The Parsha Discussion: Vayalech — Reading (and Owning) Jewish Books

Posted by Alex Israel on September 13, 2018
Topics: The Parsha Discussion, Vayelech

What books are on your bookshelf?

Is it worthwhile owning books in a digital age? Our music and photo collections are now electronic, as are our many aspects of our work documentation. Should we own books? Maybe it is just a waste of space and resources!?

What does Judaism have to say about the question of books and libraries?

Parashat Vayalekh contains the final mitzva in the Torah which is the instruction to write a book. That every Jewish man should write a Sefer Torah:

We have been commanded that each male must write a Sefer Torah for himself…and if he cannot write it himself, he should purchase one or commission a person to write it for him, as it states: Write this Song for yourselves (Deut 31:19) – the indication is the entire Torah which includes the [song of Haazinu]. The Talmud states: Even if one’s father bequeathed a Torah scroll to his son, the son is obligated to write another scroll. (Maimonides. Sefer Hamitzvot. Positive command 18)

The Sefer Hachinuch disagrees and thinks that it is about having a scroll at hand to study with.

The mitzva is that each Jewish male should own a Sefer Torah…God commanded that each Jew should have a Torah at hand so that he can read from it regularly and he won’t need to go to a friend to obtain it. This will ensure that he will learn to fear God, and be knowledgeable regarding its beautiful and precious mitzvot [commandments].”

For the Sefer HaChinuch, the emphasis is that owning this text affords each person a constant opportunity to study Torah (hence the male is obligated – because halakha mandates men to learn Torah and not women.)

Want to read more? Click here to download and print this week’s Parsha Discussion on Vayalech: Reading (and Owning) Jewish Books.

Please note that if you are printing The Parsha Discussion on US paper, please select the option “fit to print”.

About Alex Israel

Alex teaches Bible at Pardes and is the Director of the Community Education Program and the Summer Program. Alex was born and raised in London. He holds degrees from London School of Economics, the Institute of Education London and Bar-Ilan University. Alex studied at Yeshivat Har Etzion under Rav Aharon Lichtenstein and Rav Yehudah Amital, and gained Rabbinic ordination from the Israeli Rabbinate. Click here to read more. You can find books written by Alex by clicking here

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