Ahavas Sholom – an Historic Landmark and Sacred Space

Newark's Last Remaining Synagogue born of the Great European Migration at the turn of the 20th Century

145 Broadway, Newark, NJ 07104
Phone: 973-485-2609 | Email: cahavassholom@optimum.net


Simon Says, October 9, 2020

     We have a luach, a book that informs an uneducated person (and an educated person) the order of the service.  For example, the Conservative Luach devotes four pages to the order of the service on Hoshana Rabbah.  The luach details the order of prayers, the Torah readings, “recite 7 Hosha’na prayers,” and, among other things, instructs us how to beat the willow leaves against a hard surface.

     The Catholics have the Revised Common Lectionary (luach is a type of lectionary), which prescribes the weekly readings (and daily readings) on a three-year cycle:  two readings from what we may call the Hebrew Bible (in the seminary, one teacher asked, “Is there any other Bible?”), and two readings from the New Testament, one of them from the Gospels.  We can enter a synagogue around the world on any given Shabbat and we can expect to hear the same Torah portion.  Likewise, every Catholic church around the world has the same readings on any given Sunday.  But, the Catholic Church doesn’t read the Torah consecutively.  For example, on June 7, 2020, they read Gen. 1:1-2:4a, and on June 14, 2020, they read Gen. 18:1-15, and on June 21, 2020, they read Gen. 21:8-21.

     I investigated the Catholic rite because I wondered why we read the Torah consecutively each year (or three years, if we are on a triennial schedule).  If you read a favorite book every year for 40 or 50 or 60 years (my favorite book is my autographed copy of The Cider House Rules), you would probably memorize it and it would lose its impact.  So why we do read the complete Torah every year (or every three years)?

     The genius of our ancestors was they wrote a book unlike any other.  It is filled of lessons for life, and every time we read it we get different and new insights.  Or maybe the times we read the Torah are different, and some old lessons are newly applicable.  Family dynamics, labor relationships, social constructs change every day, let alone every year, and the Torah continues to teach lessons every time we have a new experience (and every time we have an old experience but we didn’t learn the lesson).  And the Torah gives us lessons how to relate to our God:  God is arrogant, is petulant, is happy, is angry; God shows a full range of emotions and we show a full range of emotions.  The Torah teaches lessons when we are angry, when we are complacent, and when we are smug.  And we can never learn enough about our relationship with our fellow man and our relationship with God to satisfy us. 

     A musician practices a piece hundreds of hours.  An athlete practices hundreds of hours.  Should we practice the lessons of life a shorter period of time?