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Text Messages: A Torah Commentary for Teens

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Text Messages: A Torah Commentary for Teens

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Text Messages
A Torah Commentary for Teens
Edited by Rabbi Jeffrey K. Salkin
Jewish Lights Publishing, 2012, 276 pages
ISBN: 978-1-58023-507-5

Reviewed by Israel Drazin - July 25, 2012

This book is written for teens and focuses on issues that interest them. The messages are short and to the point, usually no longer than two pages each. They are like the brief text messages that typical youngsters send to each other, such as ICU, meaning I see you.

The book contains over a hundred discussions drawn from the more than fifty weekly biblical portions. They were written by over a hundred different professional American Jewish religious and lay leaders, men and women. Each message was read and approved by a teen editorial board consisting of teenagers from all parts of North America.

Many messages are based on provocative questions such as why did God ask Cain after he had killed his brother Abel, "Where is your brother Abel?" Didn't God know? The word tzaddik, "righteous person," appears over two hundred times in the Hebrew Bible. Why is only Noah given that title? Can we be righteous? What does it mean? The Bible states that God told Abraham to leave his father's house. Isn't this strange? Is this also a message for us? Esau realized after he saw his brother Jacob steal his blessing from their father Isaac that he is unable to control everything in his life. What does this teach us and what can we do about it?

The book discusses many difficult subjects such as telling people that you are gay. The biblical tale of the daughters of Zelophehad's inability to inherit their father's property because they are girls raises the question of fairness and what can or should a person do when he or she thinks that something is unfair? Scripture tells us not to covet. Can we yearn for something that seems to be unattainable? If so, when and how?

In short, there are dozens upon dozens of issues raised in these relevant messages that give answers to teens about matters that concern them.

Dr. Israel Drazin is the author of eighteen books, including a series of five volumes on the Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Bible, which he co-authors with Dr. Stanley M. Wagner, and a series of four books on the twelfth century philosopher Moses Maimonides, the latest being Maimonides: Reason Above All, published by Gefen Publishing House. His website is

The views expressed in this review/article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Jewish Eye.
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