There is a lot happening in a The Five Books of Moses, and the foundation of all of Jewish life and lore. The Torah is considered the heart and soul of the Jewish people, and study of the Torah is a high mitzvah. The Torah itself a scroll that is hand lettered on parchment, elaborately dressed and decorated, and stored in a decorative ark. It is chanted aloud on Mondays, Thursdays, and Shabbat, according to a yearly cycle. Sometimes "Torah" is used as a colloquial term for Jewish learning and narrative in general. service, more choreography than in preceding prayers, plus a range of opportunities for individuals and groups of congregants to approach in one way or another. But all this, intended though it is to draw us near, can instead yield confusion and distance. Moreover, Jews celebrating a life cycle event at the Torah are often swept into public roles that leave little time for private meditation.
Over the centuries, many opportunities for private, improvisational prayer have become public, fixed recitations. Opening of the Ark is one such moment.
Here is a new prayer, based on “B’rich Shmei” (Blessed is the Name) and other words commonly recited as the Ark is opened. Use it as is, if it speaks to you, and/or use it as a springboard for developing your own words. Regardless the words (or, perhaps, lack thereof), re-capture this precious time by carving out for yourself a few moments to consider: What is your prayer as the Torah enters your midst? To what are you opening?
Here in this Torah service we travel the wilderness in the company of the Ark, stand again at According to the Torah, God, in the presence of the Jewish people, gave Moses the Torah on Mount Sinai (Har Sinai)., and re-enact the process of transmission and interpretation as multiple individuals rise to bring the Torah from script to voice. Time collapses. We join the ageless chorus reciting verses that challenge and comfort, awe and enrage, perplex and command. We feel the presence of Jews who have experienced much, in endurance and in celebration, preserving these words. We feel the call of future Jews depending on us to grasp this Tree of Life and hold it for them.
At this expansive point we pray that our hearts open to the essence of Torah and ask for the gift of God’s good light to guide us through our daily lives.
In this precious, liminal moment, fear and need merge with strength and hope. May we all, particularly those observing lifecycle events at the Torah, emerge from this service with a renewed sense of blessing.
[Take a few moments for considering particular concerns and joys brought to the Torah today.]
Let the divine flow of communication represented here bring to us, and to all whom we touch, peace, mercy, sustenance, and gratitude. Thank you for this good teaching.