Text Messages: A Torah Commentary for Teens


An indispensable resource for everyone who cares about the Jewish future.

"Every passage of Torah has the potential to be someone's personal story and teaching—and that definitely includes you as a teenager. If you read these stories, and if you really let these holy texts into your mind and into your soul, your life will be deeper and richer, and even happier."
—from the Introduction

Young people need to be included in the struggle for meaning, for the right questions to ask ...

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Text Messages: A Torah Commentary for Teens

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An indispensable resource for everyone who cares about the Jewish future.

"Every passage of Torah has the potential to be someone's personal story and teaching—and that definitely includes you as a teenager. If you read these stories, and if you really let these holy texts into your mind and into your soul, your life will be deeper and richer, and even happier."
—from the Introduction

Young people need to be included in the struggle for meaning, for the right questions to ask and the search for useful and relevant answers. This is the book that has been missing from the ever-expanding bookshelf of Torah commentaries—a collection of messages on each Torah portion, specifically for today’s teens. It shows them how each Torah portion contains worlds of meaning for them, for what they are going through in their lives, and how they can shape their Jewish identity as they enter adulthood.

Addressing the concerns of young adults, it shows how the Torah can help teens deal with issues including:

  • Interpersonal relationships
  • Social justice
  • Sexuality and gender issues
  • Personal ethics
  • Responsibility to family
  • Community and the Jewish people
  • Body image
  • Tattoos
  • Community service
  • The meaning of faith
  • Authority and rebellion
  • The role of ritual
  • Personal theology
  • Prayer
  • Civility
  • Living safely
  • Dealing with disabilities
  • Challenges of eating morally

This groundbreaking spiritual resource is truly transdenominational—including the insights of over 100 Jews who identify as Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, Reconstructionist, Renewal, post-denominational and “just Jewish.” They are rabbis, cantors, educators, authors and community leaders. Orthodox, Reconstructionist, Renewal, post-denominational and “just Jewish.” They are rabbis, cantors, educators, authors and community leaders.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Salkin, a rabbi, writer, and editor, has selected 53 brief excerpts from the Five Books of Moses that he thinks contain a message for teen-age Jews. To deliver the message, he has recruited rabbis, cantors, Jewish educators, Jewish social workers and other Jewish community leaders to spell out the meaning of these teachings.To insure that those who read the book will find it clear, thirteen youngsters served as a teen editorial advisory board. Inevitably, with such a large number of authors, the quality of contributions varies. The writers generally succeed, however, in not haranguing readers but rather encouraging them to follow the lesson of the passages. For example, the book opens with Cain's answer to God on being asked where Abel is: "Am I my brother's keeper?" First, the author expands the meaning of "brother" to include others who are not relatives. Then, the assertion is made that one should "think of the other person as much as you think of yourself." Finally, the lesson: "But when you learn what it means to protect your brother (and when you figure out who your ‘brother' really is), that will be the moment you become an adult." This will be a useful book for Jewish teen-agers who read it, and a potential bar- or bat-mitzvah gift. (July)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781580235075
  • Publisher: Jewish Lights Publishing
  • Publication date: 5/1/2012
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 683,746
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Rabbi Jeffrey K. Salkin is recognized as one of the most thoughtful Jewish writers and teachers of his generation. He has helped people of all ages find spiritual meaning in both the great and small moments in life.

A noted author whose work has appeared in many publications, including the Wall Street Journal, Reader's Digest and the Congressional Record, Rabbi Salkin is editor of The Modern Men's Torah Commentary: New Insights from Jewish Men on the 54 Weekly Torah Portions; and author of Being God's Partner: How to Find the Hidden Link Between Spirituality and Your Work, with an introduction by Norman Lear; the bestseller Putting God on the Guest List: How to Reclaim the Spiritual Meaning of Your Child's Bar or Bat Mitzvah; For Kids—Putting God on Your Guest List: How to Claim the Spiritual Meaning of Your Bar or Bat Mitzvah and Righteous Gentiles in the Hebrew Bible: Ancient Role Models for Sacred Relationships (all Jewish Lights), among other books.

Rabbi Jeffrey K. Salkin is available to speak on the following topics:
• Is God on Your Guest List?
• Where Are the Men?
• While You Were Out, God Called
• The Secret War Against Israel (or, Why John Lennon Was Wrong)
• Outside the Red Tent

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Table of Contents

Introduction xv

Bereshit (1:1–6:8)
What If I Don't Like My Brother?
Rabbi Sherre Z. Hirsch 3
Look in the Mirror; Now Look Again
Danny Maseng 6
Noach (6:9–11:32)
Even Righteous People Make Mistakes
Rabbi Aaron Bisno 8
Being the "Un-Noah"
Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin 10
Lech Lecha (12:1–17:27)
Get Going!
Rabbi Carl M. Perkins 12
A GPS for Compassion
Rabbi Rami Shapiro 14
Vayera (18:1–22:24)
Answering the World's Oldest Question
Rabbi Brad Hirschfield 16
Be Present
Rabbi Judith Schindler 18
Chayei Sarah (23:1–25:18)
A Story of Prayer and Love
Rabbi Elie Kaunfer 20
Getting the Order Wrong—or Right
Rabbi Steven Z. Leder 22
Toldot (25:19–28:9)
The Most Serious Thing That Ever Happened to Me,
by Esau Isaacson
Rabbi Mordecai Finley, PhD 24
Esau's Tears
Rabbi Dana Saroken 27
Vayetzei (28:10–32:3)
Jacob’s Stairway
Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso 29
Jacob’s Life Is Our Own
Rabbi David J. Wolpe 31
Vayishlach (32:4–36:43)
How to Become Yisrael
Rabbi Vernon Kurtz 33
Each of Us Has a Name
Rabbi Amy Joy Small 35
Vayeshev (37:1–40:23)
Not Your Plans—God’s
Rabbi Lawrence Kushner 38
That Man Is You
Rabbi Jack Moline 40
Miketz (41:1–44:17)
Truth or Consequences
Rabbi Cherie Koller-Fox 43
The Tests of Adulthood
Rabbi Kerry M. Olitzky 46
Vayigash (44:18–47:27)
Joseph Comes Out of the Closet
Rabbi Eve Rudin 49
Joseph or Moses: Who Do You Want to Be?
Barry Shrage 52
Vayechi (47:28–50:26)
Both Kindness to Others and Loyalty to Ourselves
Rabbi John Moscowitz 55
Rabbi Avi Weiss 57

Shemot (1:1–6:1)
No Such Thing as an Innocent Bystander
Rabbi William G. Hamilton 63
So, When Do You Really Grow Up?
Rabbi Jeffrey K. Salkin 65
Va’era (6:2–9:35)
Conviction, Yes; Stubbornness, No
Rabbi Howard L. Jaffe 67
Hard Hearts—For Real
Dr. Ron Wolfson 70
Bo (10:1–13:16)
Being a Global Team Player
Lisa Exler and Ruth W. Messinger 73
Does God Fight Fair?
Rabbi Avi S. Olitzky 76
Beshalach (13:17–17:16)
Finding Our Voice
Cantor Benjie Ellen Schiller 78
That Nachshon Moment
Rabbi Sid Schwarz 80
Yitro (18:1–20:23)
Rules Are Jewish Love
Rabbi Angela Warnick Buchdahl 82
What Kind of Leader Do You Want to Be?
Rabbi Jonah Pesner 84
Mishpatim (21:1–24:18)
"… And Another Thing!"
Rabbi Lester Bronstein 86
God Sweats the Small Stuff
Rabbi Debra Newman Kamin 88
What Kind of Sanctuary Are You Building?
Rabbi Amy Schwartzman 90
Inside Out
Dr. Ira H. Schweitzer, RJE 92
Tetzaveh (27:20–30:10)
Dress Code
Rabbi Sue Levi Elwell, PhD 94
Someone Is Always Watching
Rabbi Michael Pincus 96
Ki Tisa (30:11–34:35)
Our Duty to One Another
Rabbi Julie Schonfeld 98
No Free Lunch
Rabbi Daniel G. Zemel 100
Vayakhel (35:1–38:20)
Finding Your Life’s Purpose
Rabbi Spike Anderson 102
Who Else Is Coming?
Rabbi Pamela Jay Gottfried 105
Pekudei (38:21–40:38)
Are You Accountable?
Rabbi Jill Jacobs 107
No Boat
Rabbi Paul Yedwab 109

Vayikra (1:1–5:26)
Who’s Calling, Please?
Rabbi Elyse Frishman 113
Sacrifice Play
Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt 115
Tzav (6:1–8:36)
A Perpetual Fire
Rabbi Jeremy Kalmanofsky 118
Time for a God Upgrade
Rabbi Jamie Korngold 120
Shemini (9:1–11:47)
The Gold Standard for Kashrut
Rabbi Morris J. Allen 122
A Time for Silence
Rabbi Zoë Klein 125
Tazria (12:1–13:59)
Deep and Looking Up: How a Weird Story of Skin Disease Can Tell Us about Life over Death and Seeking Inner Peace
Rabbi Peretz Wolf-Prusan and Rabbi Asher Lopatin 127
Metzora (14:1–15:33)
When Words Become Contagious
Rabbi Norman M. Cohen 130
Sacred Graffiti
Rabbi Shira Stern 133
Acharei Mot (16:1–18:30)
The Physical Is Also Spiritual
Rabbi Dr. Bradley Shavit Artson 136
Never Stand Idly By
Rabbi Steven Greenberg 138
Kedoshim (19:1–20:27)
Tattoo, Taboo, and the Jew: Can I Be Buried in a Jewish Cemetery?
Rabbi Peter Berg 142
Sacred Sexuality
Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg 146
Emor (21:1–24:23)
Animals: What’s Cruel, and What’s Not So Cruel?
Stan J. Beiner 148
God Said What?
Shulamit Reinharz, PhD, and Ellen Golub, PhD 151
Behar (25:1–26:2)
God’s Reset Button
Rabbi Mike Comins 155
Shabbat and the Power of the "Regular" and “Routine”
Rabbi Michael L. Feshbach 158
Bechukotai (26:3–27:34)
“Girls Rule! Boys Drool.”
Rabbi Marshal Klaven 160
A Big “If”
Rabbi Shira Stutman 162

Bemidbar (1:1–4:20)
Standing Guard
Rabbi Jonathan E. Blake 167
“They’ve Given You a Number, and Taken Away Your Name”
Rabbi Joshua Hammerman 169
Naso (4:21–7:89)
Accessing Your Superpowers
Rabbi Sarah Mack 172
Jealousy Is Like Poison
Ethan Klaris and Rabbi Burt Visotzky 174
Behaalotecha (8:1–12:16)
Facing the Wilderness
Rabbi Elliot J. Cosgrove, PhD 177
What Makes a Leader Powerful?
Deborah Meyer 180
Shelach-Lecha (13:1–15:41)
They Could Be Giants—So Could You!
Dr. Erica Brown 182
Don’t Be a Grasshopper!
Rabbi Sheldon Zimmerman 185
Korach (16:1–18:32)
Rebels for What?
Rabbi Jessica Brockman 188
Teaching Lasts Longer Than Politics
Rabbi Michael Paley 190
Chukat (19:1–22:1)
Speak Up and Speak Out!
Emilia Diamant 193
No Leading While Angry!
Rabbi Edward Feld 195
Balak (22:2–25:9)
Because That’s What Jews Do
Robert Bildner 198
How Good Are Your Tents!
Cantor Ellen Dreskin 201
Pinchas (25:10–30:1)
It’s Not Fair!
Rabbi B. Elka Abrahamson 203
A Fanatic Named Pinchas
Jerry Kaye 206
Mattot (30:2–32:42)
Silence Is Consent
Rabbi Laura Geller 208
Dugma Is Dogma
Ira J. Wise, RJE 211
Maasei (33:1–36:13)
Second Chances
Rabbi William Cutter, PhD, and Georgeanne Cutter 213
Are We There Yet?
Rabbi Baruch Frydman-Kohl 216

Devarim (1:1–3:22)
Trust the Rebellion
Rabbi Ken Chasen 221
Angry at God
Rabbi Harold S. Kushner 224
Skydiving and Torah
Rabbi Marc Gellman, PhD 226
Curb Your Appetites
Rabbi Elaine Zecher 229
Ekev (7:12–11:25)
Everything We Do Matters
Dr. Arnold M. Eisen 232
The Two-Chambered Heart
Rabbi Micah D. Greenstein 234
Re’eh (11:26–16:17)
The Vision Thing
Wayne L. Firestone 237
To See Even (and Especially) Those Who Cannot
Rabbi Loren Sykes 239
Shoftim (16:18–21:9)
Judging Ourselves, Judging Others
Rabbi Felipe Goodman 242
War Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up to Be
Rabbi Laurence E. Milder 244
Ki Tetzei (21:10–25:19)
You Must, Because You Can
Rabbi Edward Feinstein 247
The Ties That Bind
Rabbi Joseph B. Meszler 250
Ki Tavo (26:1–29:8)
An Unholy Mash-Up
Rabbi Joseph Black 253
Remember Who You Are (and Then, Party)
Rabbi David Steinhardt 255
Nitzavim (29:9–30:20)
The Ultimate Network
Rabbi Dr. Analia Bortz, MD 257
Standing for Civility
Rabbi Peter J. Rubinstein 259
Vayelech (31:1–30)
Joel Lurie Grishaver 261
Facing the End
Rabbi James Ponet 263
Haazinu (32:1–52)
Driven to Non-distraction
Rabbi Denise L. Eger 266
Listening—with Our Eyes
Rabbi David B. Rosen 268
Ve-zot Ha-brachah (33:1–34:12)
Building a Better World: A Vision, a Plan, and the Workers
Rabbi Andrew Davids 270
… And Ready to Start Again
Rabbi Elie Kaplan Spitz 272

Notes 275
Index by Contributor 277

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