Ben Bag Bag said, “Turn and turn about in it [the Torah] for everything is in it; and within it you shall look, and grow old and gray over it, and not stir from it; for there is no better portion for you than this.”
Every sentence, every word, every letter, every space – holy holy holy, precious, bursting with understanding and meaning, brimming with life! Oh how I want to more fully embrace and understand every word of our Abba.
We are on the cusp of a new Torah Reading Cycle. Just the thought of stepping once again into Bereshit causes my heart to tremble with excitment. Every time I read the first words of Bereshit: Bereshit bara Elohim et hashamayim ve’et ha’arets – I know I am once again home.
We are meant to study, wrestle, argue, and yes even dance with Torah. Following are a handful of teachers whose insights and understandings have accompanied me in my studies and who have helped me do just that – study, wrestle, argue, and dance. They have become my trusted friends and much beloved teachers.
Chazak, chazak, v’nitchazek – Be strong, be strong and may we strengthen one another!
RABBI SACKS – Covenant & Conversation
This summer Rabbi Sacks completed the fifth and final installation of the series Covenant & Conversation – Deuteronomy: Renewal of the Sinai Covenant. This five volume set includes a number of profound, illuminating, and inspiring essays on each Torah portion – each inviting us into a conversation with Torah. Rabbi Sacks is a great scholar, philosopher, and theologian. Deeply thoughtful, an intellectual giant, his words require deep thought and contemplation. I often find myself having to read a small portion, wait, then read again. If I were to rate this series I would absolutely give it a 6 out of 5 stars.
SCHMUEL GOLDIN – Unlocking The Torah Text
I wish we had more than 24 hours in a day so I could deeply study with more than one teacher through every new cycle. If I were able to – Schmuel Goldin’s collection is one I would include every year. With each parsha Rabbi Goldin includes a number of studies and thought provoking questions – many, if not most – I never even though to ask. An incredible, very readable work, that compares and contrasts opposing rabbinical points of view. This set is truly a gem!
RABBI SHAI HELD – The Heart of Torah
This two volume set is another favorite. Rabbi Shai Held includes two essays for each weekly portion. He draws from Torah, rabbinic commentaries, contemporary biblical and pastoral studies. He has helped me more than once to read with new eyes, given text new understanding. A very accessible and thoughtful read.
RABBI ABRAHAM ISAAC HAKOHEN KOOK – Gold From The Land of Israel, Sapphire From The Land of Israel
Each book is a collection of essays on the Torah portions, nuggets distilled from the writings of Rabbi Abraham Kook. Rabbi Kook’s writing was both poetic and esoteric and – for myself – at times very difficult to understand. Rabbi Chanan Morrison has made Rabbi Abraham Kook’s writings both accessible (translating them for non-Hebrew readers) and understandable. These books are works of beauty.
AVIVAH GOTTLIEB ZORNBERG – The Beginning of Desire, The Particulars of Rapture: Reflections on Exodus, Bewilderments: Reflections on the Book of Numbers
I will say from the beginning that these books are in a class of their own. Beautiful, arresting, really just glorious. Each of these commentaries weaves together biblical, talmudic, and midrashic interpretations. These are reads I come back to time and time again as there is no way I can fully take in all Avivah Zornberg is communicating. Avivah Zornberg has so often set my heart on fire.
DAVID EBENBACH – the artist’s Torah
This book by David Ebenbach has become an absolute favorite of mine. A collection of essays – one for each portion – The Artist Torah is a delightful read for the creative soul (of which we all are). Rich, inspiring, and though provoking. I have come back to this read time and time again. Pure joy – this is a ‘kind’ read that truly feeds my soul!
RABBI SAMSON RAPHAEL HIRSCH – The Hirsch Chumash
This five book series is one that has been on my wish list for years. I have Rabbi Hirsch’s Tehillim – a book on the Psalms that I keep out and read from almost every day. I have read that Hirsch’s Tehillim is written in a similar way to his Torah series so I wanted to include just a short note on how Rabbi Hirsch brings unique understanding and light to Scripture. His books are not a fast read – at least for myself, but they are enjoyable and beautiful. Books that one could spend a lifetime exploring.