[Hebrew, "instruction", "law"] - The Five Books of Moses [Greek, Pentateuch], which constitutes the main part of the Hebrew canon of the Holy Scriptures. The Torah contains the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, and is also commonly known as the Chamash. In Hebrew, these books are known by their first few words, thus: Be-reshit [Hebrew, "In the beginning"], Shemot [Hebrew, "Names"], Va-ikra [Hebrew, "The [Lord] called"], Be-midbar [Hebrew, "In the desert"], Dvarim [Hebrew, "Words"]. According to tradition, Moses was the author of these books.
Research begun in the mid-eighteenth century and continued by modern Biblical scholars showed they are actually a compilation of various pieces of religious literature stemming from several sources. The two oldest are the southern (in which the name of God is written by means of the tetragram JHWH - Yahve), and the somewhat more recent, northern (describing God with the word Elohim), which dates at least to the time of Samuel (approximately 1050-1005 BC), though fragments of the Torah could reach as far back as the time of Moses. Some of Deuteronomy is believed to go back to the reforms of Josiah (640-609 BC). The final version of the Pentateuch was codified around 622 BC. In later periods, minor changes were made, and the books of the Prophets and the Scriptures were written, which became part of the Hebrew Bible (Tanach). The Catholic Bible contains seven additional books.
For Jews, the Torah is the object of greatest veneration. The Torah scrolls, written on parchment, are twisted around wooden rods and decorated, and kept in the aron ha-kodesh in the synagogue and read aloud ceremoniously by men summoned during the service. Jewish mystics believed the Torah has a hidden meaning, contains all secrets of the Universe and possesses a great magical power. The Hebrew letters comprising the text of the Torah also have a mystical significance.

Religious Jews are obligated to study the Torah and Talmud. Women were not allowed to read the Torah, and acquired their knowledge of these works from translations of extensive excerpts of the Pentateuch that were published in Yiddish. For Jews, the word "Torah" also has a broader meaning, signifying the religious laws and other rules that have their roots in the Bible, as well as Judaic studies and scholarship broadly understood.

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