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Torah (/ˈtɔːrə/; Hebrew: תּוֹרָה, "Instruction", "Teaching") is the central concept in the Judaic tradition. It has a range of meanings: it can most specifically mean the first five books of the Tanakh, it can mean this plus the rabbinic commentaries on it, it can mean the continued narrative from Genesis to the end of the Tanakh, it can even mean the totality of Jewish teaching and practice.[1] Common to all these meanings, Torah consists of the foundational narrative of the Jewish people: their call into being by God, their trials and tribulations, and their covenant with their God, which involves following a way of life embodied in a set of religious obligations and civil laws (halakha).

In rabbinic literature the word Torah denotes both the five books, Torah Shebichtav (תורה שבכתב, "Torah that is written"), and an Oral Torah, Torah Shebe'al Peh (תורה שבעל פה, "Torah that is spoken"). The Oral Torah consists of interpretations and amplifications which according to rabbinic tradition have been handed down from generation to generation and now embodied in the Talmud and Midrash.[2]

According to rabbinic tradition, all of the teachings found in the Torah, both written and oral, were given by God to Moses, some of them at Mount Sinai and others at the Tabernacle, and all the teachings were written down by Moses, which resulted in the Torah we have today. According to a Midrash, the Torah was created prior to the creation of the world, and was used as the blueprint for Creation.[3] The majority of Biblical scholars believe that the written books were a product of the Babylonian exilic period (c. 600 BCE) and that it was completed by the Persian period (c. 400 BCE).[4]

Traditionally, the words of the Torah are written on a scroll by a sofer on parchment in Hebrew. A Torah portion is read publicly at least once every three days, in the halachically prescribed tune, in the presence of a congregation.[5] Reading the Torah publicly is one of the bases for Jewish communal life.

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