“In many respects, tradition in Judaism is called Torah.
And this is one of the words that have no exact translation.
The accepted translation, law, is certainly incorrect.
Torah, even in its verbal meaning, includes the Bible as well as the law, philosophy, dream, legend, and everything else that constitutes human life.
The one word, Torah, signifies that which instructs and enlightens.
It is much broader and more dynamic a concept than simply the teaching.
And the subject of Torah, that which carries it, or the medium through which it is manifest, is Knesset Yisrael.
The translated concept is ‘the assembly of Israel,’ but it is not at all a statistical totality or a numerical sum of a particular group of people.
It is that which one may loosely call the soul of the people.
Most important is its function as the bearer of the Torah.
In many ways its life and actions are themselves among the creative forces of Torah, of tradition.
The Jewish community keeps determining Halakhah, doctrine and custom, at every crossroad.
The decision is made by consulting the Torah and then itself becomes Torah, so that Knesset Yisrael is not the passive bearer of a yoke of Torah and law that has been thrust upon it.
It is an active component of the Torah.
Its entire being is a constant merging of life and Torah and the result is the essence of Jewish tradition.
Not in vain has the relation between God and Knesset Yisrael been likened to that between man and wife.
From this is may be understood that the interaction, besides the love and respect between them, has a great depth of intimacy and potency.
In order for something to be born, for anything to happen, the role of Knesset Yisrael is that of the bearer, the means, or the vehicle.
As such Knesset Yisrael is the many-sided subject and instrument of Torah and Jewish tradition.”
–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz
From Parabola Magazine, Vol. 14, # 2