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Unlocking the Torah Text Bereishit Hardcover – August 10, 2007


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Editorial Reviews

Review

In Unlocking the Torah Text, Goldin provides the reader with a useful aid to understanding the biblical text. Writing in a pleasant, lucid style, he identifies the main questions, and in a modern idiom discusses some of the classic approaches. He carries his learning lightly so as to meet the challenges of the text and stimulate debate of the issues. A highly readable and thoughtful work. -- --Aviva Zornberg, author of Genesis: The Beginning of Desire, winner of the National Jewish Book Award<br /><br />New and refreshing insights... Rabbi Goldin acts as a responsible teacher of Torah, letting the text speak for itself... Unlocking the Torah Text is a very good book indeed, challenging the reader to use his native intelligence in reading the Good Book as God's Book. --Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm, Chancellor of Yeshiva University<br /><br />Rabbi Shmuel Goldin has rendered an extraordinary service Challenging us with fascinating questions, he presents unique solutions to problems that we might never have noticed but which are critical to our understanding of the text. Sabbath discussions in the pulpit or around the table will be greatly enriched by his analysis. --Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, spiritual leader of Congregation, Kehilath Jeshurun, New York City

New and refreshing insights... Rabbi Goldin acts as a responsible teacher of Torah, letting the text speak for itself... Unlocking the Torah Text is a very good book indeed, challenging the reader to use his native intelligence in reading the Good Book as God's Book. --Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm, Chancellor of Yeshiva University

Rabbi Shmuel Goldin has rendered an extraordinary service Challenging us with fascinating questions, he presents unique solutions to problems that we might never have noticed but which are critical to our understanding of the text. Sabbath discussions in the pulpit or around the table will be greatly enriched by his analysis. --Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, spiritual leader of Congregation, Kehilath Jeshurun, New York City

About the Author

RABBI SHMUEL GOLDIN received his BS in psychology and his MA in Jewish education from Yeshiva University, and his rabbinic ordination from the Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary of Yeshiva University. He has served as spiritual leader of Congregation Ahavath Torah in Englewood, New Jersey, since 1984. He is an instructor of Bible and Philosophy at the Isaac Breuer College and the James Striar School of Yeshiva University, founding director of and lecturer at The Eve Flechner Torah Institute, and past president and board member of numerous organizations. Noted as one of the most articulate spokesmen in the Orthodox community today, Rabbi Goldin has developed an innovative educational approach to Torah study, Jewish law and Jewish identity which is enthusiastically received by traditional and non-traditional Jews alike. Rabbi Goldin and his wife Barbara are the proud parents of five children, and grandparents of two.
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Product Details

  • Series: Unlocking the Torah Text (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Gefen Publishing House (August 10, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9652294128
  • ISBN-13: 978-9652294128
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 7 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #968,895 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Michael M on October 8, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent book of analysis on the Torah. Now, some "Torah insights" books deal with minor topics or offer obscure answers. This book does neither. All of its questions are at the center of understanding that portion, and its answers are keen and insightful and yet also clear and common-sensical.

For example, on Parshat Noach, he notes that everyone left the ark husband and wife separately, "Noach, his sons, Noach's wife, his sons' wives", not "Noach, his wife, his sons, his sons' wives". Rabbi Goldin explains, given the destruction of the world, no one was emotionally able to rebuild and start anew. G-d had to first bless Noach to be fruitful, then promise Noach that no destruction would happen, and furthermore offer a visual concrete manifestation of that promise (the rainbow) before finally it says that Noach's sons procreated. Nevertheless, Noach proceeds to become drunk out of his overwhelming depression and despair at the destruction of the whole world as he had known it.

Obviously, Rabbi Goldin's presentation is much more expansive, as well as lucid and engaging. Nevertheless, I believe this example suffices to show that the questions are not obscure, but rather crucial and vital, and the answers likewise are too. He has struck to the core of what it means to Noach and his sons that the world has been destroyed, and how they coped, as real human beings and not fairytale beings.

In fact, in his introduction, Rabbi Goldin notes that one of his primary purposes is to make the Torah's personalities come alive as real people and its events as things that actually happened, rather than as one-dimensional fairytale-like stories that we learned in elementary school.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Cheryl Jacobson on February 17, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Rabbi Shmuel Goldin's book, Unlocking the Torah Text is superb! He challenges the reader to approach the text by asking questions and then searching for the answers in the traditional commentaries and the midrashim. His analysis starts with a summary of the parsha and some questions. He outlines the approaches of tradtional sources as well as applying logical and careful textual analysis. Then he works to resolve the disagreements between the sources and adds a summarizing section which pulls everything together in new and illuminating ways.
I was particularly impressed with the chapter, "Establishing Balance: Avraham's Life Draws to a Close." Drawing on five seemingly unrelated events at the end of Avraham's life, Rabbi Goldin focuses on Avraham's self definition as a ger v'toshav in the negotiations with the Hittites in purchasing Sarah's grave site in the Cave of the Machpeila. Avraham insists on buying the grave site, even though the Hittites offer it as a gift. Why? Read the book and find out. He summarizes Avraham's life in this chapter and also sees it as a pattern established for all of his descendants.
His discussion of events in the story of Yosef which is spread across several parshiot is also excellent. He starts with the questions of why Yosef is called the Tzaddik, or the righteous one, and follows through to the question illuminated on the front cover, why didn't Yosef phone home?
In short, this is an in-depth analysis that will spur readers to lively discussions at the Shabbat table and to research and ask even more questions. I hope he continues and writes books on the remaining books of the Chumash. Pull this one out of the stack and buy it. It's great!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Israel Drazin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 10, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This is the first of a series of books in which Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, with a BS in psychology and an MA in Jewish education and a teacher at Yeshiva University, promises readers "an innovative educational approach to Torah study." He divides his volume according to the weekly synagogue Torah readings. He starts each section with a summary of the most significant parts of the portion, then focuses on an idea in several paragraphs that he calls "Context." This is followed by some piercing questions and "Approaches," the latter being a number of suggested solutions. He frequently ends each section with "Points to Ponder," ideas that should be considered.

Rabbi Goldin's answers are generally solutions offered in traditional Jewish sources. He states that he will make a distinction between the literal meaning of the Torah texts and the Midrash, ancient rabbinical exegesis that generally fascinate most pulpit rabbis to the extent that many congregants come to believe that the Midrash that they hear during sermons and in schools is in the Torah itself, is true, and a message from God. He cites an instance where he taught a college class in Yeshiva University and many of the students in the class, boys who had a broad Jewish education, believed that a Midrash stating that the moon spoke to God is true because the Midrash says that the moon spoke. He writes that Midrash "was not necessarily meant to be understood literally."

Rabbi Goldin's questions are perceptive and thought provoking. For instance, he asks: Why does God say of his creation, after the creation, that it is good? Didn't he know what he would be creating and doesn't he have the power to do what he wants done? How can people have free will when God knows ahead of time what people will do?
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