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Torah and Talmud

Torah:

The meaning of “Torah” is often restricted to signify the first five books of the Old Testament, also called the ‘Law’ or the ‘Pentateuch’. These are the books traditionally ascribed to Prophet Moses (peace be upon him), the recipient of the original revelation from God on Mount Sinai. Jewish, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant canons all agree on their order: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The written Torah, in the restricted sense of the Pentateuch, is preserved in all Jewish synagogues on handwritten parchment scrolls that reside inside the ark of the Law. They are removed and returned to their place with special reverence. Readings from the Torah (Pentateuch) form an important part of Jewish liturgical services. The term Torah is also used to designate the entire Hebrew Bible. Since for some Jews the laws and customs passed down through oral traditions are part and parcel of God’s revelation to Moses and constitute the “Oral Torah,” Torah is also understood to include both the Oral Law and the Written Law. Rabbinic commentaries on and interpretations of both Oral and Written Law have been viewed by some as extensions of sacred oral tradition, thus broadening still further the meaning of Torah to designate the entire body of Jewish laws.

Torah comprises of those commandments and instructions raveled to Moses starting with his appointment of apostleship till his death, spread over forty years. It include the Ten Commandments given by God on the stone tablets, while Moses got the remaining commandments written, twelve copies were prepared and handed over to each of the twelve tribes. One copy was given in the protective custody to the Levite, which is called Torah. This was intact in the form of Book till the   first destruction of Jerusalem. The Levite’s copy of Torah along with stone tablets was kept in the box of covenant. It was so much ignored that during repairs of Temple the Hilki’ah, the chief priest found it and presented to king:” And Hilki’ah the high priest said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the book of the law in the house of the LORD.” And Hilki’ah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it.  And Shaphan the secretary came to the king, and reported to the king, “Your servants have emptied out the money that was found in the house, and have delivered it into the hand of the workmen who have the oversight of the house of the LORD.” Then Shaphan the secretary told the king, “Hilki’ah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read it before the king. And when the king heard the words of the book of the law, he rent his clothes. And the king commanded Hilki’ah the priest, and Ahi’kam the son of Shaphan, and Achbor the son of Micai’ah, and Shaphan the secretary, and Asai’ah the king’s servant, saying, “Go, inquire of the LORD for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found; for great is the wrath of the LORD that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us.”(2Kings;22:8-13).

It is due to this apathy that few copies of Torah lying in the Temple were lost for ever, during destruction of the Temple by Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon (588 B.C). But the streets and walls of Jerusalem were again to be built, in troublous times (Daniel;9:16,19,25), after a captivity of seventy years. This restoration was begun B.C. 536, “in the first year of Cyrus” (Ezra;1:2-3,5-11). Ezra with the help of other notables arranged the entire history of Children of Israel which is now available in the form of first seventeen books of Old Testament.

In the broadest sense Torah (Taurat) is claimed to be the substance of divine revelation to Israel, the Jewish people: God’s revealed teaching or guidance for mankind. The actual Torah revealed to Moses is scattered in the books, which can be identified to begin with the phrases, where ever the writer writes; “the God said to Moses”  or” Moses said, the Lord your Lord says” and ends with other events i.e.” And when the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I.”(Exodus;3:4); “And the LORD said unto Moses, When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go.”(Exodus;4:21). Wherever the author gets in to his explanations and exegesis, it becomes difficult for normal reader to distinguish the Torah from the exegesis. However the experts of ‘revealed scriptures’ can distinguish the divine revelations with some accuracy. Qur’an considers these scattered phrases as Torah and verifies them. If these scattered phrases are compiled and compared with Qur’an, it may be found that apart from some differences in parts, there is no difference in their basic teachings. Hence it becomes evident that the original source of both the books is the same. God says: “We have sent thee inspiration as We sent it to Noah and the Messengers after him; We sent inspiration to Abraham Ishmael Isaac Jacob and the Tribes to Jesus Job Jonah Aaron and Solomon and to David We gave the Psalms.”(Qura’n;4:163).

Talmud:

Not part of Old Testament, Talmud (in Hebrew: Study, or Learning), is the scholarly interpretations and annotations on the Mishna, the first authoritative codification of Jewish Oral Laws, which was given its final form early in the 3rd century CE by Judah ha-Nasi and on other collections of oral laws, including the Tosefta. The Talmud is, first and foremost, a legal compilation, although it treats of matters from all areas of human interest. Its material is presented in a unique dialectical style in which a piece of Talmudic text is focused upon and all efforts to understand and interpret it are recorded. The religious beliefs of the Talmudic rabbis are clearly reflected in the decisions, ideas, and attitudes of the Talmud, which considers both ritual and social law to be of divine origin.  Each of two groups of Jewish scholars (amoraim), one in Palestine and the other in Babylonia, independently produced a Talmud. Although the two groups addressed the same Mishna and consulted with one another, their work resulted in two separate collections of law, lore, and commentary. The amoraim of Palestine labored for about two centuries, completing their work 400 CE, approximately one century earlier than their counterparts in Babylonia.

The Babylonian Talmud (Talmud Bavli) is consequently more extensive than the Palestinian Talmud (Talmud Yerushalmi) and, for that reason, more highly esteemed. Neither of the Talmuds covers every section of the Mishna; some commentaries were never written, and, presumably, others have been lost. There is also a large body of interpretive literature on the Talmud. Because study in the ancient academies was conducted orally, it is not known when the Talmud was first written down. The Palestinian Talmud was first printed in Venice in 1523-24 and the Babylonian Talmud in Spain in 1482. The standard version, first printed in Vilna in 1886, carries on each page a portion of the Mishna and its related Talmud, commentaries, and references. The Talmud has continued to be of major importance to Orthodox Jews throughout the world. Since the establishment of the modern state of Israel in 1948, Conservative Jewry has increased its interest in Talmudic study, while some leaders of Reform Jewry have adopted Talmudic dialectic and the responsa form of interpretation. Modern Talmudic scholarship is centered in Israel and the United States.

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