Just What is Torah?

Yonaton Behar,

לבן ריק
לבן ריק
צילום: ערוץ 7
Yonaton Behar
Yonaton is happily married with 6 children, and 9 grandchildren, and lives in the most amazing Torah community in the world - Har Bracha.

This year on Chag Shavuot we will receive the Torah anew for the 3,330th time (or something like that)! Some people will stay awake all night in anticipation, arduously studying the various subjects of what we call 'Torah' – Tanach, Talmud, Midrashim, halakha of the Rambam, Jewish thought and philosophy – all in an effort to prepare themselves to accept the yoke of Torah once more. But I ask myself: just what is this 'Torah' that we revere and study day and night? What did God have in mind when He so kindly gave us His 'precious gift'? What was His purpose in giving us this gift, and what did He expect us to do with it?

The word 'Torah' comes from the root of 'hora'ah', or instruction. In other words, the Torah is somewhat similar to a car manual. Car manufacturers provide a booklet with instructions on how to maintain your new car in an optimum way. If a car purchaser follows the instructions – changes the oil, water, and filters on time, doesn't race the engine, or overly use the brakes – chances are, his car will run relatively smoothly, and last longer. Of course, there are always mishaps – but you get the picture.

Our wise and holy Sages said that God looked into the Torah, and created the world. In other words, not only is the Torah a book of instructions on how to live a good life and be a good person, it is mainly the blueprint for how God planned the entire world. The Torah is not merely a list of do's and don'ts – if you do such-and-such, you will be rewarded, and if you don't do such-and-such, you will be punished in hell. In my book, that's not such a precious gift! The Torah in its widest and most extensive meaning is a manual on how to repair this world of ours ('tikkun olam') – the world that God specifically gave us incomplete, in order for us to fix, and thus become partners in His Creation. Through the Torah and its Divine insights on life, we have been given the ability to turn our material, physical world into Gan Eden here on earth. What a shame and waste of time and energy – and what a desecration of God's holy Name – if we learn Torah in its narrow and restricted form. That was sufficient for mere survival in Exile. Today, in our own homeland, in Eretz Yisrael – the Land of the Living – we must begin thinking 'outside of the box' – figuring out ways to improve mankind and our world, according to the Divine instructions of God's great "car manual", His precious gift – the Torah! Chag Sameach!