The Thinking Torah Manifesto

Moshe commanded us a Torah, the inheritance of the congregation of Yaakov.

Devarim 33:4

The Written Torah is vital to the Jewish people as a whole and to each individual Jew.

Torah must be understood

It doesn’t matter if you are male or female, young or old. It is important for you to understand what is written in the Torah.

To understand the Written Torah takes time and patience. Though it is important to read the weekly parasha, that is not enough. You must make time each week for in-depth study and contemplation.

Some people say that only the Oral Torah is worthy of in-depth study. They say that only the Gemara deserves your time. To the people who say this, I reply, “But what about Rashi? Ramban? In more recent times, what about the Vilna Gaon and Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan? Was their study of Chumash a waste of time? Do I waste my time when I study what they wrote?”

What YOU think also matters

Some of you will suggest that because we have the commentaries of Rashi and Ramban, there is nothing left for us to add.

You are not limited by what the sages of past generations taught and wrote. They wrote for their time. Even though their message resonates with us today, we can still develop an understanding of Chumash for our times.

Note too, that many times Ramban disagreed with Rashi. But then 300 years later, the Maharal defended Rashi against the attacks of Ramban and others. You too can be part of that dialogue that spans the generations.

Thinking Torah Manifesto

I recently came across this statement by Rav Wolbe in his classic Alei Shur (Volume 1, page 37, my translation):

You should contemplate this, that the Creator (blessed be His name) does not want that each person should look into the Torah in the same way, or that they should learn it in the same way, or that they should understand it in the same way. Rather, each person should have their own approach according to their unique strengths and effort. Then we will, all together, earn a complete Torah!

You must use your own brain and thinking abilities to understand the Torah.

You can ask any question, so long as you ask with sincerity while attempting to understand the text.

Da’at Torah

A phrase that is often used today is “da’at Torah.” As the phrase is used, it seems to imply that only certain people have da’at Torah. In fact, everyone has it, the only question is to what extent is your da’at based on the Torah. The more you study and contemplate the Torah, the more your da’at becomes da’at Torah. But don’t let your current lack of expertise and experience make you think that you cannot make a contribution today.

Jewish tradition is beautiful. Even if some Jews perform acts that are not beautiful, that does not detract from our tradition.

We all want to be consistent between what we believe and how we act. We know that to say one thing but to do the opposite shows a lack of harmony and balance in our lives.

Studying and contemplating the Torah can help you achieve that harmony and balance that you yearn for. The easiest place to begin is with the study of Chumash.

The role of Thinking Torah

That is the concept behind Thinking Torah.

Each week I will choose a section of the weekly parasha and ask the questions that I have on that piece. I won’t hold back. Even a question that seems simple or that I know one of the commentators deals with is still worth asking.

Then it’s your turn. Read the verses. If you can, read them in Hebrew. If not, English is fine.

Think about the questions. When you think of an answer, write it in the comments. If you have additional questions, please add them.

Towards the end of the week, I’ll suggest an answer to one or more of the questions that we’ve asked.

When time permits, I’ll post on related topics during the week.

That’s the plan for Thinking Torah. Thanks for being here and I look forward to learning Torah with you.

Shlomo

 

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