In relation to the hebrew verb to shoot YaRaH, what does torah literally mean?

If the word torah comes from the hebrew verb, to shoot, then what does torah literally mean? does it mean "shooting" or "shooting direction" or "direction", etc.?

The words that are often used to translate torah is law or teaching, but these two words are interpretations and not literal translation of the hebrew word torah, if the hebrew word torah come from the hebrew verb, to shoot.

  • I'm pretty sure they are different roots.
    – Scimonster
    Jun 2, 2015 at 11:40
  • 1
    if the Hebrew noun ToRaH did not come from the Hebrew verb YaRah, then from which Hebrew verb did ToRah come from?
    – ninamag
    Jun 2, 2015 at 11:49
  • 1
    "She will shoot"
    – wfb
    Jun 2, 2015 at 12:36
  • @wfb That would be תירה.
    – Loewian
    Jun 2, 2015 at 13:07
  • @Loewian ok, then I guess that answers the question. In relation to YaRaH, Torah means nothing
    – wfb
    Jun 2, 2015 at 13:49

2 Answers 2


The roots are indeed the same (see, eg. the form מורה used in Samuel 1:20:36 and Chronicles 2:15:3).

It's not unusual for roots to have multiple senses, and on the simplest level that's what we have: one means to shoot [arrows] and one means to teach. See the two different roots on Hebrew Wiktionary. (We can speculate if these derive from two different roots in ancient Hebrew with different Reish's or something like that.)

On the homiletic plane, consider Malbim's comments to Exodus 15:4:

ופעל ירה בא על המשליך חץ ממקום רחוק בכח, וכן על המשליך דבר מלמעלה למטה ממקום גבוה אל מקום עמוק מאד שנופל בכח גדול ע"י כח הכובד
The root Y.R.H. comes on throwing an arrow from a far place forcibly, and similarly on throwing something from above to below from a high place to a very deep place that it falls with a large force by way of the force of [gravity]. (my translation)

Teaching is passing information from an intellectually high place to an intellectually lower place. As was the Torah itself passed from 'heavens above' to 'our lowly world'. Thus the root becomes very appropriate in this context. (Consider also the implications for Genesis 46:28.)

Strong derives 'teaching' as an extension of 'directing [the finger]' such as in Proverbs 6:13.

  • I agree, but I am open to a compromise: If a word/verb can come from the merger of two different verbs (for example, the verbs "I am", and "I was"), then are there any biblical Hebrew words (perhaps Torah) coming from the merger of two different verbs: HaRaH and YaRaH?
    – ninamag
    Jun 2, 2015 at 17:35
  • @ninamag Why would there be any? What does the root ה.ר.ה. have to do with anything? What are the verbs for "I am" and "I was" and what did they merge into?
    – Double AA
    Jun 2, 2015 at 17:36
  • i agree with you. that is the premise of my posting, that torah comes from yarah. i am just now curious, if there are any hebrew words that came about based on a merger of two different verbs. in english, for example, the verbs I AM and I WAS actually etymologically originated from two different verbs, but that is a different topic. but please answer the question of my posting, since you agree that torah came from yarah. what does torah mean? shooting? direction?
    – ninamag
    Jun 2, 2015 at 17:41
  • Y.Sh.V. להושיב to make dwell תושב a dweller. Y.D.H. להודות to thank תודה thanks. Y.R.H. להורות to teach תורה teachings.
    – Double AA
    Jun 2, 2015 at 18:12
  • Possible similarity of meanings (my interpretation). "Yoreh" means more than just "to shoot". It means "to aim at a goal or target". When David shoots arrows, he's aiming at a target. Likewise, when we teach or, spec. teach Torah, we are aiming at a goal of moral behavior and increasing knowledge towards mitzvah performance. I.e., it's not a random teaching to absorb loose facts or trivia.
    – DanF
    Jun 3, 2015 at 2:25

Rabbi Hirsch in Bereishis 26 5 writes about the word Torah. He says Torah is related to harah, not Yoreh. I''ll quote his words: תורתי which we believe does not come from ירה, but from הרה, like הוליך from הרה; הלך to receive a seed within oneself, in the Hiphil הורה to plant a seed in someone else, hence to implant the seeds of truth and goodness, of spirituality and morality in others; to teach. So that תורתי are the teachings which God has revealed to us of truth and goodnesswhich we are to accept in our minds and feelings, to beget in us the knowledg of truth and the decision to goodness.

  • reference please. what is the name of the book and other details about the book?
    – ninamag
    Jun 3, 2015 at 0:30
  • This is a quote from the pirush of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch on the Torah. I'll assume you haven't heard of him? If you like insights into the Torah based on word examinations you will appreciate this work. Check out his history on line somewhere. He was a great man with long lasting leadership which lives on into our lives.
    – user6591
    Jun 3, 2015 at 0:40
  • You will find similar explanation is R. Hirsch's Etymological Dictionary of Biblical Hebrew.
    – DanF
    Jun 3, 2015 at 2:21
  • So why isn't it הוא הורית?
    – Double AA
    Jun 3, 2015 at 2:44
  • @Double I think his words 'we believe' is his way of saying nira li. He would've used a stronger term if he was completely convinced linguistically. It seems Yarah was a real contender for the shoresh of Torah prize, but he liked the pshat associated with Harah better. That's what it seems like to me from my experience with his works, but you would have to ask someone more knowledgeable in his usage of words.
    – user6591
    Jun 3, 2015 at 2:56

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .