I for a long time have had the question what is the proper way to learn Chumash in order to get to a good understanding al pi pshat.

Many times I hear people saying over vertlach on the Parsha and it seems to be not a genuine derech ha'limud in the Parsha rather a way for someone to say over their own chiddushim or interesting drush they have based on the Parsha. But not that it's coming to explain or help anything in the realm of "p'shat".

How can a person begin to find a derech ha'limud in learning Chumash, a way to go through the mafarshim and come out with "p'shat" and a good picture of what's going on. Ignoring the drush and remezim that many people seem to focus on. Are there any seforim to davka look at? Just learning through Rashi is in fact very hard (we see from the generations 100s of seforim written on Rashi's pirush on Chumash alone, aside from all of the new seforim now a days.) Are there any seforim or maforshim that could be recommend? New or old? Something to go through the parsha and come out knowing p'shat, not an interesting Sfas Emes to say over?

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    Could you please edit this down to make it much more clear what the actual question is, and either remove or at least separate from the question any supporting stories or opinion?
    – Isaac Moses
    Oct 31, 2012 at 14:39
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    As for most things Torah-commentary-related, I recommend R' Hirsch.
    – Isaac Moses
    Oct 31, 2012 at 14:41
  • @IsaacMoses Edited. Thanks for the recommendation. However from what I've heard from in (or seen) in the past doesn't seem to be the right Sefer for me.
    – Yehoshua
    Oct 31, 2012 at 15:50
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    Try Onkelos?...
    – Seth J
    Oct 31, 2012 at 17:06
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    I disagree with "Just learning through Rashi is in fact very hard (we see from the generations 100s of seforim written on Rashi's pirush on Chumash alone, aside from all of the new seforim [nowadays])". Learning through Rashi's commentary is easy: learning through it in depth (figuring out why he says what he does and so on) is hard.
    – msh210
    Oct 31, 2012 at 19:01

5 Answers 5


The Chizkuni is similar to Rashi in that he's generally p'shat-oriented but does quote midrashim. (He often quotes and comments on Rashi's commentary, too.) He's also easy to read (viz, with little in the way of complicated syntax, hard words, or (on a first reading) tough concepts), like Rashi. I think it's possible to read Chumash straight through using only the Chizkuni.


The Ramban is very much Derech Peshat. I used to have a weekly Shiur in it and it was very interesting.

  • Is it possible to read the Chumash straight with looking only into the Ramban?
    – Yehoshua
    Oct 31, 2012 at 16:16
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    @Yehoshua Ramban obviously doesn't explain what Rashi already did. I don't know what problem you have with Rashi (reading Rashi, Ibn Ezra, and Ramban together will give you a good idea of what the verses say, though Ibn Ezra is hard to understand when he talks about "sod")
    – b a
    Nov 1, 2012 at 0:16

As a general Derekh Limud for getting at the Peshat in the Chumash, I'd suggest the following:

  1. Read the Pesuqim in a language you're fluent in. If you're fluent only in Hebrew, you should leave it at that, and maybe get an understanding of how the Te'amei ha-Miqra divide the Pesuqim syntactically( Mechon Mamre provides an edition of the Tanach with Niqud and more modern punctuation marks). If you are fluent enough in Aramaic - so much the better( As there is a Halakha to read the Parshiot twice Miqra and once Targum) - use Targum Unqelos. And, if you happen to be more fluent in some other language( e.g. English) use an appropriate translation in that language.
  2. learn Rashi's commentary to the Chumash. Like it or not, it is the closest thing to a canonical understanding of the Peshat we have. As far as the Perush being hard, maybe a translation would help. Regarding commentaries on Rashi, as long as you understand what Rashi is saying, you need not go into them. Only if you have a specific problem with Rashi seemingly contradicting himself elsewhere, or Chazal, or your common sense, should you worry about looking up his Mefarshim.

Have you tried learning from Nechama Leibowitz's worksheets? She encourages you to think carefully and seriously about the issues of interpretation that come up and to appreciate what the commentators are trying to do. Material is available online here: http://www.nechama.org.il/


1) It is a mitzvah in Shabbos preparation to do shnayim mikra v'echod targum. See here for defences for those who don’t and encouragement to do it.

2) I suggest taking a meforash each year and following him through the parshiyos (for as much time as you can allocate).

3) Each person will have the derekh halimmud that appeals to him. I very much like the HaEmek Dovor; see especially how he explains the apparently superfluous dageshim in this weeks sedrah starting at Ch19 (v 2).

  • You mean the Dagesh in LLo? Care to elaborate?
    – Double AA
    Oct 31, 2012 at 21:57
  • The Angels reply, “No, but we will sleep in the street.” The word “lo” has a dagesh. The Angels are saying to Lot, there is no way that we will come in to you. You know that in Sdom people are not invited in and you should have done something to rectify this bad practice. It’s only because it’s a shame for you to leave us in the street that you’re inviting us. So “No”. Oct 31, 2012 at 22:50

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