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  • Written by George Robinson
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  • Written by George Robinson
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Essential Torah

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A Complete Guide to the Five Books of Moses

Written by George RobinsonAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by George Robinson

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List Price: $20.99

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On Sale: December 17, 2008
Pages: 624 | ISBN: 978-0-307-48437-6
Published by : Schocken Knopf
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ABOUT THE BOOK ABOUT THE BOOK
ABOUT THE AUTHOR ABOUT THE AUTHOR
PRAISE PRAISE
Synopsis|Table of Contents

Synopsis

Whether you are thinking about studying the Bible for the first time or you’re simply curious about its history and contents, you will find everything you need in Essential Torah. George Robinson, author of the acclaimed Essential Judaism, begins by recounting the various theories of the origins of the Torah and goes on to explain its importance as the core element in Jewish belief and practice. He discusses the basics of Jewish theology and Jewish history as they are derived from the Torah, and he outlines how the Dead Sea Scrolls and other archaeological discoveries have enhanced our understanding of the Bible. He introduces us to the vast literature of biblical commentary, chronicles the evolution of the Torah’s place in the synagogue service, offers an illuminating discussion of women and the Bible, and provides a study guide as a companion for individual or group Bible study. In the book’s centerpiece, Robinson summarizes all fifty-four portions that make up the Torah and gives us a brilliant distillation of two thousand years of biblical commentaries–from the rabbis of the Mishnah and the Talmud to medieval commentators such as Rashi, Maimonides, and ibn Ezra to contemporary scholars such as Nahum Sarna, Nechama Leibowitz, Robert Alter, and Everett Fox.

This extraordinary volume–which includes a listing of the Torah reading cycles, a Bible time line, glossaries of terms and biblical commentators, and a bibliography–will stand as the essential sourcebook on the Torah for years to come.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction
A Note to the Reader

1. A Tree of Life...: The Torah in Practice
—What Is the Torah?
—The Torah Scroll
Seder K’riat Ha'Torah/Service for the Reading of the Torah
—How Seder K'riat Ha'Torah Evolved

2. More Than History, More Than Law: An Overview of the Torah
—Stories and Meanings
—In the Beginning, God
—In Search of the Miraculous
—In the Image of God
—Exile
—The Covenant(s)
—The Mitzvot
—From One Man to a Family, From a Family to the Twelve Tribes
—From Rabble in Arms to a Nation of Priests
—How the Story Is Told
—The Torah as Legal Document

3. Black Fire on White Fire: The Writing of the Torah
—The Traditional View
—Cracks in the Facade
—Evolution of an Alternative Theory
—The Documentary Hypothesis
—Enter J and E
—History Lessons Continued
—Enter D
—Exile, Remorse, Return
—And Finally P
—The Redactor
—Reactions to the Documentary Hypothesis
—The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Case for Higher Criticism
—Alternatives to the Documentary Hypothesis

4. The Rest Is Commentary: Interpreting the Torah
—Oral and Written Torah Revisited
Halakhah vs. Aggadah
—Following the Thread of Halakhah
—Mishnah
—Laying Down the Law
—Thinking in Code(s)
Halakhah in Changing Times
—Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Torah
—Four Gates into the Paradise of Aggadah
—The View from the Bimah
—Midrashim in Three Keys
—Your Brother’s Blood
—The Golden Age of Bible Commentary
—The Mystical Strain
—Torah + Science
—Modernity Confronts Scripture

5. Hearing Silenced Voices: Women and the Torah
—(At Least) Two Kinds of Reading
—God Herself
—The Mother of Us All
—Law of the Fathers
—Women in Rabbinic Literature
—The Battle for Women’s Prayer and Study

6. Troubling Texts
—Texts of Terror
—Bridging the Gap
—The Final and Most Terrible Test
—Three Ways of Looking at a Near Tragedy
—Can a Queer Jew Get Justice from the Judge of the World?

7. Now Go and Study. . . : How to Study Torah
—“Find Yourself a Partner”
—Hebrew and English
—Choosing Commentaries
—One Week at a Time
—Why Study Torah?

8. Every Week, Fifty-four Weeks a Year: An Introduction to the Parashiyot
Sefer Bereishit / The Book of Genesis
Sefer Shemot / The Book of Exodus
Sefer Vayikra / The Book of Leviticus
Sefer B’midbar / The Book of Numbers
Sefer Devarim / The Book of Deuteronomy

Appendix 1: Torah and History
Appendix 2: A Timeline of Major Torah-Related Events
Glossary of Torah Commentators
Glossary of Terms
Bibliography
George Robinson

About George Robinson

George Robinson - Essential Torah

Photo © Ivan Farkas

George Robinson is the author of Essential Judaism: A Complete Guide to Beliefs, Customs, and Rituals. He is the film critic for the New York Jewish Week and is a contributor to the forthcoming revised edition of the Encyclopaedia Judaica. His writing appears frequently in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Newsday. He has received the Simon Rockower Award for excellence in Jewish journalism from the American Jewish Press Association. He lives in New York City.
Praise

Praise

Essential Torah is the most comprehensive of the new group of Bible commentaries . . . a work that may rank for both depth and breadth with the late Rabbi Isaac Klein’s A Guide to Jewish Religious Practice as a resource and reference site. [It] offers the most context, the most interpretation, the most interest. Robinson takes the reader through not only the Five Books of Moses . . . but through everything connected with the Torah in its largest, more-sweeping sense, from the production of an actual Torah scroll and an introduction to the Hebrew language, to the role of biblical criticism and the inherent difficulties in drawing complex rules of behavior from the Torah’s simple words.”
–The Jewish Week

“An accessible, well-written handbook to Jewish belief as set forth in the Torah. Most laudably, Robinson tackles some of the tough issues posed by the ambiguities, anachronisms, repetitions, and contradictions in the text. . . . His success with Essential Judaism is now matched by this superb manual that effectively guides readers to the ultimate source for Jewish belief and behavior.”
–The Jerusalem Post

Essential Torah draws on both ancient and modern critical methods, citing the thoughts of scholars across a broad spectrum of Jewish ideological beliefs. It will undoubtedly be of interest, help, and guidance to non-Jews and Jews alike. It does an excellent job for the audience it attempts to reach. Recommended.”
Library Journal

“Writing in colloquial and accessible English, Robinson effectively, and sometimes entertainingly, shows why the five books of Moses constitute the basis for Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Drawing on a dazzling array of sources, he provides an overview of the Torah; tackles the question of who wrote it; explores the commentaries; confronts the suppression of women’s voices; and bravely tackles what Bible scholars have labeled “troubling texts.” This remarkable book is a stellar achievement in which a gifted and diligent author guides readers of all faiths to a source book for religious belief and behavior.”
–*Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Essential Torah is really that–an essential and excellent tool for both students and teachers who want a way in to the sacred text and all that it holds.”
–Rabbi Elyse Goldstein, author of The Women's Torah Commentary and The Women's Haftarah Commentary

Essential Torah provides a thorough and clear introduction to the Bible, its meanings, and its interpretations throughout Jewish tradition. Drawing upon both classical rabbinic and modern sources, Robinson has written a sophisticated yet accessible book that will appeal to both laypeople and academic readers. I highly recommend it for adult education and introduction to Judaism courses.”
–Rabbi David Ellenson, president, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion

“George Robinson excels as both a writer and a scholar. He opens up the Torah and makes it accessible in fresh and exciting ways. Both experts and neophytes will find much here to enjoy and to ponder.”
–Professor Jace Weaver, Department of Religion, University of Georgia

“The most comprehensive and balanced book on the subject I know. You will find anything you need to know here, from a discussion of divine authorship to a recipe for kosher ink.”
Rabbi Harold S. Kushner, author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People

“George Robinson has written a magnificent volume, whose appeal will be to a sophisticated reader eager for insight and understanding. Essential Torah is more than a guide to the Pentateuch. It is a compendium of literary history, cultural anthropology, ancient wisdom, medieval commentary, and modern insight. The Torah text for Robinson becomes a pretext for instruction into the entire gamut of Jewish religious thought and practice. He leaves very few stones unturned, and he leads as a master teacher, exploring every facet of a vast tradition. This is text analysis at its greatest.”
Rabbi David M. Posner, Ed.D., Senior Rabbi, Temple Emanu-El, New York City

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