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The Torah

The Torah is the most sacred book in the Jewish religion. According to traditional belief, it was revealed word-for-word and letter-for-letter by God to Moses as the Israelites stood before Mount Sinai following their liberation from Egypt.

The Torah includes a narrative element, extending from the creation of the world until Moses' death, just prior to the people's entry into the promised land; and a series of laws and commandments (according to a Talmudic tradition there are a total of 613 commandments). Jews regard the study and observance of these precepts as their central role in maintaining a covenant with God.

The name "Torah" is a Hebrew word meaning "guidance" or "instruction," though sometimes (especially in Christian usage) rendered "law."

The Torah is divided up into five books, and is therefore referred to as the "Five Books of Moses," the English equivalent of the ancient Greek expression "Pentateuch" which is still used occasionally.

Because of its centrality to Jewish life and thought, the Torah has always been the main focus of Jewish scholarly and religious energy, and it has inspired countless commentaries. Several of the most distinguished of these are printed in the various editions of the Mikra'ot Gedolot.


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