Using the Light of Torah Page

A simple guide

The TORAH menu of this Light of Torah website offers a series of one-page reflections each focused on a particular text from one of the first five books of the Bible.

 

A Light of Torah page acts as a guide, leading the reader or group through a process of engagement with the Scripture text. Typically, the process flows like this:

1.       Identify the Torah portion

 

The Scripture reference for each article is found in the footer of the page. The Torah portion from which it comes (according to the Jewish liturgical calendar) is displayed on one of the menu pods at the Light of Torah website. For example, if the Torah page comments on a story about Noah's Ark (Genesis 6), the Torah portion from which it comes is found on the menu at Torah / Genesis / Noach. You will notice that the Torah portions are quite lengthy. It is ideal to read the whole Torah portion each week, however it is understandable if only part of the portion is read.

 

2.       Read the Bible Text

 

Having identified the Torah portion, read it aloud in your Bible (if in a group, draw on one or more voices). If not reading the entire portion, choose a substantial section of text containing the relevant verses. Invite initial reactions to the text.

 

3.       Tasting Torah

 

Having listened to the reading of the Torah portion and voiced some initial reactions to what we have heard, we now start to ‘dig’ into the text, focusing on a small section of the text, often just one or two verses. You will note that the leaflet offers an observation or asks a question about the text and invites reactions from the reader/group.

​Facilitator’s tip: If necessary, draw the group back to the text to read it again, or to read the surrounding verses, in order to give close attention to the observations and questions of participants.

4.       Touching Torah

Next, we present one or more responses through the lens of the Jewish sages, revered interpreters of Torah. The reader is introduced to the names of people and writings which may be unfamiliar at first. Brief footnotes and bibliographic notes help to identify commentators and sources.

Facilitator’s tip: Encourage the group to interact with the responses of the sages, to affirm, ponder, question, and respectfully debate them.

5.       Depthing Torah

 

Now we ‘dig deeper’, either extending the previous line of enquiry or introducing an alternative interpretation of the text.

Facilitator’s tip: Continue to encourage the group’s engagement with the sages’ points of view. E.g., What is surprising or refreshing about this or that interpretation? Does it challenge or support you as a Christian? Encourage people to engage creatively and personally, but discourage the tendency to ‘wander off’; bring them back to the sacred text in order to explain their interpretation.

6.       Doing Torah

We undertake Torah study not simply out of intellectual curiosity but in the search of truth and for transformation of life. Continue the process of reflection, perhaps connecting your Torah insights with the practical issues of Christian living. The leaflet poses a question or two along these lines.

Further notes

  • The steps outlined here describe the usual pattern. Occasionally, for a practical or liturgical reason, the leaflet departs from the norm.

  • Each leaflet is the result of the author’s own Torah reflections and havrutah moments inspired by Jewish sources/methods. It expresses a living Torah experience and its goal is to encourage other lively Torah experiences in homes, parishes, and small Christian community settings.

  • Working with the sacred text with a discussion partner/group in havrutah is key to the Light of Torah experience. Even a ‘solo’ reader who is not part of a group can seek out another person with whom to share a reflection during the week.

  • Above all, read the text! Even if you read only a few verses, read and ponder them well. When it comes to the word of God, no bible study tool can substitute for the text itself.

Torah study Tips for Christians

*

From the Jewish calendar of readings, select an appropriate “Torah Portion” for your gathering. The Jewish calendar is divided into weekly portions so that the entire five books of the Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) are read over the course of one year. Where to view a calendar? Visit: Etz-Hayim-Tree of Life Publishing.

 

A basic format:

  • Read the selected Bible text. Share your initial reactions, thoughts, questions.

  • Read the relevant “Light of Torah” leaflet for that portion. Discuss the ideas and opinions of the sages that are mentioned there.

  • Read an article from an accompanying Jewish commentary. Discuss further.

  • Consider how your learnings impact your faith and way of life.

 

There are many excellent Jewish Torah commentaries containing the Torah text plus verse-by-verse commentary and accompanying articles. Examples:

  • Sarna, N. The JPS Torah Commentary: the traditional Hebrew text with the new JPS translation (5 vols). Jerusalem: Jewish Publication Society, 1996.

  • Fox, E. The Five Books of Moses: A new translation with introductions, commentary and notes. New York: Schocken Books, 1995. This English translation pays particular attention to the rhythm and sound of the Hebrew text.

  • Plaut, G. The Torah: A Modern Commentary. Revised edition. New York: URJ, 2006.

  • Eskenazi & Weiss (eds) The Torah: A Women’s Commentary. New York: URJ Press, 2008. Titled for its attention to feminist insights, it contains ‘general’ commentary as well, plus poems and articles from interesting perspectives.

  • Friedman, Richard, Commentary on the Torah. Harper SanFrancisco, 2003. Traditional and modern insights.

 

Then there are collections of contemporary commentaries by specific authors. Examples:

  • Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Covenant & Conversation. More. . .

  • Rabbi Ismar Schorsch, Canon Without Closure (Aviv Press, 2007)

  

And there are many Jewish community websites that carry Torah reflections in much the same way that Catholic parishes and organizations publish Gospel reflections each week. As appropriate, you may be able to tap into the Torah resources of a local Rabbi/Synagogue.

 

Christian groups that offer Torah reflections, written by and for Christians learning from Jewish sources:

 

Two readable resources that introduce Jewish approaches to reading Scripture:

  • Kevin McDonnell cfc, “Traditional Jewish Methods of Bible Study for Christians: Reading the Bible as Jesus Read It.” First published in Grace and Truth 22/1 (2005):45-53. Available at LightofTorah.net

  • Stephen Whylen, The Seventy Faces of Torah (New Jersey: Paulist Press, 2005).

See below for an expanded bibliography.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

*

Torah with commentaries

  • Eskenazi, Tamara Cohn and Weiss, Andrea L. The Torah: A Women’s Commentary. New York: URJ Press, 2008.

  • Fox, Everett. The Five Books of Moses. New York: Schocken Books, 1997.

  • Friedman, Richard. Commentary on the Torah. Harper SanFrancisco, 2003.

  • Herczeg et al. The Torah: With Rashi’s Commentary (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy). New York: Mesorah Publications, Artscroll Series, 2002.

  • Leiber, David. Etz Hayim Torah and Commentary. New York: Jewish Publication Society 2001.

  • Plaut, W. Gunther. The Torah: A Modern Commentary. Rev. ed. New York: URJ, 2006.

  • The JPS Torah Commentary: the traditional Hebrew text with the new JPS translation (5 vols). Jerusalem: Jewish Publication Society, 1996.

  • The Stone Edition. The Chumash. New York: Mesorah Publications, Artscroll Series, 2000.

  • Hebrew-English Tanakh. New York: Jewish Publication Society, 1999.

                               

Oral Torah; Rabbinic sources

  • Bialik, HN and Ravnitzky, YH. The Book of Legends: Sefer Ha-Aggadah. Legends from the Talmud and Midrash. New York: Schocken Books, 1992.

  • Cohen, Abraham. Everyman’s Talmud: The Major Teachings of the Rabbinic Sages. New York: Schocken Books, 1949.

  • Danby, H. The Mishnah: Translated from the Hebrew with Introduction and Brief Explanatory Notes. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987.

  • Ginsberg, Louis. Legends of the Jews. Vols. 1 & 2. Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society, 2003.

  • Heschel, Abraham Joshua. Heavenly Torah as Refracted through the Generations. Edited and translated by Gordon Tucker. New York: Continuum, 2007.

  • Holtz, Barry. Back to the Sources. New York: Touchstone, 1984.

  • Montefiore, C.G., and H. Loewe. A Rabbinic Anthology. New York: Schocken Books, 1974.

  • Schechter, Solomon. Aspects of Rabbinic Theology. New York: Schocken Books, 1961.

  • The Midrash Rabbah. (Multi-volume series) New York: Soncino Press, 1983.

 

Modern Commentaries

 

  • Sacks, Jonathan. Covenant & Conversation. Series of five books, and online: https://rabbisacks.org/covenant-conversation-homepage/

  • Schorsch, Ismar. Canon Without Closure. New York: Aviv Press, 2007.

  • Leibowitz, Nehama. New studies in Bereshit/ Genesis. Jerusalem: Maor Wallach, n.p.d.

  • Leibowitz, Nehama. New studies in Shemot/ Exodus, I & II. Jerusalem: Maor Wallach Press, 1996.

  • Leibowitz, Nehama. New studies in Vayikra/Leviticus, I & II. Jerusalem: WZO, 1993.

  • Leibowitz, Nehama. New studies in Bamidbar/ Numbers. Israel: Maor Wallach Press, n.p.d.

  • Leibowitz, Nehama. New studies in Devarim/ Deuteronomy. Israel: Maor Wallach Press, n.p.d.

  • See also: Wylen, Stephen. The Seventy Faces of Torah. The Jewish Way of Reading the Sacred Scriptures. New York/Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2005.

 

More resources

  • Apple, Raymond. Rabbi Apple was Senior Rabbi of the Great Synagogue in Sydney Australia (1972-2005). Now residing in Jerusalem, his “Oz Torah” series is available at: https://www.oztorah.com/parashah-insights/

  • IPS-Ratisbonne - Bat Kol Christian Centre for Jewish Studies. www.ratisbonne.org.il Archive of commentaries on the weekly Torah portion, and links to online resources for the study of Torah, learning Hebrew, and information about Jewish-Christian relations. See too Bat Kol International: www.batkolinternational.com

  • Centre for Biblical Formation Jerusalem (Ecce Homo). https://www.biblicalformationcentre.com/  The Land, the People, The Bible. Explore the courses, including online resources, of the Sisters of Our Lady of Sion at this site.

 

  • DIALOGIKA: an online library that chronicles the evolving conversation and relationship between the Christian and Jewish communities. provides a comprehensive cyber-archive of official statements, historic documents, educational resources, and current information. https://www.ccjr.us/dialogika-resources

  • Etz Hayim—Tree of Life Publishing https://www.etz-hayim.com/  A resource for Christians who wish to enrich their biblical studies and understanding of Judaism, through engagement with traditions and interpretations that have been transmitted and developed within the Jewish milieu. The initiative of Elizabeth Young, an Australian in Tasmania. Resources include a free downloadable annual calendar with both Jewish and Christian liturgical dates.

 

  • Light of Torah. lightoftorah.net Introductory educational items for Christians seeking to learn from Jews and Judaism, especially in their engagement with Torah. An Australian initiative, by Sydney-based faith educator Teresa Pirola.

    © 2021 Light of Torah. Graphic design: cdesigns

    LOT logo+name_white_4.png