24 Tishrei 5774 / Sept. 27-28, 2013
Let’s start at the very beginning – a very good place to start.
At the outset.
This Shabbat, we start reading the Torah all over again, having completed the last portion as part of the Simchat Torah holiday taking place on Friday. Around the world, Jews will roll their Torah scrolls all the way back to the other end, in order to start re-reading the Five Books of Moses.
I’ve always been intrigued by this reality… For literally thousands of years, we’ve been publicly reading the same text aloud, year after year. While the Torah is filled with incredible narratives that certainly maintain intrigue, I can’t help but wonder why our ancestors didn’t get so sick of it that they’d opt for some newer addition to our traditional canon… Granted, the reality that many of them (and still many folks today) believed that the Torah was God’s own words and that they were commanded to read/study them with regularity likely played a part. And yet, I still find it shocking that this custom of publicly reading the Torah has lasted as long as it has.
When is the last time you heard someone read from the Torah (or read from the Torah yourself)? What was that experience like? Did it touch you in some way? Was there meaning in it / behind it?
An interesting trend is that for many Jews (especially during their college years and young adult lives), if they attend services at all, they attend on Friday nights, when the Torah traditionally is not read. Thus, public Torah readings are generally not a part of their (or your) lives.
If given the choice, would you continue on with the public reading of the Torah on a weekly basis (traditionally, we read it on Mondays, Thursdays, Saturdays and holidays)? If so, why, and if not, why not?
If the Torah is read and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?
As we begin this new cycle of reading a designated section of the Torah each week, consider reading along on your own, or finding a study buddy to read with, if you don’t regularly attend services. Recognize that the Five Books of Moses is a part of our heritage, and that having at least a cursory familiarity with our traditional texts should be both an individual and communal goal.
Some of the stories in the Torah make sense. Some are erotic. Some are just downright ridiculous given our contemporary views of right and wrong. But it’s ours, and we read it from beginning to end and back to the beginning, year after year. Make it yours.