Essential Torah: A Complete Guide to the Five Books of Moses

Essential Torah: A Complete Guide to the Five Books of Moses

by George Robinson


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Whether you are thinking about studying the Bible for the first time or you’re simply curious about its history and contents, you will find everything you need in Essential Torah. George Robinson, author of the acclaimed Essential Judaism, begins by recounting the various theories of the origins of the Torah and goes on to explain its importance as the core element in Jewish belief and practice. He discusses the basics of Jewish theology and Jewish history as they are derived from the Torah, and he outlines how the Dead Sea Scrolls and other archaeological discoveries have enhanced our understanding of the Bible. He introduces us to the vast literature of biblical commentary, chronicles the evolution of the Torah’s place in the synagogue service, offers an illuminating discussion of women and the Bible, and provides a study guide as a companion for individual or group Bible study. In the book’s centerpiece, Robinson summarizes all fifty-four portions that make up the Torah and gives us a brilliant distillation of two thousand years of biblical commentaries–from the rabbis of the Mishnah and the Talmud to medieval commentators such as Rashi, Maimonides, and ibn Ezra to contemporary scholars such as Nahum Sarna, Nechama Leibowitz, Robert Alter, and Everett Fox.

This extraordinary volume–which includes a listing of the Torah reading cycles, a Bible time line, glossaries of terms and biblical commentators, and a bibliography–will stand as the essential sourcebook on the Torah for years to come.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780805241860
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/31/2006
Pages: 624
Product dimensions: 6.53(w) x 9.54(h) x 1.36(d)

About the Author

George Robinson is the author of Essential Judaism: A Complete Guide to Beliefs, Customs, and Rituals. He is the film critic for the New York Jewish Week and is a contributor to the forthcoming revised edition of the Encyclopaedia Judaica. His writing appears frequently in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Newsday. He has received the Simon Rockower Award for excellence in Jewish journalism from the American Jewish Press Association. He lives in New York City.

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Table of Contents

A Note to the Reader

1. A Tree of Life...: The Torah in Practice
—What Is the Torah?
—The Torah Scroll
Seder K’riat Ha'Torah/Service for the Reading of the Torah
—How Seder K'riat Ha'Torah Evolved

2. More Than History, More Than Law: An Overview of the Torah
—Stories and Meanings
—In the Beginning, God
—In Search of the Miraculous
—In the Image of God
—The Covenant(s)
—The Mitzvot
—From One Man to a Family, From a Family to the Twelve Tribes
—From Rabble in Arms to a Nation of Priests
—How the Story Is Told
—The Torah as Legal Document

3. Black Fire on White Fire: The Writing of the Torah
—The Traditional View
—Cracks in the Facade
—Evolution of an Alternative Theory
—The Documentary Hypothesis
—Enter J and E
—History Lessons Continued
—Enter D
—Exile, Remorse, Return
—And Finally P
—The Redactor
—Reactions to the Documentary Hypothesis
—The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Case for Higher Criticism
—Alternatives to the Documentary Hypothesis

4. The Rest Is Commentary: Interpreting the Torah
—Oral and Written Torah Revisited
Halakhah vs. Aggadah
—Following the Thread of Halakhah
—Laying Down the Law
—Thinking in Code(s)
Halakhah in Changing Times
—Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Torah
—Four Gates into the Paradise of Aggadah
—The View from the Bimah
—Midrashim in Three Keys
—Your Brother’s Blood
—The Golden Age of Bible Commentary
—The Mystical Strain
—Torah + Science
—Modernity Confronts Scripture

5. Hearing Silenced Voices: Women and the Torah
—(At Least) Two Kinds of Reading
—God Herself
—The Mother of Us All
—Law of the Fathers
—Women in Rabbinic Literature
—The Battle for Women’s Prayer and Study

6. Troubling Texts
—Texts of Terror
—Bridging the Gap
—The Final and Most Terrible Test
—Three Ways of Looking at a Near Tragedy
—Can a Queer Jew Get Justice from the Judge of the World?

7. Now Go and Study. . . : How to Study Torah
—“Find Yourself a Partner”
—Hebrew and English
—Choosing Commentaries
—One Week at a Time
—Why Study Torah?

8. Every Week, Fifty-four Weeks a Year: An Introduction to the Parashiyot
Sefer Bereishit / The Book of Genesis
Sefer Shemot / The Book of Exodus
Sefer Vayikra / The Book of Leviticus
Sefer B’midbar / The Book of Numbers
Sefer Devarim / The Book of Deuteronomy

Appendix 1: Torah and History
Appendix 2: A Timeline of Major Torah-Related Events
Glossary of Torah Commentators
Glossary of Terms

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