Project Genesis

Five Books of Moses

Why do we say the Five Books of Moses? How did the division of the Torah into five separate books come about? I don’t see any mention in the Torah itself of such an expression. Were separate scrolls for each book ever written? If so, wouldn’t they be invalid since they would have been incomplete?

Hi! Thanks for your sharp question. Although the Torah is written as a single scroll, there are four full blank lines left between each of the five books. Aside from this, the only breaks in the Torah are “open” and “closed” breaks (“P’suchos” and “S’tumos”) between verses on a line. So the division into books originates from when it was first written down by Moses.

Separate books are sometimes written, for learning purposes. They are to be treated as holy articles but cannot be used as a valid Torah Scroll.

Thank you for taking the time to review and respond to my question. Is there any explanation as to WHY the Torah is written with four full blank lines between each of the “books”? What is the need for the division into five “books”? What is to be learned from this? What would be lacking had the Torah been written without the dividing lines?

Hi! You’re asking why the Torah was divided into five books. Let me ask you: Would it bother you if a human author had written his book this way? I don’t think it would have bothered me. The division of the books is not arbitrary; it makes good sense from a reader’s standpoint, as I expect you would agree. So aside from trying to be a literary critic, I don’t have too much of a basis for suggesting that G-d should have written his Torah in this way or that. There’s no doubt in my mind that the division into five has many very deep and subtle reasons, but on the simple level, I guess I don’t see it as problematic. (As opposed to many of the internal breaks (p’suchos and s’tumos) about which I frequently puzzle: “I don’t think I would have put a break there.”)

Best Wishes,
Michoel Reach

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