Friday, October 28, 2011


Background on how Jews read the Torah/Bible
The Torah is the first five books of the Bible - Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The entire Torah is broken into portions (parshiot in Hebrew) and we read one per week in order. When we get to the end, we start over with Genesis. Since we just passed the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah), we started over with Parsha Bereishit (Genesis 1:1-6:8). There is a corresponding Haftarah reading (a reading from the other parts of the "Old Testament." These do not necessarily go in order). You can find all the portions and their corresponding Haftarah readings here.

Actual topic
Anyway, we just started over last week. It amazes me just how much stuff is packed into Genesis. In Bereishit, for example, we get two creation stories, the forbidden fruit, Cain and Abel, and then a list of descendants all the way up to Noah. In Torah study last week, we skipped creation and spent almost two hours just talking about Cain and Abel.

This week, in Parsha Noah, we read:

  • the flood,
  • the first vineyard, which was immediately followed by a very drunk, naked Noah in a tent,
  • another long list of descendants as Noah's sons repopulate the world,
  • the Tower of Babel,
  • and more descendants, ending with the introduction of Abram and Sarai (soon to be Abraham and Sarah).
So basically, there is a lot packed into Genesis and, even though it's the same content every year, there's always something new to focus on. This deliberate way of reading the Torah is one of my favorite parts of Judaism.

Shabbat Shalom!