The human element in the Torah

The Person in the Parasha: Discovering the Human Element in the Weekly Torah Portion by Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, OU Press, Maggid Books, Jerusalem, © 2016, ISBN 978-1-59264-462-9, p. 624, $29.95

by Fred Reiss, Ed.D.

Fred Reiss, Ed.D

WINCHESTER, California – Even a cursory look at the catalogue of Jewish book publishers shows a great propensity for the writing of Torah exegesis. Every once in a while, however, one volume stands out, and such is the case with The Person in the Parasha by Rabbi Tzvi Weinreb, who draws on his observations as pulpit rabbi and skills as a clinical psychologist to relate human actions, emotions, and interactions to the thoughts and deeds of the biblical persona whom we meet in the weekly Torah portions.

Weinreb writes between two and four stories for each parasha, each of which are no more than a few hundred words long, so these are hard to call exegeses in the generally accepted use of the term—analysis and explanation—and perhaps this is what makes The Person in the Parasha so inviting.

For instance, Weinreb relates four stories to the Torah portion Ḥayei Sara, the parasha where the reader learns of Sarah’s death and Isaac’s desire for a wife. Through these four stories, Weinreb relates how he finds deep significance in the way Abraham sets the tone for a proper eulogy of a loved one, worth in the tears of a kindergartener who just read about the death of Sarah, meaning in the persistent and ingenious methods of a slave sent to find a wife for Isaac, and support for the gracious and understanding actions of the servant of a great rabbi.

The Person in the Parasha stands out from the crowd because its stories and vignettes are personally relateable and form profound and deep connections between biblical characters and modern society.
Reiss is a retired public and Hebrew school teacher and administrator. He is the author of The Standard Guide to the Jewish and Civil Calendars; Public Education in Camden, NJ: From Inception to Integration; Ancient Secrets of Creation: Sepher Yetzira, the Book that Started Kabbalah, Revealed; and a fiction book, Reclaiming the Messiah. He may be contacted via [email protected].

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