People of The Book

August 18, 2011 | by

I've always heard that the Jews are the "people of the book." Can you clarify for me exactly what that means?

The Aish Rabbi Replies

On the simplest level, "people of the book" means that the Jews introduced to the world the all-time best-seller, the Bible.

On a deeper level, this means that Torah was meant for everybody. It is not the exclusive domain of some priestly class. Rather, it is a living, breathing document - the lifeblood of our Jewish nation. We are required at all times to involve ourselves personally in its study and practice.

It is interesting to note that the Vatican, by contrast, had an index of prohibited books until not too many years ago. The number one book on that index was the Bible - the Five Books of Moses. They said it was dangerous to the faith and hence prohibited to study.

Judaism is just the opposite. Judaism is unique in that every single Jew is commanded to know the Torah. The first sentence that a Jewish child is taught is "Torah tziva lanu Moshe, morasha kehilas Yaakov" - Torah was commanded to us through Moses and it is the inheritance of every Jew."

As Maimonides writes (Laws of Torah Study 1:8-9):

"Every Jew is obligated to study Torah, whether he is poor or rich, healthy or ill, young or old. Even if he is a pauper who derives his livelihood from charity, or if he has family obligations to his wife and children, he must still establish fixed times for Torah study - both day and night, as it says (Joshua 1:8), 'You shall think about it day and night.'

"The great Sages of Israel included wood choppers, water drawers and blind men. Despite these [difficulties], they were occupied with Torah study day and night, and were amongst those who transmitted Torah in the unbroken chain dating back to Moses."

So I welcome you to come and drink from the wellspring of wisdom contained in "The Book"!


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