Hebrew for 'lore', 'instruction'. Torah is a collection of writings central in Judaism, and is seen upon as one of the foundations of the world. For the Torah there are 2 traditions, the written Torah and the oral Torah.
The ways of understanding and defining Torah is not always the same. There are four opinions on what is to be included in the collection named 'Torah':
All synagogues contain their copies of the books of Torah as one of the most important elements to the place of worship. The Torah forms a some sort of an axis mundi (centre of the world, symbolically). Throughout the synagogues we find that the copies of the Torah are protected by beautiful fabrics.
- The five books of Moses
- Laws on subjects treated in the five books of Moses
- The Bible, i.e. the Old Testament
- The whole collection on Jewish writings on the Jewish Law. This includes the Bible, Talmud, considered the oral tradition, and later writings on the Law
The core of the Torah, the content, seems to have been developed around 2000 years ago, reflecting very much the views of the Jewish group of Pharisees. The Torah is seen upon as a lore that has to be interpreted in the context of the age and situation of its users.
Traditions tell that the Torah was offered to all peoples of the world, but it was only the Jews who accepted it. But still, the Torah is not closed to non-Jews, and pagans (seen from a Jewish point of view) reading the Torah are praised.