March 23, 2019

What We Mean When We Say "Torat Emet"

“Making Blessings over Reading from the Torah

The Mishnah mentions blessings before and after the Torah reading (Megillah 4:2). As is typical of the Jewish liturgy, no single text was prescribed, but the nussach (formulation) became standardized over time. The final blessing reads:

אשר נתן לנו תורת אמת
וחיי עולם נטע בתוכנו.
Who gave us torat emet,
and implanted eternal life within us.
Being Transparent about What Is and What Is Not in the Torah
The Talmud debates whether the Torah scroll should be open or closed when reciting these blessings (b. Megillah 32a). In explaining Rabbi Meir’s position, that the scroll should be closed, the Talmud suggests:

כדי שלא יאמרו ברכות כתובין בתורה.
So that onlookers would not assume that the blessings are written in the Torah itself.
This is why the practice is to close the Torah when we say the ending blessing, and why the Ashkenazi custom is to look away when saying the opening blessing, which is recited over an open Torah scroll (following the position of Rabbi Yehudah).[1] The emphasis here is on our responsibility to be as transparent as possible about what is or is not in the Torah.

Just as these blessings are not found in the Torah, so too nowhere in the Torah itself do we find the phrase “torat emet.” It does, however, appear in various forms in late biblical texts.”

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