The Universal Jewish Library

Each month, Hazon's library features an article or a review on books which explore the Torah's universal vision. We also review books which offer a Torah perspective on contemporary social and universal issues.

From the perspective of our tradition, what is considered to be a Torah work?

The word Torah means ''teaching'' - the Divine teaching which was revealed on Mt. Sinai. On one level, Torah refers to the Pentateuch, which is also known as the Five Books of Torah, and these writings are the most sacred of our scriptures. (The Torah scroll which is placed in the ark of every synagogue contains these five books.) On another level, the word Torah also refers to the Biblical books written after the Five Books - from Joshua all the way through Chronicles. These later books elaborate on major themes in the Pentateuch, and they describe the relationship of the people of Israel to God and Torah during the biblical period.

And in a wider sense, Torah includes ''the Oral Torah'' - principles and explanations which were given to Moses at Sinai and elaborated upon in the Talmud, Midrash (stories and parables) and other rabbinic writings. Moreover, all study and discussion concerning the teachings and truths of the Written and Oral traditions are also Torah. Therefore, any book which expresses a Torah teaching and/or perspective is a Torah work.

The noted sage and biblical commentator of the 19th century, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, offers another explanation of the word ''Torah''. According to Rabbi Hirsch, the root meaning of Torah is harah - to receive a seed within oneself. Another form of this root word is horeh - to plant a seed in someone else. Therefore, to study Torah is to receive within ourselves the seeds of truth and goodness, and to teach Torah is to implant those seeds of truth and goodness in others. For the goal of Torah is to give birth to a loving, ethical, and spiritual human being. (Rabbi Hirsch's commentary to Genesis 26:5)

The Nineteen Letters by Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch

On Judaism - Conversations on Being Jewish in Today's World by Emmanuel Feldman

Masterplan by Rabbi Aryeh Carmell