Entering Torah: Prefaces to the Weekly Torah Portion

by Reuven Hammer

Book, 2009



Call number

015 HAM



Jerusalem ; New York : Gefen Publishing, c2009


For the believing Jew today, no less than for those in the past, the study of the weekly Torah portion is a religious experience. For this reason it is customary to consider the section along with its traditional commentaries. It is important to know not only what the Torah meant when it was written, but also what it has meant within Judaism since then. It is also important for intellectual honesty to distinguish between the two. Moderns also have the advantage of using the results of linguistic studies and comparative studies of other ancient texts as well as archaeological finds to help us better understand the text. The Torah reflects an entire world-view concerning the nature of God and of human beings, the task of Israel and the way in which we are to live. Thus it is an ancient text that is ever new and always renewing itself. One studies it not only to learn what was, but also to discover what we are and how we are to live. These prefaces are meant to complement and enrich your study of the portion by pointing out important ideas found therein and raising problems and questions for consideration. Enter into the Torah text with this insightful companion and experience the full impact of the age-old and totally new weekly portion.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member Suralon
Reuven Hammer's Entering Torah is a very good book in my opinion. It gives explanations or commentary on the weekly Torah portions from both an orthodox and progressive point of view. One can understand the popularity of Dr. Hammer's column in the "Jerusalem Post". Rabbi Hammer show's a great deal
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of compassion in his interpretation of the ancient scripture and many ways a very modern one that may best understood by his targeted audience.

The Torah Portion is essentially what Christians whom belong to churches with a higher degree of ritual would call the the Weekly Lectionary selection. And as the Portion readings are much older then the Lectionary it is most certainly where that practice is derived from.

I can recommend this book to anyone wishing to achieve a better understanding of the that part of the Bible known known as the Torah or the Five Books of Moses according to traditional Jewish understanding and therefore perhaps increasing their own knowledge.
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LibraryThing member lawecon
I generally agree with the following part of Nuadu's review, below: "Reuven Hammer's _Entering Torah_ is precisely what the book claims to be, an introductory text dedicated to teaching about basic ways to read Torah passages. As such it is a fairly simple text, both in language and in thought
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making it very accessible and though it is geared towards the observant Jew it is readable by anyone who has an interest in Jewish ways of interpreting Jewish scripture. _Entering Torah_ makes use of various Mishna in order to give a wide ranging interpretive view, though traditional kabbalistic interpretations are noticeably lacking." However, I would give this book much higher marks than he/she does.

First of all, what this volume "claims to be" is an INTRODUCTION to the parshas [weekly Torah portion] that are read by Jews worldwide on Shabbat and the Holidays. In that respect, it is excellent. The author attempts to at least mention most of the major interpretations of the themes of each parsha, while adopting one or more as his own. This is in the mainline of the Jewish tradition of continually sifting and resifting what the Torah has to say to us – that is, acknowledging what has been said before by knowledgeable people and adding to it.

The lack of kabbalistic interpretations is not a defect, since only the well grounded Jew who had attained a mastery of the Talmud was traditionally to be exposed to kabbala. You don't put tensor calculus in a text on addition and subtraction. Further, the interpretations Reuven Hammer offers are not just from the Mishna, but range over the tractates of the Talmud and into more modern sources.

The perspective of this book is Conservative, with the somewhat more Orthodox overtones characteristic of the Masorti movement in Britain and Israel. It is, therefore, somewhat surprising that the essays comprising the book apparently appeared in an earlier form as columns in the rightwing Jerusalem Post. Certainly, there is nothing in the present volume that would reflect such an origin.

This is NOT a theological text. It is intended to be, and it is, an easy reading [if sometimes profound] commentary on the Torah of which there have been hundreds in the past and will be hundreds in the future. This volume is, however, exceptionally well written and often insightful.

Entering Torah could be read with profit by the "average Jew in the pew" or to a Gentile trying to get a feel for what Judaism and Jewish reasoning are all about. It does not, however, contain the elaborate scholarly apparatus of footnotes and bibliography that surrounds a scholarly text. With that caveat, however, I recommend it highly to the appropriate reader.
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LibraryThing member kurtabeard
Compared to many other resources of similar scope and length Entering the Torah is accessible yet informative while maintaining the in-depth thought that is necessary for Torah Studies. Hammer, Reuven covers the significant subjects but doesn't get bogged down in the often tiresome and difficult
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details that are the hallmark of theology and Scriptural studies. This book is recommended for anyone looking to better understand the Torah.
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LibraryThing member JSKupperman
Reuven Hammer's _Entering Torah_ is precisely what the book claims to be, an introductory text dedicated to teaching about basic ways to read Torah passages. As such it is a fairly simple text, both in language and in thought making it very accessible and though it is geared towards the observant
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Jew its is readable by anyone who has an interest in Jewish ways of interpreting Jewish scripture. _Entering Torah_ makes use of various Mishna in order to give a wide ranging interpretive view, though traditional kabbalistic interpretations are noticeably lacking. While Hammer does attempt to also use a historical-critical approach in his commentary this is only partially successful. Though he notes the need to understand the text in its initial context Hammer tends to give highly biased interpretations of the cultures surrounding Bronze Age Judaism and earlier Hebraic religion. That is to say while the Jewish (and proto-Jewish) experience is unique and what might otherwise be interpreted as horrendous (from a modern perspective) practices should be given the benefit of the doubt Babylonian, Egyptian, Canaanite, etc. cultures are not given the same treatment and their religious beliefs and practices are stereotyped according to predictable and traditional patterns. However, as _Entering Torah_ is, ultimately, a religious text about reading Torah in a theological manner this tendency is only disappointing but not actually a detriment to its overall mission. Anyone who is interested in understanding Torah from a Jewish perspective would do well to give _Entering Torah_ a read.
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LibraryThing member Sarij
From the foreword” Studying the weekly Torah portion-Parashat hashavua- is an ancient Jewish practice that is in enshrined in codes of Jewish Law”. Whether you are a devote follower of the Jewish faith or someone like me who is not Jewish but wishes to learn more about the faith and the Torah
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Entering Torah is a truly remarkable book.
Three years ago I took a college class that was supposed to be a survey of world religion but ended up being a personal quest to learn more about Judaism. The history of the people, culture and religion appeals to me on a deeply spiritual level. I have read several books on Judaism and the Torah but this is the first book that explains what the Torah meant to those who wrote it and what it means to those who follow its laws today. Entering Torah is meant to be a study guide for the Torah and oh what a guide it is! Rabbi Hammer takes the reader on a journey through the Torah explaining in easy to understand terms the meaning behind the stories.

I had always wondered why G-d had to rest on the seventh day so imagine my delight when I read Rabbi Hammer’s explanation as to why this was written. G-d does not need to rest he explains but we do. For the workaholic this story illustrates the point that if G-d could take a day of rest so should man. I thought I understood the story of Cain and Abel as a lesson on anger and envy, yet Rabbi Hammer shows us there is much more to the story. “Every murder, says the Torah, is the murder of a brother. Every victim is an Abel, every killer a Cain. And the answer to the famous question ‘Am I brother’s keeper’? Is an emphatic yes” (Hammer, pg. 9). The book is 310 pages of lessons on the words of the Torah. The book brings the stories of the Torah to life and had me opening my copy of the Torah to re- read the stories with a better understanding and appreciation for them. This is the highest compliment I can give Rabbi Hammer, through his book I have learned to appreciate the Torah and what it teaches more than I had before I read his book.

This is a must have book for those who want to seek a better appreciation for the lessons found in the Torah. I would even encourage those Christians who understand the origins of what they call the Old Testament to read this book. I started the book one evening thinking it might take me a while to read, but found myself so lost in it that I finished it in three days. Rabbi Hammer is an excellent writer, his voice jumps from the pages. I felt as if he was sitting next to me engaged in a weekly lesson.

At the end of the book Rabbi Hammer says “Reading the Torah is a lifelong task, on that never ends. We no sooner finish the last book than on the very same day we begin the first one again, over and over”. I have to add that the same can be said of Entering Torah, I will read this book again and again finding new meaning in the Rabbi’s words.
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LibraryThing member JamesPaul977
Hammer breaks down each of the fifty-two Torah portion into four to
six page chapters. They are listed in their yearly order and as they
fall into the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.
Each are clearly divided into 1) description and 2) analysis. Hammer
states this was
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compiled from his writings in the Jerusalem Post over
a number of years.

I am not particularly knowledgable about the Torah and don't even
remember which portion I read at my Bar Mitzvah. However I found "Entering
Torah" to have a good format and a managable and interesting content. The
overall themes discussed and the details tied together or speculated
upon gave me a much better understanding of Judaism and the confidence
to discuss it when opportunities arise.
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LibraryThing member jeffd1830
This book takes each Torah portion and overviews the subject matter. The points it choses to explore in each portion and the point of view it takes both seem to be fairly traditionalist/orthodox in my estimation, so much that I seem to disagree with almost every view presented in the book, or at
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least I feel that way as I read it. This isn't all bad, because it remains thought provoking and the controversy becomes a useful thing in itself.

The book seems to take the view that the Torah is pure revelation from God, with no precursor material upon which it was based. This actually becomes humorous in some cases, for example, when the author points out similarities between the story of Noach with the equivalent ancient Assyrian/Babylonian myth of the Flood, and hails the virtues of the Divine pattern because of the foundation of the story in morality (the fact that Noach was described to be a righteous man) over that of the older story, where the person who survived was merely an arbitrary favorite of the Deity. In my opinion, the realistic position is that the author of the Torah added comments about Noach in order to justify some of the reasoning behind the myth that he was transcribing, or in other words, that the point about Noach's righteousness was invented by the scribe, and not part of the original myth. I found that by going so far in the other direction while still referencing the preexisting materials, the author of this book has actually served to underscore the ridiculous nature of the "traditional" view. Because of this pattern, this book would serve as a good starting point for either viewpoint, as long as one is open to utilizing ideas that disagree with one's own ideas as a springboard for further study.

This book was printed on nice white paper, but the typesetting was unimpressive compared to other, more carefully produced volumes that I've seen from Gefen.
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LibraryThing member bostonian71
Lucid and thought-provoking introductions to the weekly Torah readings. The pieces may be too short and elementary for people who've studied Torah for years, but were perfect for my beginning level.
LibraryThing member lmullen
This book expounds the weekly Sabbath readings from the Torah. A heading lists the passage, which the reader will need to find in his own copy of the Torah. Then, in six or seven pages, the passage is explained. Sometimes the explanation takes the form of a close reading of a text, but usually the
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explanation relates the passage to its place in Judaism. For example, the first reading is the account of creation in Genesis, which the author uses to explain his view of the relation between faith and reason in Judaism. As a Christian who is familiar with these texts from a Christian interpretation, I found this book to be a useful introduction to understanding the Torah from one Jewish perspective.

(I received a copy of this book to review.)
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