Torat Emet: A Torah of Core Truths
Sibling rivalry, power and politics, the grandeur of nature, the resilience of the human heart – these are but a few of the truths about the world and the human condition articulated with artistry and clarity in the Bible. This sacred document, ink on parchment copied again and again for over two thousand years, captures core truths about what it means to be a human being and to be part of the people Israel bound in a covenantal relationship with its God.
A Source of Hope (Deuteronomy 30:1-5)
דברים ל:א וְהָיָה כִי יָבֹאוּ עָלֶיךָ כָּל הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה… ל:ג וְשָׁב יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ אֶת שְׁבוּתְךָ וְרִחֲמֶךָ וְשָׁב וְקִבֶּצְךָ… ל:ה וֶהֱבִיאֲךָ יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ אֶל הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר יָרְשׁוּ אֲבֹתֶיךָ….
Deut 30:1 When all these things come upon you… 30:3 your God YHWH will restore your fortunes and take you back in love and gather you in… 30:5 and your God YHWH will bring you to the land your ancestors possessed…
These verses, like so many others, tell a story lived out by subsequent generations, those who experience firsthand the Torah’s truth and power: Exiles who wept by the rivers of Babylon return and rebuild a land promised long ago, medieval mystics who never lost hope traverse its dusty roadways, women and men with will and a dream make an ancient homeland bloom.
A Source of Comfort (Exodus 15:25; Ps 126:5)
שמות טו:כה …וַיּוֹרֵהוּ יְ-הוָה עֵץ וַיַּשְׁלֵךְ אֶל הַמַּיִם וַיִּמְתְּקוּ הַמָּיִם…
Exod 15:25 …[A]nd YHWH showed him a piece of wood; he threw it into the water and the [bitter] water became sweet…
The parents of a twenty-six year old woman struck by a car weep as they embrace the middle-aged mother kept alive by their daughter’s beating heart. The widow, the cancer survivor, the employee unexpectedly laid off – they move forward, one foot in front of the next, trusting that someday, somehow,
תהלים קכו:ה הַזֹּרְעִים בְּדִמְעָה בְּרִנָּה יִקְצֹרוּ.
Ps 126:5 Those who sow in tears will reap in joy.
A Source of Justice (Amos 5:15, Exod 22:20)
עמוס ה:טו שִׂנְאוּ רָע וְאֶהֱבוּ טוֹב וְהַצִּיגוּ בַשַּׁעַר מִשְׁפָּט…
Amos 5:15 Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate…
An indefatigable attorney secures the release of a man who spent six years on death row for a murder he did not commit. Volunteers at a soup kitchen, marchers in a protest, people who speak up and take action in countless ways – they know:
שמות כב:כ וְגֵר לֹא תוֹנֶה וְלֹא תִלְחָצֶנּוּ כִּי גֵרִים הֱיִיתֶם בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם.
Exod 22:20 You shall not wrong or oppress a stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
A Source of Awe (Psalm 8:4-5)
תהלים ח:ד כִּי אֶרְאֶה שָׁמֶיךָ מַעֲשֵׂי אֶצְבְּעֹתֶיךָ יָרֵחַ וְכוֹכָבִים אֲשֶׁר כּוֹנָנְתָּה. ח:ה מָה אֱנוֹשׁ כִּי תִזְכְּרֶנּוּ וּבֶן אָדָם כִּי תִפְקְדֶנּוּ.
Ps 8:4 When I see Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and stars that You established, 8:5 “What is a human that You should be mindful of him, a mortal that You take note of him?”
Astronaut Jim Lovell peers at the earth from outer space: “How insignificant we really all are, but then how fortunate we are to have this body and to be able to enjoy living here amongst the beauty of the Earth itself.”
A Source of Reaffirmation (Genesis 1:27)
בראשית א:כז וַיִּבְרָא אֱלֹהִים אֶת הָאָדָם בְּצַלְמוֹ בְּצֶלֶם אֱלֹהִים בָּרָא אֹתוֹ זָכָר וּנְקֵבָה בָּרָא אֹתָם.
Gen 1:27 God created the human in His image, in the image of God he created him, male and female He created them.
Every act of generosity, every act of ingenuity, every moment of being alive and striving to make a difference in the world reaffirms these foundational words.
These are but a few reasons the Bible merits the title תּוֹרַת אֱמֶת, “Torah of truth” (Mal 2:6).
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September 12, 2015
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Prof. Rabbi Andrea L. Weiss is Associate Professor of Bible at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York and incoming Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Provost. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania (NELC), and Rabbinic Ordination from HUC-JIR, New York. Weiss served as Associate Editor of The Torah: A Women’s Commentary and Campaign Coordinator for “American Values Religious Voices: 100 Days. 100 Letters.” She is author of Figurative Language in Biblical Prose Narrative: Metaphor in the Book of Samuel.
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