Saturday, October 14, 2006

Simchath Torah!

Today, the eighth day of the festival of Succoth, is Simchath Torah (Sim-Khawth' Toe-Rah'). It means "the joy of the law." Simchath Torah marks the completion of the yearly reading of the first five books of the Old Testament. On this day, they read the last Torah portion, plus a bit more, to show that the reading of God's Law ought never to be really finished. Then, a celebration ensues in which the Torah scroll is paraded around the synagogue.
Of course, along with the yearly reading through those five books, there are also weekly "haftarah" portions, which are sections of the other books in the Old Testament that correspond thematically to the weekly Torah portions. Even with this, though, there are passages of the Hebrew Bible that are not included. Isa 53 comes to mind as one of those ignored portions. Hopefully, the rest of the Scriptures are learned from their rabbis and in Torah study groups.
To read through the Scriptures in the course of one year--an admirable goal! Oh that we would set such a high value on the revealed Word of God that we would have a yearly read-through and celebration of it! The problem, of course, is that this is a lot of reading! I've plunged into through-the-Bible-in-a-year programs, but it often felt more like work than joyous meditation. Probably because that's exactly what it was--work and not meditation!
So read smaller chunks. There's no added eternal reward for getting through all 66 books in a year, if you've missed the meaning of them and missed out on a relationship with the God who gave them to us! Besides, not everyone reads at the same pace and comprehension level. The blessings in Scripture are for meditating daily on God's Word, not necessarily upon consuming gargantuan bites of it.

***Sermon Illustration Warning!***
I'm reminded of the farmer in the old days with his pocket New Testament in his overalls. He'd open his Testament, read a verse, and then plough a row of his field, thinking upon the meaning and implications of that verse. At the end of the row, he would get the mule turned around, read the next verse, and mull over that verse as he ploughed that row.

***End Sermon Illustration***

Did he read huge segments of the Bible? Well, he probably didn't set any records for sheer amount. But I wonder if this sort of thing is more appropriate to what the Psalmist had in mind when describing the "blessed man" who meditates on God's Law day and night.

Take a few verses grouped together carrying out the same discussion and theme, and consciously take moments in the course of the day to meditate on them. Ask yourself, "What does this say about God? About the world? About me? About those around me?" "Is there a command I need follow here? A sin I need to repent of?" "Does what I've read have any bearing on the events that have happened/ will happen to me today? How about the things that I have done/ will do today?" That's a good start, anyway. And certainly, be open to the Holy Spirit's guidance through the Word.

Listening to: Soundtrack for "Carnival of Souls," by Gene Moore.

1 comment:

Gregory said...

Allen, I really want to lift up what you've said here. Amen, amen, amen. I think we, as "modern" Christians, tend to put too much emphasis on the quantity of our spiritual activities. We, being the industrious people we are, attach value to how much work we do, rather than the good we derive from it.

I'm reminded of something one of my elders said to me when I told him I didn't do my devotional times as consistently as I'd like.

He said, "In my own life, I don't worry about how I do devotions, but rather how devoted I am, which is not necessarily connected with how much you read your Bible."