Torah Today

Pin­chas H. Peli
  • Review
By – September 24, 2012

There is no short­age of pub­lished Torah com­men­taries. Like­wise, the avail­abil­i­ty of Eng­lish lan­guage com­men­taries arranged accord­ing to the week­ly Torah read­ing is quite exten­sive. Rab­bi Pro­fes­sor Pin­chas Peli was a tenth gen­er­a­tion rab­bi and fourth gen­er­a­tion Jerusalemite, a tow­er­ing intel­lec­tu­al and a schol­ar in the field of Jew­ish thought and lit­er­a­ture. In 1984 – 85, he wrote a week­ly Torah col­umn for The Jerusalem Post which was first pub­lished in book form in 1987 by B’nai Brith Books. It has been repub­lished with a new fore­word by Rab­bi Harold Schulweis. 

Most tra­di­tion­al com­men­taries elu­ci­date ques­tions, offer clever inter­pre­ta­tions of the text, or con­vey reli­gious mes­sages. Peli’s Torah Today is an encounter with Scrip­ture from a mod­ern, uni­ver­sal­is­tic per­spec­tive. To be sure, he uti­lizes all the tra­di­tion­al and many mod­ern com­men­taries in his essays, but often his style is midrashic. His objec­tives are some­times an under­stand­ing of the text or con­nect­ing the Torah read­ing to a con­tem­po­rary sit­u­a­tion. In one instance he dis­cuss­es the impor­tance of Jew­ish grand­chil­dren (Par­shat Vay’hi), and in anoth­er he relates Abraham’s jour­ney to Israel to the issues relat­ing to con­tem­po­rary aliyah (Lekh lekha). He derives polit­i­cal lessons from the gold­en calf and his usage of the con­cept of con­fronta­tion when dis­cussing the meet­ing between Jacob and Esau may be bor­rowed from the essay by Rav J.B. Soloveitchik, whose works he taught and wrote about. 

These essays are not for quot­ing around the Sab­bath table. They are not tra­di­tion­al divrei Torah, nor, one might guess, were his read­ers of The Jerusalem Post, where these mus­ings first appeared, look­ing for a Shab­bos vort. Peli’s com­ments reflect his broad schol­ar­ship and deep think­ing about how to relate the Torah read­ings to our con­tem­po­rary soci­ety. He makes you think and pon­der. Ground­ed in tra­di­tion, leav­ened by mod­ern thought, these essays were well worth reprinting.

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

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