In this Book

The Heart of Torah, Volume 1
summary

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.

Table of Contents

  1. Cover
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  1. Title Page, Copyright
  2. pp. i-vi
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  1. Contents
  2. pp. vii-x
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  1. Foreword
  2. Rabbi Yitz Greenberg
  3. pp. xi-xvi
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  1. Acknowledgments
  2. pp. xvii-xviii
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  1. A Note on Translations
  2. pp. xix-xx
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  1. Introduction
  2. pp. xxi-xxxvi
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  1. GENESIS
  1. Bere’shit No. 1. What Can Human Beings Do, and What Can’t They? Or, Does the Torah Believe in Progress?
  2. pp. 3-6
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  1. Bere’shit No. 2. Created in God’s Image: Ruling for God
  2. pp. 7-11
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  1. Noaḥ No. 1. Before and After the Flood: Or, It All Depends on How You Look
  2. pp. 12-15
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  1. Noaḥ No. 2. People Have Names: The Torah’s Takedown of Totalitarianism
  2. pp. 16-20
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  1. Lekh Lekha No. 1. Are Jews Always the Victims?
  2. pp. 21-25
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  1. Lekh Lekha No. 2. Between Abram and Lot: Wealth and Family Strife
  2. pp. 26-30
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  1. Va-yera’ No. 1. The Face of Guests as the Face of God: Abraham’s Radical and Traditional Theology
  2. pp. 31-34
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  1. Va-yera’ No. 2. In Praise of Protest: Or, Who’s Teaching Whom?
  2. pp. 35-39
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  1. Ḥayyei Sarah No. 1. Isaac’s Search: On the Akedah and Its Aftermath
  2. pp. 40-42
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  1. Ḥayyei Sarah No. 2. People Are Complicated: Or, Sensitivity Is a Dangerous Thing
  2. pp. 43-48
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  1. Toledot No. 1. In Praise of Isaac: The Bible’s Paragon of Marital Empathy
  2. pp. 49-53
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  1. Toledot No. 2. Between God and Torah: Judaism’s Gamble
  2. pp. 54-59
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  1. Va-yetse’ No. 1. Can We Be Grateful and Disappointed at the Same Time? Or, What Leah Learned
  2. pp. 60-63
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  1. Va-yetse’ No. 2. No Excuses: Jacob’s Sin and Its Consequences
  2. pp. 64-68
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  1. Va-yishlaḥ No. 1. The Fear of Killing: Jacob’s Ethical Legacy
  2. pp. 69-73
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  1. Va-yishlaḥ No. 2. The Power of Compassion: Or, Why Rachel’s Cries Pierce the Heavens
  2. pp. 74-78
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  1. Va-yeshev No. 1. Against Halfheartedness
  2. pp. 79-82
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  1. Va-yeshev No. 2. Election and Service: What Joseph Learned
  2. pp. 83-87
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  1. Mikkets No. 1. His Brother’s Brother: Judah’s Journey
  2. pp. 88-92
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  1. Mikkets No. 2. Reuben’s Recklessness: What Disqualifies a Leader?
  2. pp. 93-98
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  1. Va-yiggash No. 1. Humiliation: Judaism’s Fourth Cardinal Sin?
  2. pp. 99-103
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  1. Va-yiggash No. 2. Saving and Enslaving: The Complexity of Joseph
  2. pp. 104-108
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  1. Va-yeḥi No. 1. The Majesty of Restraint: Or, Joseph’s Shining Moment
  2. pp. 109-113
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  1. Va-yeḥi No. 2. Underreacting and Overreacting: Dinah’s Family in Crisis
  2. pp. 114-120
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  1. EXODUS
  1. Shemot No. 1. Why Moses? Or, What Makes a Leader?
  2. pp. 123-127
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  1. Shemot No. 2. Gratitude and Liberation
  2. pp. 128-133
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  1. Va-’era’ No. 1. The Journey and the (Elusive) Destination
  2. pp. 134-138
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  1. Va-’era’ No. 2. Cultivating Freedom: WhenIs Character (Not) Destiny?
  2. pp. 139-143
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  1. Bo’ No. 1. Pharaoh: Consumed by the Chaos He Sows
  2. pp. 144-148
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  1. Bo’ No. 2. Receiving Gifts (and Learning to Love?): The “Stripping” of the Egyptians
  2. pp. 149-154
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  1. Be-shallaḥ No. 1. Leaving Slavery Behind: On Taking the First Step
  2. pp. 155-158
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  1. Be-shallaḥ No. 2. Bread from the Sky: Learning to Trust
  2. pp. 159-164
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  1. Yitro No. 1. Does Everyone Hate the Jews? And, Is There Wisdom Outside of Torah?
  2. pp. 165-168
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  1. Yitro No. 2. Honoring Parents: (Sometimes) the Hardest Mitzvah of All
  2. pp. 169-174
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  1. Mishpatim No. 1. Turning Memory into Empathy: The Torah’s Ethical Charge
  2. pp. 175-178
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  1. Mishpatim No. 2. Hearing the Cries of the Defenseless: Or, We Are All Responsible
  2. pp. 179-183
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  1. Terumah No. 1. Being Present While Making Space: Or, Two Meanings of Tzimtzum
  2. pp. 184-188
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  1. Terumah No. 2. Returning to Eden? An Island of Wholeness in a Fractured World
  2. pp. 189-193
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  1. Tetsavveh No. 1. God in the Mishkan: Present but Not Domesticated
  2. pp. 194-197
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  1. Tetsavveh No. 2. Between Ecstasy and Constancy: The Dynamics of Covenantal Commitment
  2. pp. 198-202
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  1. Ki Tissa’ No. 1. The Importance of Character: Or, Why Stubbornness Is Worse Than Idolatry
  2. pp. 203-206
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  1. Ki Tissa’ No. 2. God’s Expansive Mercy: Moses’s Praise and Jonah’s Fury
  2. pp. 207-212
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  1. Va-yak’hel No. 1. Whom Do We Serve? The Exodus toward Dignified Work
  2. pp. 213-216
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  1. Va-yak’hel No. 2, Pekudei No. 1. (A) Building with Heart
  2. pp. 217-220
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  1. Pekudei No. 2. Building a Home for God
  2. pp. 221-224
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  1. Notes
  2. pp. 225-264
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  1. A Note on Bible Commentaries
  2. pp. 265-270
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  1. Bibliography
  2. pp. 271-296
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  1. Subject Index
  2. pp. 297-330
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  1. Classical Sources Index
  2. pp. 331-358
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