When I was becoming more interested in Judaism, I learned that the word "Torah" comes from the word "hora'ah," meaning to teach, to instruct. I was taught this meant that each day's Torah portion had a vital lesson for our daily lives, even in this contemporary world.
Frankly, I didn't buy it. Learning from the Chumash seemed more like a mean, endless intellectual game than a pursuit of true understanding. I would scan the pages of the Chumash for any trace of a comprehensible message for an average Jew like me, but the big picture always remained a mystery entrapped somewhere in the frantically futile back-and-forth between Torah, commentary, and dictionary. On the rare occasion that I'd succeed in decoding the antiquated English translation, I still couldn't extrapolate any real meaning when so much was hidden in commentaries that were on another part of the Chumash, or even referenced in another book that I didn't have access (or energy) to go research.
When I opened the LifeStyle Torah, I instantly inhaled a deep breath of relief. I'd given up on ever being able to open a Chumash and take a lesson from it on my own, but this Chumash was vastly and refreshingly different from any other I'd seen.... It was actually easy to understand! Translated into an English that humans actually speak, I didn't have to waste any time going to the dictionary in two-minute intervals. With commentary built into the text itself, I was able to see a comprehensible context without losing my spot on the page after every line. Even the colored modern layout is intuitive, beautifully designed so that the eye naturally knows what to read next.
In short, the LifeStyle Torah does exactly what a Chumash is supposed to do: teach. If you are looking for a time-consuming, difficult, complicated way to take a lesson from the parsha, this Chumash is not for you. But if you want to acquire a true, deep, and accessible understanding of the Torah, along with an empowered world view and a charge to make your every day bigger and better, you've met your mate. Enjoy. --Shaina Guzick
From the author of the Gutnick Chumash, Rabbi Chaim Miller, comes Lifestyle Books, a new Torah series meant to personalize the experience of parsha and liturgy. Turning textual analysis into a path for personal growth is a move in the self-help book direction for Rabbi Miller, and he is able to maintain academic rigor with an intensive bibliography while still breaking new ground with a colorful, engaging layout.
Readers will find this new Chumash a rich source for authentic wisdom gleaned from the text and tradition. Reading like a magazine on spiritual growth, bright blurbs with concise ideas jump out from the pages, such as Food for Thought , which displays provocative connections between themes in the text and something more personal. Being asked, for example, if you have ever been too proud of your successes while reading Parshat Ekev will be a surprising and stimulating experience for the reader, and most welcome for those seeking warmth and relatability in their experience with Torah.
The boxes labeled Kabbalah Bites provide a layer of depth and added spiritual context. Rabbi Miller was able to select and concisely hone in on details that would, like a well-placed metaphor or example, drive a lesson home.
Perhaps most innovative and eye-catching is the beginning page of each parsha. A column with key people, the location and time frame of the parsha, and breakdown of mitzvot gives both historical and religious context to the pages to follow. An entire page dedicated to important concepts and lessons in the parsha allows for easy digestibility and literary analysis: a sort of Cliff s notes for Torah. A character profile prefacing each parsha also makes the subsequent story within the text more immediate and easy to follow.
For those accustomed to well-organized, well-researched bodies of work, be they beginners or seasoned scholars, this text offers a familiar and attractive model. As much at it is concise and absorbing, Torah: Five Book of Moses provides content that will challenge. Rabbi Miller understands the modern need to simplify aesthetic and immediately magnetize readers, and has managed not to sacrifice in the depth and range of content one would expect from a compilation of traditional sources. He understands the reader s need to orient him or herself at the beginning of a new chapter, to have an inviting aesthetic, and to be intellectually challenged.
This fresh take on the Chumash is a promising beginning to a new series. Although the works on prayer are in the beginning stages, readers can expect to be drawn in to a completely new take on Jewish synagogue life and study. While most books found on the shelf at shul are dense or distant, Miller s works are like high-brow magazines that engender a personal, modern connection with holy texts. --Ilana Spencer