Rabbi helping to interpret the


By: Sharlee Joy DiMenichi, Staff Writer – Cranbury press

Chabad Rabbi holds weekly Torah classes to help lay persons understand the holy book.

MONROE, NJ — Multilayered and open to paradoxical interpretations, the Torah can be daunting for the solitary layperson.

That's why about a dozen Jews gather weekly at the Gravel Hill Road home of Chabad Rabbi Eliezer Zaklikovsky to study a portion of the holy book, enhanced by the rabbi's comments.

Rabbi Zaklikovsky said that through the class, he hopes to engage Jews in Torah study regardless of how unfamiliar they might be with the Scriptures.

"The Torah provides relevant lessons and guidance for each and everyone in every time and every place," said Rabbi Zaklikovsky, who started the class a year ago in response to requests from Jewish residents of the township.

The portion discussed Monday dealt with tithing and other guidelines Jews were to follow as they prepared to enter Canaan, the land to which they believe God led them about 3,000 years ago, after helping them escape from Egypt, where they were enslaved.

Rabbi Zaklikovsky reconciled two apparently contradictory rabbinical interpretations of the command to offer the first portion of one's crops to the temple and those in need out of gratitude to God. One opinion holds that the first fruits were to have been contributed immediately, while according to another, they were not to have been offered until everyone was settled in the land and harvesting crops, which would take 14 years.

Rabbi Zaklikovsky said the two interpretations represent essential faith and intellectual faith, which complement each other. Essential faith is what makes believers grateful simply to be alive, Rabbi Zaklikovsky said. Rabbi Zaklikovsky said he had spoken Monday with a 93-year-old friend who illustrates essential faith by thanking God every morning he wakes to find himself not in a coffin.

"'I don't know what it says in the Torah. I know when I wake up in the morning and I'm not feeling wood, I have something to say "thank you" for,' " Rabbi Zaklikovsky said the man told him

Rabbi Zaklikovsky said intellectual faith develops with time and study of holy writings. He said that postponing the required offering until everyone in the community could participate was also an act of unity.

Participants said Rabbi Zaklikovsky's insight into the meaning of familiar texts is what brings them back.

"He always gives the knowledge behind it," said Martin Rich, who attends services at the Concordia Jewish Center and at the Chabad Jewish Center in Concordia Shopping Center.

Another participant said the class helped him grasp the meanings behind Jewish teachings.

"There are a lot of rules I knew, but now I know the whys for the rules," said David Whitebook of Monroe, who attends a synagogue in Lakewood.

The Torah class is held at 8 p.m. Mondays. To join, call Rabbi Zaklikovsky at (609) 655-2200.