There are many resources available to the amateur Torah scholar. If you are just beginning, a few, well-chosen aids will get you started and may last you a long while. If you desire greater challenges, you can go as far as your interest and income take you.
The amateur Torah scholar can make considerable progress without a knowledge of Hebrew, using English-language translations and scholarly commentaries. However, because of the nature of the Torah and of discussions of it, the amateur scholar will sooner or later need at least a minimal ability to work with Biblical Hebrew.
Clearly, the amateur Torah scholar must have at least a copy of the Torah, if not of the entire Hebrew Bible (also referred to as the Tanakh.) One or more of the English translations published under Jewish auspices will be needed.
Those who have a basic understanding of the Hebrew alphabet, enough to locate a word that is being discussed and recognize its grammatical structure and possibilities, may find that a text that has Hebrew and English next to one another on the page is appealing.
Advanced students who have studied Hebrew for several years will be ready to find their way around a Hebrew-only text .
Many editions of the Torah will have annotations, some brief, some extensive. Usually, they are the work of one person, with reference to classic and contemporary writers.
It is wise to be sensitive to the perspective of any author, publisher, translator, or editor. The introduction to the text is often a good way to determine where the writers are coming from.
Any learning can be facilitated and enhanced by working as part of a group. In the case of Torah study in particular, many synagogues sponsor regular Torah study groups that provide an opportunity for people ranging from the total beginner to those with extensive backgrounds, to gain additional insight and understanding of the Torah. Participation is usually open to people who are not members of the sponsoring synagogue as well as to congregational members.
© 1997, Rosemarie E. Falanga, Cy H. Silver