This dual characterization of TorahTorah as the “given” wisdom and will of G‑d, and Torah as the product of the human mind that receives it and processes it—parallels the Torah’s division into two primary components: the “Written Torah” and the “Oral Torah.”1

From its very beginnings the Torah included both “written” and “oral” components

From its very beginnings as a divine communication to mankind, the Torah was comprised of these two distinct entities. When G‑d declares that the first Jew, Abraham, “kept My charge, My mitzvoth, My decrees and My Torahs,”2 the Talmud explains the plural “Torahs” as denoting “the Written Torah and the Oral Torah.”3 Maimonides opens his introduction to his codification of Torah law, Mishneh Torah, with the statement (based on Talmud, Berachoth 5a): “All the mitzvoth that that were given to Moses at Sinai were given with their explanation. As it is written,4 ‘I will give the tablets of stone, and the Torah, and the mitzvah.’ ‘The Torah’—this is the Written Torah. ‘And the mitzvah’—this its explanation. And He commanded us to fulfill the Torah in accordance with the mitzvah. This ‘mitzvah’ is what is called the Oral Torah.” Indeed, the two are inseparable, as no text can have any authoritative meaning without an accompanying tradition as to what it means and what are the principles that govern its interpretation.5

The “Written Torah” was transcribed by Moses “from the mouth of the Almighty”6 and is contained within the Torah scroll. The “Oral Torah” incorporates the traditions handed down from Sinai but not (initially) put in writing,7 as well as the interpretations and rulings formulated by the sages of each generation. Specifically, Maimonides enumerates five categories of teachings and laws which the “Oral Torah” includes: 1) The traditional meaning of the text of the Torah as taught by Moses and handed down through the generations. 2) Laws and principles not contained within the text, but taught by Moses as part of the oral tradition. 3) Interpretations and expositions of the text that are logically derived by the sages using the traditional rules and methods of Torah exegesis, with differences of opinion (machaloketh) amongst the sages decided by majority view. 4) Ordinances enacted by the sages of each generation as “safeguards” for the laws of the Torah, in accordance with the authority vested in them by the Torah. 5) Other ordinances enacted by the sages of each generation, in accordance with the authority vested in them by the Torah, for the sake of the common good or in response to the specific needs and circumstances of the time.8

The divinity of Torah is expressed via the Written Torah, and its human element in the deliberations of the Oral Torah

On a most basic level, the Written Torah represents the divine aspect of Torah, while the Oral Torah embodies its human element. But as we have seen—and as will be further discussed below—the Oral Torah is equally “the words of the living G‑d.” And the human element, as we shall see, is not exclusive to the Oral Torah, but has its roots in the Written Torah. Thus, it would be more correct to say that the symbiosis of divine wisdom and human intellect characterizes the whole of Torah, both its written-textual part as well as its oral-expositional part, but with each element finding its primary expression in its respective part: the divinity of Torah is most explicitly expressed via the words of the Written Torah, and its human element is most pronounced in the teachings and deliberations of the Oral Torah.