Torah Study 101
“Praised be You, God…who commands us to busy ourselves with words of Torah.” Talmud torah (that is, the study of sacred Jewish texts) is so important in Jewish tradition the daily liturgy begins with this formulaic blessing. It is followed by short passages from the Bible, as well as the Mishnah and the Talmud, the central works of rabbinic Judaism. All of Jewish religious literature can be considered “Torah.”
Elsewhere in the daily liturgy, Jews thank God for expressing love for the Jewish people by granting them Torah--both the Five Books of Moses and, more generally, Jewish teachings. Words of Torah “are our life and the length of our days,” the prayer book says; “day and night we will meditate upon them.”
More than simply a means to learning the content of divinely revealed law, Torah study is an end in itself--according to some, another way of worshipping God. The Torah is portrayed in rabbinic tradition as predating all history, the very blueprint according to which God constructed the universe. To study Torah in depth, then, is to do more than learn prescribed behaviors; it is to approach an understanding of the foundations of all existence and the pathways of the divine. According to some rabbinic sources, therefore, the Israelites’ acceptance of the Torah at Mt. Sinai enabled the world to continue to exist and not be plunged back into primordial chaos.
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