by Judith Z. Abrams
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!"
Judith Z. Abrams was ordained at Hebrew Union College in 1985. She earned her Ph.D. in Rabbinic Literature from the Baltimore Hebrew University in 1993.
Rabbi Abrams is the founder and director of Maqom: A School for Adult Talmud Study, where everyone, regardless of their background, can learn.
She received the Covenant Award for outstanding performance in the field of Jewish Education. She teaches through the Siegal College Distance Learning Program and the ALEPH rabbinic program and is the author of many books about Talmud and prayer.
Rabbi Abrams is available to speak and teach throughout the country, as she has done for many years.
The Talmud for Beginners
The Secret World of the Kabbalah
Illness and Health in the Jewish Tradition
Torah & Company
A Talmud Tale: A Musical Play (forthcoming)
Opening the Book: A Friendly Introduction to the Classics of Rabbinic Judaism (forthcoming)
The Yerushalmi: A Friendly Introduction to the Talmud of Jerusalem (forthcoming)
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.
"Addicting! Thought provoking. I'm inspired to continue learning." —Fern Weis, middle school teacher
"Rabbi Judith Abrams Torah and Company is a wonderful spur to hours of wonderful conversation and study among family and friends. Urging the reader though central lessons of the weekly Torah readings, Abrams selects wise and appropriate rabbinic teachings to take the discussion to even deeper levels of inquiry, and her leading questions are thought-provoking and instructive. There is not another book like it, and I have no doubt that readers--in the company of their families and friends--will be grateful for having had the opportunity to learn from such a masterful teacher." — Professor David Kraemer Joseph J. and Dora Abbell Librarian, Professor of Talmud and Rabbinics, Jewish Theological Seminary
"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. Rabbi Abrams offers readers easy access and guided questions which lead to thought provoking discussion. A valuable guide for the Shabbat table of every Jew." —Rabbi Burton L. Visotzky, Appleman Professor of Midrash and Interreligious Studies, Jewish Theological Seminary