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 smörgåsbord 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.
- Kabbalah reading list
- Eric Weiner: The Perils and Pleasures of Spiritual Travel
- Michael Levin: Some Thoughts on the Pew Survey of Jewish America