It is not a secret — I am a biblioholic. I am addicted to buying books. We all have the genetic potential for this disease, as we are the People of the Book. However, I have always maintained that we are really the People of the “Books.” Jews are committed to learning, and books have always been the way to pass on the learning to others.
Here is a quote from Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks:
“The Egyptians build pyramids, the Greeks built temples, the Romans built amphitheaters. Jews built schools. They knew that to defend a country, you need an army, but to defend a civilization, you need education. So, Jews became the people whose heroes were teachers, whose citadels were schools, and whose passion was study and the life of the mind.”
The Torah has always been the beginning of learning, and books upon books upon books have been written with commentary and explanation of that essential book. All 63 tractates of the Talmud and the Midrash and the Codes and the commentaries from the past through today are helping us understand what that first book, the Torah, can teach us about life. Books galore and commentaries ancient and modern — does it ever end? Hopefully not ever. And now we have websites and blogs and eblasts to go through and decide what to read.
How do you choose? For many, we reach to the movement that we belong to — Reform, Orthodox, Conservative, Reconstructionist, and more. For others, it is an attempt to read a little of everything and find what resonates at that particular moment. Is there a right way to study Torah, to find answers to life’s questions?
Yes, there are a million right ways and the goal is to find what works for you at this moment in time and, most important, to keep searching and learning. Be open to new (and old) ideas and, as has been the practice of generations of students, learn with a friend, especially one who challenges you.
We are at the beginning of the cycle of the Torah, which is a great place to start. You don’t have to catch up on too much, but remember, you can start wherever and whenever you want. I will not tell you all that I am reading right now, but I am excited about the newest Chumash out there that I just got — “The Steinsaltz Humash,” published by Koren Publishers. It is a beautiful book with amazing insights from Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. It is in both Hebrew and English, with sections on each page titled Discussion and Background, plus there are occasional pictures.
But what I like the best is that the English text is bold and the commentary follows as if part of the text. Steinsaltz has us reading both at the same time.
Have I convinced you to buy the book? Have I convinced you to keep learning? That is the bigger goal. We are the People of the Books, and we continue to thrive as a people because we keep learning and searching for answers.
A favorite quote of mine is: “Some girls watched ‘Beauty and The Beast’ and wanted the prince. I watched it and wanted the library.”