"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth."
The United Synagogue of Hoboken has Bible Study every Wednesday morning. My old friend Rabbi Robert Schienberg invited me to join the group in his office whenever I have time and so I did on Wednesday morning. Before the gathered group cracked open the Torah they discussed an alarming incident that happened during the most recent Shabbat services. Apparently, someone dropped the Torah scroll.
If you’re unfamiliar with what a Torah scroll is, it’s the first five books of the Bible written by hand in Hebrew on a large scroll which is kept by the bema (altar). The scroll contains God’s revelation to Israel, so nearness to it is as close as you can get to being in the presence of God in Judaism. When a Torah Scroll is processed into the congregation sometimes people rush to be near it or kiss it by touching their fingers to their mouth and then reaching out to touch the scroll as it passes by.
Because of the sacredness of this object, if a Torah scroll falls certain actions demonstrating concern and remorse have to be taken to make amends. Rob explained that members of the synagogue would fast, do charitable works or Bible study over a period of three days in response to the accident during worship. After he laid out this plan he said, “Even though we want to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again, we also want to make sure no one learns from this incident that they should be afraid of coming into contact with a Torah scroll. It’s so important that we do touch and hold it.”
Rob then explained that when his daughters were small, although he was very careful he did wind up dropping each of them at one point or another. None of them were permanently harmed, and even though the dropping terrified Rob and it was something he never wanted to repeat, it didn’t mean that he stopped holding his infant daughters. Rob told this story as an analogy. Touching the Torah scroll is like touching your own child. What do parents and children need more than each other’s touch?
I couldn’t believe I’d stumbled into this conversation at a synagogue days before Christmas Eve!
Grace family – didn’t God breathe life into our Torah scroll at Christmas and give it a beating heart? Didn’t God use every letter and jot and fashion a living person? Isn’t that Jesus?
At some point in the Christmas Eve service, while you listen to the gorgeous music, bow your head in prayer or stretch out your hands for communion, I hope you will hear God saying, in the quiet of your heart: “Don’t be afraid! It’s alright. Touch me.”
See you on Saturday night.