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Sabbath Torah reading Shevat 24, 5771

The Torah reading today, Shevat 24, 5771 (January 29 2011) in the synagogue is called Mishpatim Exod. 21:1-24:18.

Mishpatim means “rules” or “ordinances”. Parashat Mishpatim is sometimes called Sefer HaBrit (“the Book of the Covenant”). It contains 53 of the 613 mitzvot (commandments) found in the Torah.

I was taken by Exodus 24:7 “ְו ִנ ְׁש ָמע” This is a verb which can be to hear, listen, obey. Obedience often has a negative press – it has been removed from marriage vows. But even the English word “obey” is Latin roots: ob “to” and audire “listen, hear” (cf. audience). The connection between obeying and listening appears closer in other languages. Obeying and listening deeply are connected. The Rule of Benedict begins, “Listen”. The Shema begins with the same verb as in Exodus 24:7: “Hear, O Israel…” (ְׁש ַמע Deut 6:4).

The system of reading the Bible in three years on Saturdays reads part of the Sabbath reading each of the three years. You can find today’s portion and reflection here.

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What were you taken by in the text?

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4 thoughts on “Sabbath Torah reading Shevat 24, 5771”

  1. Thanks, Bosco, for bringing the root meaning of obedience to our attention.

    The prefix “ob,” “up against,” is like someone eavesdropping on a conversation in another room. The person places their ear up against the wall.

    Apart from the feeling of impropriety of such behavior, the action does suggest what is important in listening to God.

    Absolute attention.

    2) Bringing the ear of the heart right up against the spiritual place where I can best hear God. The still, small voice that Elijah heard caught his attention, rather than the noises and commotion without… Listen to true feelings that lie beneath the outer ones. For example, in our society, anger is the emotion that is very often expressed, while sadness and fear are the ones within we need to listen to.

    What do feelings have to do with listening to God? Ignatius Loyola spoke about an inner “sentir” a feeling beyond a feeling, right to the sense at the core of experience. His teaching in The Spiritual Exercises on discernment of spirits expands on this idea.

    As the G-dCast delightfully points out, there is power in writing. The process of writing brings to the attention ideas, feelings and thoughts that might never come out, were it not for the process of writing. I find this borne out again and again in my life–right up the present in this very comment I’m writing. Thus, writing becomes listening.

    A final note. In The Bible Through the Seasons, I follow the three-year lectionary from the Conservative tradition. Each of the Torah portions are divided into thirds. When I was preparing the readings for the program, I was delighted to find that Part I of this system, basically is our Year A in the Revised Common Lectionary!

    This comment is also posted at http://biblethroughseasons.wordpress.com.

    Shabbat Shalom!

  2. As you may know, Bosco, the cycle of Torah readings ends and begins on Simchat Torah, “The Joy of the Torah.” There is a tradition of dancing with the Torah scroll during the night. This festival occurs at the end of Tabernacles in autumn.

    In January,1996 which I began this project, and learned about the three-year cycle in the Conservative tradition, I discovered that on Simchat Torah of that year, the 2nd part of the cycle began. On December 1, 1996, Year B began for 1997.

    Thus, I discovered that the Torah cycles were basically in sync with The Revised Common Lectionary. Just as the cycle letter of the year begins a month earlier in Advent, so the autumn before the First Sunday in Advent begins the part of the cycle that corresponds for the letter year in the Lectionary for the following January. There was indeed joy in the Torah when I discovered that!

    I explain something of this process on page 371 of The Bible Through the Seasons where I reference a work that was a great help in planning for the incorporation of all the Torah passages. It is The Comprehensive Hebrew Calendar by Arthur Spier(Feldheim Publishers, New York, 1986). The Hebrew Calendar with all the holidays and Sabbath Torah readings are placed side-by-side the civil calendar from 1900 to 2100. I checked my birthday in 1942 and found out that I was born at 11:45 pm the night of Simchat Torah. More Joy!

    1. Thanks, Nick, for that helpful elucidation. I wrote about the feast of Christ the King being like Simchat Torah here. I often wonder/suspect that there may still be links between the Jewish calendar and lectionary and the Christian one – especially the pre-Vatican II lectionary.

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