Rabbi David Fohrman stands by the podium at the Young Israel of Woodmere and speaks with a clear intensity, self-effacing, folksy, stating the pshat (the text of the Torah). He points to a phrase here, a word there, drawing connections, linking 3,300 year old verses and suddenly it’s all clear and alive.
Fohrman, an internationally renowned lecturer on biblical themes, is presenting a well-attended series of talks on Bereishit at 7 pm motzei Shabbat. The live classes are videotaped for use by Aleph Beta Academy, an online Jewish studies program.
This Saturday (Nov. 30), the YIW will screen a new Chanukah film, “The Chanukah that Might Have Been,” followed by Fohrman’s commentary. “Was there a second Chanukah?” Fohrman asks, as he considers a portion of Talmud that indicates a positive meeting between Greeks and Jews.
Fohrman told The Jewish Star that he favors “an intelligent, vigorous approach to the text, leaving preconceived ideas behind.”
“Torah wants us to fall in love with the book, what Shma is all about, a very passionate love [so that you will] love that Mysterious Being that gave you the book,” he said. “When you’re in love you can’t stop talking about it — you want to put representative pieces of the book on your arm, your head, your house — it’s the deveikus (closeness) with G-d and the book.”
Fohrman is the main presenter at Aleph Beta Academy, and spiritual leader of the Shabbat nusach Sfard minyan at YIW. He posts his lectures with pictures and videos at AlephBeta.org.
His analytical methods incorporate five principles: intertextuality; questions and problematic narratives; structure; not reading with the end in mind; and chiastic structure (also known as aht-bash) where the beginning of a narrative mirrors the end. Intertextuality, often his trademark, is, he said, when “a strange word or phrase connects to another word or phrase and you get the sense that the Torah means to connect narrative A to B. It’s the original interconnective document [with] infinite wisdom — every story sheds light on five other stories.”
The Torah is “an Internet without electricity,” he said.