To See the Torah through the Eyes of Chazal: The Kleinman Edition Midrash Rabbah


I’m reading the first words of ArtScroll’s newly-released volume of the Kleinman Edition Midrash Rabbah —  Parashas Shemos through Parashas Beshalach — and I am puzzled. Why would Chazal start the narrative of Klal Yisrael’s agonizing galus in Egypt, and their wondrous salvation, with a discussion of how a person should discipline his child?

I read through the elucidated text, the notes, and the Insights section, and it’s like I’ve been bumping around in a dark room, banging into unknown barriers, and suddenly a light goes on and I can see what everything is, and where everything belongs.

That’s the brilliance of the Midrash. And that’s the wonder of this monumental translation and elucidation, which has enabled me to access that brilliance.

The Midrash is one of the most important sources we have to understand the spiritual essence of the Torah. It also adds detail and information to the Torah’s narrative, and helps us understand the ethical treasures hidden in the Torah’s words.  But the Midrash is often not easy to follow, and its messages are sometimes obscure.

If you’ll allow me another metaphor: The Midrash helps us to see the Torah through Chazal’s eyes – and the Kleinman Edition Midrash Rabbah gives us the “glasses” we need to perfect our vision.

The parshiyos in this volume take us through the era when Klal Yisrael became a nation, its identity forged both through suffering and miracles. The Midrash adds so much to our understanding. Why should Pharaoh have been punished, if Hashem hardened his heart? What kind of Torah observance did the Jews do before Har Sinai? Why did the future Sin of the Golden Calf actually hasten the redemption? We turn to the Midrash for the answers.

The Kleinman Edition Midrash follows ArtScroll/Mesorah’s acclaimed phrase-by-phrase translation and elucidation to make the words of Midrash more easily comprehensible.  Explanatory footnotes clarify difficult concepts and passages, and the “Insights” section allows us to see the Midrash through the eyes of major medieval and contemporary giants of Torah thought. It also includes the Hebrew text, newly typeset, and many classic Hebrew commentaries, including Rashi, Matnos Kehunah, Eitz Yosef, and Maharzu, plus the out-of-print classic Eshed HaNechalim.

Oh, and the question of why Shemos Rabbah begins with disciplining children? If you want to know the brilliant answer – just open the newest volume of The Kleinman Edition Midrash Rabbah.

Classic Krohn: The Maggid at the Podium

The phone rang. A famous voice was on the line. I was astonished when I heard what it had to say.

In close to three decades of working in Jewish publishing, I’ve been privileged to deal with many, many authors. I’ve found them to be intelligent and well-read, men and women of integrity and yiras Shamayim.

But only one – the one on the other end of the phone line – had ever taken the trouble of finding out who had written the copy that appeared on the cover of his newly-published book, and phoning that anonymous writer (me!) to say thank you.

That was my introduction to Rabbi Paysach Krohn, the man they call the American Maggid.

In that brief but unforgettable phone conversation I could identify all the traits that make Rabbi Krohn’s books unique, beloved bestsellers standing proudly on so many bookshelves: warmth, a finely-tuned sense of humor, and profound insight into how to touch the goodness inherent in all of us. In the space of a few minutes I could see that Rabbi Krohn is a master at showing how to make people — into better people.

He’s also incredibly entertaining.

The Maggid at the Podium is classic Krohn.  In addition to being a bestselling author, Rabbi Krohn is a globetrotting speaker who has touched and inspired tens of thousands with his insights, wisdom, and, of course, his stories. In The Maggid at the Podium, we can bring his messages to our homes, to read, reread and share with those we love.

And what are these messages? Advice on how to make ourselves “uppercase people in a lowercase world,”– changing “I want,” “I need,” “I deserve,” to “I care” and “I will help.” A simple thank-you note becomes “Exhibit A” in a lawsuit, and we get the message of this unusual story: show gratitude the next time someone does something nice for us. Rabbi Krohn shares with us messages on how to make our homes secure and comforting havens for our family in these puzzling times. 21st-century life got you tense? Rabbi Krohn offers strategies, advice and his trademark stories to help us deal with the stress and time management challenges that so many of us face. His topics are as contemporary as iPads and ICUs, while his wisdom is as timeless as the Talmud and Tanach.

Truly, the American Maggid has done it again.

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