In honor of Israel’s 75th birthday, Israel365 is excited to launch a new series of essays that will unlock the secrets of the Hebrew Bible!
Excerpted from Rabbi Akiva Gersh’s forthcoming book, 75 Hebrew Words You Need to Understand the Bible (available now!) these essays illuminate the connection between related Hebrew words, revealing Biblical secrets only accessible through Hebrew.
Enjoy the series – and happy 75th birthday to the State of Israel!
“God said to Moses, “Come up to Me on the mountain and wait there, and I will give you the stone tablets with the Torah and commandments which I have inscribed to instruct them.” (Exodus 24:12)
ויאמר יהוה אל משה עלה אלי ההרה והיה שם ואתנה לך את לחת האבן והתורה והמצוה אשר כתבתי להורתם.
“Moses charged us with the Torah as the heritage of the congregation of Jacob.” (Deuteronomy 33:4)
תורה צוה לנו משה מורשה קהלת יעקב.
Torah, Hebrew for “instruction,” generally refers to the Hebrew Bible or, more specifically, the Five Books of Moses. Through its commandments and powerful stories of the lives of our forefathers and foremothers, the Torah is God’s instruction book for how to live a life of holiness.
The numerical value of the word Torah is 611, just two shy of the number of commandments in the entire Torah, 613. The sages explain the discrepancy by distinguishing between the first two of the Ten Commandments, which God spoke directly to the Israelites at Mount Sinai, and the other 611 commandments, which were heard exclusively by Moses, who then wrote them in the Torah and taught them to the nation.
According to Jewish tradition, there is both a Written Torah and an Oral Torah. The Written Torah comprises the text of the Five Books of Moses, while the Oral Torah is a collection of teachings that God gave to Moses that explain and elucidate the commandments and stories of the Written Torah. Without these oral teachings, the Written Torah would be incomplete and unclear. After the destruction of the Second Temple and the dispersion of the Jewish people throughout the world, the Oral Torah was put into writing because the sages were concerned that its teachings would be forgotten and lost. Much of the Oral Torah was written in the books of the Mishnah and Talmud, the most important Jewish texts after the Hebrew Bible itself.
The Hebrew words for “teacher” and “parent” are moreh and horeh, two words that are linguistically related to the word Torah, for teachers and parents instruct their students and children in the ways of holiness, just as the Torah does for Israel and for all of humanity.