Saturday, September 29, 2012

TorahBytes: The Writing God (Sukkot)

The Lord said to Moses, "Cut for yourself two tablets of stone like the first, and I will write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke." (Shemot / Exodus 34:1; ESV)

This week's readings are special due to our being in the midst of the week-long festival of Sukkot (English: Tabernacles). The Torah portion chosen for this coming Shabbat (English: Sabbath) contains a reference to an alternate name of this holiday, Hag Ha-Asif (English: Feast of Ingathering), denoting it as one of the harvest festivals of ancient Israel (see Shemot / Exodus 34:22).

Also in this Torah portion is the reference I quoted at the beginning that shows that God himself wrote the Ten Commandments, the foundational portion of the covenant he made with Israel at Mt. Sinai. This is actually the second time God did this, for the first tablets that he wrote were smashed by Moses in response to the incident of the Golden Calf (see Shemot / Exodus 32:1-20).

The God of Israel is a writing God. Not only did he direct his spokespeople to write down what he said, he himself wrote. God chose words through literature as his medium of revelation, not visual arts, which was the other popular communication medium of those days. Obviously he used oral communication as well and we have examples of his utilization of drama through the prophets such as Isaiah and Ezekiel. But even in those cases, whatever was expressed was purposely passed down to us through writing.

If our God is a writing God, then human beings are called to be a reading people, a people dedicated to the reading of God's book, the Bible. Too many people today say they don't read. This is not simply a statement of personal preference. It is a symptom of a culture that has turned its back on God. And like so many contemporary cultural values, it's one that God's people should reject.

We could look at superficial reasons for why more and more people are reading less and less. Film and television are dominant cultural communication tools today, but the general busy-ness of life and the inundation of an overwhelming amount of small bits of information have robbed us of the time and energy required for meaningful reading. Apart from only having enough room in our hearts and minds for information and the finite nature of time, the media of today with its dazzling effect on one hand and its sheer volume on the other has made us lazy.

Effective reading requires a type of time and energy that few currently seem to have. Yet God designed us to be a reading people. That means we need to make sure that we have whatever time and energy it takes. And if that means radically changing our lifestyles to make it happen, so be it.

Don't get me wrong. Attempts to share God's Word through contemporary media are legitimate and necessary. But at the same time tweets, videos, and so on should not be substitutes for diligently and intelligently reading the Scriptures.

1 comment:

K Hodge said...

Hi, Alan, This is an excellent lesson - people in general in our society today do not read enough, and in particular, we do not read God's Word enough. I am so guilty of that. For years, although I love to read the Word, I have trouble due to some eye problems and also due to not being able to concentrate as intently as I would like to. Your message has encouraged me to strive to read the Word of the One I love, all the more. Thank you, and God bless you, Rabbi. K Hodge