The JPS Jewish Heritage Torah Commentary

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The JPS Jewish Heritage Torah Commentary

Rabbi Eli L. Garfinkel

JPS Study Bible Series

408 pages

Paperback

June 2021

978-0-8276-1267-9

$34.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

The JPS Jewish Heritage Torah Commentary shows Jews of all ages and backgrounds that the Jewish people’s most significant book is not dusty and irrelevant but an eternally sacred text wholly pertinent to our modern lives. Designed to keep the attention of all readers, each lively essay is both brief enough to be read in minutes and deep and substantive enough to deliver abundant food for thought.

Its cornerstone is its unique four-part meditation on the Jewish heritage. After briefly summarizing a Torah portion, the commentary orbits that portion through four central pillars of Jewish life—the Torah (Torat Yisrael), the land of Israel (Eretz Yisrael), the Jewish people (Am Yisrael), and Jewish thought (Mahshevet Yisrael)—illuminating how the four intersect and enrich one another. Furthering the Jewish thought motif, every essay ends with two questions for thought well suited for discussion settings. Each commentary can be used as the launchpad for a lesson, a sermon, a d’var Torah, or a discussion.

Readers from beginners to experts will come away with new understandings of our Jewish heritage—and be inspired to draw closer to its four dimensions.

Author Bio

Rabbi Eli L. Garfinkel is the spiritual leader of Temple Beth El in Somerset, New Jersey. He is the author of three books used by the Ramah camps: Mikraot Ramah, a summer camp commentary on the Torah for teen campers and adult staffs; Dim’ot Ramah, a companion volume on Lamentations; and Torat Ramah, a commentary for younger campers.

 
 

Praise

The JPS Jewish Heritage Torah Commentary promises to become an indispensable component of the modern Jewish library. This expansive, accessible, masterful, and truly inspiring volume is certain to make the study of Torah personally relevant and meaningful to a wide audience of grateful learners, both teachers and students, for years to come.”—Rabbi Oren J. Hayon, senior rabbi, Congregation Emanu El, Houston

“On behalf of every rabbi, Jewish educator, and inquiring mind: Thank you, Rabbi Garfinkel, for this extraordinary contribution to Torah study! Readable and relevant, every page is brimming with scholarship, creativity, inspiration, and love—a must-have for anyone looking to deepen their engagement with Jewish texts or tradition.”—Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove, Park Avenue Synagogue, New York City

“For more than twenty years those of us who were first exposed to Rabbi Garfinkel’s teaching Torah during summers at Ramah Wisconsin have been asking for an edition of his commentary for the entire yearly cycle of parshiyot. The pedagogic artistry he experimented with in his early work is on full display in The JPS Jewish Heritage Torah Commentary. By organizing his commentary through four dimensions followed by open-ended questions to consider, Rabbi Garfinkel thoroughly enriches the experience of weekly engagement with the Torah text.”—Rabbi David Soloff, director emeritus, Camp Ramah, Wisconsin

“Anyone who opens up the wisdom of Torah with so many points of entrance and in such a thoughtful and accessible manner should be congratulated as a master teacher. I look forward to using Rabbi Garfinkel's sensitive and learned guide for my own teaching.”—Dr. Jane Shapiro, cofounder, Orot: Center for New Jewish Learning

“Rabbi Garfinkel has ingeniously applied the Torah to the significant issues of our times, and I love the questions at the end of each section that inspire us to think deeply.”—Rabbi Elliot Dorff, rector and Distinguished Service Professor of Philosophy, American Jewish University

“Steeped in Jewish sources and the mind of his intended audience, Garfinkel takes an issue about which passions are flaring—Jewish past, present, and future in the Land of Israel—and connects it to the oldest texts of the Jewish people in original, refreshing, and understandable ways.”—Rabbi David Komerofsky, Temple Israel, Canton, Ohio

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction
1. Genesis
Bere’shit
Summary
Torat Yisrael: What Is the Torah’s Foundation?
Eretz Yisrael: What Is Israel’s Claim to the Land?
Am Yisrael: Farming and the Jews
Maḥshevet Yisrael: Is the Creation Story Literally True?
Noaḥ
Summary
Torat Yisrael: The Ark Was No Cruise Ship
Eretz Yisrael: The Olive Branch
Am Yisrael: Should Jews Be Fruitful and Multiply?
Maḥshevet Yisrael: Did the Story of Noah’s Ark Really Happen?
Lekh Lekha
Summary
Torat Yisrael: Loving and Hating the Jews
Eretz Yisrael: Walk the Land
Am Yisrael: Heritage Is an Inheritance
Maḥshevet Yisrael: It’s All about Relationships
Va-yera’
Summary
Torat Yisrael: Radical Hospitality
Eretz Yisrael: Lot’s Wife
Am Yisrael: The People Who Escaped from the Sword
Maḥshevet Yisrael: Arguing with God
Ḥayyei Sarah
Summary
Torat Yisrael: Talk Is Cheap
Eretz Yisrael: Ḥevron, City of Tears
Am Yisrael: Gifts for Rebecca, Gifts for All
Maḥshevet Yisrael: Marriages Are Miraculous
Toledot
Summary
Torat Yisrael: Rumor Mongers and the Big Lie
Eretz Yisrael: Reḥovot, City of Innovation
Am Yisrael: God Is With the Pursued
Maḥshevet Yisrael: Reacting to Dishonesty
Va-yetse’
Summary
Torat Yisrael: The Tzaddik Makes the City
Eretz Yisrael: Brawn over Brains?
Am Yisrael: All of Israel Is Connected
Maḥshevet Yisrael: Sleep and Radical Amazement
Va-yishlaḥ
Summary
Torat Yisrael: Don’t Rely on Miracles
Eretz Yisrael: Rely on Miracles
Am Yisrael: A People Gets Its Name
Maḥshevet Yisrael: Some Things Never Change
Va-yeshev
Summary
Torat Yisrael: Don’t Rest on Your Laurels
Eretz Yisrael: The Yom Kippur War
Am Yisrael: A Successful People
Maḥshevet Yisrael: Dreams
Mikkets
Summary
Torat Yisrael: The Crazy Bell
Eretz Yisrael: Fighting Anorexia
Am Yisrael: Insults against Our People
Maḥshevet Yisrael: The Power of Hope
Va-yiggash
Summary
Torat Yisrael: How to Criticize
Eretz Yisrael: The Catholic Church and Israel
Am Yisrael: The Need for Jewish Neighborhoods
Maḥshevet Yisrael: Giving Ourselves a Jump Start
Va-yeḥi
Summary
Torat Yisrael: Judah and Self-Restraint
Eretz Yisrael: Snake on the Road
Am Yisrael: War, Peace, and Justice
Maḥshevet Yisrael: Torah Study vs. Gainful Employment
2. Exodus
Shemot
Summary
Torat Yisrael: God Needs Public Relations Help
Eretz Yisrael: Egypt in Israel
Am Yisrael: Can Two Nations Live in One Country?
Maḥshevet Yisrael: Was the Burning Bush a Gas Plant?
Va-’era’
Summary
Torat Yisrael: An Urgent Morning Meeting
Eretz Yisrael: Speaking Truth to Power
Am Yisrael: Believe It and Not
Maḥshevet Yisrael: No, the Nile Is Not Yours!
Bo’
Summary
Torat Yisrael: Jewish Karma
Eretz Yisrael: A Real Locust Plague in the Negev
Am Yisrael: A Source of Light
Maḥshevet Yisrael: Haste Is for Slaves
Be-shallaḥ
Summary
Torat Yisrael: Four Kinds of People
Eretz Yisrael: Humility in Victory
Am Yisrael: Does God Test Us?
Maḥshevet Yisrael: Why Is God Silent?
Yitro
Summary
Torat Yisrael: Jethro the Curious
Eretz Yisrael: Israel’s Supreme Court
Am Yisrael: A Deal We Couldn’t Refuse
Maḥshevet Yisrael: Sometimes Less Is More
Mishpatim
Summary
Torat Yisrael: Law Is Life
Eretz Yisrael: The President’s House
Am Yisrael: Taking the Torah Seriously, Not Literally
Maḥshevet Yisrael: The Death Penalty
Terumah
Summary
Torat Yisrael: Who Lives in the Sanctuary?
Eretz Yisrael: Trees of Israel
Am Yisrael: Volunteering Is Noble
Maḥshevet Yisrael: Our Insides and Outsides Should Match
Tetsavveh
Summary
Torat Yisrael: Does God Need a Nightlight?
Eretz Yisrael: Olive Nation
Am Yisrael: A People Compared to Olives
Maḥshevet Yisrael: Beware of the Anti-Intellectual
Ki Tissa’
Summary
Torat Yisrael: Are All Perspectives Equally Valid?
Eretz Yisrael: The Israel Museum
Am Yisrael: Three Books of Rosh Hashanah
Maḥshevet Yisrael: Can We Be Forced to Sin?
Va-yak’hel
Summary
Torat Yisrael: The Problem with Democracy
Eretz Yisrael: The Bezalel Institute
Am Yisrael: Giving Too Much
Maḥshevet Yisrael: Doing Too Much Is Like Doing Nothing at All
Pekudei
Summary
Torat Yisrael: Beyond Reproach
Eretz Yisrael: The Third Temple
Am Yisrael: When Is Compromise Possible?
Maḥshevet Yisrael: Only the Rich, Smart, and Strong Need Apply
3. Leviticus
Va-yikra’
Summary
Torat Yisrael: Courtesy Is God’s Calling Card
Eretz Yisrael: Courtesy Comes in Different Flavors
Am Yisrael: Animal Sacrifice vs. Prayer
Maḥshevet Yisrael: Confession Is Good for the Soul
Tsav
Summary
Torat Yisrael: Courteous Clothing
Eretz Yisrael: The Nation’s Sweet Aromas
Am Yisrael: What the People Are Expected to Know
Maḥshevet Yisrael: The Study of Torah Replaces Sacrifice
Shemini
Summary
Torat Yisrael: Silence in the Face of Tragedy
Eretz Yisrael: No Pork on My Fork
Am Yisrael: The Pig Is More than Unkosher
Maḥshevet Yisrael: Alien Fire
Tazria‘
Summary
Torat Yisrael: Caring for the Sick
Eretz Yisrael: Finding a Leper’s Lonely Grave
Am Yisrael: Tearing of Clothing
Maḥshevet Yisrael: Life after Serious Illness
Metsora‘
Summary
Torat Yisrael: Grammar School
Eretz Yisrael: Tzara’at and Malicious Gossip
Am Yisrael: Money Should Be No Object
Maḥshevet Yisrael: Intellectual Modesty
’Aḥarei Mot
Summary
Torat Yisrael: Can There Be Repentance without Sacrifice?
Eretz Yisrael: The Silence of the Judean Desert
Am Yisrael: The World’s Unwilling Scapegoat
Maḥshevet Yisrael: No Copying!
Kedoshim
Summary
Torat Yisrael: Cause and Effect?
Eretz Yisrael: Living in the Midst of Horrific Places
Am Yisrael: Desire and Self-Denial
Maḥshevet Yisrael: What Is Kedushah?
’Emor
Summary
Torat Yisrael: Physical Perfection
Eretz Yisrael: Pilgrimage
Am Yisrael: A People Needs a Calendar
Maḥshevet Yisrael: There are Good Arguments and Dangerous Arguments
Be-har
Summary
Torat Yisrael: An Interesting Point of Law
Eretz Yisrael: The Sabbatical Year Today
Am Yisrael: The Jubilee Year
Maḥshevet Yisrael: Slavery and Moral Trajectory
Be-ḥukkotai
Summary
Torat Yisrael: Hostility to God?
Eretz Yisrael: Food Insecurity
Am Yisrael: Curses and Contracts
Maḥshevet Yisrael: Is There Such a Thing as Divine Punishment?
4. Numbers
Be-midbar
Summary
Torat Yisrael: Why Count?
Eretz Yisrael: The Israel Defense Forces
Am Yisrael: Counting the Victims
Maḥshevet Yisrael: When Does Real Adulthood Start?
Naso’
Summary
Torat Yisrael: Adultery Is Idolatry
Eretz Yisrael: The Blessing of Peace
Am Yisrael: The People’s Blessing
Maḥshevet Yisrael: Holy Disconnection
Be-haʿalotekha
Summary
Torat Yisrael: The Meat Plague
Eretz Yisrael: Trumpets and Sirens
Am Yisrael: Who Were the Riffraff?
Maḥshevet Yisrael: Second Chances
Shelaḥ-Lekha
Summary
Torat Yisrael: Self-Esteem Can Be Selfish
Eretz Yisrael: A Land that Flows with Milk and Honey
Am Yisrael: The Wandering People
Maḥshevet Yisrael: The Priceless Shabbat
Koraḥ
Summary
Torat Yisrael: A Jewish Perspective on Death
Eretz Yisrael: Hospitals Give Hope for the Future
Am Yisrael: A Reverse Memorial
Maḥshevet Yisrael: Desperation Is Forbidden
Ḥukkat
Summary
Torat Yisrael: Honoring Your Parents
Eretz Yisrael: ZAKA and Terrorism
Am Yisrael: It’s Not about Show Business
Maḥshevet Yisrael: Moses and His Achilles’ Heel
Balak
Summary
Torat Yisrael: God Does Not Prevent Sin
Eretz Yisrael: Israel’s Architecture
Am Yisrael: A Nation that Dwells Apart
Maḥshevet Yisrael: Public Morality
Pinḥas
Summary
Torat Yisrael: Avoiding Trickery
Eretz Yisrael: An Egalitarian Society
Am Yisrael: We Do Not Need a Pope
Maḥshevet Yisrael: The New Month
Mattot
Summary
Torat Yisrael: Two Kinds of Promises
Eretz Yisrael: The Rebirth of Hebrew
Am Yisrael: From Pharaoh to the Faeroes
Maḥshevet Yisrael: Since When Is Vengeance Allowed?
Mase‘ei
Summary
Torat Yisrael: The Refuge Cities
Eretz Yisrael: A Nation of Refuge
Am Yisrael: The Jewish People Is a Shelter
Maḥshevet Yisrael: Why Do We Incarcerate?
5. Deuteronomy
Devarim
Summary
Torat Yisrael: Rebuke and Suffering
Eretz Yisrael: The Negev Desert
Am Yisrael: Storytelling Is Peoplehood
Maḥshevet Yisrael: Better Never than Late
Va-etḥannan
Summary
Torat Yisrael: Does God Hate Idols or Idolaters?
Eretz Yisrael: Astronomy Is a Mitzvah
Am Yisrael: The Shema
Maḥshevet Yisrael: God’s Invisibility
‘Ekev
Summary
Torat Yisrael: Does Prayer Work?
Eretz Yisrael: Wild Beasts
Am Yisrael: Humility Is a Duty
Maḥshevet Yisrael: Our People’s Fate Depends on Us
Re’eh
Summary
Torat Yisrael: Choices
Eretz Yisrael: Jerusalem
Am Yisrael: Jews Can Be Wrong about Israel and Judaism
Maḥshevet Yisrael: Vegetarianism
Shofetim
Summary
Torat Yisrael: A Double Serving of Justice
Eretz Yisrael: Fruit-Bearing Trees Are Priceless
Am Yisrael: A People Dedicated to Life
Maḥshevet Yisrael: Some Are Guilty, All Are Responsible
Ki Tetse’
Summary
Torat Yisrael: The Rebellious Son
Eretz Yisrael: The Sanhedrin
Am Yisrael: Banning the World’s Oldest Profession
Maḥshevet Yisrael: Cleanliness Is a Prerequisite for Holiness
Ki Tavo’
Summary
Torat Yisrael: The Seventy Faces of the Torah
Eretz Yisrael: Are Jews Obligated to Live in Israel?
Am Yisrael: What Does It Mean to Be God’s Holy People?
Maḥshevet Yisrael: What Do We Consider Intolerable?
Nitsavim
Summary
Torat Yisrael: We Were All at Sinai
Eretz Yisrael: Ingathering of the Exiles
Am Yisrael: The Fate of the Ten Tribes
Maḥshevet Yisrael: The Torah Is Not in Heaven
Va-yelekh
Summary
Torat Yisrael: Moses Nears Death
Eretz Yisrael: The Importance of Hebrew
Am Yisrael: Learn Our People’s Song
Maḥshevet Yisrael: When God Hides
Ha’azinu
Summary
Torat Yisrael: Is Humanity Powerful?
Eretz Yisrael: This Place Is for the Birds!
Am Yisrael: Why Do Smart People Do Stupid Things?
Maḥshevet Yisrael: “A Full Belly Turns Your Soul to Jelly”
Ve-zo’t ha-berakhah
Summary
Torat Yisrael: Moses Fights with the Angel of Death
Eretz Yisrael: Treasures of the Sea and Sand
Am Yisrael: A Uniquely Happy People
Maḥshevet Yisrael: The Unknown Tomb
Notes