Torah as Guidance

“What does it mean to call the Five Books of Moses, with all their internal variety, Torah? The word itself means “law,” but it also means “teaching,” “instruction,” “guidance.” The verb y-r-h from which it derives also means “to shoot an arrow,” “to aim at a target.” Clearly we have here a concept larger than “law” in a narrow, legalistic sense, for which the Mosaic books have other words, among them chok, mishpat, edut, din, and mitzvah. Torah does sometimes have a narrow meaning, roughly, “the procedure to be followed in such-and-such a case.” But in its more general sense, it seems to mean guidance as it emerges not only from laws but also from history. “Torah” in this broad sense is about the counterpoint, the creative tension, between law and life, between the world as it ought to be and the world as it is.”

Covenant and Conversation: Numbers, p. 239