The Torah For Dummies
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Even though the Torah is mainly about God, it's also important to remember that the Torah's author is God. Although the first line of the Torah says, "In the beginning of God's creation of heaven and earth . . .," it's God who is speaking. God chose Moses to receive and write down a divine message, which is why the Torah is also known as the Five Books of Moses, but the Torah emanates from God. God reaches into the human world with the Torah.

Jewish tradition teaches that God didn't create the world out of nothing. God's creation is an emanation of divine light that God sculpted into all that exists. God is not just "in" everything. Rather, everything is God. This is, of course, a paradox. On the one hand, people live their lives feeling separate from God, but at the same time, Jewish tradition teaches that on the deepest level everything is God.

In studying the Torah, you'll often encounter paradoxes. Many spiritual teachers teach that when you encounter a paradox, it usually means that you're going in the right direction. The endless struggle to grasp and understand what is meant by God is both the most important activity of life and, at the same time, an impossible task. The study of Torah is the way in which Jews participate in this paradoxical struggle. Some of the ideas that students of the Torah struggle with include:

  • Humans are created in God's image.
  • God has many names, but no name can possibly be adequate.
  • God exists.
  • God has no gender.
  • God is unique; nothing is like God is any way.
  • God is everywhere.
  • God is, was, and will be; God transcends time.
  • God is beyond human comprehension.

The Torah is mainly God's communication to people about how to behave. Most of the Torah is directed toward the Jewish people, although it also contains instructions for all other peoples of the world. But for reasons that only God knows, the Jewish people are given extra burdens and responsibilities. God chose the Jewish people, but in no way does this status of being chosen by God imply superiority.

People have responsibilities to God and to each other, and the Torah is filled with instructions about how to fulfill both. Regarding a person's relationship to God, the Torah stresses

  • Connecting with God through God's commandments
  • Having faith in God
  • Maintaining trust in God
  • Accepting direction from God
  • Understanding that God directs everything that occurs
  • Struggling to comprehend God
  • Communicating with God through prayer

About This Article

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Arthur Kurzweil is known as America's foremost Jewish genealogist. He is a teacher, a lecturer, and the author of several books including Kabbalah For Dummies.

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