Finding Wisdom, Faith and Comfort in the Tanach

The following is one in a series of columns in which local community members write about their favorite Jewish books. This week’s column is by Larry Hurwitz, M.D., a senior editor for Torah Productions, Inc.

My favorite book is the Tanach, the Hebrew Bible. That probably sounds strange coming from a contemporary non-Orthodox American Jew, but it is true.

I like it because it is the best “story book” I have ever read. I don’t mean that in a disrespectful way, but I do not know of any other book in the world for which every single sentence (i.e. verse) has generated so much interest and controversy.


A bilingual Tanakh on a table with a shofar

I am not a rabbi or a biblical scholar and I am certainly not intelligent enough to read God’s mind. I am a storyteller, and my mother tells me that I have been a storyteller since I could first form words.

To make matters “worse,” some angel taught me how to read before I was 3. That angel has dogged me all my life. I am convinced it is behind the Torah La-Am Library project, which my son Ari and I have worked on for many years.

The Torah La-Am project is based on the assumption that every single sentence in the Hebrew Bible has an interesting story to tell. Every sentence has been examined and earnestly thought about by many people, over and over across the centuries of the Tanach’s existence.

Undoubtedly, most of those thoughts have been lost for one reason or another, but enough of them have survived in writing – and are available in the English language – that putting them all together in anthology form has been the adventure of a lifetime for Ari and me.

Nothing gives me a greater thrill then finding 10 different opinions, from 10 different centuries and several continents, as to what various rabbis, Biblical scholars, and wise people have thought any given sentence in the Tanach means.

The angel who lives in my head then puts them all down as if those ten people were sitting at the same table talking to one another about that sentence. The result is that every sentence has a story of its own.

That story is then woven together in the Torah La-Am Library with the sentences that came before it and those that come after it. They blend into a tapestry called an “article,” which is really an essay. The essay is then posted on the website with features that only contemporary technology can provide.

The essay is digital and can be manipulated to suit the user as “techno-art.” The click of the cursor can bring the reader information as to who the commentators are.

The library is also exquisitely indexed for word-searches and is organized to be user-friendly. It is easily readable at the seventh grade level.

As the angel once whispered in our ears, the project is not for children in Sunday school or scholars in their academies. It is for everyone “in between” who is interested in the wisdom, faith, comfort, guidance and common sense found in the Hebrew Scripture. Those things have no “bottom” in the Tanach.

The Tanach is as close as I have ever come to being “face-to-face” with God. I do not understand why so many of us have lost touch with it.

By Dr. Larry Hurwitz, The Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle

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