Jun 11, 2013

Book Review: Journey of Faith, by Rabbi Yonasan Arenias

NOTE: I was not paid to review this book. It is an unbiased and objective review. If you have a book with Jewish or Israel related content and would like me to write a review, contact me for details of where to send me a review copy of the book.

Book Review: Journey of Faith (Bamidbar), by Rabbi Yonasan Arenias

When I initially received this book, Journey of Faith, for review, I admit that I was skeptical. A book on the parsha? It would either be some nice vortlahch on the parsha or a tedious attempt at producing a half-worked approach based on other commentaries.

Boy was I surprised!

If I had to summarize what i am about to write in just one sentence, this is what it would be - Journey of Faith is an amazingly clear explanation of the Torah.

Now to say it in far more than one sentence...

After reading parts of each parsha for the last 3 weeks, here is what I see. Journey of Faith is an interesting approach to the Torah and the Parsha. Here is how it works:
Every parsha is introduced by an outline of events. After that is an overview of the parsha, in just a few pages, describing the events that happen in the parsha along with the main ideas and the order and structure of the parsha. After that comes the summary explaining the chronology and the main themes of the parsha. And then finally is the parsha itself with the translation and the running commentary.

The various sections that introduce each parsha make it extremely clear from the start what to expect, and how the various sections and themes connect to each other.

The translation of the parsha is amazing, and, again, especially clear. Rabbi Arenias worked on a new translation, and he wrote it out in what I guess is similar to the style used in the Schottenstein Artscroll gemara - the translation is interspersed, for clarity, with bits of commentary. The actual words of the translation are in bold and the filler that makes it all clear is in regular fonts in between. This makes the reading very fluid and clear, unlike other translations that either do not stay true to the original, as they use too much commentary to try to make it clear, or are difficult to read because they are too rigidly literal to the original. In Journey of Faith the translation is smooth, fluid and easy to read while giving you a clear understanding of the parsha.
sample page of Journey of Faith

Underneath the text of the parsha and the translation is the commentary. The commentary is based on the various commentators, each with its source quoted, and is woven together masterfully to give a clear picture and understanding of what is going on behind the scenes in the parsha. Besides for having seen some commentary and opinions I had not heard or learned before,  even the commentary that is mainstream and standard is presented in a tremendously clear manner, and, as said, it is all woven together masterfully.

At the end of the book you will find two appendices. The first is another summary of each parsha, with the main events highlighted in bullet lists, and then a list of the chronology of the events of the entire sefer..

Journey of Faith is an amazingly clear reading of the parsha.

The worst part about this is that, from what the author told me, it took 10 years to complete this project and write the book. That means, the next volume is probably another 10 years away, assuming it will be at the same high level of thoroughness and clarity.

The second worst thing about the book is that the haftorah is presented at the end of each parsha, but without commentary, translation or explanation. I would like to see a good explanation of haftorahs as part of a chumash with their connection to the parshiyos. But I get that this was beyond the scope of the book.

And in case I was not clear, Journey of Faith, by Rabbi Yonasan Arenias is an extremely clear and thorough approach to the parsha that will give you clarity in the chumash like you've probably never before had.

Journey of Faith is distributed in Israel by Shanky's and can be found in all the main Jewish bookstores. In the USA it can be found in main Jewish bookstores as well as online at the following sites:

NOTE: I was not paid to review this book. It is an unbiased and objective review. If you have a book with Jewish or Israel related content and would like me to write a review, contact me for details of where to send me a review copy of the book.

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  1. Sounds great! I heard the author went to Cambridge so I am sure he writes beautifully...

  2. Rabbi Yonasan AreniasJune 12, 2013 12:21 PM

    Thank you for the wonderful review! I hope readers find this book an enjoyable read on the Chumash which they can come back to year after year. I think you might also find yourself very surprised to see how all the passages in a parsha are linked together, and will probably say to yourself, “Ahah! So that’s what’s parah adumah [etc.] is doing over here…”

    Correct – a commentary on the Haftorah was beyond the scope of the book, but I wanted to at least give readers the text so they have the option of taking it to shul. And now that I have a clear direction and methodology, I am hoping the next volume will take 2-3 years, iy”H!


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