May 18, 2009

54 New Torah Ideas

Jewish Lights has just published a volume called The Modern Men’s Torah Commentary: New Insights from Jewish Men on the 54 Weekly Torah Portions, which offers an interesting array of new perspectives.

Some essays are calls to action:

Jack Riemer’s piece on Tazria, for example, asks congregations to think about using this portion’s emphasis on “bodily sores and skin disease” to focus on health awareness, especially for men, who are often reluctant to seek health care. Mitch Chefitz’s piece on Metzora asks men to consider if issues such as household disorder or misbehaving children indicate a “plague in the house” that should be admitted/addressed by one of today’s “specialized kohanim.”

Many call for new attitudes on topics ranging from birth an waiting to death and grieving. Some focus on personal stories, while others take a more abstract view. Only a few are end-noted, although several do include substantial notes; more offer brief citations, within the text, for further study.

Every commentary I’ve read so far has offered me at least one idea that seems truly new — a term not used lightly here. I personally disagree with every conclusion in Dennis Prager’s commentary on Korach,”Can Egalitarianism Be Heretical?” — the only such example in my reading so far — and I object to how he reaches them; but I am grateful for the contribution to new ideas about gender and Jewish values. 

Introduction, bibliography and glossary included.

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Gender, Torah

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