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Unlocking the Torah Text: An In-Depth Journey in the Weekly Parsha Hardcover – 20 Apr 2010

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Gefen Publishing House (20 April 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9652294500
  • ISBN-13: 978-9652294500
  • Product Dimensions: 24.7 x 17.5 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 626,272 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"In Unlocking the Torah Text, Goldin provides the reader with a useful aid to understanding the biblical text. Writing in a pleasant, lucid style, he identifies the main questions, and in a modern idiom discusses some of the classic approaches. He carries his learning lightly so as to meet the challenges of the text and stimulate debate of the issues. A highly readable and thoughtful work." -- Aviva Zornberg, author of "Genesis: The Beginning of Desire", winner of the National Jewish Book Award "New and refreshing insights... Rabbi Goldin acts as a responsible teacher of Torah, letting the text speak for itself... Unlocking the Torah Text is a very good book indeed, challenging the reader to use his native intelligence in reading the Good Book as God's Book." -- Rabbi Dr Norman Lamm, Chancellor of Yeshiva University "Rabbi Shmuel Goldin has rendered an extraordinary service Challenging us with fascinating questions, he presents unique solutions to problems that we might never have noticed but which are critical to our understanding of the text. Sabbath discussions in the pulpit or around the table will be greatly enriched by his analysis." -- Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, spiritual leader of Congregation, Kehilath Jeshurun, New York City

About the Author

Rabbi Shmuel Golden received his BS in psychology and his MA in Jewish education from Yeshiva University, and his rabbinic ordination from the Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary of Yeshiva University. He has served as spiritual leader of Congregation Ahavath Torah in Englewood, New Jersey, since 1984. He is an instructor of Bible and Philosophy at the Isaac Breuer College and the James Striar School of Yeshiva University, founding director of and lecturer at The Eve Flechner Torah Institute, and past president and board member of numerous organizations. Noted as one of the most articulate spokesmen in the Orthodox community today, Rabbi Goldin has developed an innovative educational approach to Torah study, Jewish law and Jewish identity which is enthusiastically received by traditional and non-traditional Jews alike. Rabbi Goldin and his wife Barbara are the proud parents of five children, and grandparents of two.

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Shmuel Goldin in writing "Unlocking the Torah Text: An In-depth Journey into the weekly Parsha: Vayikra", which for Christians is the Book of Leviticus, is the third book published in the series is covering a tough yet very important book. Rabbi Goldin collection of essays covers the basic themes found in Vayikra (Leviticus). This third book of the Torah is unique that instead of the novel like narrative of the previous two books Vayikra contains detailed sacrificial law, Temple rites, ritual observances, holiday regulations and ...well you get the point. One of the questions that is asked in one of the sections to the Rabbi is never answered and is one I have always had though I am sure is a topic of debate.

The book is an outline of Vayikra and each topic is broken down into a clear box on what the context of the section will be followed by questions as Rabbi Goldin believes that questioning and challenging the text itself is encouraged. The Rabbi claims to leave no part of the is off limits. The introduction includes the definition of pshat and drash. Goldin writes that pshat is the "straightforward explanations of the text." Whereas, drash considers the writings of the rabbinic community that includes lessons and ideas beyond the literal text. This gives us an understanding of the format of this text.

The book is easy to follow and is not comprehensive but covers many important portions of the text. You will find that all the questions posed have several answers offered and the Rabbi gives the reader some points to ponder. This very important text of God's Laws is very interesting. Where as I read that God's Laws are clear and must be followed as proof as the consequence faced when Aharon's sons did not follow the exact rite as ordained by God.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 11 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Highly recommended! 13 Aug. 2010
By Cheryl Jacobson - Published on Amazon.com
Many people find the book of Vayikra difficult to read. The topics it covers--animal sacrifices, a scapegoat atoning for sin, the death of Aaron's sons--seem remote or incomprehensible to modern readers. Shmuel Goldin's third volume in the Unlocking the Torah Text series tackles these topics head on and the answers and explanations he gives are refreshingly solid. In dealing with the sacrifices, for example, he details the history of sacrifices in the Torah itself, beginning with Kayin and Hevel (Cain and Abel) and then he looks at the commentators who come to this subject from vastly different perspectives before speaking about the sacrifices after the Messiah comes. In so doing he explains the fundamental purpose of the sacrifices.
In parashah after parashah Rabbi Goldin addresses difficult issues and takes a logical reasoned approach that enlightens and entertains the reader. I highly recommend this series. A must for serious Torah students and an excellent source for divrei Torah! Put this on your bookshelf!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Piercing questions and interesting solutions on Leviticus 10 Jan. 2011
By Israel Drazin - Published on Amazon.com
This is the third volume in the series of books unlocking the lessons contained in the weekly Torah portion by Rabbi Shmuel Goldin. My previous reviews of Rabbi Goldin's first and second volumes, on Bereishit and Shmot, tell some things about the author, the style of his books, the kind of questions that he raises, his acceptance of Midrashim as not necessarily true, and how he extracts the teachings from Midrashim and commentators. He states that he is presenting the plain meaning of the biblical text. These meanings are generally lessons on how to act properly.

This volume addresses the portions in the third biblical book, Leviticus, a volume that contains many laws about sacrifices, laws that raise many questions. Thus, the rabbi asks, does God really want animal sacrifices? What possible benefit could the all-powerful divinity get out of sacrifices? Are they really designed to address human needs? Do sacrifices atone for sins? Does the famous scapegoat that is driven into the desert during Yom Kippur atone for sins? Whose sins? Do people need to do anything to rid themselves of their misdeeds? The revelation of the Torah is a fundamental principle in Judaism (even though different Jews may define revelation differently). Why then doesn't the Torah mention the date of revelation? What does this tell us?

Among many teachings, Rabbi Goldin offers many "educational layers to the ritual surrounding" the scapegoat. He discusses chukim, laws that he feels we "may never fully understand, for example, why a deer is kosher while a horse is not, why shellfish are forbidden yet turkeys are allowed." True, the philosopher Maimonides offers reasons for all of the commandments and rejects the idea that there are unreasonable laws, yet even if one accepts the Maimonidean view, Rabbi Goldin's ideas, which are the ideas of mainstream Orthodoxy today, are interesting to read and raise questions that should be pondered.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Essays on the Book of Leviticus 10 May 2010
By M. A. Ramos - Published on Amazon.com
Shmuel Goldin in writing "Unlocking the Torah Text: An In-depth Journey into the weekly Parsha: Vayikra", which for Christians is the Book of Leviticus, is the third book published in the series is covering a tough yet very important book. Rabbi Goldin collection of essays covers the basic themes found in Vayikra (Leviticus). This third book of the Torah is unique that instead of the novel like narrative of the previous two books Vayikra contains detailed sacrificial law, Temple rites, ritual observances, holiday regulations and ...well you get the point. One of the questions that is asked in one of the sections to the Rabbi is never answered and is one I have always had though I am sure is a topic of debate.

The book is an outline of Vayikra and each topic is broken down into a clear box on what the context of the section will be followed by questions as Rabbi Goldin believes that questioning and challenging the text itself is encouraged. The Rabbi claims to leave no part of the is off limits. The introduction includes the definition of pshat and drash. Goldin writes that pshat is the "straightforward explanations of the text." Whereas, drash considers the writings of the rabbinic community that includes lessons and ideas beyond the literal text. This gives us an understanding of the format of this text.

The book is easy to follow and is not comprehensive but covers many important portions of the text. You will find that all the questions posed have several answers offered and the Rabbi gives the reader some points to ponder. This very important text of God's Laws is very interesting. Where as I read that God's Laws are clear and must be followed as proof as the consequence faced when Aharon's sons did not follow the exact rite as ordained by God. If you believe as Judaism does that the Messiah has not yet come you must follow these Laws as handed down by God. The question I would like to see discussed is how are these rites practiced since the destruction of the Second Temple?

The format is easy to read and flows.Plus the sharing all the different rabbinical commentaries show just how diverse Judaism is; like the many branches of Christianity. Some of the rabbinical commentaries fill in details which the Torah does not mention and therefore tries to add to the Word of God. The oral traditions and text like the Talmud are referenced as if there words carry the same weight as the Torah! The Talmud has two components: the Mishnah (c. 200 AD), the first written compendium of Judaism's Oral Law; and the Gemara (c. 500 AD), a discussion of the Mishnah and related Tannaitic writings that often ventures onto other subjects and expounds broadly on the Tanakh. The positive point of Goldins book is that in his essays he does share all the differing rabbinical commentaries with us and leaves the floor open for a good debate.

"Unlocking the Torah Text: An In-depth Journey into the weekly Parsha: Vayikra" provides an approach the Torah that is quite easy to follow and the differing Rabbinical interpretations show us the debates that must make up today's Judaism. If you have an interest in the Torah and or Judaism this is a good book to read. I feel it cannot help but expand ones understanding of Vayikra.
Shmuel Goldin, Unlocking the Torah Text 7 Oct. 2010
By Timothy Mills - Published on Amazon.com
Shmuel Goldin, Unlocking the Torah Text; An In-Depth Journey into the Weekly Parsha, Gefen Publishing House, Jerusalem, 2010, Hardcover, 284 pp. ISBN: 978-965-229-450-0l $29.95

[rate: 4 of 5]

This book is the third volume of a growing Jewish commentary set by the author, Shmuel Goldin. This volume was written with the partnership of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations, and it carries the Imprimatur of the OU. This Imprimatur gives it the weight of the commanding right of that Congregation as authoritative.
Disclaimers are an intrusion, but necessary part of any book review; and here is mine. I come to this reading and review as a conservative Southern Baptist pastor, and not as an unobjective reader or Jewish observant. I still found certain points in common between us.
I am glad to see several things in Rav Goldin's writing. First, he wrote as a Rabbi in his congregation, both locally and within his Congregation; this makes it useful to me as a preacher. Second, he held a high view of Torah's authority as having Divine authorship; he perceived Torah as truth with real events "that happened to real people," and their stories "are not fables." This was a welcome discovery in his stated approach and a welcome observation in his writing. Third, "No part of the text or is contents are off-limits to our search." Rav Goldin allowed the text to carry its own argument. And, finally, he dealt with the straightforward explanation of the text, and also with the commentaries on the text. Because of his approach to the text, there is a common conservatism that obviates the need to reprove the author for dealing falsely with the Word of God.
The book used a series of Hebraisms in its text without explanation: Vayikra, korbanot, Bereishit, Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yakkov, pshat, smicha, and others. I was able to get a general meaning of these names and words from the context, others were revealed from dictionaries. This indicated to me that although the book was written in English, it was written for an audience educated in Judaism, but not the Hebrew language. The only Hebrew was in the chapter titles, the rest of the Yiddish and Hebrew words were transliterated into English.
Rav Goldin's dealing with the difficulty of the text at even the sentence level was worthy of a scholar. He addressed singulars and plurals, and redundancy of the wording in the text as he dealt with the meaning of the words and the context they formed. The effect of the wording on the meaning of the text was thus demonstrated.
Each chapter had portions titled as Context, Questions, Approaches, and Points to Ponder. Each chapter also had interesting titles that drew the reader into the text to interact with it, "The Anatomy of a Sentence," "Only a Mistake?," "The Leadership Quandary," and so forth. The author related a personal story in the "Points to Ponder" closing of the first chapter that was revealing of his view of and relationship to Christians. In telling about a meeting with a group of Korean Christian pastors many years ago, he referred to them as Fundamentalist Christian pastors, implying that he is not a Fundamentalist Jew. Rav Goldin acknowledged Judaism's fundamental problem, but did not answer it: the loss of the sacrificial system with the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD. Rav Goldin correctly stated the doctrinal position of the pastors as the atoning plenary substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus (though he did not use those words), but dismissed their answers to his problem by directing them to the educational and symbolic nature of the sacrificial system. Still, he did acknowledge that the restoration of the Temple and the sacrificial system as central in many of the prayers of his Congregation(s). He then wondered if the members of his synagogue would have been able to answer the pastor's questions.
The author included twenty-nine pages of "Sources," in which he explains who the authorities he cited were and their contribution to the work. There was also a nine page index to the text which allows the reader to locate topics across the chapters. There was not, however, a traditional scholarly bibliography, or end notes, or footnotes. If there were one thing I could recommend to the author, it would be these scholarly tools. Not as important, but a welcome addition, would be the addition of a readers ribbon so readers could easily mark where they left off reading.
I hope to secure the first two volumes written by Rabbi Shmuel Goldin for myself, they will be valuable additions to my personal pastoral library.
Thorough But Accessible 4 July 2010
By Iconoclast - Published on Amazon.com
Orthodox rabbi Shmuel Goldin wrote "Unlocking the Torah Text: An In-depth Journey into the weekly Parsha: Vayikra," as an interpretation and commentary on the biblical book which is also commonly known as Leviticus. This is the third book published in the series reviewing the biblical text. Rabbi Goldin reviews the basic themes of Leviticus which are detailed sacrificial law, Temple rites, ritual observances, and holiday regulations. This work is along the lines of Entering Torah by Reuven Hammer which also is a review and thoughtful meditation on biblical texts. I believe Goldin's volume is helpful in understanding a biblical book that many readers feel is obtuse.

Vayikra places the text in context and a reasoned consideration of the text is encouraged. First is pshat, the "straightforward explanations of the text," followed by drash which considers the writings of the rabbinic community that includes lessons and ideas beyond the literal text. The reader is then invited to consider the text and its various explanations according to rabbinic expansions and explanations.

The book is reflective but easy to follow for the uninitiated and the pertinent questions posed results in various answers suggested. The work then is not dogmatic but suggestive, and expansionary. The rabbinic traditions and related texts are considered as part of the living tradition of Judaic thought and practice. The Talmud, begun after the destruction of the Temple, consists of the Mishnah (c. 200 AD), the first written compendium of Judaic Oral Law; and the Gemara (c. 500 AD), a discussion of the Mishnah and related Tannaitic writings that more broadly explicates on the Tanakh.

The work is of direct interest for students of biblical and rabbinical literature but it possesses a broader appeal and is accessible for other non-specialists as well. It is arranged well and understandable for a broad audience.
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