A Summary of the Torah

A description of the highlights of the Torah, according to the divisions of the weekly portions.


Unlike a Reader’s Digest version of the Torah, which would cut out much of the law and all of the lists, a description of the Torah following each weekly portion reflects the real rhythms of the text.  Reprinted with permission from The Bible: Where Do You Find It and What Does It Say?, published by Jason Aronson.

The First of the Five Books of Moses begins with the creation of the world out of the void. It ends with the last days of Moses. Each week a different sidrah (Torah portion) is read on Saturday morning in traditional synagogues. Here is a list of the Torah portions for the entire year and a brief summary of their contents. 


The creation of the world. The patriarchs—Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Jacob and his sons go down to Egypt. Jacob blesses his sons before his death.

Weekly Portions

Bereshit (1:1-6:8) The world is created in six days.

Noah (6:9-11:32) A flood destroys the world. God’s rainbow promises that the world will never again be destroyed in its entirety.

torah portionLekh-L’kha (12:1-17:27) Abraham leaves Mesopotamia for the Promised Land.

Vayera (18:1-22:24) Abraham welcomes three angels into his tent and learns that his wife Sarah will give birth to a son.

Haye Sarah (23:1-25:18) Abraham’s servant finds a suitable wife, Rebecca, for Abraham’s son Isaac.

Toldot (25:19-28:9) The birth of Esau and Jacob. Isaac blesses Jacob.

Vayetze (28:10-32:3) God appears to Jacob in a dream. Jacob works fourteen years and marries Leah and Rachel.

Vayishlah (32:4-36:43) Jacob and Esau reunite after twenty years. Rachel dies and is buried in Bethlehem.

Vayeshev (37:1-40:23) Joseph‘s brothers strip him of his coat of many colors and throw him into a pit.

Miketz (41:1-44:17) Joseph successfully interprets Pharaoh’s dreams. Joseph is appointed viceroy.

Vayigash (44:18-47:27) Joseph reveals himself to his brothers, who are dumbfounded.

Vayehi (47:28-50:26) Jacob blesses his sons. Joseph dies at end of book at age 110.


The Israelites are enslaved in Egypt. Moses receives the Ten Commandments. The Israelites build a tabernacle.

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Rabbi Ronald H. Isaacs is the spiritual leader of Temple Sholom in Bridgewater, New Jersey. He has served as the publications committee chairperson of the Rabbinical Assembly.

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