The Torah That Became A Political Football: A Ten Commandments’ Story

the physical torah is clumsy. it consists of two wooden scrolls and pages and pages of animal parchment text. the torah’s clumsiness is due to constant reading. every week, there is a torah reading cycle. with each new reading or portion, the scroll moves forward. thus, each wooden scroll either gains or loses weight. thus, absent a rare occasion, the torah is physically imbalanced.

the torah reading service involving removing the dressed and ornamented torah from an ark. there are usually two used in the service. they are taken on a procession through the synagogue. due to the torah’s imbalanced weight, those with the honor of carrying the torah will sometimes wrap their arms around the torah and hold it tight. this action is analgous to american football running backs wrapping up their ball.

recently, filmmakers traveling to nigeria brought a torah as a gift to the igbo jewish community. the torah was given to igbo king eze chukwuemeka eri. nytimes.com. the government claimed the torah “constitute[d] support for separatist political ambitions.” filmmakers were detained. apparently, pictures of the gifted torah had been shared by anti-government groups. the filmmakers’ family members claim that “the images ended up spreading among “non-state political groups” and taking on a political connotation even though the event wasn’t intended to be perceived as such. nytimes.  

in sum, the fact that a torah could be the source of political controversy should be taken as a compliment and recognition of the torah’s value. they understand that a real torah can unit a community. when a real torah is present during services, it allows for the congregants to have a greater connection. as a torah progression moves through the congregation, each person is able to express their devotion and respect by either kissing the torah or making contact via prayer book or talit fringe. with this touch, they make a physical connection to the ancient words from god.

hopefully, the community will keep hold of the torah and enjoy many years with it. let us hope that it does not fumble into the hands of the government.

be well!!

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Published by biblelifestudies

I am a practicing lawyer and long term admirer of the bible

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