What Torah Might We Write?

Lughnasa and the Moon of the First Harvest

sumi-e Hebrew script

Went to a bagel table at CBE yesterday. Steve Tick, a congregant and a lawyer, presented on the parshah for the week, Deut. 7:12-11:25. We read all the way through it, taking turns. He’s got a lot of torah knowledge, having studied with a scholar/rabbi for over 25 years.

A bagel table is done in lieu of a Friday night service and usually involves discussion of the week’s parshah. The congregation buys bagels, lox, and shmear. Steve brought coffee, Starbucks in four tall paper cups. He led us through the parsha with his own commentary, asking questions as we worked our way through the text.

My bagel table on September 14th has a parshah much further along: Deut. 21:10–25:19. Torah portions have names, their first words. In this case Ki Teitzei, which means when you go out. Not sure how I’ll use the parshah.

Torah as the first five books of the Tanakh, written by Moses in the traditional understanding, are read and re-read each year. The Jewish lectionary runs from Simchat Torah to Simchat Torah, the joy of the Torah, when the annual cycle of public torah readings finishes and a new one begins with Gen. 1:1.

Torah, or to instruct in Hebrew, can mean all the books of the Tanakh. It can also mean the whole body of Jewish law and teaching. This broad sense of the torah is where most Jewish scholars stop, the broadest sense then.

Rabbi Jamie goes beyond even that. He sees torah as anything that instructs us, anything from which we learn what it means to be (become) human. Nature. Other people. Animals. Thought. Literature. Poetry. Our own life history.

At the bagel table on the 14th we’ll use ki teitzei as a sample text for Rabbi Jamie’s expanded sense of torah. With Emerson’s introduction to nature, we’ll explore how revelation comes to us now. What torah might we write?

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