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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review

My least favorite ‘text’ is the Torah

By Rabbi Hillel Goldberg





Don't 'study' the Good Book!

What is not being celebrated on Simchas Torah

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | One of my least favorite words is "text" — as in "text of Torah."

Any text can be exciting or dull, subtle or stupid, frightening or intimidating; basically, rich or poor.

A text may be a summons to a court hearing, a newspaper article, a novel, a wrenching confession, a will, a codex, a box score. All of these may be exciting, intimidating or insipid — rich or poor.

But not the Torah.

For it is not a "text."

How so? Is not the Torah the text par excellence? Is not the Torah rich and subtle and rewarding in some places, and obscure in others? The answer is yes, but the Torah is still not a text.

A text is a human production. Something with limits. Something that can be figured out, or whose meaning will always be disagreed about, even across generations. A text is the whole of the reality it represents; in others words, a text is its words. That's all: long, short, influential, forgettable, blunt, winding, tear-jerking, hateful or inspiring . . . words.

But not so the Torah.

When one studies the Torah, the communication is unlike when one studies a text. A text may communicate the intent of its author (exegesis), or the intent of the reader (eisegesis) or, perhaps, communicate nothing at all. But that's it: the text is the text, a communication between two people, the author and the reader; or between the reader and himself. Yes, a text may communicate powerfully to countless thousands of people, but when the individual reads the text, there is only an individual communication.

Not so with the Torah.

It, too, may be rich and poor, subtle in some places and baffling in others; by turns intimidating, rewarding, uplifting or challenging. But all these characteristics do not begin to exhaust the Torah or even to describe its essence.

The Torah is not the transfer of the meaning of the words that exist on the page into one's mind or heart. Not primarily.

Rather, the Torah is a window, a Divine messenger. An instrument for expanding the mind and soul of its reader.

The Torah may be apprehended, but not comprehended.

The prayer for the apprehension of the Torah pointedly asks G-d to open ours hearts "to understand, to elucidate, to hear, to study, to teach, to observe, to perform, to fulfill all the words of" — not! — the Torah.

Not a text.

Rather, the prayer asks G-d to open our hearts to "the process or study of Your Torah, talmud torasecha."

What's the difference between the Torah and the study of the Torah?

The Torah is limited to 304,805 letters, arranged in a discrete number of sentences and paragraphs. If they exhaust the Torah, if they constitute a text only, then whatever depths one might plumb in them, that's it.

The Torah, however, is without limit. We can never "understand" it fully; we can only reach a certain level of understanding, then increase that, and increase that, as far as our mental and spiritual capacity and motivation take us.

The Torah is a ladder whose rungs are without number. What is the difference between studying the text of Torah, and studying the Torah? It is the difference between a poem and a prayer; between a communication between me and my soul, and between me and my Sustainer.

One may study poems or even luxuriate in them. One may do both when engaged with the Torah, but that engagement would push one much further.

When one is engaged in the Torah, one addresses one's deepest issues and problems. One poses existential and philosophic questions — tenaciously.

Answers may come in a minute — or not for a lifetime. Engagement in the Torah may require an overturning of all of one's feelings and assumptions.

One grapples with the Torah, even the very same passage, even the passage that one has mastered — grapples over and over, since the depths of the passage may never be fully fathomed.

The prayer pointedly insists that we not expect to understand the Torah, but to study it, to learn to live with a question, to come back to that question again and again, sticking with the Torah even when it does not provide an answer — yet. The study of Torah demands patience. The great Rabbi Aharon Kotler is said to have commented: I struggled with a comment of the Vilna Gaon for 24 years before I grasped it.

When a person lives on this level of personal engagement with the Torah — talmud torasecha, the process of Torah — it overcomes pain and loss, it carries a person above the trivialities and pettiness in life and constitutes its own living joy.

All this is contained in one word in that prayer, which pointedly does not make reference to the "Torah" — that would be a mere text — but to the study of Torah, which makes it what it is: a ladder to eternity.

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JWR contributor Rabbi Hillel Goldberg is Executive Editor of the Intermountain Jewish News.






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