This practice is present to an extent in all branches of Judaism and is considered of paramount importance among traditional Jews. Torah study has evolved over the generations, as lifestyles changed and also as new texts were written.
Although the word "Torah" refers specifically to the Five Books of Moses, in Judaism the word also refers to the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible), the Talmud and other religious works, even including the study of Kabbalah, Hasidism, Mussar and much more.
Most Orthodox Jews study the text of the Torah on four levels as described in the Zohar:
The initial letters of the words Peshat, Remez, Derash, Sod, forming together the Hebrew word PaRDeS (also meaning "orchard"), became the designation for the four-way method of studying Torah, in which the mystical sense given in the Kabbalah was the highest point.
Haredi Israelis often choose to devote many years to Torah study, often studying at a Kollel. National Religious Israelis often choose to devote time after high school to Torah study, either during their army service at a Hesder yeshiva, or before their service at a Mechina.
A D'var Torah (Heb: דבר תורה) (Plural: Divrei Torah) is a talk on topics relating to a section (parashah) of the Torah – typically the weekly Torah portion. In respect to its place in synagogues, rabbis will often give their D'var Torah after the Torah service. Dvar Torahs can range in length, depending on the rabbi and the depth of the talk. In most congregations, it will not last much longer that fifteen minutes, but in the case of Rebbes or special occasions, a Dvar Torah can last all afternoon.
It is also known as a Drasha in Ashkenazic communities.
There are many Torah sites on the web that contain Divrei Torah to help people learn Torah. One of these sites provides users the ability to post their own Dvar Torah help others who are learning Torah.
Like Orthodox Jews, other Jewish denominations may use any or all of the traditional areas and modes of Torah study. They study the weekly Torah portion, the Talmud, ethical works, and more. They may study simply the peshat of the text, or they may also study, to a limited extent, the remez, derash and sod, which is found in Etz Hayyim: A Torah Commentary (Rabbinical Assembly), used in many Conservative congregations. It is common in Torah study among Jews involved in Jewish Renewal. Some level of PaRDeS study can even be found in forms of Judaism that otherwise are strictly rationalist, such as Reconstructionist Judaism. However, non-Orthodox Jews generally spend less time in detailed study of the classical Torah commentators, and spend more time studying modern Torah commentaries that draw on and include the classical commentators, but which are written from more modern perspectives. Furthermore, works of rabbinic literature (such as the Talmud) typically receive less attention than the Tanakh.
Before the Enlightenment, virtually all Jews believed that the Tanakh was written by the prophets who heard it from God, and that it directly reflected God's intentions in human language. They also believed that as both divine intentions and human language are complex, the Torah required interpretation. After the Enlightenment, many Jews began to participate in wider European society, where they learned critical methods of textual study, the modern historical method, hermeneutics, and fields relevant to Bible study such as near-Eastern archaeology and linguistics. Many Jews found the findings of these disciplines compelling and considered them relevant to Torah study. According to this view, the Bible was written by different people who may have been "divinely inspired", but who lived at different times and in different societies; and these factors should be taken into account when studying their works. Consequently, one way to add more to Torah study would be to learn more about the intentions of these people, and the circumstances in which they lived. This type of study depends on evidence external to the text, especially archeological evidence and comparative literature. See the entries on Biblical Higher criticism and the Documentary hypothesis.
Today, Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist rabbis draw on the lessons of modern critical Bible scholarship as well as the traditional forms of Biblical exegesis. Orthodox rabbis reject most or all critical Bible scholarship considering it highly speculative or simply false.
Religious Jews of all denominations hold as a belief that one must constantly strive to engage in Torah study.
Devoting a year to Torah study in the modern Land of Israel is a common practice among American, and, to a lesser extent, European and South African Modern Orthodox Jews. Young adults spend a year studying Torah in the Land of Israel. It is common both among males and females, with the boys normally going to a yeshiva and the girls to a midrasha (often called seminary or seminaria). Common Yeshivot with year-in-Israel programs include: Yeshivat Har Etzion, Yeshivat HaMivtar, Machon Meir, Aish HaTorah. Common seminaries or midrashot include: Midreshet Lindenbaum, Migdal Oz, Nishmat, Bnos Chava. Chasidic and Charedi boys from abroad often spend many years studying in the Land of Israel.