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When I read the torah text (parsha or otherwise) I currently use a couple of chumashim with notes, and Rashi. I know some Hebrew but am not fluent. I'm ready to stretch beyond what I'm reading now and would like to add another commentary to add a new dimension to my study. The chumashim I use include some verse-by-verse notes from a mix of Rambam, Ramban, Rashi, S'forno, Ibn Ezra, and occasional others, but not much commentary from any one source.

Is there a common "next step" for torah study? What do today's authorities recommend? What is the typical learning path in yeshivot?

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+1 great question –  Hacham Gabriel Dec 29 '11 at 1:50
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"[A]void asking subjective questions where every answer is equally valid: 'What’s your favorite ______?'" Perhaps reword to specify that you're seeking appeals to authority (like the good answer already given) or reasoning? –  msh210 Dec 29 '11 at 2:01
    
@msh210, is this better? –  Monica Cellio Dec 29 '11 at 2:17
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@msh210 can we list of our favorites on the comments here? –  Hacham Gabriel Dec 29 '11 at 3:30
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@MonicaCellio thanks. I'm trying to remember who we learned in Yeshivah after Onkelos and Rashi, and I'm realizing that they don't teach anything official in the yeshivah outside of Talmud :) –  avi Dec 29 '11 at 14:28
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5 Answers 5

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R' Hirsch (Isaac's suggestion) and Ramban (Hacham Gabriel's suggestion) are both widely available in English, and for good reason. Both are very easy to appreciate, both on the simplest of levels, as well as on much deeper planes. If your Hebrew improves or you can get a learning partner who is also capable of being a mentor, I highly, highly recommend Ramban in Hebrew. There's just something there that the English cannot fully capture.

There are so many other commentaries, each with its own flavor. If you want linguistics, especially those that challenge (then-accepted) norms, there's Ibn 'Ezra and Rashbam.

Seforno and Keli Yakar are both very, very deep, and I especially like their analyses of the Avoth, in particular Ya'akov.

Right, right, we're not supposed to subjectively list our favorites.....

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Re There's just something there that the English cannot fully capture. I think there might be something there that the Hebrew cannot fully capture either. Ramban is one of the most difficult commentaries to understand in terms of the way he writes in Hebrew. (This applies as well to his Talmudic commentary.) I don't think Ramban was as skilled as a writer as other commentators were. That said, it might be a better idea to go for the English version. –  jake Dec 29 '11 at 3:43
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@jake As Ramban would say, HaMevin Yavin. ;-) –  Seth J Dec 29 '11 at 4:04
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I aspire to improve my Hebrew. Currently the main way I'm working on that is studying Sefer Ha-Aggadah in Hebrew with a skilled chevruta (rabbi). I read and translate what I can, he corrects and fills in what I couldn't do, and we discuss. It's not fast, but it's progress and I learn some great torah too. –  Monica Cellio Dec 29 '11 at 4:05
    
@MonicaCellio, Isn't Sefer HaAgadah quotations from the gemara, which is not in Hebrew? –  jake Dec 29 '11 at 4:13
    
@jake, it's a compilation of many sources -- g'mara, B'resishit Rabbah, others I can't remember at the moment. The compilation is in (mostly) Hebrew with a little Aramaic sprinkled in. –  Monica Cellio Dec 29 '11 at 4:23
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Rabbi Eli Mansour said after Rashi to learn Ramban.

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+1. It is generally expected for guys to come out of Yeshiva knowing Chumash with at least Rashi and Ramban. They are the classics. Plus, there's Artscroll Ramban in English. –  jake Dec 29 '11 at 2:12
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Ramban is also more peshat-focused than rashi, but still deals with what chazal say on the pesukim (as opposed to some of the other pashtanim). –  Ariel K Dec 29 '11 at 5:42
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I find Ramban to be great, precisely because he doesn't focus on pshat... –  avi Dec 29 '11 at 8:13
    
@avi You are both correct. Sometimes you will find Ramban will focus on each word seperately and sometimes you will find him totally off peshat. –  Hacham Gabriel Dec 29 '11 at 22:11
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I've got to put in a plug for the translation and commentary of R' Hirsch, of which I'm a big fan. I love his elegant, holistic, thoughtful take on the whole Torah, especially the ritual stuff in Leviticus (Temple offerings, ritual purity, etc.) that's otherwise most difficult to understand from a modern perspective. When I read R' Hirsch, everything fits together so well, and I'm in awe at the elegance with which God constructed the Torah.

The original English translation (He wrote in German.), which I'm familiar with, is now out of print. The new English translation uses a more contemporary English. I haven't studied it carefully enough to say anything else about it, but I can certainly recommend the ideas it came from.

Given that you'd probably be learning a translation in your native language, this won't stretch your language ability much, but the complex ideas definitely require intellectual effort. In addition, R' Hirsch quotes Talmudic, Midrashic, and other Rabbinic sources from all over the place, providing opportunities for branching out your investigation of topics that look interesting.

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Sounds interesting...where can I get a copy of his Perush? –  Hacham Gabriel Dec 29 '11 at 2:13
    
@H'Gabriel, you may want to shop around, but Judaica Press is one source. –  Isaac Moses Dec 29 '11 at 2:15
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+1. I was just in the middle of writing an answer recommending R' Hirsch when you posted this. –  jake Dec 29 '11 at 2:19
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Older translation: Judaica Press, out of print??! Blue (older) or beige (newer) cover. amazon.com/HIRSCH-COMMENTARY-TORAH--7-set/dp/0910818126 I prefer that one, though stylistically the English is more difficult. Do not confuse the 7-vol set with the 1-vol severely abridged version. // New translation: feldheim.com/the-hirsch-chumash-1.html –  yitznewton Dec 29 '11 at 2:40
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You may also want to look into a commentary that's more at the "macro" level. That is, a text which considers a couple of big questions per parasha and then exams the many answers to those questions from the commentators.

A famous one that I recommend is Nehama Leibowitz: New Studies in the Weekly Parasha (7 volume set) Amazon source for English translation. Also available in the Hebrew original.

I use the English version and it's great.

The astute reader may be wondering "7 volumes??" The reason is because her texts on Shmot and Vayikra are both in two vol sets.

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I thought she counted "Vayhi binsoa" as one. –  msh210 Dec 29 '11 at 3:53
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On this note, also really excellent is Hagus B'Parshiyos HaTorah by R' Yehuda Nachshoni, translated into English by Artscroll as "Studies in the Weekly Parsha". –  jake Dec 29 '11 at 3:55
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@msh210 -- very good! But not the case. –  Larry K Dec 29 '11 at 4:00
    
@jake good call it brings down many mefarshim if I remember correctly. –  Hacham Gabriel Dec 29 '11 at 4:01
    
Thank you! I've seen some of her work in the past and it looks very promising; thanks for the reminder. –  Monica Cellio Jan 26 '12 at 4:12
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The Traditional Path of learning Tanach in the Yeshivah is to get a copy of the Mikrot Gedolot, and the Jastrow Dictionary.

Sadly, I don't think Mikrot Gedolot has been fully translated into English yet.

Mikrot Gedolot, generally contains the following Commentaries, in addition to Rashi and Onkelos. (Of course, there are different versions, with slightly different commentaries)

targum yonotan, Rashbam, Ibn Ezra, Radak, Ramban, Sforno and the Siftei Chachamim.

The goal tends to be to read them all side by side and to compare them. I vaguely imagine this is done to make the controversial statements of each of the various commentaries to be "dimmed" down as a daat yachid.

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IMO this type of comparative study can obscure the fact that different approaches to mikra (or anything else) can be very different and have a personality - as you imply. This lends itself to being under-nuanced. I don't have any data on a "common path," but my inclination is to "dwell" with a single commentator for a while, to absorb that commentator's approach and perspective. –  yitznewton Dec 29 '11 at 15:10
    
That Judaica Press English series you link to, has been discontinued, somewhere before Vayikra. –  yitznewton Dec 29 '11 at 15:13
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There are good and bad aspects of this style, but I believe it most accurately answers the update to the question, regarding "what they would do in yeshivah" –  avi Dec 29 '11 at 16:18
    
I learned today that JPS has published an English translation of Miqraot Gedolot for (so far) Sh'mot, Vayikra, and Bamidbar. The latest of these was published in 2011, so I have hopes that they'll complete the project. –  Monica Cellio Jan 26 '12 at 4:10
    
@MonicaCellio I was tempted to buy the books myself, but I read too many bad reviews about them. They are good books, but not a replacement for the real set. They are selective on what they translate apparently. –  avi Jan 26 '12 at 8:01
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