Curing the Annual Chumash Doldrums: New Volume of Abarbanel

We’re not supposed to say it. But for many people it is true. They have their favorite parshios of Chumash, and their not-quite favorites. The latter begin, for some, this coming week. Nothing wrong, chas v’shalom. It’s just that some have a harder time getting into a parshah without a story line, and dramatic action has all but come to an end for Chumash Shemos.

Help is available. The Abarbanel is one of the most exciting tools to making any parshah come alive, because he takes a stab at filling in so many of the missing details in the text. He is often disregarded, however, because his treatment is so long.

For the third time, Zev Bar Eitan in Israel has published what he calls a “structured interpretation” of Abarbanel. A long list of approbations and accolades has accompanied each volume, and for good reason. The author takes segments of the Abarbanel on each parshah and offers an interpretive reading in crisp, contemporary English. The new, third volume begins with this coming parshah, and includes the rest of Shemos.

Students of the parshios dealing with the mishkan want to know what and want to know why. What do all these details tell us? What messages can we take away? Because of this important contribution, English readers now can add the Abarbanel to the work of R. Samson Raphael Hirsch in understanding both the details of the holy objects, as well as their symbolic and other meanings.

Keeping “Abravanel’s World of Torah: A Structured Interpretation- Shemot Vol. II, Assembled at Sinai” on your desk for the next weeks will make the second half of Chumash Shemos a more valuable experience.

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5 Responses

  1. dr.bill says:

    excellent suggestion.  for those who have not been able to be maavir sedrah, shenayim mikre ve’echad targum, peshuto ki’mashmaoh, the 5 volume onkelos al hatorah, will provide the ability to perform that ancient practice, deriving a great deal of insight into how various meforshim approached each posuk.

  2. lacosta says:

    find hirsh symbolism of objects and vessels very helpful. and of course , need visual aids…

  3. Raymond says:

    For as long as I can remember, it has been my dream to be a Torah scholar (isn’t it of every Jew?).  However, I have to say, that studying the works of such major Rishonim as the Abarbanel is quite intimidating to me.  I have heard that his ideas are not easy to understand at all.  I once tried to tackle the Torah commentary of the RambaN, but after going through about fifty pages of it, I think I understood maybe one idea…and even that is doubtful.  So, what I am trying to do now, is to go through the modern day Torah commentaries of prominent Rabbis who have been alive in my lifetime.  If I can successfully get through those, I may dare to try some of the older, more classic material, such as the Abarbanel.

  4. TE says:

    Rayomond – get a chavrusa!  It will be a great help in understanding material.  If none is available in your area, consider a phone or skype chavrusa along the lines of Partners in Torah.  The world of meforshei hatorah will open up to you!

  5. Steve Brizel says:

    Raymond I second the idea of a chavrusa in Ramban. There are so many hashkafic fundamentals and sweeping ideas in Ramban.  BH I received a wonderful training in Raman in my years in YU and its wonderful JSS program .

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