A Torah of Fire

“If you have learned much Torah, do not take credit for yourself — for that is why you were created.”
Pirkei Avot

IT’S OFTEN OVER MY HEAD, but there’s an eight-page “parsha sheet” (Torah-commentary newsletter) I have been following for years with great interest and delight. It’s called Toras Aish (“Torah of Fire” with an Ashkenazic pronunciation), and features a variety of “takes” (usually seven or eight per issue) on the weekly Torah portion — with that of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, former Chief Rabbi of the British Empire, usually on the first page. Like his newsletter colleagues, R’ Sacks’ “Covenant and Conversation” takes a traditional (read: Orthodox) approach to Torah and its study, but his interpretations are also informed by psychology, sociology, economics, history, anthropology and other relevant sciences. He’s my current favorite modern Torah commentator: accessible, often anthemic, and well-informed without pretension.

My second favorite Toras Aish commentator writes under the title “Shabbat Forshpice” (“Sabbath Appetizer”). Rabbi Avi Weiss takes what might be termed a “liberal Orthodox” (his preferred term is “Open Orthodoxy“) view of many Jews’ favorite book; his remarks are learned, pithy and often delivered with a dry wit. Additional interpretations are offered by rabbis Berel Wein, Shlomo Riskin, Kalman Packouz and Shlomo Ressler, as well as other (ir)regular contributors.

Toras Aish is one of the high points of the week, especially reading R’ Sacks’ pieces aloud to Ann on Friday nights. As I say, much of it is over my head (I’ve been studying Torah for more than 20 years and am only just beginning to understand it), but as a fencer friend once told me, “You only get better by sparring with someone more experienced than you are.” May we all be so lucky!

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