The Torah is multifaceted, and so it makes perfect sense that Scripture and the sages employed a range of metaphors to describe different aspects of the Torah. Below is a list of 21 things Torah is compared to.

(Note that this list is far from exhaustive, and that although some items may be comparable to Torah in multiple ways, we generally just listed one or two.)

1. Water

Perhaps the most common metaphor for the Torah is water. The verse states, “Ho, everyone who thirsts, come for water.”1 The Talmud explains that water is a reference to Torah.2

Another comparison: just as a fish cannot live out of the water, so too the Jewish nation cannot exist without the Torah.3

See The Fox and the Fishes for a story of Rabbi Akiva that illustrates this point.

2. Wine

Just as wine gladdens the heart, so too does learning Torah. And just as wine becomes better as it ages, so too the Torah that we learn and retain in our minds becomes more enhanced as time progresses.4

3. Oil

The Torah brings light into the world like oil. Just as with olive oil, the more it is crushed the better it becomes, so too the more you go over any topic in Torah, the better your understanding becomes.5

See The "Oil of Torah" for a deeper understanding of the metaphors of water, wine and oil.

4. Light

The Torah is called light,6 for it enlightens the person regarding what he should do7 and brings light into the world.

5. Milk

Just as milk keeps best in cheap utensils and spoils quickly in silver or golden utensils, so too the Torah remains with humble people and is repelled by the arrogant.8

See Why Eat Dairy on Shavuot

6. Honey

In addition to the Torah being sweet like honey,9 it is significant that honey is made by bees.

Honey originates from a source that is spiritually impure, i.e., not kosher, yet after the product is developed, it is pure and fit for human consumption. Thus, Torah is compared to honey because of its power to elevate and purify even one who has fallen into a state of spiritual contamination.10

7. Bread

Physical bread nourishes the body when it is ingested and absorbed within it, when it is transformed into one’s own blood and flesh. Similarly, when the soul comprehends and joins with the Torah, the Torah then becomes food for the soul.11

8. Fire

Scripture compares Torah to both fire12 and water (see above). The second Rebbe of Chabad, Rabbi DovBer, would explain that the “revealed” Torah—the practical, legal teachings of Talmud and halachah—is called water, whereas the “inner” Torah—the esoteric and mystical teachings—is called fire. Now, people are attracted to water, but they fear fire. Thus, the one who teaches the inner dimension of Torah must assure his pupil, "Do not fear, for 'The L‑rd your G‑d is a consuming fire.'1314

For more on this see Fire and Water.

9. Bee

Just like a bee, whose honey is for its owner but it stings others, so too the Torah is sweet for those who learn it but stings those who transgress it.15

10. Goad

Just as a goad (used to direct cattle) drives the ox to the field where it will produce life-sustaining food, so do the words of Torah direct those who study them to “the paths of life.”16

11. Wood

The Torah is likened to a tree,17 for just as a small piece of wood can ignite a large piece, minor Torah scholars can sharpen great Torah scholars and enable them to advance in their studies. As Rabbi Chanina said: “I have learned much from my teachers and even more from my friends, but from my students I have learned more than from all of them.”18

12. Fig Tree

Unlike many other fruits, figs don’t all ripen at the same time on a tree, and they need to be picked slowly day after day. So too Torah is acquired by learning it day by day.19

13. Bird

Just as a bird has a sweet voice, so too the sound of Torah is sweet.20

14. Nut

A nut has a hard shell on the outside and is softer on the inside. Likewise, the outer part of Torah is the doing of the mitzvahs, and the inside contains the multiple layers of meaning and ways of explaining the Torah.21

15. A Loving Doe

Just as a doe is beloved by its mate at every moment, so too the Torah is beloved by those who learn it every moment just as the first time they learned.22

16. Kings

Just as a king has the power of life and death, so too the Torah has in it the power of life and death.23

17. Pillars

Just as pillars hold up a building, so too the Torah is the pillar that supports the world.24

18. Fragrance

Just as one who enters a shop that sells fragrances leaves with a fragrant scent, so too, being around Torah learners will rub off a “sweet scent” onto you.25

19. Rain

Just as a steady rain can erode a strong rock, so too Torah can soften the hardest of hearts.26

Read the story of how this metaphor caused Rabbi Akiva to become one of the greatest Jewish sages of all time Rabbi Akiba: A Drop of Water

20. Salt

The mystical aspects of the Torah are compared to salt,27 while the revealed aspects of the Torah are compared to bread and meat. Just as salt doesn’t have much of a taste on its own, but gives taste to the meat and bread, so too the mystical aspects of the Torah may not always be fully comprehended, but they add taste and flavor to the rest of the Torah.28

21. Sword

A sword, if you know how to use it, will not injure you. Likewise, if you know how to expound upon Torah, it will not cause you harm. But if you don’t know the rules of how to expound upon it, but do so anyway, it can cause you harm.29