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Essential Torah: A Complete Guide to the Five Books of Moses [Hardcover]

George Robinson

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Book Description

6 Oct 2006
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.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.7 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Profound Entrance to the Soul of Jewish life 30 July 2008
By Fairweatherassult - Published on
Doubtless, there are countless books about the Torah: from scholarly diatribes, with a flood of footnotes on every page, to introductory texts that end up as Bar Mitzvah gifts for beginners. Robinson's wonderful _Essential Torah_ is unlike either of these extremes, which is what makes it such an utterly fascinating read.

Robinson eschews the normal historical survey one might expect of a work on this subject. Rather than emulating a seminary study on the Hebrew Bible ("in approximately 5000 BC . . ."), Robinson begins with a deeply personal, yet far reaching, question: What is the Torah, and why is it the centre of Jewish belief?

Answering this question leads to a beautiful sequence of observations, vignettes, and breathtakingly fresh information. Chapter One, rather than being a litany of names and dates, describes a day in the life of a Torah scribe . . . Robinson, from the start, instills an atmosphere of awe and reverence for the audience that no footnote could manage. By first showing the *life* of the Torah, Robinson can more effectively trace back the raw data of histiographic methodology.

I am not suggesting this book is lacking in useful historical information. On the contrary, it provides ample documentation on the social and cultural reception of Torah as speech and text. Although writing from a clearly pronounced Reform theology, Robinson does an excellent job at providing the viewpoints of all, from the most liberal to the most conservative. Uber-specialists will probably not be satisfied with either the digressive, friendly tone of this work, but then again they are not Robinson's intended audience. By writing an a thoroughly informative work, that remains readable and accessible to a wide audience, Robinson has done much to bring a love of Torah to a much broader community. I truly feel that, even the most cynical and secular of lapsed Jewry, will find much to cherish and adore in the beauties of Torah through Robinson's writing.

As a very mild suggestive criticism, Robison's introduction seems to suggest that this book is intended to provide non-Jews with a basic entrance to understanding the Torah. While I would certainly not hesitate to suggest this book to interested friends, of any religious persuasion, the book is clearly intended for a Jewish audience: although Robinson provides translations of more arcane Hebrew terms, there are many assumptions made throughout as to prior understanding. For example, how many Buddhists do you know can explain the differences between a Sephardic and Ashkenazic liturgy? For that matter, give the decreasing level of observance for many American Jewish communities, how many non-practising Jews do you know who can identify what a 'bimah' is? Robinson assumes familiarity with these terms and notions. This is reasonable enough, I suppose, but might intimidate a reader who knows nothing of Torah, and genuinely wants to learn.

As I said, this is a mild criticism. Overall, the book absolutely throbs with incredibly informative tidbits and details. Even the most well-versed scholar is sure to find some new facts and trivia throughout. I was absolutely hooked by the tenth page, which describes the evolution of ink making methods. Robison has given us a book of true depth and perception, worthy of its hallowed subject.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Moses written Law 11 Feb 2010
By R. Luke - Published on
Verified Purchase
I found this book to be a comprehensive introduction to a Jewish understanding for the foundation of the three geat mono-theistic traditions. 'Essential Torah' is a well written easy to read guide for those of us born outside a Jewish culture. I read this book from the local library and decided to purchase it as a reference for reading Torah, the Prophets and Writings (Old Testament). The second half of 'Essential Torah' contains the weekly daily readings to enable one to read through Torah in one year with some minor commentary. I look forward to using this guide in my own study and pray the Almighty helps me to understand more of Him through this.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I LIKE IT! 1 Feb 2012
By shemayah phillips - Published on
This book on Torah talks about the historical, cultural and handling of Torah in Judaism. It's an Everything You Wanted You Wanted to Know about Torah but were ? to Ask. And it is quite detailed. It does not assume a movement, not "denominationalized," and is not idiosyncratic, not liberal or orthodox. It is led by a factual, scholarly, and mostly neutral treatment as any I've seen. People often get a less than accurate view that Judaism is about Talmud and Talmudic literature and process. This book left me very comfortably assured that Torah is our center and its importance is lovingly put into flesh with this nice book. It is not any easy read simply due to its scope. But it is certainly not due to the writing and style of the book in presenting a vast amount of information. It is very different than "Dummies" books but as illuminating and much more. It is much different than Kolatch which is also a good book in its own different approach.
4.0 out of 5 stars A bit over my head. 16 Feb 2014
By Peter Mckay - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a very complex book that I will have to revisit and read more of once I get an understanding of Judaism. Very well detailed and lots of information.
5.0 out of 5 stars great 23 Jan 2014
By Rc Busha - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
vary informative if you are in to the Torah! every christian should be, because that is the bible that Jesus,Peter,and Paul tough from and to know the new testament you must know the old, specially the Torah !!
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