The Torah, or Law, is the five books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Torah means to “direct, teach or instruct, guide or show”. The Torah is divided into yearly readings and read every Saturday morning at Torah Service. It is customary to complete the cycle of the yearly Torah readings on Simchah Torah. There is an old Jewish adage which says, “Turn the Torah, and turn it over again, for everything may be found in it.” So to affirm the truth that one must never stop studying God’s Word, it has become customary to turn at once to the beginning of the Torah and immediately start the readings again when the cycle is completed.
Congregations highly treasure their Torah Scroll. It is usually 2 1/2 feet high and is printed by hand with only a genuine quill pen on kosher animal skin. A typical scroll is 20 to 30 skins long and weighs 15 to 20 pounds. The skins are sewn together so intricately that it is virtually impossible to see the seams. They are then wound around the “Trees of Life” or Torah holders. The coverings are exquisitely decorated in beautiful brocades and satins with appliqué and sometimes even semi-precious stones. The Torah is never touched by hand. Those who transfer it in and out of its special cabinet (which is called the Ark) and place it on a special reading table for the service use the Trees of Life to hold it, and the reader uses a special pointer, called a yad, to keep his place.
The Torah is an important part of religious life to devout Jews. They are mindful of many scriptures which encourage and command them to take its words seriously such as Joshua 1:8 and Proverbs 7:2. On Simchah Torah the scroll is removed from the Ark and paraded about the sanctuary. The people follow behind with music, singing, and the blowing of shofars. There is candy for the children (because God’s Word is sweet like honey) and they are called to the platform to say a blessing over the Torah reading. This is the only time children are allowed to do this. When a synagogue is vandalized or burned and the Torah is destroyed it is a tremendous loss to the congregation, physically, emotionally and spiritually.
There is a valuable lesson we can learn from our Jewish friends from the way they honor and treat the Torah. The Bible is the most amazing book the world has ever seen or read. It has been translated into thousands of languages, printed in every shape and style; maligned, discredited, upheld, misunderstood and underestimated in its strength and power. But how precious is the Bible to us? Think of all the Bibles that have been smuggled into Communist and Muslim countries at the risk of life and freedom. Think of all those who have traveled to remote places to learn languages only a few speak so that the Word can be communicated to them. This Book allows us to truly understand the heart and mind of God. Life was breathed into it by the Holy Spirit and it brings life to us. Yet, many times we toss it aside just as carelessly as we would a paperback novel. I wonder what our brothers and sisters in persecuted countries would think about that. How would they react if they learned many of us ignore the Bible because our schedule is demanding and we are tired? What would our brothers and sisters in Haiti, China and the Sudan do if they could hold and read one single page of God's Word when we have more than one copy sitting on a dusty shelf? Perhaps in the busy-ness of our lives, we have placed the Bible in a low spot on the list of our priorities, but is that where it belongs? Shouldn't we treat it with reverence and rejoice when we come together as God's people to learn from and study it? If we can proudly display the paraphernalia of our favorite sports team, TV shows or cartoon characters shouldn’t we do the same for the Bible?
Ann LeFevre, M. Div.
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