A Complete Guide to the Five Books of Moses
Schocken Books Inc, Hardcover, 9780805241860, 593pp.
Publication Date: October 31, 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.
“Essential Torah is the most comprehensive of the new group of Bible commentaries . . . a work that may rank for both depth and breadth with the late Rabbi Isaac Klein’s A Guide to Jewish Religious Practice as a resource and reference site. [It] offers the most context, the most interpretation, the most interest. Robinson takes the reader through not only the Five Books of Moses . . . but through everything connected with the Torah in its largest, more-sweeping sense, from the production of an actual Torah scroll and an introduction to the Hebrew language, to the role of biblical criticism and the inherent difficulties in drawing complex rules of behavior from the Torah’s simple words.”
–The Jewish Week
“An accessible, well-written handbook to Jewish belief as set forth in the Torah. Most laudably, Robinson tackles some of the tough issues posed by the ambiguities, anachronisms, repetitions, and contradictions in the text. . . . His success with Essential Judaism is now matched by this superb manual that effectively guides readers to the ultimate source for Jewish belief and behavior.”
–The Jerusalem Post
“Essential Torah draws on both ancient and modern critical methods, citing the thoughts of scholars across a broad spectrum of Jewish ideological beliefs. It will undoubtedly be of interest, help, and guidance to non-Jews and Jews alike. It does an excellent job for the audience it attempts to reach. Recommended.”
“Writing in colloquial and accessible English, Robinson effectively, and sometimes entertainingly, shows why the five books of Moses constitute the basis for Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Drawing on a dazzling array of sources, he provides an overview of the Torah; tackles the question of who wrote it; explores the commentaries; confronts the suppression of women’s voices; and bravely tackles what Bible scholars have labeled “troubling texts.” This remarkable book is a stellar achievement in which a gifted and diligent author guides readers of all faiths to a source book for religious belief and behavior.”
–*Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Essential Torah is really that–an essential and excellent tool for both students and teachers who want a way in to the sacred text and all that it holds.”
–Rabbi Elyse Goldstein, author of The Women's Torah Commentary and The Women's Haftarah Commentary
“Essential Torah provides a thorough and clear introduction to the Bible, its meanings, and its interpretations throughout Jewish tradition. Drawing upon both classical rabbinic and modern sources, Robinson has written a sophisticated yet accessible book that will appeal to both laypeople and academic readers. I highly recommend it for adult education and introduction to Judaism courses.”
–Rabbi David Ellenson, president, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion
“George Robinson excels as both a writer and a scholar. He opens up the Torah and makes it accessible in fresh and exciting ways. Both experts and neophytes will find much here to enjoy and to ponder.”
–Professor Jace Weaver, Department of Religion, University of Georgia
“The most comprehensive and balanced book on the subject I know. You will find anything you need to know here, from a discussion of divine authorship to a recipe for kosher ink.”
–Rabbi Harold S. Kushner, author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People
“George Robinson has written a magnificent volume, whose appeal will be to a sophisticated reader eager for insight and understanding. Essential Torah is more than a guide to the Pentateuch. It is a compendium of literary history, cultural anthropology, ancient wisdom, medieval commentary, and modern insight. The Torah text for Robinson becomes a pretext for instruction into the entire gamut of Jewish religious thought and practice. He leaves very few stones unturned, and he leads as a master teacher, exploring every facet of a vast tradition. This is text analysis at its greatest.”
–Rabbi David M. Posner, Ed.D., Senior Rabbi, Temple Emanu-El, New York City