The Torah is a guidebook. Valuable things (lawn mowers, mp3 players, minivans) come with a book of instructions on how to properly and optimally use them. The same applies to the valuable (and complicated) thing we call life—the Manufacturer enclosed an instruction book.

The Torah is a contract. When two people enter into a partnership, binding their financial futures to a joint destiny, they draw up a contract that spells out their respective duties and commitments. When two people marry, a marriage contract, called a ketubah, is drawn up that does the same. The Torah is our marriage contract with G‑d, the document that details the commitments and duties we assumed toward each other when G‑d chose us as His people and we chose Him as our G‑d at Sinai.

The Torah is identity. What connects the black-skinned Ethiopian Jew with the red-bearded chassid in Moscow? What does the West Coast Jewish filmmaker have in common with his peddler grandfather or his olive-growing ancestor? Nothing. They share no common language, facial features or diet. Any two Jews can be as culturally or even genetically diverse as any other two members of the human race. But the Shema recited today in a Canadian synagogue is the same Shema that was proclaimed in Egypt 3,500 years ago; the criteria for the mikveh built at Masada is the same as for the one that opened in Brazil last week. Torah bridges continents and de-gaps generations to serve as our single common expression of our Jewishness.

The Torah is vision. Why are we here? Where are we going? "An architect who builds a palace," cites the Midrash, "has scrolls and notebooks which he consults to know how to place the rooms, where to set the doors. So it was with G‑d: He looked into the Torah and created the world." Torah is the divine blueprint for creation, the vision that illuminates the foundations of existence, its purpose and its significance. To study and live Torah is to understand and experience the soul of reality.

The Torah is daughter and wife. The sages of the Talmud offer a fascinating parable for our special relationship with G‑d and the Torah's role in that relationship:

There was once a king who had an only daughter, and one of the kings came and married her. When her husband wished to return to his country, her father said to him: "My daughter, whose hand I have given you, is my only child; I cannot part with her. Neither can I say to you, 'Do not take her,' for she is your wife. This one favor, however, I ask of you: wherever you go to live, prepare a chamber for me that I may dwell with you, for I cannot leave my daughter."

In the same way, G‑d said to Israel: "I have given you the Torah. I cannot part with her, and I also cannot tell you not to take her. But this I request of you: wherever you go, make for Me a house wherein I may dwell."

What can be more powerful than the bond between child and parent? The one is the very extension of the being of the other. To the outsider they may seem as two individuals, but in essence they are one. Indeed, we are referred to as "children of G‑d" (Deuteronomy 14:1) in affirmation of the absoluteness of our bond.

There is, however, one element which the parent-child relationship seems to lack: the element of choice. The child did not choose to be the parent's child. Nor did the parent chose this particular individual to be his child; if were up to him, he might have chosen someone wiser, kinder, prettier, or more talented. One can therefore argue that while the two are connected in essence, they are connected in essence only: the more "external" trappings of personality—intelligence, character, physical attractiveness, accomplishment—the very things that are often the most "exciting" elements in a relationships—are present in the parent-child relationship by default only, and thus lack the meaningfulness and personal significance that are attached to that which is consciously and willfully chosen.

Thus another metaphor comes into play: that of the relationship between a great sage and his brilliant disciple. Theirs is a relationship that is predicated on each other's qualities. The love and devotion of the disciple are motivated by the sage's greatness; the teacher's love and devotion are motivated by the disciple's intelligence and diligence. The teacher and student have chosen to bond with each other.

Yet the master-disciple relationship obviously lacks the essential nature of the parent-child bond.

Now picture this: Imagine that you are a great king, and the most precious thing in your life is your only daughter. And now you must choose the man who will become your son-in-law.

The Torah is G‑d's daughter. And the Torah is Israel's bride. In wedding the King's daughter we unite with her, becoming one with that which is one with Him. It is an essential oneness, yet also a chosen oneness.