How is this Torah commentary different from all other Torah commentaries?
This Torah commentary is aimed particularly at young people and their parents. It expresses difficult concepts in down-to-earth and even colloquial terms. It poses questions that challenge kids. And I believe it does something that no other Torah commentary does: it takes the haftarah (the prophetic portions) seriously, and shows why we need to read them publicly.
How will it help students and their parents and teachers?
For many kids and parents, the Torah is something that is totally out there — or something that is so holy that we cannot touch it, or let it touch us. This Torah commentary makes it all simple. It teaches kids how to write a d’var Torah – even offering alternative models for kids who might not exactly love public speaking. It asks pointed questions that will make kids think. And it relates the Torah to what is going on in the world and in our kids’ worlds.
What is bar/bat mitzvah at its best?
It is a celebration of Jewish becoming. The Jewish child demonstrates primary Jewish skills–– leading a service, reading or chanting Torah, and teaching Torah. Finally, when bar/bat mitzvah really “works,” it happens in the midst of a community – where the kids know the larger community (and not just family and friends), and the community really experiences the kid as part of their story and life.