– What is gTorah?
gTorah is a Dvar Torah service curated to inspire audiences of all levels to become better humans, drawing compelling and portable ethical guidance from the Parsha.
gTorah was founded in 2009 as a contemporary anthology of some of the Torah’s most powerful ideas, presented in a clear and simple format, leaving you with a portable lesson that will resonate with the way you choose to live your life.
The Torah is a living memory we lovingly look to for comfort, wisdom, and guidance, with stories that are cryptic yet laden with meaning. We study the Torah daily in private, and as a community in the weekly public readings, devotedly mining it to enhance our understanding of how to live our best Jewish life – תורת חיים.
Yet R’ Samson Raphael Hirsch quipped that if you perform symbolic acts without understanding the symbolism, you end up doing a bunch of strange things for literally no reason.
Learning is a transaction – an exchange of the student’s time for the teacher’s information. But people are busy, and there is an unprecedented proliferation of lectures, blogs, and books available; so it’s often hard to find the signal in the noise – לֹא רָעָב לַלֶּחֶם וְלֹא צָמָא לַמַּיִם, כִּי אִם לִשְׁמֹעַ אֵת דִּבְרֵי ה.
Accordingly, gTorah’s curation, drafting, editing, and proofreading is painstakingly ruthless with the single goal of slashing the cost of a meaningful idea.
– Who is behind gTorah?
gTorah’s founding editor is Neli Gertner. All articles are original.
Neli is a reformed attorney and works in the insurance sector. Born and raised in London, Neli studied at Beis Yisrael and the Mir Yeshiva in Israel. Neli holds a BA from Excelsior College; an LLB and MA from BPP University Law School and Business School; and an LLM from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University. Neli considers it one of his life’s greatest privileges to be a student of Rabbi Shlomo Farhi.
Neli lives in Lawrence, NY with his wife Tamara, and their children, Harry and Sophia.
gTorah’s indefatigable co-founder Brocha Zweig seamlessly coordinates all the invisible parts of gTorah.
– gTorah’s Ethic
Knowledge is power. For the vast majority of human history, monarchies and religious orders protected their power structures by systematically suppressing the distribution of literacy and knowledge; which the ignorant masses accepted with blind faith and obedience. This paradigm only changed in the last few centuries, and it is no coincidence that a newly educated public empowered by freshly democratized knowledge sparked the political and intellectual revolutions that gave rise to the modern world.
In stark contrast, Judaism has always been about equal access to God, enabled by universal education and literacy, reiterated countless ways across the ages – וְשִׁנַּנְתָּם לְבָנֶיךָ / וְהִגַּדְתָּ לְבִנְךָ / מַמְלֶכֶת כֹּהֲנִים וְגוֹי קָדוֹשׁ / כָל-הָעֵדָה כֻּלָּם קְדֹשִׁים / הַעֲמִידוּ תַלְמִידִים הַרְבֵּה.
R’ Samson Raphael Hirsch taught that righteous people are not scholars in ivory towers; they actively drive positive change in their communities by living out the Torah’s teachings – בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה בָּעִיר.
But in order to do the right thing, you must first acquire the ability to identify it.
R’ Jonathan Sacks remarks that Judaism’s gift to the human species is humanity itself – a life of dignity that, when encountered, is recognized as the way all people ought to behave. Hillel summed up the Torah’s Golden Rule: whatever you find despicable, don’t do to others; R’ Akiva said it is to love your neighbor. Either way, R’ Shlomo Farhi notes that it’s not the Golden Rule of personal relations; it’s the Golden Rule of all Torah.
Judaism bridges the gap between the world as it is and it as it ought to be. Whether we live in a perfect or flawed world, the Torah requires each of us to participate in realizing its vision – לֹא עָלֶיךָ הַמְּלָאכָה לִגְמֹר, וְלֹא אַתָּה בֶן חוֹרִין לִבָּטֵל מִמֶּנָּה.
gTorah is not a platform for preaching or propaganda – I am a private person and would never presume to tell others what to do. Every article on gTorah is a marker that has honed my moral compass on my quest to become a better human.
gTorah is my journey, shared with you.
– Shabbos Table best practice
If you’re searching for a Dvar Torah on a particular Parsha or Yom Tov, use the navigation menu on the right to find it.
Divrei Torah are received better by an interactive audience. In my personal experience, you should start off by explaining the context and background of what you are going to be discussing – the mitzvah, pasuk, or story. Then before you dive into it, pose the question to your audience, and let them think.
Encourage responses, and engage them. With almost no exceptions, you should validate the answers you get and try to show how it could be a reasonable answer. There is no single way of looking at the Torah, so there is almost never a single definitive answer. This exercise will help you see that.
Beyond the Dvar Torah itself, this exercise will improve your communication and teaching abilities, and it gives your audience a rare moment to really grapple with what something in the Torah means to them personally.
– Speech best practice
If you’re researching a speech for an event or Simcha of any kind, you can give a great speech just by avoiding the common mistakes.
Do not make the common mistake of thinking you need to shoehorn the Parsha into it somehow. If you are speaking, it is because you have a relationship that no one else can speak about, and that’s where you should start. Tell the audience what the relationship means to you; a story showcasing the quality you want to highlight; and pad that with a Dvar Torah related to the theme you’re talking about (not necessarily from the Parsha), and then tie it together with advice and good wishes. Anyone can say a Dvar Torah, but few will have the relationship you do. So say what only you can say!
Ask one question, and one question only – it is NOT the time for a long and complex discourse. If you were the cleverest Rosh Yeshiva and had just developed your original and perfect Grand Unified Theory of Everything; it would still betray a tone-deafness to the audience. Nobody cares! Just keep it simple.
Freestyle your speech – do NOT read out a script word for word. Writing is not the same as speaking! Have your key points in front of you and make eye contact with the crowd as you go. Remember to pause for breath between key points, and take moment to look at your next talking point. Speak to people, not at them.