What Torah & Company is, and why we love it
A personal note from Eve Yudelson, senior editor, Ben Yehuda Press
Torah & Company is a gateway to learning and discovery and a boost to conversation: We have found this book to be wonderful at eliciting ideas from the teenagers at our table, as well as the youngest children, and guests, about the BIG IDEAS of Judaism.
What makes this book special is not that it is an in-depth study of the Torah portion; it does not claim to be. As the author discusses in the introduction, the rabbis of the Talmud have propounded that one should spend one’s life learning one third Torah, one third Mishnah, and one third Talmud. Rabbi Abrams, who is a Covenant Award-winning teacher and passionate Talmudist, has constructed a book that puts forth passages on related themes from all three bodies of text: the written text (Torah), and the oral tradition (Mishnah and Talmud).
What emerges is the raw material to invite debate: with the rabbis, with others at your table, and even with yourself. It is a way of engaging in text study while at the same time studying our own ideas, challenging ourselves and others, and gaining insight on texts we might never otherwise have the chance to study.
The reason we fell in love with the book was that it gave us an opportunity not only to talk to our kids, which is always a treat, but to engage them in study about what is most meaningful to us. The values and ideas that presented themselves to the Rabbis are values and ideas that still invite debate. We can hear what strikes a chord with our children, and we, in turn, can share our thoughts and values with them.
We use this book as one of our tools to create a bridge with our children. And, learning together, we help them create a bridge with our shared tradition. This book has helped us to spark conversations with our teenagers, and with our Kindergartner, as well. When you discuss the fight between Esav and Yaakov, and the discussion turns to the fight in class over a toy, you create the opportunity to see the world through Jewish eyes, and through the lens of our tradition. A wonderful benefit is having a new way to relate to your wonderful children: You make chevrusahs (learning partners) out of the people who mean the most to you.
I have cherished the time spent with my family poring over this book. It is very exciting when our 2nd grader says at table: “Let’s do Torah & Company!”
How to use this book
How to use Torah & Company
• Choose a section based on the week’s Torah portion or an upcoming holiday. Generally speaking, during the week, one studies the Torah portion that will be read the following Shabbat morning.
• The texts have no particular order other than that of the Jewish calendar, so feel free to jump in anywhere at any time. Each week stands alone. We make no assumption that you’ve read the previous week’s texts.
• Read through the texts. See what they have in common.
• All translations are original. They tend toward the free-flowing, in the expectation that this book will be used without any additional commentaries or reference volumes.
• Some of the texts may seem hopelessly technical. Don’t be discouraged if their meaning isn’t immediately obvious. You’ll find explanations in the corresponding question section.
• After a once over, read through each text again and its corresponding discussion questions. If you’re studying around the table or in a group, feel free to discuss the questions that interest you and to ignore the rest.
• If you want to join in the chain of Torah study, then write in some of your own thoughts where space permits.
Praise and Reviews
“Wonderfully conceived and wisely executed, Torah and Company will enrich your family’s Shabbat table with wisdom that will carry over throughout your week.”
—Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, author of A Code of Jewish Ethics and Jewish Literacy
“A wonderful spur to hours of conversation and study among family and friends.
“There is not another book like it, and I have no doubt that readers — in the company of their family and friends — will be grateful for having the opportunity to learn from such a master teacher.”
— Professor David Kraemer, Joseph J. and Dora Abbell Librarian, Professor of Talmud and Rabbinics, Jewish Theological Seminary
“Addicting! Thought provoking. I’m inspired to continue learning.”
—Fern Weis, middle school teacher
“Reveals the power and relevance of each weekly Torah portion. A Shabbat treasure for every home.”
—Rabbi Goldie Milgram, author, Meaning and Mitzvah: Daily Practices for Reclaiming Judaism through God, Prayer, Torah, Hebrew, Mitzvot and Peoplehood
“Torah & Company revives the medieval Jewish custom of pairing the weekly Torah readings with selections of Mishnah, and then goes it one better by adding Talmud and other Jewish texts. The result yields meaningful weekly study of Torah and rabbinic literature.
“A valuable guide for the Shabbat table of every Jew.”
—Rabbi Burton L. Visotzky, Appleman Professor of Midrash and Interreligious Studies, Jewish Theological Seminary
“This useful, accessible compilation of little-studied rabbinic commentaries on each Torah portion will add insight and erudition to discussions around the Shabbat dinner table. The discussion questions will surely be helpful to anyone preparing for a bar or bat mitzvah.”
—Debra Nussbaum Cohen, journalist and author of Celebrating Your New Jewish Daughter: Creating Jewish Ways to Welcome Baby Girls into the Covenant
“The texts themselves are short and provocative, the questions even more so. Abrams is a Texas rabbi who pioneered Torah and Talmud discussions on the Web, and the questions she poses promise hours of lively debate.”
—New Jersey Jewish News