Shammai says: 

Make your Torah study a fixed practice; say little and do much; and receive everyone with a cheerful face.  (Pirkei Avot 1:15)

There are four basic levels to the understanding of Torah:

Peh (P) - Peshat = Simple
Resh (R) - Remez = Hint
Dalet (D) - Derash = Insight
Samech (S) - Sod = Secret

Pronounced as "pardes" it is very important that this term be inscribed into memory, because the ladder to knowledge is only by way of step at a time:

P - R - D - S

The term Midrash (investigation) signifies study and interpretation; hence, Beit haMidrash denotes a Talmudic school. For the most part, the purpose of the Midrashic literature is to explain the Biblical text from the ethical and devotional point of view. It is then referred to as Midrash Haggadah, in contrast to Midrash Halachah which is mainly concerned with the derivation of laws from Scriptural texts.

Rashi, the "Father of Commentators," gives us the peshat (simple) understanding, which is a very important and a MUST starting point of Torah study.  Rashi has two rare gifts as a commentator:  1) The instinct to discern precisely the point at which explanation is necessary; 2) and the art of giving or indicating the needed help in the fewest words.

No matter how advanced one becomes in their studies, one will always refer to the peshat commentary of Rashi.

RaMBaN (Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman), generally referred to as Nachmanides (1194-1270), was born in Spain, where he became known as an illustrious Talmudic authority and Bible commentator. He died in Eretz Yisrael at the age of 76. His principle work, a commentary on the Torah, contains halachic interpretations, ethical lessons, Kabbalistic allusions, as well as literal explanations in which he frequently disagrees with either Rashi or Ibn Ezra. Nachmanides professed great respect for Maimonides (RaMBaM) and defended him against the anti-Maimonists. In his opinion, Maimonides' Guide for the Perplexed was intended not for those of unshaken belief, but for those who had been led astray by the teachings of the Greek philosophers. It has been noted that Nachmanides represented Judaism from the side of emotion and feeling, as Maimonides did from the viewpoint of reason and logic.

Yalkut MeAm Lo'ez, when a person studies from these commentaries, it is counted as if he had studied Scripture, Talmud, Midrash and the Shulchan Aruch, since all are included in it.  Rabbi Yaakov Culi, author of Yalkut MeAm Lo'ez, was one of the greatest sages in his generation.  In his book, Rabbi Chaim Yosef David Azzulai speaks of him with the highest respect:

"The Sage, perfect, saintly, humble.... I know the greatness of the works of this saint, which are truly wondrous.  He was a fast writer, totally versed in the Talmud, codes and commentaries, as is obvious from his book MeAm Lo'ez, which he wrote to bring merit to the multitudes.  Happy is he and happy is his portion."  (Shem HaGedolim, Sefarim, Eyin 29)


The Torah is called Etz Chayim, a Tree of Life (Mishlei 3:18). Studying the narratives and halachic passages of the Torah is like studying a tree.  One can stand at a distance and observe the tree as a total entity.  Or one can study the seeds, leaves, bark, roots, twigs, limbs and fruit independently from one another.  In neither case will the student gain a complete knowledge of the tree.  In order to fully understand the tree, both approaches must be used in combination.  And that is how Torah, the Tree of Life, must be studied.  We must learn each chapter within its context.  We must study every verse, learning the meaning of each word.  But each word must also be studied with respect to its letters, its nekudos, its prefixes, its suffixes, its ta'am, for they are the roots, buds and leaves of the Tree.


Our Father, the merciful Father, Who acts mercifully:

Have mercy upon us and place understanding in our hearts -

to understand and elucidate, to listen, to learn and to teach, to safeguard, to perform

and to fulfill all the words of the study of Your Torah, with love.



Yamim Tovim

Rosh Hashanah Five men are called up to the reading of the Torah on Rosh Hashanah, if it occurs on a week-day; seven - if the first day occurs on a Shabbat; in both cases - apart from the one called up to Maftir.  Two scrolls are taken out; the second one is for Maftir.

The birth of Yitzchak is the theme of the reading of the Torah on the first day of Rosh Hashanah.

The "Binding of Yitzchak" (Akeidah) is the theme of the reading of the Torah, on the second day of Rosh Hashanah.
It is the symbol of self-sacrifice with which we, the children of Avraham, are always ready to obey G-d's commands, and for which G-d has promised us His blessings.


Haftarah Rosh Hashanah The birth of Shmuel is the theme of  Haftarah Rosh Hashanah First day.  Both Sarah and Channah had been childless and barren, but G-d eventually blessed them each with a son. Both Yitzchak and Shmuel were consecrated to the service of G-d: Yitzchak through the Akeidah (Binding), and Shmuel as a prophet.

The Haftarah concludes with the following significant words:

"Those who strive with Hashem will be broken; upon him will He thunder in Heaven; Hashem will judge the ends of the earth. And He will grant strength to His King, and raise the horn of His anointed one."

Here the prophetess Channah refers to the final Day of Judgment and the "horn of Mashiach," - a theme which we mention many times in our prayers of this day.

The Haftarah reading for Rosh Hashanah Second Day speaks of the final rebuilding and redemption of Yisrael,

"For Hashem has redeemed Yaakov, and ransomed him from a hand too strong for him...Thus says Hashem: 'Refrain your voice from weepng, and your eyes from tears, for your work shall be rewarded... and they shall return from the land of the enemy. And there is hope for your future... and your children shall return to their border."

The Haftarah concludes with G-d's moving declaration of His everlasting love and mercy for Yisrael:

"Surely Efrayim is My own darling child! For whenever I speak of him, I do earnestly remember him still...I will surely have mercy upon him, says Hashem."