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Torah has a range of meanings. It can most specifically mean the first five books (Pentateuch) of the 24 books of the Tanakh, and is usually printed with the rabbinic commentaries (perushim). It can mean the continued narrative from the Book of Genesis to the end of the Tanakh, and it can even mean the totality of Jewish teaching, culture and practice, whether derived from biblical texts or later rabbinic writings. Common to all these meanings, Torah consists of the origin of Jewish peoplehood: their call into being by God, their trials and tribulations, and their covenant with their God, which involves following a way of life embodied in a set of moral and religious obligations and civil laws (halakha).

In rabbinic literature the word Torah denotes both the five books ("Torah that is written") and the Oral Torah ( "Torah that is spoken"). The Oral Torah consists of interpretations and amplifications which according to rabbinic tradition have been handed down from generation to generation and are now embodied in the Talmud and Midrash. According to rabbinic tradition, all of the teachings found in the Torah, both written and oral, were given by God through the prophet Moses, some at Mount Sinai and others at the Tabernacle, and all the teachings were written down by Moses, which resulted in the Torah that exists today. According to the Midrash, the Torah was created prior to the creation of the world, and was used as the blueprint for Creation. The majority of Biblical scholars believe that the written books were a product of the Babylonian captivity (c. 600 BCE), based on earlier written and oral traditions, which could only have arisen from separate communities within ancient Israel, and that it was completed by the period of Achaemenid rule (c. 400 BCE).

Traditionally, the words of the Torah are written on a scroll by a scribe (sofer) in Hebrew. A Torah portion is read publicly at least once every three days in the presence of a congregation. Reading the Torah publicly is one of the bases for Jewish communal life.

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