The Aura of Torah: A Kab­bal­is­tic-Hasidic Com­men­tary to the Week­ly Readings

Rab­bi Lar­ry Tabick
  • Review
By – January 8, 2015

The expres­sion Torah Ora” means Torah is light or illu­mi­na­tion. In a clever play on words The Aura of Torah brings us a wide vari­ety of inter­pre­ta­tions of Torah pas­sages, com­men­taries, and Midrash root­ed in the mys­ti­cal side of Jew­ish tra­di­tion. An aura is the dis­tinc­tive atmos­phere or qual­i­ty that seems to sur­round and be gen­er­at­ed by cer­tain spir­i­tu­al per­sons. This ema­na­tion often con­notes a per­son of par­tic­u­lar pow­er or holi­ness and was most cer­tain­ly asso­ci­at­ed with Hasidic rabbis.

The authors span many cen­turies and many schools of thought. They are kab­bal­ists, Hasidic teach­ers, and medieval Hasidei Ashke­naz. The bio­graph­i­cal infor­ma­tion on each author is inter­est­ing and the inclu­sion of the orig­i­nal texts is help­ful, since the dis­parate sources cit­ed are not gen­er­al­ly avail­able. The selec­tions in this book reflect wide read­ing in many sources; it is a ver­i­ta­ble smor­gas­bord of obiter dic­ta by many teach­ers. Many of the com­ments are over-inter­pret­ed, yet often true gems do emerge. For exam­ple, the com­ments on Joseph’s suc­cess, the burn­ing bush, the plague of dark­ness, the first­born, kashrut, the spies, and the appoint­ment of Judges are spot-on and most rel­e­vant to con­tem­po­rary Jew­ish life.

The Aura of Torah is not real­ly a com­men­tary to the week­ly Torah por­tion, but rather an expla­na­tion of ran­dom­ly select­ed com­ments from the week­ly por­tion by var­i­ous, most­ly Hasidic, rab­bis. It is not in any way a sys­tem­at­ic or the­mat­ic work. The selec­tion of authors is some­what hap­haz­ard and arbi­trary. The intro­duc­to­ry essay on mys­ti­cism, Hasidism, and the sefirot could be con­fus­ing to some­one not famil­iar with this top­ic, but it is not real­ly nec­es­sary in order to appre­ci­ate the select­ed snippets.

A great many com­men­taries exist on the week­ly Torah read­ing, reflect­ing every nuance of Jew­ish life in every cen­tu­ry and from every coun­try and point of view. Kab­bal­is­tic and Hasidic com­men­taries are also plen­ti­ful, but per­haps not as acces­si­ble. The Aura of Torah may be a baby step in this lit­er­ary genre. We look for­ward to a more in-depth analy­sis of spe­cif­ic schools of thought, themes, or even a crit­i­cal anthol­o­gy from the author’s vast library.

Relat­ed content:

Wal­lace Greene, Ph.D., has held sev­er­al uni­ver­si­ty appoint­ments, and cur­rent­ly writes and lec­tures on Jew­ish and his­tor­i­cal subjects.

Discussion Questions