemara produced in Israel is different from that produced in Babylonia. Consequently, there are two talmuds: the Jerusalem Talmud, finished about the year 400 and the Babylonian Talmud, completed roughly around 500. Today, most Orthodox Jewish people consider the Babylonian Talmud to be the more authoritative of the two talmuds. Whatever the case, the Talmud is considered to be the Oral Torah, the same Oral Torah that was revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai and, therefore, carries great authority.
We at Torah Resources International believe that it is important to study and to know the Mishnah/Talmud. Learning it can help to interpret many passages in the Scriptures, as well as to enlighten the Bible student concerning the life and times of the people of the Newer Covenant Scriptures. However, we attach no spiritual authority to the Talmud. For us, the only spiritual authority is the written Word of God. We fervently adhere to what we think Paul means when he exhorts us to learn not to exceed what is written(1 Corinthians 4:6).
There is one additional thought we would like to share before we close this rather extended definition of the word torah. Since the term torah means instruction or teaching, in a very real sense the word can be applied to the entire Bible. Whereas most would use torah in reference to the first five books of the Scriptures, we at TRI think that it is a term that can rightfully be extended to include the rest of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation.
Hence, when we use the word torah throughout our website, unless we specify otherwise, we are referring, first and foremost, to the five books of Moses, but we will also use it to speak of the entirety of Scripture. This means, among other things, that since all believers in Yeshua claim that Genesis to Revelation is their sole spiritual authority, then all believers in Yeshua are Torah observant. The only question is to what degree are they Torah observant. One of the hopes of TRI is that we can help all believers in Yeshua to let the entire Word of God be applied to their lives.
Let us state the issue differently, with more accurate terms: One of the goals of Torah Resources International is to help encourage every believer in Yeshua to yield his/her members to Yeshua who lives in them. When they do that, Yeshua, the Living Torah, will live His Torah-faithful life in them and through them to others.
. Roland de Vaux, Ancient Israel, p. 354.
. The Septuagint is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures made approximately 250 years before Yeshua. We will continue to designate the Septuagint in this essay by its oft-used abbreviation: LXX.
. A commonly accepted resource for the information concerning the meaning of torah is Brown, Driver, and Briggs English-Hebrew Lexicon. Pages 434 - 436 will help.