• Abravanel’s World of Torah

    Abravanel’s World of Torah

    is an enticingly innovative yet thoroughly loyal rendition of a major 15th century Hebrew classic.
    For the first time, Don Yitzchak Abravanel’s Bible commentary has become accessible in ENGLISH.


  • Parashat Ki Tasa: An Excerpt

    Parashat Ki Tisa, First Aliyah, an excerpt from Abravanel’s World of Torah by Zev Bar Eitan

    “And God said to Moshe saying: For the sake of your taking a census of the Children of Israel according
    to their count, each man shall give atonement for his soul to the Almighty in reckoning them so that
    plague does not befall them by dint of having been numbered.”

    "Divine wisdom foresaw that the Hebrews would not donate sufficient quantities of silver to the holy
    national enterprise. This attested to its versatile usefulness, making demand for it practically
    ubiquitous. In fact, during the forty-year trek, silver was the preferred commodity for buying or selling

    Silver coins came in either shekel or half-shekel denominations…"

    Page 156 Shemot vol. II: Assembled at Sinai

  • Parashat Vayakhel

    “And Moses assembled all the congregation of the Children of Israel,
    and said unto them: These are the words which God has commanded,
    that you should do them.”

    Abarbanel notes that the lead verse requires explanation. If Moshe gathered the Hebrews for the
    purpose of issuing a command to build the Tabernacle, as it says, “These are the words which God has
    commanded, that you should do them”,
    why does he first start with the mitzvah to observe Shabbat:
    “Six days shall work be done?”

    The question looms larger, Abarbanel asks, because the obligation to keep Shabbat had been broached
    in an earlier section, the one discussing manna. Further, the Jews heard a repeat of the Shabbat
    mitzvah, later on Sinai. Moreover, four chapters earlier, yet another reference to Shabbat observance
    was mentioned. Hence, Abarbanel’s glaring question here: Why bring up Shabbat again?

    One final point. In last week’s section, Ki Tisa, we find the Torah issued a warning to heed Shabbat after
    wrapping up a broad discussion on the Mishkan. Yet, here we find the order reversed. Shabbat gets
    mentioned prior to verses speaking about the Mishkan.

    Abarbanel supplies a timeline. After Moshe descended from Sinai, he commanded the entire nation,
    men and women, to gather outside of the camp, specifically in his lecture hall, or the Tent of Assembly.
    The prophet intended to inform the masses what God had commanded. That is, each person should
    donate to the Tabernacle enterprise. This follows the opinion of the classic Biblical scholar, the Ramban.

    Likely, this assembly took place the day after Moshe had descended from Sinai. He conveyed to his
    brethren that the Maker had forgiven and pardoned them for their iniquity. Moreover, the Shechinah
    would rest in their midst. Wonders, stupendous wonders, would He do for them, beyond the likes of
    which had ever been performed – anywhere or anytime.

    Of course, the Hebrews delighted in the news. Ecstatic. That is when Moshe saw fit to teach them about
    the Mishkan. To be clear, the prophet had learned of this divine commandment as he sat upon Sinai,
    before his co-religionists had built a Molten Calf. When the Creator reconciled with His nation,
    evidenced by the giving of the second set of Tablets, God entered into a covenant: the Shechinah would
    dwell among the Hebrews.

    The loving and intimate relationship between the Jews and God had been repaired, restored. Reclaimed
    affection expression may be summed up in an earlier verse: “Build Me a Tabernacle that I may dwell in
    your midst.”
    Thus, after divine anger subsided, a time of renewed intimacy had been ushered in.

    That is precisely when Moshe bid his brethren to build the Tabernacle: “These are the words which God
    has commanded, that you should do them.”
    At this juncture, the prophet cautioned the Hebrews to
    observe Shabbat. This signaled that Mishkan’s and its vessels’ activities would take place during the six
    work days of the week, Shabbat excluded, for it is a holy time for God. Put differently, Mishkan work
    does not trump Shabbat sanctity, with its concomitant dos and don’ts.

    This section’s third verse reads: “You shall kindle no fire throughout your habitations upon the Sabbath
    Prohibiting fire on Shabbat taught the Jews that the sanctity of the seventh day exceeded that of
    the Jewish festivals, where fire is permitted (in certain cases of food preparation or ochel nefesh).

    With this important element in place, Abarbanel answers his original question regarding the seeming
    peculiar insertion of the Shabbat verse in a section otherwise dedicated to the building of the
    Tabernacle. It conveys the sanctity of the Sabbath, one which ranked higher even than the other major
    festivals, celebratory occasions where fire may be permitted under proper circumstances (ochel nefesh).

    As for the words “throughout your habitations”, they teach another Shabbat rule. Namely, the Hebrews
    are obliged to keep Shabbat wherever they reside, in the Holy Land or elsewhere. Major Biblical writers
    learn something else about this prepositional phrase: “throughout your habitations.” The prohibition
    does not apply to the priests engaged in Mishkan activities (at least some of the holy activities, but
    that’s for another blog).


An outstanding translation of the fascinating commentary by the last of the Spanish greats.
Rabbi Berel Wein
A major contribution to Torah literature.
Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, MD
A masterful rendition…lucid, free-flowing and interesting.
Rabbi Zev Leff
Rabbi, Moshav Matityahu; Rosh Hayeshiva, Yeshiva Gedola Matityahu
I am perusing Vayikra, Vol. I: The Meat of the Matter, which looks very good and interesting.
Rabbi Emanuel Feldman
Rabbi Emeritus, Congregation Beth Jacob, Atlanta
Riveting and flowing elucidation of the text simplifies complex ideas leaving the reader readily able to grasp the Abravanel’s inner meaning and purposeful explanation.
Rabbi Meyer H. May
Executive Director, Simon Wiesenthal Center and Museums of Tolerance
Open[s] our eyes and minds to the fascinating world of the Abravanel and his unique way of analyzing the Torah...in a user-friendly commentary.
Rabbi Steven Weil
Senior Managing Director, OU
Zev eminently succeeds in making the awesome wisdom of Don Isaac available to the English-speaking public. We are in Bar Eitan’s debt.
Rabbi Sholom Gold
Founding Rabbi, Kehillat Zichron Yosef, Har Nof
The translation is as beautiful as the original Hebrew and the English reader loses nothing in this excellent rendition.
Rabbi Allen Schwartz
Congregation Ohab Zedek, Yeshiva University
Abravanel needs a redeemer…Bar Eitan takes on this complex task.
Rabbi Gil Student
Student Action
At once a work of scholarship and a treat for the imagination.… Bar Eitan’s Abravanel presents Exodus as great literature, as exciting and gripping as any great Russian novel.
Rabbi Daniel Landes
Rosh Hayeshivah, Machon Pardes
Zev Bar Eitan has an intimate understanding of two characters: Abravanel and the modern reader. He traverses great distance to bring these two together masterfully.
Avraham Steinberg
Rabbi, Young Israel of the Main Line; Rosh Mesivta, Mesivta High School of Greater Philadelphia
An uncommon treat.… Rabbi Bar Eitan is to be commended for providing an accessible entree to this timeless masterpiece.
Rabbi N. Daniel Korobkin
Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto Congregation
Relevant and accessible.… Ideal for teachers as well as Yeshiva High School, Ulpana, Yeshiva and Seminary students alike...a wonderful translation... enjoyable reading....
Rachel Weinstein
Tanach Department, Ramaz Upper School, NY
The clear, easy-to-read language and appended notes and illustrations bring the Abravanel to life, for scholars and laymen alike. A great addition to per¬sonal and shul libraries.
Rabbi Yehoshua Weber
Rabbi, Clanton Park Synagogue, Toronto
Of great value to those who have hesitated to tackle this dense, complex work.… Render[s] the Abravanel’s commentary accessible to the modern reader.
Simi Peters
author, Learning to Read Midrash
A gift to the English-speaking audience.… An important “must have” addition to the English Torah library.
Chana Tannenbaum
EdD, lecturer, Bar-Ilan University
The thoughts of a Torah giant over 500 years ago in terminology understand¬able to the modern reader.
Deena Zimmerman
MD, MPH, IBCLC,author; lecturer
Allows the reader the opportunity to see firsthand the brilliance, creativity, and genius of this 15th-century Spanish biblical commentator.
Rabbi Elazar Muskin
Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles
An excellent job bringing to life the profound ideas of one of the most original thinkers in Judaism and making them relevant and interesting 500 years later.
Rabbi Dr. Alan Kimche
Ner Yisrael Community, London
I really enjoyed the volume on Bereishis. It opened my eyes to the profundity of the Abravanel's commentary and for that I am ever grateful to you. I recommend it to all my students here at the University of Arizona who are searching for an in-depth understanding of the Chumash. Thank you very much for all your efforts. I am excited to read the next volumes on Shemos and Vayikra!
Rabbi Moshe Schonbrun
Senior educator, JAC University of Arizona
I’ve really enjoyed reading Abravanel's World of Torah. Abravanel was a great and original thinker whose perspective has broadened my understanding of Torah. Rabbi Bar Eitan presents Abravanel’s thought clearly and lucidly. I highly recommend his work. I’ve also really benefitted from being able to email Rabbi Bar Eitan regarding points where I needed further clarity.
Alistair Halpern
I want to tell you how much I'm absolutely enjoying Abravanel's World: Bereshit. I'm not much of a Torah scholar, but this is wonderful and terrific due to the seamless integration of Abravanel's thought and Bar Eitan's explication. All the kudos in the world. I'm looking forward to you completing the set.
New Jersey