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Etz Hayim: Torah and Commentary Hardcover – Print, June 1, 2001

ISBN-13: 978-0827607125 ISBN-10: 0827607121 Edition: Unabridged

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 1500 pages
  • Publisher: The Jewish Publication Society; Unabridged edition (June 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0827607121
  • ISBN-13: 978-0827607125
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 1.9 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #298,156 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The first new Torah commentary for Conservative Judaism in over 70 years, Etz Hayim: Torah and Commentary, boasts an all-star editorial cast. Harold Kushner's d'rash (interpretive commentary) explores the importance of social justice in Judaism, while Chaim Potok's contributions attempt to ground the Torah historically by ascertaining its meaning to the ancient Israelites. A special section edited by Elliot Dorff and Susan Grossman investigates the Jewish legal tradition and its foundations in the Torah; biblical scholar Michael Fishbane offers commentary on the haftarah (Torah portions to be read in the synagogue throughout the year). This commentary is a monumental achievement, incorporating recent archaeological findings, textual interpretations and (for the first time) the opinions of female rabbis.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


"It is wonderful to have a humash that reflects the vitality of a passionate, full-bodied Judaism. This is a humash for the heart, mind, and soul."

Customer Reviews

Etz Hayim is an excellent Torah resource.
Amazon Customer
The notes and explanations of key phrases help serious readers have a significantly better understanding of the Torah and biblical literature.
James E. Egolf
I highly recommend this as an educational resource.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

237 of 248 people found the following review helpful By Larry Mark MyJewishBooksDotCom on November 11, 2001
Format: Hardcover
How can one decide to purchase upon a chumash? I think it can be based on translation, ease of use, and commentaries. On some Shabbat mornings, I might use three chumashim: the Hertz, the Plaut, and the Fox. One I use for translation, the others for commentary. For about seventy years, Conservative/Masorti congregations have chosen to use chumash by Rabbi Hertz, a pre war Chief British rabbi. Some find it very Thee-Thou-stilted in British English, and somewhat apologetic for Hebrew practices, like animal sacrifice. It reflected the insecurity of Jewish life at the time of its publication. This new book and keepsake is a replacement for the Hertz chumash. Etz Hayim was a ten year project, and it reflects the beliefs and ideology of the Conservative movement. It is not apologetic in tone, it gets rid of Thou Thy and Thee, and it contains some commentaries that are inclusive and feminist in nature. I like it because the commentary does not sugar coat the actions of the early Hebrews, and it does not hide from the belief in redactors and an evolving Torah.
In terms of translation to English, I find Etz Hayim enlightening. For example, take the first sentences of Parshat Noah (Genesis 6:9-12). The old Hertz Chumash translates the lines as: "These are the generations of Noah. Noah was in his generation a man righteous and whole-hearted; Noah walked with god. And Noah begot three sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth. And the earth was corrupt before god and the earth was filled with violence. And god saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth." When you compare this to the UAHC Plaut translation, generations of Noah becomes "the line of Noah", and whole-hearted becomes "Blameless in his age.
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72 of 74 people found the following review helpful By Mark Berch on March 30, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Why do we need another commentary on the 5 Books of Moses?...what do you get with this? One big reason for this book is the massive 5-volume JPS commentary, by four editors. It is the most thorough Jewish humash commentary in English. Its indispensable for someone who wants real depth but, like me, is not fluent in Hebrew. However, this is far too much for a synagogue Bible. So it was condensed down to give the pshat level of commentary in Etz Hayim. That means that you are hearing four voices --- not just one , as in other books. It includes recent understandings of biblical history, archeology, linguistics and literary forms.
There is a second layer of commentary, the derash, which provides spiritual insights that go beyond the plain meaning of the words., and is original for Etz Hayim. These two layers thus have different agendas. The pshat provides what the Torah meant in its time and place. For example, in the Akeda story, Isaac sees no animal for sacrifice, and asks Abraham, "Where are the sheep for offering?" Abraham responds, "God will see to the sheep." The peshat observes "the father's vague reply surely sustains whatever doubts Isaac now feels, especially in an age when human sacrifice was possible." OK, you're right there in the story itself. The derash adds, "One suspects that Isaac at this point intuited that he was to be the offering. Both father and son missed an opportunity for open conversation about a matter of supreme importance to each of them. This father and son never have the opportunity of speaking with each other again." The Derash provides a moral lesson, musar, a spiritual and sometimes mystical dimension . It somewhat resembles the "gleanings" section of the Plaut, but is more focussed and distilled.
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31 of 35 people found the following review helpful By dougrhon on March 5, 2002
Format: Hardcover
We in the Conservative movement have been waiting for this Chumash for a long time. Using the excellent JPS translation, the Chumash contains three types of commentary, traditional, modern and a third special section where the commentators show the torah sources of various halachic rules. At the end of the book is a series of essays by top conservative rabbis and thinkers on a number of important subjects which explains some of the Conservative perspectives on such things as revelation and also (the COnservative strength) examines aspects of bible life such as war and the role of women historically. For those who find the typical Orthodox refusal to use commentary (even Orthodox commentary) after the 13th century problematic and yet find the Reform primary focus on the modern, to lack reverence for tradition, this is the Chumash for you!
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on November 9, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Etz Hayim is an excellent Torah resource. There are several reasons for this. A) English/Hebrew: The English and Hebrew transaltions are side by side and line by line. This makes it easier to do your own translating of the Hebrew text and compare it with the English translation provided. B) Two types of commentaries: Each page has two different types of commentaries underneath the Torah text. One commentary takes the text verse by verse. The other commentary gives a lot of background information and good exigetical information concerning the text. C) Essays: The essays are very good. Whether you agree with the points they are making or not, they give the reader much food for thought. Over all I have found the commentaries and essays very helpful and readable. D) The Torah is divided up into the parashot for each week. There are also special portions listed for holidays and special occaisions. After each weekly Torah portion htere is the Haftorah portion. This makes reading the entire parasha easy as it is all in one place.
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