The word “Torah” (Hebrew: תּוֹרָה, “Instruction”, “Teaching”) is derived from the root ירה, which in the hifil conjugation means “to guide/teach” (cf. Lev. 10:11). The meaning of the word is therefore “teaching”, “doctrine”, or “instruction”; the commonly accepted “law” gives a wrong impression.
Traditionally a Torah is written on a scroll that is then wound around two wooden poles. This is called a “Sefer Torah” and it is handwritten by a sofer (scribe) who must copy the text perfectly. When in modern printed form, the Torah is usually called a “Chumash,” which comes from the Hebrew word for the number “five.”
In its most specific meaning, it consists of the first five books of the Tanakh written in Biblical Hebrew. The names of each of these books in Hebrew are taken from the first phrase in each book: Bereshit (“In [the] beginning”, Genesis), Sh’mot (“Names”, Exodus), Vayikra (“He called”, Leviticus), B’Midbar (“In the desert”, Numbers) and D’varim (“Words”, Deuteronomy).
The Torah is the only book directly dictated by HaShem. Moshe wrote the Torah and gave us a blueprint as to how HaShem wanted us to live our lives as Jews.
Sometimes it is thought of as a “dual” Torah (Written & Oral Torah) , which refers to the fact that at the same time that the written Torah was given, the oral Torah began to be given, or orally transmitted. The Torah has been thought of this way: “if the written Torah is the blueprint, the “oral Torah” is the list of materials that enable that blueprint to be fulfilled.
Yeshua was questioned about his disciple about him using the the traditional “hand-washing” blessing, called “Netilat Yadim”, in Matthew 15:1-6 and Mark 7:1-13. This was a question about “Oral Law”, that it seemed Yeshua had not problem breaking. Although a full examination of the life and ministry of Yeshua’s rabbinical teaching style, reveals that He and His disciples (talmidim), kept many of the “traditions” taught by the sages:
1. Yeshua attended the synagogue weekly, especially on Shabbat [“Sabbath”], at read from the Parshiyot [Torah Portions]
2. Yeshua was immersed in “living water” [“mayim chayim”]
3. Yeshua wore tassels [tzitziyot – Numbers 15:37-41; Deut. 22:12] in Mark 6:56, Matt. 9:21; Luke 8:44.
4. Yeshua sided with Shamai over Hillel, in Matt. 19:21 in the issue of divorce
5. Yeshua instructed his disciples [talmidim] to “do” what the Pharisees and scribes [Torah Teachers] taught.
6. Yeshua used multiple cups [Four Cups] of wine at Passover Seder [“Last Supper”] seen in Luke 22:17,20
7. The disciples recognized the “Sabbath’s Day Journey” (Acts 1:12)
Our Messiah’s major concern was the tendency to to keep tradition, custom or “oral law”, but break “Written Torah”, or the Commandments of God. As his disciples we should “glean” from our sages, but have laser focus on the Father’s Law, as His instruction to the Nations, through Yeshua, His Messiah.