Reading to grow and to become wise concerning the most important thing in life 1 Times of reading

In ancient times on market days and the days people where free, they came together to listen to the reading of the Torah. Today any day could be used to come together to listen to the reading of the Holy Scriptures. Written and oral material was brought from one generation into an other and formed the base for the construction of many communities or religious groups and denominations.

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In this world we can find many religions and lots of people who say they are worshipping the right god. How do they know and how can we know that they are really worshipping the Only One True Divine God the whole world should be worshipping?

Many of us find they are living in an unsecure world. They even find they themselves do not live securely. They would love to find ways to have an easy life and to be sure of certain things. They are no different than people who lived thousands of years ago. Many questions have stayed the same. Not so much has changed.

Seeing all the different denominations we can wonder why and how it are so many. When we use the Bible or Holy Scriptures as a touchstone it shall be very quickly easy to see which teachings of which denominations are not according to the Words of the ones they claim to be following.

Megillat Esther on which is concluded we should make us days of feasting and gladness, and of sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor, celebrating Purim.

In certain religious groups it is tradition to read the Torah out loud at each gathering. This tradition dates back to the time of Moshe, who would read the Torah publicly on Shabbat, festivals, and Rosh Chodesh.  In other groups we can see that they not spend much time at reading the books they say are their Holy Books on which their faith is based.  It in because in such churches that there is not much time spend, that we can see many false teachings entered it and people have gone far away from the biblical teaching, even from worshipping the right God.

All churches would better go back to the time of Ezra the Scribe who established the practice of reading aloud the given Words of the Most High. In the synagogue this tradition continues today and is not limited to one day in the week but also to publicly bring a reading of the Torah also on Monday and Thursday mornings and Shabbat afternoons. In our congregation we also use the Sunday afternoon to gather with the community, have a meal together and to listen and to read together from the whole Scriptures which God has provided to us to be the Guidebook for life.

For the Jews these days were picked because Monday and Thursday were traditionally days that the Jews would go to the nearest towns to shop and trade. But today you could say you might find other days more appropriate  at other places. As such the time and place to gather may be different form one place to an other and in one country there may be totally different customs than in an other country.

What was important to that setting of days to gather and reading the Scriptures aloud was that this way the people would never go for more than three days without getting spiritual sustenance from the Words of Torah. There were breaks in the practice, but since the Maccabean period in the 2nd century BCE, public Torah reading has been maintained continuously. It was also in the Maccabean period that the Jews started reading from the Torah consecutively, reading on Shabbat afternoon, Monday, and Thursday from the point at which they left off the previous Shabbat morning.

Shira Schoenberg writes

In the early times, there were two traditions as to how the reading on Shabbat mornings should proceed. In Israel, the Torah was divided into 155 portions and took three years to read. In the early 19th and 20th centuries, Reform and some Conservative congregations followed this triennial cycle but this has been largely abandoned in favor of the annual cycle. In Babylonia, the Torah was split in 54 sections and took one year to read (some portions were read together in non-leap years). The size of the sections vary, containing anywhere between 30 and more than 150 verses. This latter custom became accepted for Orthodox and most Conservative Jews. The only break from the weekly cycle is when Shabbat is a holiday with a special Torah portion. The Torah is read on Shabbat and festivals between the shacharit (morning) and mussaf (additional) services and on weekdays at the end of shacharit.{Reading the Torah}

During the Talmudic period, the rabbis established that everyone who read a section from the Torah would recite both blessings so all the members of the congregation could hear them – even those who had to leave early or come late. In the post-Talmudic period, when the number of people capable of reading the Torah declined, it became customary for one person to read on behalf of everyone That way, one called for an aliyah only had to recite the blessings, although those capable of reading from the Torah would still do so in a quiet voice along with the reader. {Reading the Torah}

Today we live in times that most people can read and that printed versions of the Scriptures are available in many many languages. Therefore most people have no excuse that they are not able to come to read the Torah and the selected writings which where written in later times.

People have to know that the Torah is important for mankind because it contains written and oral laws which should be able to make life easy to construct and to allow it developing without chaos. The Torah, also called the Jewish bible by many, contains the Laws Moshe received form the Divine Creator. Many call those regulations which God gave, the “Laws of Moses” or “Mosaic Law“. They are central to the religion of Judaism, outlining actions and codes of conduct expected of practitioners of the Jewish faith.

These laws from God Who set forth moral standards where not only directing Jews how to live, but where to be the base of instruction to all peoples. It is true that the Torah outlines expectations of Jews, along with a history of the Jewish religion, through five books of Moses, but it gives all people a view of what happened in the world from the beginning of its existence.

The Torah or Law is presented in Five books and therefore also called the Pentateuch. These books which are the first five books of the Tanakh, or Hebrew Bible, include

  1. the Bereshith or Book of Genesis; giving an overview of how the universe came into being and what went wrong so that man has so many problems today
  2. Shemoth (Names) or Book of Exodus, narrating the liberation of the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt in the 13th century bce, under the leadership of Moses;
  3. Wayyiqra or Book of Leviticus, the third book of the Latin Vulgate Bible, the name of which designates its contents as a book (or manual) primarily concerned with the priests and their duties
  4. Bemidbar or Bəmiḏbar (In the wilderness or in the desert) or the Book of Numbers, also called the Fourth Book Of Moses, the fourth book of the Bible. The English title is a translation of the Septuagint (Greek) title referring to the numbering of the tribes of Israel in chapters 1–4, and
  5. Devarim (“Words”) or Book of Deuteronomy, a farewell address by Moshe to the Israelites before they entered the Promised Land of Canaan, also known as “The Land of Milk and Honey” from the River of Egypt to the Euphrates river .

The People received the Mosaic Law with the Ten Mitzvah but when times came along God added some regulations making that the Whole Torah or the “Book of the Law” includes more than 600 commandments, or instructions, from God. Those instructions should help people to organize their life.

Vitrail de synagogue-Musée alsacien de Strasbourg.jpg
The Decalogue or Ten commandments, a set of 10 mitzvah or rules given to Moshe which are the biblical principles relating to ethics and worship, which play a fundamental role in Judaism and Christianity

Whilst the Jews consider all commandments in the Torah important but focus on the 10 most significant called the Ten Commandments or Decalogue, others should consider those “Mosaic Laws” written on a stone tablet and Moshe being required to hand it over to his people, as basic humanitarian laws. They describing that people may not have other gods before the One God Who is Only One and should be the One Who Is God of all and Master or Lord of all. It warns also that no graven images or likenesses may be made of This Only One True God nor any other gods to whom man may not bow down to them nor serve them. It also demands that people would not take the Set-apart or Holy Name of the Elohim יהוה {Jehovah} in vain or not bringing it to naught.

You could say those three basic rules are the only ones which can apply to people who believe in a god or in the God and are of no use for an atheist.

This is an image of a copy of the 1675 Ten Commandments, at the Amsterdam Esnoga synagogue, produced on parchment in 1768 by Jekuthiel Sofer, a prolific Jewish eighteenth century scribe in Amsterdam. It has Hebrew language writing in two columns separated between, and surrounded by, ornate flowery patterns.
This 1768 parchment (612×502 mm) by Jekuthiel Sofer emulated the 1675 Ten Commandments at the Amsterdam Esnoga synagogue.

The next seven rules on the other hand you could call the main basic human rules to which every human being should keep. They are The human laws each person in a community should abide by.
When a person never takes rest he shall not be able to work properly, therefore he should have a free or a Sabbath day. All coming from the womb of a woman should respect her and honour their father. Those books show how we must be pleased with life, but also how we should show respect for all the living things, human beings, but also plants and animals. In those books is clearly indicated that we should not kill and that we should protect those living beings which or whom are not able to do it for themselves.
Respecting an other human being makes also to be honest to one another and not to lie to each other, not to commit adultery, not to steal something or to bear false witness and being careful how to look at others, not having envy or not to covet, but showing undemanding loving-commitment to thousands. (Shemoth or Exodus 20 and Devarim 5)

Boy reading from the Torah according to Sephar...
Boy reading from the Torah according to Sephardic custom (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Originally they were written in Hebrew and as such are also called the Hebrew writings or Hebrew Scriptures. Originally most people came in contact with those writings because there was an elder reading those texts to them. There exist also a later “Torah of the mouth“, an oral version of the written text, but also laws, statutes, and legal interpretations that were not recorded in the Five Books of Moses, the “Written Torah“. That Oral Torah according to Jewish tradition was relayed by God to Moshe and from him, transmitted and taught to the sages (rabbinic leaders) of each subsequent generation, it was passed down orally until its contents were finally committed to writing following the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, when Jewish civilization was faced with an existential threat.
Between 200–220 CE Rabbi Yehudah haNasi, also known as Rabbi or Rabbenu HaQadosh or Judah the Prince, became the chief redactor and editor of the Mishnah, the first major written version of that Oral Torah.
Not all branches of Rabbinic Judaism or Rabbinism accept the divine provenance of the Oral Torah, such that Conservative and (to a greater extent) Reform Jews give deference to the Talmudic sages while empowering themselves to formulate and adopt their own rulings and interpretations.

The written Torah is sometimes also called the representation of the “White fire”, because it is like a clear light-torch, the Fire of God burning pure and clear. It is so clear and pure that is is clear for all to see. God His Words written down should not be difficult for any man, be it a child or adult to come to understand. For that reason the books do not want to present a scientist analysation of this world, the planets, stars, human beings, animals and plants. But in simple ways it is being told how everything came to existence and how everything evolved.

Some would say

the written Torah is presented in a simple narrative that can be read and understood even by a child. The oral Torah, however, is obscure, and can only be learned through disciplined study, diligence, and perseverance. The methodology of the Talmud requires hard work and mental exercise to master, and this difficulty of study is represented by “black fire,” as one who becomes blackened through hard, gritty labor. {About Black fire on white fire}

Like in all other religions we can see that human teachings came to interfere with what can be called Words of God, opposite of words of man. Many believers often carried away by the human teachings instead holding fast to the Biblical teachings Judaism is no exception of such intermingling of material and human doctrines.

Adolf Behrman - Talmudysci.jpg
Talmud Readers by Adolf Behrman

In many Jewish groups we also can find rules and traditions which can not be found in the Word of God. As such we as believers always have to be prudent what we want to believe from sayings of man and have to question if our actions and traditions are in accordance with the Holy Scriptures.
There have also been historical dissenters to the Oral Torah in its entirety, including adherents to Karaite Judaism, that emerged in the early Middle Ages and who attempt to derive their religious practice strictly from the Written Torah, considering it as the sole source of religious law, using Scripture’s most natural meaning to form their basis of Jewish law.

English: Synagogue of Saluzzo (Italy); List of...
English: Synagogue of Saluzzo (Italy); List of people called on Shabbat for reading the Torah (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Having had traditional services, held at synagogues, presenting readings from the Torah during weekly services, rabbis read short segments from it.  In certain services they not only read parts of it but also chanted passages from the Torah instead of speaking them. This also helped people to remember the texts easier.

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Preceding article

When found the necessary books to read and how to read them

Next: Reading to grow and to become wise concerning the most important thing in life 2 Prophetic and poetic writers

Reading to grow and to become wise concerning the most important thing in life 3 Light and wisdom in words

Picture of a large stone monument displaying the ten commandments with the Texas State Capitol in Austin in the background. The picture was part of a news release Wednesday, March second, 2005, by then Attorney General Abbott.
Ten Commandments display at the Texas State Capitol in Austin.

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Additional reading

  1. Words in the world
  2. Blindness in the Christian world
  3. Childish or reasonable ways
  4. Icons and crucifixes
  5. Judeo-Christian values and liberty
  6. Evangelisation, local preaching opposite overseas evangelism
  7. Looking to the East and the West for Truth
  8. Migrants to the West #7 Religions
  9. Follower of Jesus part of a cult or a Christian
  10. Worship and worshipping
  11. Focussing on the man Jesus and the relationship with God
  12. Ion of Books or the Holy Scriptures – or book of bookscollection of books
  13. Do we need to keep the Sabbath
  14. Why we do not keep to a Sabbath or a Sunday or Lord’s Day #3 Days to be kept holy or set apart
  15. Why we do not keep to a Sabbath or a Sunday or Lord’s Day #5 Not law binding
  16. Why we do not keep to a Sabbath or a Sunday or Lord’s Day #6 Sunday or the Lord’s day
  17. Communion and day of worship
  18. Congregate, to gather, to meet
  19. Built on or Belonging to Jewish tradition #4 Mozaic and Noachide laws
  20. People Seeking for God 3 Laws and directions
  21. Divine Plan and an Imperfect creation
  22. Old orthodox Dissenters and Unitarians in 19° Century London
  23. Only One God
  24. The Almighty Lord God above all gods
  25. 29. Laws that Value People
  26. 1,500 to 1,700 years old Chiselled tablet with commandments sold at auction
  27. Human versus Biblical teachings

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Further reading

{Please always be very careful when looking at my list of Further readings and Related articles, knowing that I do not always agree with what is presented by these articles. By some I took time to give a reaction on the mentioned article as well, please also take note of that reaction, if they place it (because often it is not made public and is there no backlink made either.)
The essence of these links is to give my readers an objective account of the different viewpoints}

  1. What is the best approach to studying Scripture?
  2. What the revolt of the Maccabees is telling our time
  3. “Do’s and Doughnuts” of Hanukkah
  4. Blank Page: The Silent Years Between Testaments
  5. Hanukkah … The Festival Born of a Prophecy!
  6. Hanukkah the Feast of Dedication. Is it Biblical?
  7. Bible Reading as a Means of Grace
  8. Dig Deeper Series-SOAP Method
  9. Early In the Morning Judah Leads In Praise
  10. The Fifth Commandment
  11. Answering Rabbinic Judaism #33
  12. Answering Rabbinic Judaism #34
  13. Judaism Intro|| 15 Seconds Judaism
  14. The Hanukah Dilemma – The Birth of Judaism
  15. Early Jewish-Christian Relations
  16. Mendelssohn and Reform
  17. The Reform Movement’s Rick Jacobs Has no Understanding of Tolerance
  18. Inside Orthodox Judaism: A Critical Perspective On Its Theology
  19. Orthodox Judaism and the ordination of women rabbis.
  20. A sermon for Shabbat Atzmaut. Time to apologise?
  21. “Only about 3% of Israeli Jews identify with the Reform movement, and most of those are English-speaking immigrants. The ‘non-observant Orthodox’ aren’t rushing to join them, either”
  22. What Messianic Judaism can learn from Reform Judaism
  23. Judaism in America – The Egypt Story Of Our Lives

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