• Abravanel’s World of Torah

    Abravanel’s World of Torah

    is an enticingly innovative yet thoroughly loyal rendition of a major fifteenth-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

  • Bible Studies: The Jews and Divine Covenant

    “And Moses wrote all the words of God, and rose up early in the
    morning, and built an altar under the mountain, and twelve pillars for the
    twelve tribes of Israel.”

    Bible studies with Don Isaac Abravanel’s commentary (also spelled Abarbanel) has withstood the test of
    time. For over five centuries, Abravanel has delighted – and enlightened – clergy and layman alike,
    offering enduring interpretations of the Bible.

    Don Isaac Abravanel (1437-1508) was a preeminent Jewish thinker, scholar, and prolific Biblical
    commentator. To provide backdrop, when we get to Exodus chapter 24, the Hebrews have already
    heard the Ten Commandments directly from God. The ultra-intense experience left the people
    overwhelmed, and petrified. In efforts to regain their equilibrium, they distanced themselves from the
    base of the mountain. In addition, they pleaded with Moses to be their intermediary with the Almighty
    so to avoid any more hair-raising encounters with the divine. The Hebrews also pledged that whatever
    God asked of them, they would “do and obey.”

    What happened next, Abravanel asks? That evening, Moses ascended Sinai and relayed the Hebrew’s
    stance. God then conveyed a raft of statutes to the prophet. At the crack of the following dawn, Moses
    “rose up early in the morning, and built an altar under the mountain, and twelve pillars…” Namely, after
    he descended the mountain, he erected an altar of earth at Sinai’s base, beside “twelve pillars for the
    twelve tribes of Israel.”

    Abravanel continues, explaining that at this juncture God and the Jewish people entered into a new
    covenant, one sanctified with blood to commemorate the Hebrew’s acceptance of the Torah. “And he
    sent the young men of the Children of Israel, who offered burnt offerings, and sacrificed peace offerings
    of oxen unto God.” Abravanel posits that the verse speaks of strapping youngsters who could lift the
    heavy loads of animal sacrifices, in assisting the encampment. Burnt offerings consisted of sheep. They
    were burnt on the altar. Peace offerings, on the other hand, were oxen. People ate and enjoyed the
    roasted beef.

    At this juncture, the Jews entered into a covenant with the divine. “And Moses took half of the blood,
    and put it in basins, and half of the blood he dashed against the altar.”Another verse describes how
    “Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said: Behold the blood of the covenant
    which God has made with you in agreement with all these words.”

    Abravanel wonders: how did Moses sprinkle blood upon myriads of Jews? He suggests that half of the
    blood was flicked upon the main altar, while the other half of blood had been dashed upon the twelve
    pillars, each pillar corresponding to distinct Hebrew tribes. In that way, Abravanel teaches, it was as if
    blood had been sprinkled upon each Jew.

    For the full discussion of the covenant, see Abravanel’s World.

  • Exodus Chapter 16: Preparation for Mount Sinai

    Don Isaac Abravanel (1437-1508) was a preeminent Jewish thinker, scholar, and prolific Biblical
    commentator. In Exodus Chapter 16 we read about the Hebrews one month into their desert sojourns.
    By that time, the nation began to experience extreme hardships due to dwindling food and water

    “And they journeyed from Elim, and all the congregation of the Children
    of Israel came unto the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and
    Sinai…And the whole congregation murmured against Moses and Aaron
    in the wilderness. Then God said unto Moses: Behold I will cause to rain
    bread from heaven…”

    Abravanel poses two questions on our verses. The firsthas to do with the Bible’s chronicling of the
    places where the Jews encamped. Why, Abravanel asks, are some venues omitted from our chapter?
    Second, why didn’t the Maker lead His people along friendlier desert pitstops that offered basic
    amenities, like potable water? People and animals can only survive three days without that most basic
    of all provisions.

    Abravanel puts the nation’s first, post-Exodus travels into perspective. God was about to reveal Himself
    to the entire encampment at Mount Sinai. There, the Hebrews would receive the Five Books of Moses
    and divine precepts. Given that impending rendezvous with the Maker, it was deemed necessary to
    keep the early desert rest stops bare and desolate. In a word, God wanted the Hebrews to arrive at Sinai
    with the requisite religious sensibilities.

    Dependency on God started the intimate relationship on the right foot, per se. It also instilled within the
    body politic the need to plead for relief before the Almighty. God would heed the cries, delivering
    provisions. Belief in the compassionate, and attentive, Creator would be etched in Jewish souls. He is the
    One Who causes water to flow from flint. He is the One Who drizzles bread from heaven. Gradually, the
    Chosen People would acknowledge God’s omnipotence.

    In brief, God meticulously planned the pre-Sinai setting. The main thing was planting a religious mindset.
    When Jews hurt, they call to Heaven for help. The God of Israel will be there; He is forever reliable. That
    explains why our chapter does not chronicle each venue, but rather only identifies those places where
    the nation got schooled in divine faith. Bible students also learn why God hadn’t punished the Jews for
    speaking out. Acute hunger had triggered injudicious speech and conduct.

    See Abravanel’s World for the full discussion.

  • Exodus Chapter 17:The Staff of Moses

    Don Isaac Abravanel (1437-1508) was a preeminent Jewish thinker, scholar, and prolific Biblical
    commentator. Chapter 17 finds the Hebrews trudging along desert dunes, increasingly becoming road
    weary. Unbearable thirst made them more than cantankerous; they totally lost it.

    “And God said unto Moses: Pass on before the people, and take with
    you the elders of Israel, and your staff wherewith you smote the river,
    and take in your hand, and go. Behold I will stand before you there upon
    the rock in Horeb and you shall smite the rock, and there shall come
    water out of it, that the people may drink. And Moses did so in the sight
    of the elders of Israel.”

    God came to fix matters. He instructed Moses to take his staff, and perform a miracle with it. A tap with
    the rod on rock would cause water to flow, fresh water with which to supply Moses’ brethren. Bible
    students are not strangers to the miracles wrought by the staff of Moses.

    Abravanel wonders: What ever happened with Moses’ staff? To expand the discussion, we know that
    after Aaron passed away, the staff he used to perform miracles had been ceremoniously placed next to
    the Ark of Testimony for good safekeeping. There it rested together with the jar that contained heaven-
    sent manna. Moreover, Aaron’s staff had a prominent place next to a container of anointing oil. During
    the period of Jewish kings, King Josiah hid these holy artifacts, along with the Holy Ark.

    But, when it comes to the staff of Moses, the Bible is mum. So is Jewish tradition. Not a word. Not a

    Abravanel shares his hypothesis. He believes that when Moses ascended Mount Nebo – to die there –
    he had brought his staff with him. Together, the prophet and the staff of God were buried. Neither, the
    Bible makes explicit, will ever be found and unearthed.

    The Creator would not sanction any mortal to wield the hallowed staff. This is testimony to Moses’
    greatness, and uniqueness. Just as no man will ever reach his prophetic achievement, and just as no
    man will ever perform such wonders, so too did Heaven decree that no man will ever lay his hand on the
    staff of Moses.

    See Abravanel’s Worldfor the full discussion.

  • Exodus Chapter 18: Moses Receives visitors

    Bible studies with Don Isaac Abravanel’s commentary (also spelled Abarbanel) has withstood the test of
    time. For over five centuries, Abravanel has delighted – and enlightened – clergy and layman alike,
    offering enduring interpretations of the Bible.

    “And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses sat to judge the people.
    And the people stood about Moses from the morning unto evening.”

    Don Isaac Abravanel (1437-1508) was a preeminent Jewish thinker, scholar, and prolific Biblical
    commentator. Chapter 18 speaks of Moses’ reunion with his wife, two sons, and father-in-law.
    Abravanel notes that due to the leader’s inordinately busy schedule, he only managed to take one day
    off to spend with family. After that, Moses was back at the grind.

    Jethro observed his son-in-law’s arduous hours serving the Hebrews, and asked him: “What is this thing
    that you do to the people? Why do you sit alone, and all the people stand about you from morning unto
    evening?” Abravanel fills in the details regarding Moses’ intense workload, listing the prophet’s manifold
    duties that gave him no respite. A close reading of the verses reveals much, as we shall now illustrate.

    “And Moses said unto his father-in-law: Because the people come unto me to inquire of God.” This,
    according to Abravanel, stresses Moses as man of God. That is, the Jews waited in line to speak with
    Moses in order to learn of the future. Hence, if someone was sick, he would ask if the disease would
    subside, or kill him? Perhaps, someone might inquire of the prophet if he could tell him to where his
    animals scampered off? Seeing that Moses was privy to “inside information”, if you will, those
    individuals who were distressed waited in cue to get answers to pressing, personal needs.

    Moses also advised people who worked in the camp’s administration or tribal councils. They sought
    sagely counsel from their leader concerning travel logistics, for example, or other administrative issues.

    Still others required Moses’ legal mind to sort out folk’s quarrels and questions of torts etc., as it says:
    “When they have a matter, it comes unto me, and I judge between a man and his neighbor.”

    In addition, Moses attracted another category of visitors. We refer to students who sought to learn
    God’s teachings. “And I make them know the statutes of God and His law.” Although Jethro and the
    family arrived prior to the Law giving event at Sinai, still Moses had received some divine statutes at
    Marah. Eager pupils desired to grasp God’s ethos, His law.

    Abravanel ties the discussion all together. Moses, he writes, wore four hats, per se. In his role as a
    trusted prophet, he revealed the future. As leader par excellence, he advised others how to govern
    wisely. Sitting on the court’s bench, he mediated judiciously. Finally, as a pedagogue, Moses
    disseminated Torah, educating students in the intricacies of law.

    Abravanel’s World discusses more of Jethro’s concerns and solutions, so that Moses and the Hebrews
    would function maximally and smoothly.

  • Exodus Chapter 19: Torah from Heaven

    Bible studies with Don Isaac Abravanel’s commentary (also spelled Abarbanel) has withstood the test of
    time. For over five centuries, Abravanel has delighted – and enlightened – clergy and layman alike,
    offering enduring interpretations of the Bible.

    Don Isaac Abravanel (1437-1508) was a preeminent Jewish thinker, scholar, and prolific Biblical
    commentator. Exodus chapter 19 sets the backdrop for mankind’s defining moment: The transmission of
    the Torah on Mount Sinai.

    “In the third month after the Children of Israel were gone forth out of the
    land of Egypt, the same day came into the wilderness of Sinai.”

    Abravanel asks about the timing of the watershed event: Why did God wait so long? Consider, the
    Hebrews left Egypt three months earlier. Why now? Abravanel probes further, asking why the Creator
    hadn’t transmitted the Pentateuch to Adam, the first man? Or perhaps, Abravanel writes, the Torah
    should have been given to Noah, when the Maker entered into a covenant with mankind. As for
    exemplary individuals, certainly the patriarchs – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – ranked as worthy
    recipients. Hence, why didn’t God communicate the Torah to them, as He does now with Moses?

    At length, Abravanel answers this intriguing question. See Abravanel’s World for the full treatment.
    Here, we will touch on the three main points of the essay. But here is the starting premise. The Torah
    should not be mischaracterized as a religious text concerning conduct, a guidebook of dos and don’ts.
    Rather it is a divinely-crafted and heavenly-honed system for mastering true faith, divine belief. Now let
    us return to the question: Why was God’s Torah transmitted at this particular juncture in history?

    One, it wouldn’t befit the Pentateuch to be given to a special individual or even a cadre of holy people.
    Torah demands throngs or myriads of gathered, quality folk. Only in the midst of the Chosen Nation can
    Torah be transmitted.

    Two, the intermediary or transferor of the Torah needed to be a unique soul, a noble personage. With
    all due respect to the phenomenal patriarchs and their illustrious ancestors (including Adam and Noah),
    Moses was cut from a different cloth. Of course, we are speaking about highly unusual traits. Abravanel
    lists ten. To give a sampling, first on the list is moderation of physical or spousal comforts, like sexual
    intimacy. In a word – detachment. Second is disinterest in eating and drinking, illustrated by Moses’
    forty-day periods without food or drink.

    Three, context and orchestration are key. Thunder and lightning and shofar blasts contributed to Sinai’s
    ambience and mood, promoting the proper prelude. The lead-up miracles wrought in Egypt and the
    splitting of the Red Sea, too, were all indispensable.

    In sum, Abravanel teaches that God’s Torah needed a specific combination or conflation of diverse
    elements to perfectly fall into place, before it could be wrested from heaven and brought down to earth.
    A critical mass of huddled Hebrews, under the tutelage of the greatest of all prophets – Moses, on the
    heels of the wonders the Creator performed in Egypt and in the desert proved to be the requisite and
    rich ensemble.


  • Exodus Chapter 26: The Making of the Tabernacle


    Don Isaac Abravanel, also spelled Abarbanel (1437-1508) was a preeminent Jewish thinker, scholar, and prolific Biblical
    commentator. Exodus chapter 26 continues to discuss the Tabernacle, a topic introduced in the previous
    chapter. Abravanel draws our attention to a grammatical inconsistency in our lead verse (“Moreover,
    you shall make…”) when compared to the verb’s conjugation in chapter 25 (“Make an ark…and you
    shall overlay it with pure gold”, “Make a table…and you shall overlay it with pure gold”, and “Make a
    menorah of pure gold…”).Our verse is conjugated in future tense; whereas last chapter’s verbs are
    written in the imperative or command form.

    Abravanel sheds light on the linguistic discrepancy after phrasing the question. Why, he asks, doesn’t
    our lead verse use the command form for literary consistency: “Make the Tabernacle…” instead of the
    future tense “You shall make the Tabernacle…?”

    Here is the answer. The previous chapter introduces the commandment to construct the Tabernacle,
    “Make Me a Tabernacle.” It uses the command form. That creates a divine fiat to build a Tabernacle.
    That earlier chapter then launches into the “how to” aspect of the first three fixtures in the sanctuary:
    “Make an ark…of pure gold”, “Make a table…with pure gold”, and “Make a menorah of pure gold…”

    Bible students will readily understand that the common – and most valuable – building material for the
    ark, table, and menorah is gold. Gold, recall, was the first of several building materials that Hebrews
    offered in order to finance the sacred enterprise, some others being silver, copper, wool etc.

    Now to the point. After the last chapter listed those three fixtures made of gold, our chapter provides
    the “how to” concerning the Tabernacle itself. What materials went into the Tabernacle’s walls and
    partitions? “Moreover, you shall make the Tabernacle with ten curtains…” As our chapter proceeds, we
    shall see that parts of the Tabernacle had also been constructed with gold, silver, copper, wool etc.

    In summary, the earlier chapter foreshadows – in general terms – an impending commandment to build
    a Tabernacle, hence the verb is conjugated in the future tense. Our present chapter follows up with the
    “how to” manual, including dimensions and the requisite building material to get the job done,
    necessitating the command form of the verb.

    See Abravanel’s World for the full discussion of the Tabernace and its fixtures.

  • Exodus Chapter 8: Egypt Plagued with Lice

    Bible studies with Don Isaac Abravanel’s commentary (also spelled Abarbanel) has withstood the test of
    time. For over five centuries, Abravanel has delighted – and enlightened – clergy and layman alike,
    offering enduring interpretations of the Bible.

    Don Isaac Abravanel (1437-1508) was a preeminent Jewish thinker, scholar, and prolific Biblical
    commentator. In Exodus Chapter 8, Bible students read about the third plague to attack Egypt with a
    vengeance: lice.

    “And God said to Moses: Say to Aaron – stretch out your rod, and smite
    the dust of the earth, that it may become lice throughout the land of

    Abravanel observes that this third plague, unlike the first two (bloodied Nile and frogs), came with no
    forewarning to Pharaoh. This is particularly noteworthy, Abravanel says, because subsequent plagues
    revert back to the earlier models, whereby Moses does caution Pharaoh about upcoming plagues. What
    does the deviation signify here?

    Abravanel gives readers a better understanding of the ten plagues. He teaches that the first three
    plagues were designed to convey to Pharaoh a fact of life: God exists. When it came to the bloodied Nile
    and frogs, the Maker instructed Moses to caution Pharaoh and his advisers. Afterward, Moses repeated
    those warnings, but with a caveat. The prophet uttered them to Pharaoh in private.

    As a result of Pharaoh’s oath to let the Hebrews go, Moses stopped the plagues. No sooner had the king
    received a breather from the plagues, than he reneged on his word. At that juncture, God changed His
    tune and tactics. “And God said to Moses: Say to Aaron – stretch out your rod, and smite the dust of the
    earth, that it may become lice throughout the land of Egypt.”

    Abravanel explains. Moses told Aaron to bypass Pharaoh. The Maker told His prophet to skip the
    warning to the king. Instead, Aaron was to take to the streets, relaying a harsh message directly to the
    Egyptians: Pharaoh lies through his teeth and doesn’t keep his promises. “And Aaron stretched out his
    hand with his rod, and smote the dust of the earth. And there were lice upon man, and upon beast…”

    Aaron’s actions manifested indignance at a king who breaks promises. “And Aaron stretched out his
    hand…”,Abravanel suggests, was an object lesson: This land is accursed on account of its leader.
    Previously, the land of Egypt was luscious and fertile. But now, Pharaoh’s prevarications pock the soil.
    Lice abound.

    In brief, we have explained why God commanded Moses to forego the warning to Pharaoh. It was an
    expedient employed to publicly humiliate the king and expose the ugly truth about his lies. Thus, Aaron
    zapped the ground of a once prosperous country and turned the landscape into a vast, maddening

    See Abravanel’s World for the in-depth treatment of the Ten Plagues.

  • Parashat Mishpatim: The Three Major Jewish Festivals

    Don Isaac Abravanel (1437-1508) was a preeminent Jewish thinker, scholar, and prolific Biblical
    commentator. The subject of the three major Jewish festivals is broached in Exodus chapter 23.
    Attendance in Jerusalem’s Holy Temple during those holidays is compulsory: “Three times in the year all
    your males shall appear before God Almighty.”

    “Three times you shall keep a feast unto Me in the year.”

    Abravanel writes, as we have ascertained in an earlier blog, that the Ten Commandments are really a
    start place for many more divine commandments. In that vein, when the Bible obligates Hebrews to
    observe Sabbath, it also alludes to the observance of the three major Jewish festivals.

    Passover comes first: “The feast of unleavened bread shall you keep. Seven days you shall eat
    unleavened bread…”Abravanel explains that, in fact, the eating of unleavened bread is only compulsory
    on the first day of Passover. The verse just cited means that should a Hebrew desire to eat bread during
    the seven-day holiday, that bread must be unleavened.

    Another detail about Passover emerges: timing. “At the time appointed in the month of Aviv, for in it
    you came out from Egypt.”Aviv, in Hebrew, means springtime. The genius of the Jewish calendar
    combines the lunar and solar months in order to safeguard that Passover will always be celebrated in
    the spring. When the Hebrews ascended Jerusalem’s holy mountain, they did not arrive empty-handed.
    Each visitor brought animal sacrifices to the Temple.

    The feast of harvest came next, followed by the third and last holiday – the feast of ingathering. “And the feast of harvest, the first fruits of your labor, which you sow in the field, and the feast of ingathering,at the end of the year, when you gather in your labors out of the field.”

    Abravanel teaches that the second festival coincides with the wheat harvest. Hence, Jews must offer the
    first fruits of grain to the attending priestly class in Jerusalem.

    As for the third major festival, it refers to the feast of ingathering. At that time, Hebrews brought wine,
    oil, plus a vast array of produce to the Temple. Lest readers get the wrong idea, Abravanel warns, and
    assume that the major festivals were celebrated in people’s hometowns, an explicit verse disabuses that
    false notion: “Three times in the year all your males shall appear before God Almighty.”

    “Before God Almighty” requires clarification. What does the phrase impart? It stresses the main point of
    visiting the Holy Temple. That is, the major festivals are not for the purpose of gorging on food and
    delighting in other mundane activities. Rather, visitors to Jerusalem were meant to foster an intimate
    relationship with the Maker, cleaving to Him. Proper demeanor toward God resembles a servant before
    his master.

    How appropriate, then, to celebrate each festival in otherworldly repose and devotion to the One
    Above! Priests and Levites residing in Jerusalem assisted their brethren to better understand holy
    teachings, further enhancing the Holy City’s spiritual experience for all visitors.

    See Abravanel’s World for a full discussion of the Jewish festivals, including one of Abravanel’s most
    resourceful efforts to find a connection between the third festival (“the feast of the ingathering”) and a
    seeming unrelated commandment pertaining to dietary laws – “You shall not boil a kid in its mother’s



  • 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).

  • Parshat Terumah: The Tabernacle

    Don Isaac Abravanel (1437-1508) was a preeminent Jewish thinker, scholar, and prolific Biblical
    commentator. In Exodus chapter 25, parshat Terumah, we read about the divine commandment to build for God a
    sanctuary in the tabernacle. We also learn how this sacred structure was to be financed.

    “And God spoke unto Moses saying: Speak to the Children of Israel, that
    they take for Me an offering. Of every man whose heart makes him
    willing, you shall take My offering….And let them make Me a sanctuary,
    that I may dwell among them.”

    Abravanel gets right to the point: Why did God command the Jews to build a sanctuary for Him? Is the
    Creator a physical being, in need of shelter? Of course, any physicality attributed to the Maker ranks
    preposterous, let alone despicable and untruthful. Wise Solomon, who built Jerusalem’s Holy Temple,
    stated the thorny problem: “But will God in very truth dwell on earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven
    of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this house that I have built?”

    Here is a synopsis of Abravanel’s approach. “God forbid,” Abravanel categorically states, “that the
    Creator is needful of a house with all its appurtenances.” Bible students, instead, should understand
    this commandment as follows. The Tabernacle is an object lesson, a concrete reminder that God dwells
    amidst the Hebrew encampment.

    Each Jew must process and internalize that lofty message, so it becomes etched in his soul and fiber.
    Song of songs alluded to God’s proximity this way: “He stands behind our wall. He looks through the
    windows. He peers through the lattice.”The Creator watches every move, hears every thought.

    The prophet Isaiah confirms this theological paradox of God’s infinitude and nearness. “Thus says God:
    The heaven is My throne, and the earth My footstool. Where is the house that you may build unto Me?
    And where is the place that may be My resting place? For all these things has My hand made…”

    Abravanel puts his finger on the significance inherent in the Tabernacle. The divine edifice is designed in
    order for Jews to know in their heart of hearts that the Creator’s providence cuddles the Chosen People.
    Abravanel returns to Isaiah: “But on this man will I look, even on him that is poor and of a contrite spirit,
    and trembles at My word.”

    “And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.” See Abravanel’s World for the full
    impact of this divine directive.


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
An interpretive reading in crisp, contemporary English.... [An] important contribution.
Yitzchok Adlerstein
Rabbi; cofounder, Cross Currents
Rabbi Zev Bar Eitan has embarked on a very ambitious project to make Abarbanel accessible to all Jews regardless of background. Baruch Hashem, he has succeeded admirably.
Rav Yitzchak Breitowitz
Rav, Kehillat Ohr Somayach
In clear, straightforward language…Bar Eitan opens the Abravanel’s world of complex ideas to the layman in a way that it has not been opened before. Highly recommended.
Rabbi Shmuel Goldin
Past President, Rabbinical Council of America; author, Unlocking the Torah Text and Unlocking the Haggada
Rabbi Zev Bar-Eitan…has achieved a rendition of the Abravanel which will enable all English readers to comprehend the depths and innovativeness of the original Hebrew text.
Rabbi Dr. Aaron Rakeffet-Rothkoff
Professor of Rabbinic Literature, Caroline and Joseph S. Gruss Institute, Yeshiva University
In an accessible and flowing language accompanied by a variety of visual aids, Abravanel is presented to the English reader in all his glory. [An] illuminative commentary.
Rachelle Fraenkel
Torah educator, Midrashot Nishmat and Matan
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