In The Heart of Torah, Rabbi Shai Held's Torah essays-two for each weekly portion-open new horizons in Jewish biblical commentary.
Held probes the portions in bold, original, and provocative ways. He mines Talmud and midrashim, great writers of world literature, and astute commentators of other religious backgrounds to ponder fundamental questions about God, human nature, and what it means to be a religious person in the modern world. Along the way, he illuminates the centrality of empathy in Jewish ethics, the predominance of divine love in Jewish theology, the primacy of gratitude and generosity, and God's summoning of each of us-with all our limitations-into the dignity of a covenantal relationship.
Rabbi Shai Held is president, dean, and chair in Jewish Thought at Mechon Hadar and directs its Center for Jewish Leadership and Ideas in New York City. He is the author of Abraham Joshua Heschel: The Call of Transcendence and a recipient of the Covenant Award for excellence in Jewish education. Rabbi Yitz Greenberg is one of the preeminent Jewish thinkers of our time.
Foreword Acknowledgments A Note on Translations Introduction Genesis Bere'shit No. 1. What Can Human Beings Do, and What Can't They? Or, Does the Torah Believe in Progress? Bere'shit No. 2. Created in God's Image: Ruling for God Noah No. 1. Before and After the Flood: Or, It All Depends on How You Look Noah No. 2. People Have Names: The Torah's Takedown of Totalitarianism Lekh Lekha No. 1. Are Jews Always the Victims? Lekh Lekha No. 2. Between Abram and Lot: Wealth and Family Strife Va-yera' No. 1. The Face of Guests as the Face of God: Abraham's Radical and Traditional Theology Va-yera' No. 2. In Praise of Protest: Or, Who's Teaching Whom? Hayyei Sarah No. 1. Isaac's Search: On the Akedah and Its Aftermath Hayyei Sarah No. 2. People Are Complicated: Or, Sensitivity Is a Dangerous Thing Toledot No. 1. In Praise of Isaac: The Bible's Paragon of Marital Empathy Toledot No. 2. Between God and Torah: Judaism's Gamble Va-yetse' No. 1. Can We Be Grateful and Disappointed at the Same Time? Or, What Leah Learned Va-yetse' No. 2. No Excuses: Jacob's Sin and Its Consequences Va-yishlah No. 1. The Fear of Killing: Jacob's Ethical Legacy Va-yishlah No. 2. The Power of Compassion: Or, Why Rachel's Cries Pierce the Heavens Va-yeshev No. 1. Against Halfheartedness Va-yeshev No. 2. Election and Service: What Joseph Learned Mikkets No. 1. His Brother's Brother: Judah's Journey Mikkets No. 2. Reuben's Recklessness: What Disqualifies a Leader? Va-yiggash No. 1. Humiliation: Judaism's Fourth Cardinal Sin? Va-yiggash No. 2. Saving and Enslaving: The Complexity of Joseph Va-yehi No. 1. The Majesty of Restraint: Or, Joseph's Shining Moment Va-yehi No. 2. Underreacting and Overreacting: Dinah's Family in Crisis Exodus Shemot No. 1. Why Moses? Or, What Makes a Leader? Shemot No. 2. Gratitude and Liberation Va-'era' No. 1. The Journey and the (Elusive) Destination Va-'era' No. 2. Cultivating Freedom: When Is Character (Not) Destiny? Bo' No. 1. Pharaoh: Consumed by the Chaos He Sows Bo' No. 2. Receiving Gifts (and Learning to Love?): The "Stripping" of the Egyptians Be-shallah No. 1. Leaving Slavery Behind: On Taking the First Step Be-shallah No. 2. Bread from the Sky: Learning to Trust Yitro No. 1. Does Everyone Hate the Jews? And, Is There Wisdom Outside of Torah? Yitro No. 2. Honoring Parents: (Sometimes) the Hardest Mitzvah of All Mishpatim No. 1. Turning Memory into Empathy: The Torah's Ethical Charge Mishpatim No. 2. Hearing the Cries of the Defenseless: Or, We Are All Responsible Terumah No. 1. Being Present While Making Space: Or, Two Meanings of Tzimtzum Terumah No. 2. Returning to Eden? An Island of Wholeness in a Fractured World Tetsavveh No. 1. God in the Mishkan: Present but Not Domesticated Tetsavveh No. 2. Between Ecstasy and Constancy: The Dynamics of Covenantal Commitment Ki Tissa' No. 1. The Importance of Character: Or, Why Stubbornness Is Worse Than Idolatry Ki Tissa' No. 2. God's Expansive Mercy: Moses's Praise and Jonah's Fury Va-yak'hel No. 1. Whom Do We Serve? The Exodus toward Dignified Work Va-yak'hel No. 2, Pekudei No. 1. (A) Building with Heart Pekudei No. 2. Building a Home for God Notes on Genesis Notes on Exodus A Note on Bible Commentaries Bibliography Subject Index Classical Sources Index