In the previous article in continued to show the dangers when people continue thinking in the tradition of their philosophers and theologians who do not keep to the proper Word of God, given to us by the many chosen people of God.
Too many people coming to read the Scriptures forget that the notes in those printed books are notes presented by human beings and that when reading and studying the Holy Scriptures we should only concentrate on the biblical words and not on the added thoughts by other men than the ones chosen by God and presented in the original manuscripts.
When reading the Bible we always should concentrate on what is said by whom and about who or what. We also should wonder if what is said about specific situations or actions would still apply for today. To get to know that you shall need to read all the 66 books which together form the Holy Scriptures.
It is impossible to read the Bible in one go on one day. You are best to take it easy, by going from one parshah or passage (literally, section, division) to another. In the near future I also shall offer such bible reading on this site and therefore I shall start with the first parshah of the Holy Writings, the Parshat Bereishit, which covers from the beginning of Genesis to the story of Noah.
When you go to a service you may find that in the synagogue service, the weekly parshah is followed by a passage from the prophets, which is referred to as a haftarah. Contrary to common misconception, “haftarah” (or haftoroh, plural haftarot or haftoros) does not mean “half-Torah.” The word comes from the Hebrew root Fei-Teit-Reish and means “Concluding Portion”. Usually, haftarah portion is no longer than one chapter, and has some relation to the Torah portion of the week.
The most important part of the Holy Scriptures which too many Christians do seem to miss, is the “chumash” or Pentateuch, (a vowel alteration of ḥomesh, meaning “one-fifth”, alluding to any one of the five books – or a Torah or Five Books of Moshe in printed form (i.e. codex) as opposed to a Torah scroll), which shows the world how everything started and why we are in a such a mess today. The name for that assembled work of literature comes from the Hebrew word meaning five, and refers to the five books of the Torah written by the former Egyptian prince who later in life became a religious leader and lawgiver.
We always should remember that though Moshe (or Moses) wrote all those words for next generations to remember, he only was the authorised scribe in the Name of God. In later years we also might find lots of other Hebrew or Jewish scribes, Soferim (Jewish scholars and teachers) and scriveners from other religious groups, but who were not especially selected by God to write down His words. For such, their writings we always should consider as human thoughts not words from the Holy Scriptures. Often they are just penman for religious groups, from one or the other denomination, writing to have people to come to believe in their views, which are not always the biblical views. though we must know that it is by the meticulous work of many copyists that those works Moshe and other men of God wrote down, came to us.
Sometimes, a chumash is simply refers to a collection of the five books of the Torah. But often, a chumash contains the entire first five books, divided up by the weekly parshiyot, with the haftarah portion for each week inserted immediately after the week’s parshah.
When one is afraid to forget where one is with reading, whilst saying the text out loud, one can use a little stick or yad (literally, “a hand”), usually a six to eight inch piece of silver fashioned in the shape of a finger, to point to the words of the sefer Torah as you read them. This is done so the reader does not obstruct the vision of the person honoured with the aliyah and does not mar the dignity of the Torah by touching it. In Sephardi congregations, the Torah is carried inside a large wooden cylinder that stands erect when open, and the Torah parchment is in an upright position when it is read or like in Ashkenazi congregations, and by using a book version the Torah lying flat.
Today you should not be afraid to take up a printed book, a computer or even a tablet or smartphone to read the set apart Scriptures. Better to come to read the Torah than not reading it.
When going to read the set apart books you should put your mind at rest and leave out all the worldly thoughts, including all possible dogmatic teachings brought in by generations of ancestors or by churches or clergy.
Before starting the reading and study work you should always remember the first blessing God having created human beings in His image, but by man having chosen to go an other way, the Elohim chose Israel to receive His Torah and referred to the giving of the Torah at Sinai. Not bad is to do your Bible reading and study with somebody else. Than you should also bring a second blessing referring to the Oral Torah.
When before you start reading the bible you engage in judging yourself or bringing l’hitpalel or ‘praying‘, you offer yourself to the Elohim showing Him your willingness to open your mind. Without opening your mind to God He shall not be able, or better, will not be so prepared to touch your inner heart. In a way you have to petition God to give you what you need according to the Plan and time-set of Him. Also you should show your gratitude for the Words He presents to you. You should thank Him for whatever good was granted, or extol Him for His awesome attributes. All prayer is intended to help make us into better human beings.
When you do not know how to pray:
A Hasidic tale illustrates the spirit of this ruling.
A boy from a small rural village where there were few Jews and no synagogue, one day accompanied his father to the city to do some marketing. While there, they went into a synagogue. The boy had never been in a synagogue before and he was impressed and moved by the sight of the congregation at prayer. He, too, wanted to pray. But he did not know how. His father had taught him only to say the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, but no more than that. So a thought occurred to him. He began to recite the alphabet over and over again. And then he said,
“0 Lord, You know what it is that I want to say. You put the letters together so they make the right words.”
That, too, was a Jewish prayer.
Always remember that reading from a prayer book does not mean that one is praying. Any person may read a prayer book as one reads any other kind of book — to find out what it says or to relish the beauty of the poetry. Such reading does not qualify as prayer.
To transform reading into prayer, there must be at least a sense of standing in the presence of God and the intent to fulfil one of His commandments. It is opening your heart to the Voice of God, loving it to enter your body and mind – your body and soul – to fill you with inspirational thoughts which are much higher than the thoughts of people of this world.
Having said prayers before reading the Book of books you also may conclude such reading and studying with prayer, expressing your thankfulness for the Hashem wanting to be close by you and giving His Words to study.
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