Dr. Sam Friedman’s not a Torah scholar. That’s part of what makes his book, “Joyous Torah Treasures,” accessible to the observant and nonobservant alike, he said.
“I wrote them for everybody,” the cardiologist said of the two-volume set of Torah commentaries, released late last year by Devora Publishing. “I want everybody to be exposed to our sages’ clever thoughts and their practical advice.”
Each chapter focuses on one of the 49 weekly readings of the Torah, drawing on commentaries from such sages as Rashi, Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, and Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan (the Chofetz Chaim), as well as more contemporary Torah scholars.
The book project began 10 years ago as Friedman began collecting essays on the weekly parshot and weaving them into short pieces with some of his own interpretations for his children. As the years passed, he recalled, he would forget what he had collected for the previous year as the Torah cycle began again and he soon started to write down his thoughts.
|Dr. Sam Friedman holds his new book, “Joyous Torah Treasures.” David Sultanik
“The purpose of these essays was to show my children the Torah’s wisdom helps us lead a more meaningful and happy life and also how enjoyable the study of Torah can be,” he said. “After starting to write them down for my kids, it occurred to me it’d be worthwhile to share them with everybody.”
He began distributing the essays on Fridays to coworkers in his Hackensack medical practice and at his synagogue, Cong. Beth Abraham in Bergenfield.
“I had people waiting for them every week,” he said. “I still have people asking me if I’ve put out new sheets yet. One of the things I enjoyed was sharing these with people both with and without a strong Jewish education.”
To make the books more accessible to readers without a yeshiva background, Friedman said he “took great efforts” to translate all the Hebrew.
“I think the book will have a lot to say to both the observant and nonobservant reader,” he said. “The thoughts of our sages are equally appealing.”
For example, at least four different tractates in the Talmud speak of being lenient and forgiving of others, Friedman said, and God will reciprocate.
“Sometimes in life you think, ‘What did I do to deserve a good life?’ It’s really not that difficult. If you’re easygoing and lenient with others, you’re going to have an easygoing and lenient time as well. That’s just a comforting thought,” he added.
Another of Friedman’s favorite lessons deals with the treatment of other people. The Torah commands that converts be loved and treated properly. The sages extended that to include treating anyone in a new situation with compassion, which Friedman interprets as new employees, new neighbors, or new members at shul.
“Thoughts like this are abundant in every Torah portion,” Friedman said. “A lot of this wisdom, which was stated at least 2,000 years ago, still helps us to lead a meaningful and happy life.”
As a medical doctor, Friedman does not devote most of his time to writing. Indeed, he called the 10-year process of writing “Joyous Torah Treasures” an “incredible gift” because he was able to take his time without worrying about deadlines. Still, he has already started thinking about another book, a translation of collected Jewish ethical works – some from within the last 200 years and some from within the last 2,000 years – that have never been put into English before.
“It’s just amazing that someone like myself, just an average Torah learner, can find things to write and share with others,” he said. “Jewish people have had an interest in Torah for so long. I’m just thankful to make some contribution to Torah literature.”
Friedman lives in Teaneck with his wife, Nora, and daughters, Miriam, Chana, and Nava.