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The Way of Torah

The Way of Torah

Seventeenth century kabbalist and mystic, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, the Ramchal, was one of the most prolific Jewish writers of his time. Famous for the Mesillat Yesharim, Path of the Just, and Derech Hashem, The Way of God, he authored more than 40 other books, as well as poetry and drama. Giants such as the Vilna Gaon and Rabbi Yisroel Salanter lauded him and his books. Yet, in addition to books on self-improvement and growth, the Ramchal also wrote a seminal text that methodically explores and explains the proper way to learn Talmud. Amazingly, Sefer Derech Hakodesh, The Way of Torah is just as relevant today as it was over 300 years ago when the Ramchal wrote it.

We owe a debt of gratitude to scholars Rabbi David Sackton and Rabbi Chaim Tscholkowsky who have translated it, providing ready access to this ancient wisdom. Comprised of three books, The Way of Torah is Ramchal’s guide to the study of Talmud, focusing on mastery of the text, conceptual analysis, and study of rhetoric. The methods that he presents are highly structured and organized and represent a unified approach to the study and transmission of the Torah. He works through consecutive and interrelated levels that build upon each other to create a deep but vast understanding of the Talmud and its Sages.

The foundation of Ramchal’s method, as outlined in The Ways of Reason (Derech Tevunos) and The Book of Logic (Sefer Hahigayon), is predicated on the three mental functions of the human mind. First, the mind absorbs information, filtered through the framework of prior knowledge, by ascribing new information into existing categories. When this doesn’t work, the mind uses a more creative function to create novel associations and connections between what it knows and the new information that it receives. The third mental function, far less contemplative than the first two, is the decision-making capacity. Often more impulsive, it is rooted in free will and the human capacity to choose. Our minds cycle between these three functions throughout the day, so understanding them is to understand the human mind.

What sets the newly published Rohr Edition apart is the aesthetically pleasing color-coded charts in the study guide at the back of the book. These charts enable the reader to visually capture Ramchal’s method in an applicable and lasting manner. Two sets of charts and an extensive glossary of terms serve as a road map to the book, to be used alongside the English translation of these books to organize and
enhance the reader’s understanding of the text and Ramchal’s overall methodology. The first set of charts, A Schematic Overview of The Way of Torah, show how each of the three books connect to the three mental functions. The Glossary includes definitions of terms and explanations of the connections between the branches of the charts. Finally, Learning Skills Step-by-step chart clarifies the skills that underlie Ramchal’s method in a practical and clear manner.

The Way of Torah is an invaluable resource for anyone looking to understand the ogical underpinnings of the Talmud. Rabbis Sackton and Tscholkowsky unlock that resource by not only translating it into contemporary, accessible language, but also by gifting their readers with the visually-pleasing charts that bring the secrets of this book from the potential to the practical.