Social Links Search User Login Menu
Tools
Close
Close

"For Instruction shall come forth from Zion, The word of the L-rd from Jerusalem." -- Isaiah 2:3

Jerusalem

Navigate the Excerpts Browser

Before accessing the excerpts, please review a word about copyright.

Are you more of an "I'll dive right in and figure it out" person, or a "Show Me How This Thing Works" person?  If the former, go right ahead and try the excerpts browers on the right side of this page and/or scroll through the excerpts that start below the following information -- although we still suggest reading the information first.  If you are the latter, click here for a video demonstrating the Excerpts Browser. Either way (or both), enjoy! 

This page is recommended for searches limited to specific Torah books, weekly portions (parshiot), chapters, verses, and/or sources (authors). For keyword and/or for exact phrase (including verse and source) searches of the entire excerpts database, we recommend using the Search Engine page.  For broadest results, use both pages and alternative search strategies. 

This page displays the full text of all or "sorted" (filtered) excerpts in the database.  Use the "Torah Verses" and/or "Excerpt Sources" browsers at the right to locate the excerpts associated with your desired Torah book, portion, chapter. verse, or author.  Or, simply scroll through the excerpts, using the "boxes" at the bottom of any page displaying excerpts to "jump" ahead or back. 

Also note that immediately below the chapter, verse, and keyword of each excerpt is a highlighted line comprised of multiple links.  Clicking on any of the links will limit (filter) the excerpts display to the selected category.  

Transcription of excerpts is incomplete.  For current status, please see "Transcribed Sources" on the Search Engine page.  To assist with completion, please see "Contributors" page. 

GENESIS — 1:1 beginning

Rabbi Elazar said, A good heart. Pirkei Avot II:13-14  This seems to denote a spontaneous, open love for the good everywhere, an intuitive grasp of what is good in every situation, and a desire for it.  This would appear to have little to do with reason or intelligence. As people say, “The heart has its reasons that reason does not know.” [Blasé Bascal (1623-1662), Pensees, iv. 277]  If someone can cultivate within himself such an educated perception and appreciation of the good, then he has, indeed, the “master key.”  This is the “good way” to take in life, that includes within it all other good ways.  It is the “royal road” to spiritual achievement.  The Five Books of Moses end with the letter lamed Deuteronomy 34:12 and begin with the letter beth.  [this verse]. Put them together and you have the word lev, heart.  This is indeed the most crucial organ of all.  For Judaism the heart symbolizes the seat of freedom, the decision-making element in man.  He who has a “good heart” has won all.  He who has an “evil heart” has lost the innermost citadel.  SINAI1 181
VIEW EXCERPT DETAILS

GENESIS — 1:1 beginning

In the Book of Proverbs the wise Solomon [provides the insight]: “The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord.” Proverbs 1:7.  Wisdom, the knowledge of science, can give you explanations of phenomena as they occur today. It can formulate into laws of probability certain constant relations which seem to hold between phenomena.  But “wisdom” of this kind if of little avail when we try to determine “beginnings.” When we ask about the origin of things, about the beginnings of life, even the beginnings of the hydroGenesis atom, science is blind and still.  Neither science nor philosophy can answer the question: Why is there something rather than nothing? Nor will it help any to give science more time to discover the answer, for it lacks the very tools to do so.  Questions relating to “beginnings and origins” and to “ultimates” are, in principle, beyond the competence and range of science. To determine these basic presuppositions, these first principles, and by finding ultimates to resolve questions of value, we must turn to the realm of religion, the world of faith.  “The beginning of wisdom is the fear of G-d”: first we must know that “in the beginning G-d created the heaven and the earth.” [this verse].  In the light of this great, transcendent principle of Judaism …. We have a telling, accurate diagnosis of the ills of human society today.  The unprecedented advances of science and technology have not been matched by a corresponding development in the religious and moral awareness of man.  Wisdom, scientific knowledge, has merely supplied man with new weapons infinitely more devastating than anything previously known, to be used in his struggle to satisfy his basic greeds untempered by moral restraints. SINAI1 276-7
VIEW EXCERPT DETAILS

GENESIS — 1:11 grass

Rabban Simeon  ben Gamaliel said: By three things does the world endure; by Truth, justice, and peace—as it is said, Truth and judgment of peace, administer in your gates. Zechariah 8:16. Pirkei Avot I:18.  … After the Almighty had created the dry land, His next command was, “Let the earth put forth grass, deshe.” If you wish, the three letters of the word deshe are the respective beginnings of din, shalom and emeth – justice, peace, truth.  This would therefore suggest that if this newly created world wished to endure, it had first to give forth deshe: justice, peace and truth.  Indeed, our Sages stated that every justice who renders true judgment in accordance with justice, becomes, as it were, a partner of the Holy One in the work of creation.  Shabbat 10a  SINAI1 108
VIEW EXCERPT DETAILS

GENESIS — 1:31 very

The mitzvoth are indeed for spiritual cleansing.  We live in a world of temptation and brutality.  Our senses are constantly assailed by a barrage of banality and obscenity.  Our mass media seek largely to cater to the lowest common denominator, the worst instincts and interests.  Who knows how much of the invidious “fallout’ is absorbed by our nature? Exposed to so much “dirt,” we need frequent cleansing with “a strong detergent that has deep-down cleansing action” (to borrow or paraphrase some of Madison Avenue’s scintillating language).  The Almighty wanted Israel to be cleansed and pure; and so He gave us a comprehensive Torah and surrounded us with mitzvoth. The Talmud tells us that in the days of Ezra the Sages prayed that the evil yearning to worship idols, which was still strong at that time, should be removed from the world; and their prayer succeeded.  Emboldened, they entreated further, that the power of the entire yetzer hara, man’s evil inclination, be ended forever.  And the Talmud relates that the sensuous inclination was given over into their hands, to do with as they chose.  But a prophet warned them, “Beware: if you destroy this, the entire world will be destroyed.” They decided to render the yetzer hara powerless for three days.  But that very day they learned their lesson: A fresh egg was needed to help cure a sick person; and in all the land of Israel no fresh egg could be found. For with the evil inclination removed, all passion and drive to cohabit and procreate came to an end, the reproductive function ceased, and chickens even stopped producing eggs!  Perforce the Sages gave the yetzer hara its freedom once again. [Talmud, Yoma 69b, Sanhedrin 64a].   Later Sages, in the days of Talmud and Midrash, affirmed this idea. Scripture writes, “G-d saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good. [this verse]. And the Sages comment: “Very good refers to the yetzer hara. But is the evil inclination very good, then? Indeed, for if not for the yetzer hara [passion, lust] no man would build a house, marry, or beget children; nor would anyone engage in trade.” [Midrash Rabbah, Genesis IX, 7]. SINAI1 14-5
VIEW EXCERPT DETAILS

GENESIS — 3:3 touch

Whoever increases words brings on sin. Pirkei Avot I:17. A classic illustration of this can be found in the Biblical account of the Serpent’s subtle inducement of Eve to eat of the forbidden Tree of Knowledge.  When he asked her about the prohibition, Eve asserted that the Almighty had commanded: “And you shall not touch it.” [this verse]. Actually, Eve had “increased words,” because the Divine command had never really prohibited touching the tree.  Once she uttered this exaggeration, it was easy for the Serpent to make her touch the tree and show her that no ill effects resulted.  Then he could argue by analogy that eating would likewise result in no harm. When you add words that are unnecessary you can be led to sin.  Our Sages tell us that even speaking well of your friend can often lead to slander.  Talmud, Arakin 16a.  You may start off with a perfectly innocuous remark that a certain man is a wonderful father.  Your companion, warming to the subject, may then be tempted to point out that while this is true, the man is terrible husband! A third person present may pick up the thread at this point and reinforce the last speaker with a vile anecdote about the man and his business life.  What started out as “harmless” gossip can end in misunderstanding, envy, and hatred.  In fact, the more you may then attempt to defend the man, the more you may stimulate and arouse the others to refuse your opinion with all sorts of allegations and insinuations.  The more you talk, the more sin you are causing. There is a Hassidic teaching that everything under the sun teaches a moral lesson, even modern inventions: for example, the train, the telegraph and the telephone.   From a train you can learn that sometimes because of a minute you can miss making an entire trip.  From the telegraph you can learn that for each word there is a charge.  From the telephone you can learn that what you speak here is heard “over there,” in the supernal realms.  SINAI1 105
VIEW EXCERPT DETAILS

GENESIS — 3:19 bread

Where there is no flour [bread] there is no Torah Book & Portion; where there is no Torah, there is no flour [bread] Pirkei Avot III:21  … we could interpret it to mean that “if there is no Torah,” all your eating has accomplished nothing more than “no flour”; you have made a certain amount of food disappear.  You have obtained and used a certain amount of calories.  That is all.  If there is no Torah in your life, if your existence is not informed by some higher purpose, if there is no transcendent value and goal to which all hour physical activities are dedicated, then your entire life is only a consumption of energy.  Before, you had food, time, energy.  Now they are gone; there is simply “no flour.” Indeed, flour for bread is itself a symbol of a higher level of civilization. When Adam sinned he was told in punishment, “Thorns and thistles shall it [the earth] bring forth to you, and you shall eat the grass of the field.” Genesis 3:18 At this, says Rabbi Joshua ben Levi, tears ran from his eyes. “O Master of the world, “ he cried, “shall I and my donkey eat our food from the same trough?” Once the Almighty continued, “By the sweat of your brow shall you eat bread,” [this verse], Adam was calmed.  Talmud Pesachim 118a.  Man does not accept what he is given in the form that it is given him; he builds it up, improves on it, develops it, and transforms it.  In the hands of man, wheat becomes flour, and flour becomes bread.  Thus, flour signifies man’s superiority over the beast, his rise to a civilized state. Hence, “if there is no Torah,” if one neglects his obligation to reach a higher level of spirituality, of humanity, through Torah, and is content to live by the values of the animal, then in truth he is entitled to no more than grass and oats; for him “there is no flour.” SINAI1 342
VIEW EXCERPT DETAILS

GENESIS — 4:9 keeper

Do not separate yourself from the community.  Pirkei Avot II:5  For long periods of his life the human being is quite helpless, unable to survive alone. In infancy, in sickness, in old age, man is dependent on others and on the community. Moreover, culture and civilization as we know it would be impossible if we lived as hermits, in total isolation and total self-reliance. Through the organization of society, specialization and division of labor, each of us can enjoy the fruits of the cooperative work of myriads of his fellows. If for a brief episode during his prime, a man has illusions of self-sufficiency, he would do well to remember that in the very near future he will need the community, the organization, the synagogue that perhaps he now ignores.  And always, whether he knows it or not, he benefits indispensably from the activities and contributions of countless others.  Furthermore, the large communities of mankind build and maintain an invaluable reservoir, a repository of knowledge, wisdom and spiritual values only because society preserves and transmits the precious traditions of past generations.  This is especially true of historic Jewry with its age-old Oral Torah.  One of mankind’s enormous early sins is expressed in Cain’s terse question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” [this verse] With hostility and suspicion the human being would reject the common brotherhood of man, or at least question it with asperity.  Hillel’s answer is a gentle affirmation: “Do not separate yourself from the community.” Share your life with your fellow humans.  SINAI1 146-7
VIEW EXCERPT DETAILS

GENESIS — 4:9 keeper

We live in an age when mussar, ethical teaching, is considered outmoded; chastisement and constructive moral criticism are considered in bad taste; to insist on religious self-examination and improvement, is regarded as offensive.  We have accepted the cardinal, primary Anglo-Saxon rule of life: “Mind your own business.” Therefore, if you see someone commit a wrong, do not interfere; it is no concern of yours.  Nothing could be more contrary to the Jewish view. “All Jews are responsible for one another”: this is our cardinal, primary rule, enunciated and echoed in the Talmud and Midrash. [Talmud Shebuoth 39a and other citations] In the infinite, timeless vision of Torah, the Jewish people are one organic unity: all parts, sections, members are responsible for one another. What affects one, affects all. We reject the heartless, murderous cynicism of a Cain who asks, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” [this verse]. [With Cain’s preceding words, this could also be rendered, “I did not know that I am my brother’s keeper.” Judaism rejects this too: ignorance is no excuse]. SINAI1 xxi (Continued at Exodus 23:4 back SINAI1 xxi-xxii and then at Deuteronomy 22:1 bring SINAI1 xxii).
VIEW EXCERPT DETAILS

GENESIS — 4:10 blood

Know where you come fromPirkei Avot III:1  At any given time a person exists in a certain situation with specific conditions and possibilities.  In your specific circumstances, with your specific background and temperament, you have a number of possibilities for decision and action.  You will be judged, will be held responsible not merely for your deeds, but also for your “appointments:” what you could well have achieved in your situation, given your chances and abilities.  You will have to give an accounting as to whether you fulfilled the entire potential for good in every situation. True, we have given to charity; but perhaps it was possible to give much more and to raise much more.  True, we support our Yeshivoth, but perhaps with a bit more effort we could have created many, many more Yeshivoth.  Have we fully developed our “appointments”? A doctor may save many lives; but there may have been one telephone call which he neglected, and a child died as a result. There is din, the overall account, but there is also heshbon, a reckoning of unfulfilled possibilities.  And once again we begin to consider the full range of ultimate possibilities, the vast stretches of the infinite future must be included.  When Cain slew Abel, the Almighty told him: “The voice of your brother’s bloods cry to me from the ground.” [this verse]. The “bloods cry”: the Hebrew is in the plural, to denote, according to the Midrash, that Cain was condemned not for the death of Abel alone, but for the untold generations that would never come to life. Midrash Tanhuma, B’reshit 9; Avoth d’Rabbi Nathan, A31 What a great lesson lies in this Midrash: Consequences may spread out from our action or failure to act; and like ripples spreading from a pebble dropped into a pond, the consequences may accelerate in speed and increase in strength and pressure as they move outward. SINAI1 225-6
VIEW EXCERPT DETAILS

GENESIS — 9:2 beast

Ferocious beasts come upon the world on account of false oaths. Pirkei Avot V:10-11 … the animal knows no surcease from his particular activity or pattern of living.  The lion will continue to attack and rend its prey, the ant to gather its food, the beaver to build its dams.  Only man can set a limit to his actions and decide when he has had enough; he can even oppose and rebel against his very instincts, in his search for higher levels and goals of development.  With this capacity man becomes higher than the animal. With his capacity he reflects the Divinity within him, and he attains the stature by which, as the Torah says, the fear of man “shall be upon every animal of the earth.” [this verse]. As long as man cultivates the “image of G-d” within himself and lives up to it, the animal kingdom will respect and fear him. But when man ignores the “image of G-d” within himself and grows father and father away from it, then the lower orders of Creation see only another animal before them, and the law of the jungle prevails. Talmud, Shabbat 151a. Only the human being stands erect with his head up, pointing toward his true destiny: Heaven. Woe to him if he loses the Divine grace of being human. For the Jew, though, there is a further height to attain. Like all men, he must fully develop his humanity; but he must also fulfill his special obligations as a Jew: Torah is his responsibility and his sanctity.  “Be you holy, for I am holy.” Leviticus 19:2  SINAI1 318-9
VIEW EXCERPT DETAILS
RSS
12345678910

Torah Verses

Excerpt Sources

Complete List of Source Books
Back To Top