How do you study or interact with Torah? What about learning Hebrew? What about learning to chant the tropes?
There is a rhythm to the Torah in Jewish life. It is a rhythm that has all Israel together week after week. It brings us together on Shabbat and comes to its summit at the Torah service on Saturday morning.
Torah learning is not the synagogue’s responsibility. It is yours.
Imagine synagogue life in which everyone is reading and learning together. This is not some unattainable ideal, but how it ought to be. Some will read less and others more. Some will read Rashi or find online resources like aish.com. Others will read the English text of the Torah and Haftarah. Everyone can get on the same rhythm.
Community. Participation. Learning.
There are many useful books and programs for studying Torah. My personal favorite is the Sapirstein edition of Rashi’s commentary. It doesn’t matter if I agree with Rashi’s interpretation. He always expands my mind and gets me thinking about the text in new ways.
The Rashi edition I am referring to is one of many chumashim (the plural of chumash), books which contain the five books (chumash is related to the word for five, chamesh) divided into the weekly readings with accompanying readings from the prophets (haftarah) and usually commentary. Many use the Stone Edition Chumash or the Soncino Chumash, for example.
But what if you want a Messianic Jewish approach to studying Torah? What if you are a beginner?
There are fewer, but still plenty of choices for Messianic Jewish study and for beginner’s study as well. The First Fruits of Zion Torah Club (ffoz.org) is very well done and popular.
But there is also a set of materials which incorporates gradual learning, participation with the synagogue, and which offers instruction in Torah, beginning Hebrew, and chanting the tropes of Torah.
As a congregational rabbi, I have been thinking about how to increase participation in Torah study and how to get more people participating actively. I want the Torah service to be a high point of the week for more of my synagogue members.
That is why I am now distributing and offering Flame Foundation materials, produced by Jeff and Pat Feinberg, friends of mine in Chicago.
I came to realize the value of the Flame Foundation materials when I had to learn to chant the Torah tropes for ordination in the UMJC. I am musically challenged and wished this requirement could just go away. But it wouldn’t. So, I found in Sing the Sidra a gradual learning program which used five different learning styles so that surely something would be of help even to a musically challenged person like me.
I am available for small and individual orders (I will share a link below) for these materials. I will talk about them on Messianic Jewish Musings from time to time.
The Walk Series
Five paperback books provide you with short readings every day in the cycle of Torah readings. If you make the Walk books your daily companion, you will arrive each week in synagogue well informed about the story and teaching of the Torah for that week. You will internalize and be part of the Torah service.
This will sound mystical, but you will almost certainly find that the Torah story and teachings relate to what you are experiencing in life at the time you are reading them. Torah has a way of doing that. I don’t think it is for mystical reasons. I think it is because Torah is about universal human experiences and when we tune our minds to them, we notice things in our life that we usually pass over.
Jot and Tittle
Need to learn the Hebrew alphabet and a little more besides? Jot and Tittle works with the weekly Torah readings. A few minutes twice a week at home and you will be ready to bring your chumash or your Jot and Tittle book to synagogue and read the first words of the Torah portion along with the reader on the bema during the service.
Search the Sidra
Ready to learn some words, a little vocabulary, and a bit of grammar? Search the Sidra is the next level and you will be reading along during the Torah service.
Sing the Sidra
Ready to make the song of Torah part of your heart and life? Want to be able to be a reader? Sing the Sidra uses multiple methods and includes an audio CD so even the most musically challenged of us (like me) can learn what those funny trope marks are and how to sing them.
You can buy the Flame Foundation materials from Mount Olive Press. Group orders and synagogue orders can go directly to flamefoundation.org.
If you have a small order and want quick, convenient service (Priority Mail), then please check out my page at Mount Olive Press here.