Torah Study: Themes and Theology

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In many traditional Jewish communities, the emphasis on talmud Torah as a primary means of worship has translated into the construction of batei midrash ("houses of study") and yeshivot as the primary communal structures. Within this system, the talmid hakham (Torah scholar) becomes an authority in determining communal law and communal norms.

Differentiating between two modes of Jewish worship, Professor Louis Finkelstein, a 20th-century Jewish scholar, said, “When I pray, I speak to God; when I study, God speaks to me.” In this vein, talmud Torah might loosely be defined as any Jewish study done with a sense of the sacred. Contemporary talmud Torah might encompass the study of history, poetry, and prayer, as well as that of Talmud, Bible, midrash and halakha. The object of study becomes less important than the mode of study, which strives to foster dialogue between humans and God.

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