The idea of the new Chumash would be to make the Torah reading and weekly parsha study experience far more meaningful to those unfamiliar with Hebrew text. “So many Jews coming to shul these days—especially in our Chabad Houses—are new to Hebrew and to the Torah readings,” explained Rabbi Shlomo Cunin, director of Chabad-Lubavitch on the West Coast, who initiated this project.
The new Chumash features a translation of the Biblical text interpolated with Rashi, the classic Torah commentary, but as it is distilled in the interpretations of the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s analytical Rashi studies. An overview summarizes the parsha’s place in the overall scheme of the Torah, based on the Rebbe’s teachings regarding the main “point” each parshah is making. “This enables the reader to see the Torah as a unified entity that forms a true book of “instruction” (the literal translation of “Torah”) relevant to our lives and times,” says Rabbi Moshe Wisnefsky, who headed the team of editors and translators.
Many features of the new Chumash, such as maps, chronological charts, tables, and illustrations to aid the learning process were included to facilitate a deeper engagement with the text. Set beneath the text and running commentary is “Chasidic Insights,” that reflect the lessons illuminated by the Rebbe (and occasionally his predecessors going back as far as the Baal Shem Tov) from the text. Some of the more esoteric points of this material, aimed for the reader who has already familiarized himself with the basics of Jewish mysticism, are separated into a third commentary, “Inner Dimensions.”
In addition to these English elements, this edition includes the full Hebrew text of the Torah, the Aramaic translation of Onkelos, and Rashi’s original commentary (vocalized for easy reading).
The text is cross-referenced in the footnotes for easy navigation throughout the text. The various texts are laid-out such that the verses do not break across pages, sparing the reader the need to flip back and forth constantly as he studies the material. Other design elements have been employed to make this edition especially “user-friendly.”
“This is a momentous project,” says Rabbi Yosef B. Friedman of Kehot. “This Chumash will go a long way in giving non-Hebrew readers a new Torah-learning experience.”
The decision to begin with Numbers, he said, was because this is the section of the Torah that is read at this time of year on Shabbat. “We wanted people to begin to benefit from this new work immediately.”