Shulman, Daniel. “Personal Midrash: Fresh Insights into the Torah”, Urim 2017.
Finding Personal Meaning in the Torah
My personal relation with Judaism is something I rarely feel free to discuss simply because it is personal. When I read the Torah, I always try to look for meanings that will affect me personally and these I am willing to share as I am constantly amazed that something written so long ago still holds relevance today. Daniel Shulman does the same here. He explores the Torah searching for meanings that speak directly to him. We all want to believe that the holy writings are open and accessible to all of us and that we each have the right to approach it.
One does not need to be specifically trained to study Torah. It is always there and can be read by anyone at anytime. Torah scholars are constantly looking for something new and this is not the same as looking for relevance. “The hope is that any Jew may be inspired to likewise seek his or her own voice in interpreting Torah.”
What I love about what Shulman has found here is that it is so readable and teachable and while I may not agree with some of his interpretations, I still admire what he has found. He explores the many layers of Torah and is creative. Even more important is that he finds both answers and questions. We see both his intellect and his humility and understand that the driving force behind his study is curiosity. I learned years ago that the Torah is not black and white and the greatest enjoyment in studying it comes from the grey areas. I see that Shulman’s approach to Torah is the same as mine. Let me explain; about ten years ago I was reintroduced to group Torah and I began to realize that before that there was something missing in my life. I decided to set aside an hour, minimum, a day to read Torah and each week I would work on the portion that was being read in synagogues and temples all over the world. During that period there are no phone calls or outside interference and it was just me and the Torah. Like Shulman, I would I would arrive at a puzzling section and it is there I put my concentration. Sure, it is easy to pick up commentaries written by the great rabbis of the past but I wanted to figure it out for myself and I could usually find something that allowed me to do just that. If questions arise, they are to be looked as well. By doing this, I gained a better understanding and a sense of personal achievement.
Wrestling with Torah is wrestling with life and there are great rewards in doing so. Shulman’s mind is sharp and he captures details that many miss. Because his past with study caused him to be suspended, not once, but twice, from Hebrew school as a youth, he is of course humbled by what he reads.
I believed in Shulman after reading this thoughts on the first Torah portion in the Book of Genesis. I saw how his mind works and I loved his conclusions. He proved to me that anyone delve into Torah. The biggest aid I found in his study is that we can wrestle with Torah.