Talk:Torah study

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Early version of this article as criticism of non-Orthodox Judaism[edit]

I'm not Jewish, so forgive me if I am off base here, but I am curious if others sense that this article is a veiled (or perhaps not-so-veiled) criticism of non-Orthodox variants of Judaism, since it states without qualification that all Jews must follow a certain set of practices related to the Torah. soulpatch

As a non-Orthodox agnostic non-Zionist Jew who has studied the material religiously and academically, we've been saying that about all of Ezra's articles. Danny

I think I had the same chip on my shoulder attitude when I first came to Wikipedia. It takes a long time to get used to NPOV, especially for those of us who know everything :-) --Ed Poor

Ed, in principle I agree with you. And I respect your sympathetic and generous spirit (to both sides on this issue). For what it is worth -- and you know I have disagreed with you on a number of substantive and formal issues -- I do not believe you ever pushed something as utterly wrong and offensive as the Goy article (you have to read the talk section) Slrubenstein
Slr: I believe you misunderstood my Goy article. Please read my rebuttal and if you see my point of view, apologize. Ezra Wax

It's almost the Sabbath (local time, New York). Let's all be nice to each other. --Ed Poor

I won't make any edits on Shabbos, fair or otherwise. Ezra Wax
Ezra Wax -- (Shavuah Tov, by the way): by "rebuttal" concerning the Goy article, doyou mean what is not the first few paragraphs of the Talk page? If not -- please tell me. If so, I will not apologize and here is why: You claim that you wrote the articles with the intent to offend. For that, only you should apologize. You claim that your articles are accurate. You are wrong. I have no doubt that what you wrote does accurately reflect the beliefs and behaviors of a small group of people. I would not object IF you wrote an article about Ultra-Orthodox Jews and included in it a section on how such people use words like "goy." But "how some people use the word goy" is not the same thing as "what the word goy means." Many other people use that word in ways different than you. Any discussion of the word must make clear all these uses, and be clear about who uses the word differently. The article is not really about the word, but about the people who use it. And to tell you the truth, what you wrote is not just offensive to me, it is embarrassing; it makes me wonder whether we really are a goy kadosh. Finally, you claim that other articles define words in ways that make it impossible make sense of ultra-orthodoxy. I disagree, but this is an issue we can discuss further. By the way, you use the phrase "my article." I understand what you mean -- these arguments are easy to take personally despite pseudonyms. But you must realize that on Wikipedia there is no such thing as "my" article. This is a collective project. Many people contribute, none own. Slrubenstein

I edited the following lines:

This tradition is based on a verse in the Talmud "And you shall teach it to your children", which says that a Jew is expected to know the Torah so well that it is on the tip of his tongue, so to speak.

First, the verse is in the Torah (does everyone get the irony here?). Second, to suggest that a line "says" something "so to speak" is uh a little inelegant. Slrubenstein

Ezra, it would be helpful if you could provide the Talmud citation (you know, which Masechet etc.) -- if you are not sure right now, please try to do it soon, it would just make the article stronger. Slrubenstein

SLR: It occurs to me that perhaps you did not see that I made a line by line rebuttal to Danny's analysis of the Goy article. You might be offended anyway, but perhaps not as offended. Ezra Wax

Yes, you were right -- thank you for pointing this out. It is sometimes hard to follow these threads. But even if I understand you correctly, the content of an encyclopedia should NOT claim that "Goy= non Jew or non-observant Jew" or something like that. IF I understand your point, the article should at least say "Members of Ultra-Orthodox communities use the word Goy to mean..." Slrubenstein

PS thanks for putting in the source

An Ultra-Orthodox Jew would consider the religion of a Jew who does not keep the Torah as the same as that of a Goy. As such calling such a person a Goy is saying something about his religion. A term sometimes used to describe a student who is having trouble with Talmud study, is that he has a Goyishe Kup - a non-Jewish head. This is meant to imply that his values are those of non-Jewish society, so he cannot understand the message of the Gemara because the Gemara's values are different than those of non-Jewish society. In truth my statements were statements about religion and not about ethnicity. Ezra Wax

Authorship of Biblical books[edit]

Actually, there were plenty of discussions regarding the books and their authors (paricularly Deuteronomy). See Ibn Ezra, Abarbanel, etc., all pre-Enlightenment thinkers, who questioned how the books were written. As the Ibn Ezra says, ha-meivin yavin ve-hamaskil yidom. The debates can also be found in the Talmud (last five verses of Deuteronomy not written by Moses). Again, this is an anachronistic attempt to impose a current belief on the past. What a surprise. Danny

Danny: Could you please provide me with the sources you are mentioning? However, I have seen that the Ibn Ezra did not say anything straight out, and it was only understood that way by the Tzofnas Paaneach in his introduction and that this introduction is not accepted. In any case, you are splitting the Ibn Ezra's opinion. Even if he did mean as you say, he clearly was of the opinion that it should not be spread openly, and you are ignoring that. Ezra Wax

Apparently you know the Ibn Ezra one I am quoting. The Tzafnat Paneach, as you mention, did understand it that way, so you just reject the text. Regardless, there were people who did understand it that way. Abarbanel intro to Devarim. And who says I have to hold by the Ibn Ezra? Or perhaps he was warning other people that felt like him that they better keep their mouths shut or the ultra-Orthodox of the time will brand them as heretics. Danny

Let's use some facts here. See the material I just added here Talk:Abraham_ibn_Ezra. Its pretty clear that Danny is 100% correct. Ezra, it isn't just the Tzafat Paneach who understood Ibn Ezra this way; rather, most rabbis have understood him this way, and many, many of them thought that he was correct. I can't imagine who told you otherwise, but your infallible teachers are ignorant of rabbinics and meforshim (rabbinic biblical commentaries.) RK

Oh, and Ezra, you know as well as I do that apologetics aside, that is not what a goyyishe kupp means. Danny

I didn't look closely at what RK put there, but a number of points. Firstly, if the Ibn Ezra meant as you say, understanding vehamaskil yidom, to mean that it should not be made public, is a true understanding. Witness what such knowledge has done to Danny and RK. Apikorsim, and mechalelei Shabbos. No knowledge is worth aquiring at that price. Pirkei Says, whoever's fear of heaven is greater than his desire of wisdom, his wisdom will last, and vice versa. You are acquiring all this knowledge and you will lose it all. What a waste of a life. In any case, Rashi explanation of the possuk, vehaknani az baaretz works quite well. Ezra Wax

Despite your unintended complement, I must object to being labeled an apikoros (heretic). As you well know, Jewish law says that only one who is an expert in all facets of Judaism may be considered educated enough to reject Judaism, and be labeled an apikoros. And I am nowhere close enough to the halakhic definition of educated to receive such a level. As for what this knowledge has done to me, all I need do is compare the way I treat other Jews and gentiles to the way that you wrote about them, and that is enough to satisfy me that I have made the correct choices in life. RK
Well you have made the decision to reject without sufficient knowledge, but you have enough knowledge to know better. You choose to believe those who slander the orthodox instead of trying to see things fairly. If somebody is doing something dangerous the only thing to do is to take the action necessary. I once saw a little boy run into a major street with cars coming in all directions. His mother ran out, grabbed him, took him to the sidewalk, and gave him a few good whacks. Ezra Wax


As with many articles pertaining to similar subjects, all the links provided have the smell of POV to them (the word "non-fundamentalist" says it all). JFW | T@lk 22:57, 12 May 2004 (UTC)

Information about origin of Torah study rewritten[edit]

The following somewhat POV information was removed, and the editor simply labelled it a "copyedit." That's somewhat disingenuous. The above-mentioned links were also removed at the same time, but it has been mentioned that they tended to advance a particular point of view.

The origins of this devotion to study are unclear, though it seems to have developed in the Hellenistic period, and may be a Jewish imitation of the Greek academies. ...
The theory that Torah study is essentially a Hellenistic innovation can be backed up by a study of other commandments closely related to Torah study. The most obvious of these is the Passover seder, where fathers are commanded to tell the story of the Exodus to their sons--another opportunity for study. The seder format in which this takes place is clearly structured along the lines of a Greek drinking festival.

I intend to contextualize this and place it back in the article in a later position, as follows:

It is thought by some that the origin of this devotion to study developed in the Hellenistic period, and may be a Jewish imitation of the Greek academies. This theory has been supported by an examination of other commandments closely related to Torah study, for example, the Passover seder, where fathers are commanded to tell the story of the Exodus to their sons--another opportunity for study. It is suggested that the seder format in which this takes place is structured along the lines of a Greek drinking festival.

Unless someone presents evidence that noone thinks this, I think we have to keep it.

Jdavidb 14:06, 25 Aug 2004 (UTC)

This paragraph, with or without your modification, flies in the face of every single extant classical Jewish source. Without a good source, I think it is safer left out. The Talmud and Midrash relate extensively about Torah study before the Hellenistic period. Whether factual or mythical, it is impossible to state the above without mentioning the Talmudic pronouncements that King David rose at midnight to study Torah, etc etc. The article stands perfectly without the paragraph you have kindly resected, and I am rather in favour of leaving it out. JFW | T@lk 14:16, 25 Aug 2004 (UTC)

It may fly in the face of classical Jewish sources, but that is because it is an opposing point of view. Some folks seem to have the attitude that Wikipedia is here to decide truth and present true facts. Not so. If the view is held, it is proper for Wikipedia to report it, properly contextualized. There's no rule that says Jewish articles have to maintain the Jewish viewpoint, Christian articles have to maintain the Christian viewpoint, etc.
I agree that we need to find a good source for this viewpoint. The question to be asked is not, "Does this agree with other Jewish sources?" but instead, "Can we validate that some people hold this view?" I'll look for such a source.
I encourage you to add the additional Talmudic information you mention. I felt in adding the paragraph that it would be good for a following sentence or paragraph to explain why this view is rejected by Jewish authorities. Jdavidb 16:49, 25 Aug 2004 (UTC)
I don't think that he is saying that this is a Jewish point of view. Rather, he is saying that some historians view this early form of Torah study as being related to the text study of the Greek culture, the culture in which the Jews lived for centuries. Jews adopted many Greek customs and adapted them to Judaism, none more obviously than the Passover seder. Noone is saying that Passover is Greek, but the form in which the seder became canonized was influenced by Greek custom. The same is true for how Jews came to pass on Semicha in late-medieval Europe, it was based on the form done by Christian universities. RK 14:20, Aug 25, 2004 (UTC)
Right, I'm not saying it's Jewish. Nor is Wikipedia. :) No rule to only report Jewish points of view in these articles.
We do need to be careful to not say unequivocally that the Passover was definitely or obviously influenced by Greek custom, as that is only an opinion. We're not here to decide if it definitely was or was not an adaptation, only to report that some people believe so. Jdavidb 16:49, 25 Aug 2004 (UTC)

How was semicha passed on in late-medieval Europe?
If the paragraph has to come back, it should be properly referenced. I will not have trouble citing the Talmudic source I mentioned above. Can anyone retrace the "Hellenistic" comment? I know there are lots of theorists who accuse the prophets being Pythagoreans etc. In the present form, the traditional POV is not mentioned, let alone being indicated.
As far as traditional sources is concerned, the Jewish people studied Torah for 40 years while wandering in the desert (their food was provided, so there was nothing to distract them!) This is the "traditional" outlook on the origin of Torah study. It should be mentioned in parallel with the "Hellenistic" theory mentioned above. JFW | T@lk 14:27, 25 Aug 2004 (UTC)

Include that, please. As I say above, I think more of the traditional view needs to be added.
I also agree with the comment from way up above that said the original version of the article seemed like a thinly veiled criticism. I came here looking for information about the Jewish practice of Torah study, not looking for slights against those who engage in the practice. Jdavidb 16:49, 25 Aug 2004 (UTC)
I really would like to see some attribution of this Hellenism/Greek theory. It's one thing to present different POVs, but there's no need to present every single POV (nor would it be possible). Some unique and idiosyncratic POVs are simply not worth mentioning. Don't forget, the world is full of cranks with their own axes to grind; Wikipedia does not have to be their soapbox. Jayjg 03:48, 26 Aug 2004 (UTC)
Sounds good, but I feel like you're taking the position that this POV is "unique and idiosyncratic" solely because it disagrees with Judaism. I quote from the Wikipedia:WikiProject Judaism, of which you are a member:
Adherents of a religion may object to a critical historical treatment of their own faith. They would prefer that the articles describe their faith according to their tradition and understanding, which often differs substantially from the view commonly held by critical historians. Non adherents of a religion may feel the exact opposite, and prefer that the views of critical historians be given primacy; many articles on Wikipedia currently reflect the latter point of view. NPOV policy demands both points of view be presented without prejudice.
Removing this information would leave the article without a critical POV, would it not? So let me ask, do you know what exactly the critical POV on this subject is? Somehow I seriously doubt that non-religious scholars really believe the Israelites studied Torah for 40 years in the wilderness (note that I am NOT a non-religious scholar). The POV presented (which I did not introduce into the article) sounds representative to me of what critical scholars probably actually believe.
It's one thing to dismiss something because practically noone believes it. It's another to dismiss it solely because it is antithetical to your religion. Jdavidb 13:59, 26 Aug 2004 (UTC)
Okay, here's at least one page that investigates the issue of whether or not the Passover seder had Greek influence: [1]. It's apparently a common enough view that at least some Jewish scholars feel the need to investigate it.
I'd like to remind you that your original argument was not that the view was "idiosyncratic," but that it "flies in the face of every single extant classical Jewish source." I understand that this opinion of some challenges Judaism. I do not see that as a reason to leave it out of Wikipedia. Jdavidb 14:10, 26 Aug 2004 (UTC)
Actually, I never made the argument that it "flies in the face of every single extant classical Jewish source", that was JFW; perhaps that is why you felt the need to speculate about my motivations and quote the Project Judaism page to me. My concern was in presenting all sorts of unique or idiosyncratic views on a topic, and giving them all equal weight. Just because someone has written a paper on something, even a published paper, doesn't mean that it is particularly worth mentioning. Views which have some currency and following are more relevant. Commonly held views of scholars are usually well represented in the literature (and on the internet), and it should be easy enough to find multiple attributions for them. Regarding this specific topic, the idea that the seder may in part be based on Greek customs does indeed have some currency, but the idea that Jewish Torah study was based on Greek academies is as yet unattributed, and the attempt to prove it via the seder is weak at best. Jayjg 15:44, 26 Aug 2004 (UTC)
I take the blame for the flies in the face.
If the "Greek seder theory" fails a basic Google test, I would strongly discourage its inclusion. As for Torah study itself, it seems it developed quite independently of the Greek scholastic study. In addition, Torah study has always been a mass activity, while it was considered something for the elite in Greece and unsuitable to the lower classes.
Thanks for providing the source, Jdavidb. JFW | T@lk 15:49, 26 Aug 2004 (UTC)
I don't think that anyone is claiming that Torah study is Greek. Of course it existed independently of the Greek scholastic study. I think the claim was being made that the specific form of Torah study was influenced by Greek scholastic study, which is a much lesser claim. RK 01:42, Aug 27, 2004 (UTC)
I apologize for getting confused between the two of you. Sometimes talk pages get unwieldy. :)
I understand now that the theory is about the Passover seder and not specifically about Torah study. I think I'll move it to a more appropriate spot in Wikipedia. Jdavidb 16:12, 26 Aug 2004 (UTC)

Historical study of the form of the Passover Seder[edit]

The idea that the modern form of the Passover Seder is based on Greek customs has scholarly support. This is not to say that Passover is Greek; no one is making that claim. Rather, the claim being made is that the ritual observance of Passover, especially the specific form of the modern seder, was influenced by the society in which Jews lived for centuries. See the new notes, references and excerpts about this topic in the Talk page for the Seder article, Talk:Seder. RK 02:16, Aug 27, 2004 (UTC)

History of how Kabbalah affected rabbinic Torah study[edit]

The article still includes the following:

The initial letters of the words Peshat, Remez, Derash, Sod, forming together the Hebrew word Pardes (also meaning "orchard"), became the designation for the four-way method of studying Torah, in which the mystical sense given in the Kabbalah was the highest point.

However, Jayjg recently removed this following part:

In later years this new method of studying Torah became erroneously believed to be ancient rabbinical method from the time of the Mishnah. This identification of new Kabbalistic teaching models with ancient Mishnaic modes of study developed on account of the expression "Pardes" in the Mishnah.

I can provide references for this claim. As far as I know, this is not a point of contention specifically between Orthodox and non-Orthodox Jews, indeed I know many non-Orthodox Jews who have what might be considered the "Orthodox" view on this subject. Nor, as far as I know, is this a point of contention between historians and religious Jews. Rather, this is a point of contention between Kabbalists and religious rationalists. Those Jews who accept Kabbalah as authoritative hold that it was always a part of Judaism, and that the way that medieval Kabbalists did things came from long before the time of the Mishnah. In contrast, Jewish religious rationalists, which for a while was most of the Jewish community, and still includes much of Orthodoxy, rejects this claim altogether. People in this school of thought agree that the PaRDeS method of Torah study is a Kabbalistic innovation, and that it is a mistake to assume that this comes from before the Mishnaic era. RK 21:49, Aug 25, 2004 (UTC)

The idea was expressed in an entirely POV way - "erroneously believed", and the Pardes sentence was unclear and possibly repetitive. It's also way too much detail for this article, which is about Torah study, and not about the development of Kabbalistic beliefs. That said, I'm open to the idea's inclusion if you really think it's critical to this article, and can express it in a NPOV way. Jayjg 22:24, 25 Aug 2004 (UTC)
Remember, RK, you can't go wrong if you contextualize. Rather than saying, "X was erroneously believed," say, "X was believed, but many critical scholars (or whoever) have concluded this belief was erroneous," or whatever. I know that my NPOV-meter goes off whenever I read anything in Wikipedia that tries to describe a particular belief as erroneous, whether I agree with it or not, or even if it has nothing to do with me. (As when I read that statement in this article.) Jdavidb 22:50, 25 Aug 2004 (UTC)

RK, the Pardes stuff is now highly repetitive. Also, which Jews opposed the Pardes method of Torah study? Any Rabbis in particular? Jayjg 22:54, 26 Aug 2004 (UTC)

Yeah, its not really edited very well yet! You or I have to edit this down a bit. I don't know of rabbis who opposed PaRDeS study in of itself; rather, the opposition was to the Zohar itself (all of it!), or to Kabbalah in general. Interestingly, today even religious rationalists who don't accept Kabbalah as literally true will use the PaRDeS form of study on occasion, the idea being that such teachings may be relevant and true (or at least fascinating and inspirational), even if they believe that the basic theory behind them is not. RK 01:48, Aug 27, 2004 (UTC)
I've had a go at it. Jayjg 17:58, 27 Aug 2004 (UTC)

near-ritualistic dedication[edit]

This article begins with the definition: Torah study is the near-ritualistic dedication to studying religious texts ... I take issue with this, and I think my proposal will help clarify some of the issues discussed here. I would implememnt it right now, but seeing the intense discussions which you've had, I'll wait a bit for some comments. Specifically, I'd like to distinguish between individual acts of Torah study (which I believe is a Torah commandment) and making this study into a constant lifestyle sort of thing (which is what most of this article is actually about). For example, I think an argument can be made that Jews valued the study of Torah long before the Hellenistic period, but that it was not a "near-ritualistic dedication" until later. Comments?--Keeves 13:04, 6 May 2005 (UTC)

There is studying the Torah, and Torah study. Studying Torah becomes Torah study if it is done not for academic motives but because it is felt to be a religious commandment to do so. The distinction you propose is artificial - some Jews (e.g. businessmen or scientists) "learn Torah" for one hour a day, yet are more fierce and ritualistic in their dedication than either kollel members or university professors. JFW | T@lk 14:34, 6 May 2005 (UTC)
PS for some "near-ritualistic dedication" to Torah study, please review Psalm 119 (when you've got an hour or so...) JFW | T@lk

{{Torah portion}}[edit]

What is {{Torah portion}} doing on tis page? The article is about Torah study, and shouldn't include it. The template is very long, too.—msh210 19:07, 2 July 2006 (UTC)

  • Hi msh: (1) The most basic and universal Torah study that is done by Jews worldwide on all days is to study, attend classes about, and listen to sermons derived directly from that week's Torah reading (in synagogues on Shabbat) based on the weekly Parsha (Torah portion) as stated in this article itself in a few places, even quoting a source for the principle: "It is the duty of everyone to read the entire weekly portion twice (the law of shnayim mikra ve-echad targum, Tractate Berakhot 8a). (2) The template {{Torah portion}} is at the bottom of the Torah study article's page, so essentially it's part of the "See also" section which is a legitimate way of connecting related and connected topics on an article. (3) If a reader finds the {{Torah portion}} to be "too intrusive" then any reader is free to click "Hide" on the top right section of the template's heading which shrinks it to an unobtrusive one liner. Finally, (4) the {{Torah portion}} is presently diligently updated weekly by User:Dauster early each Sunday so that any readers may learn more about the weekly Parsha. User:Dauster summarizes each week's Parsha and adds some interesting graphics which surely adds life and color to a page that may gain the attention of readers who don't know much about this subject and may want to learn more. Please refer all further comments and discussions to one centralized location at Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Judaism#Template: Torah portion Thank you. IZAK 08:02, 4 July 2006 (UTC)

Need an article on Torah commentaries[edit]

We should have an article that briefly discusses Torah commentaries. Mark3 19:57, 17 January 2007 (UTC)

Torah commentaries for liturgical use in synagogues[edit]

These are Torah commentaries that are set up not only for reading and study, but also for liturgical useage. The Torah passages are separated by parashiyot, and they have hafatarah readings for eeach parashah.

  • Hertz Chumash (Traditional, was/is used by all movements)
  • Mesorah Stone Edition of the Torah (Orthodox synagogues)
  • Plaut Torah (Reform & Reconstructionist)
  • Etz Chayim: A Torah Commentary (Conservative)

Torah commentaries for study[edit]

  • Torah (and Tanakh) commentaries, in Hebrew only AFAIK, from Mossad Harav Kook, Israel. I have never read these, but I understand that these are the only Modern Orthodox Tanakh commentaries. They even include some modern day archaeology.
  • Soncino Chumash, Soncino Press (Traditional, was/is used by all movements)
  • Richard Elliot Friedman's Torah commentary (used in study groups in many non-Orthodox synagogues. Is it used by any Orthodox groups?)
  • JPS Torah commentary series
  • The Artscroll Tanakh series on the Torah
  • The Anchor Bible series, by Doubleday. (That is non-Jewish, non-denominational, but occasionally used by non-Orthodox.

Transliteration should be Tora[edit]

On the Wikipedia pages for Torah and Halakha, why is תורה transliterated as Torah (with the letter H at the end), but הלכה is transliterated as Halakha (without the letter H at the end)? They both end in the Hebrew letter Hei, it's not like one of them ends in Alef or something else that would not deserve a H. The English letter H, although it is derived from the Hebrew letter Chet, nowadays it is pronounced like Hei. Therefore, for consistency's sake, I propose that either Torah should become Tora, or Halakha should become Halakhah - you shouldn't be able to have it both ways! (talk) 01:08, 29 March 2012 (UTC)