One of the joys of my different summer schedule is the opportunity to study with other like-minded adults. For years I have been joining dozens of others who share a week of Bible study at a small university in Pennsylvania.
We come from a variety of backgrounds: some clergy , both Catholic and Protestant, some laity, but all are lovers of the Word. We usually have 3 scholars as teachers, and around the 5 classes of the week are times to converse and to pray together. By Friday afternoon we are exhausted and stimulated as we pack up with promises to “see you again next year, God willing.”
What made this year so interesting was that one class was taught by a Jewish woman rabbi who led us into a deeper understanding of her tradition and of the ways in which we often cross boundaries without realizing it.
I love her sharing the fact that the Hebrew text of Genesis begins with “Bereshith”, the second letter of the alphabet. Aleph, the first letter, which is an almost unpronounceable guttural, is reserved for the coming of the Messiah. One is reminded that one is still waiting.
And did you know that most Jews do not eat lamb on Passover because the place of sacrifice, the Temple, is no more, and because lamb is reserved for the coming of the Messiah? We had a fascinating discussion on interfaith prayer services with the provocative question: are we praying together or are we praying the presence of each other? We reached no conclusions but we had lots of ideas!
The other two classes were on Paul, who began life as a rabbi, and on Luke who is attempting to explain the Jewish Jesus to his pagan audience. Since all the teachers attended each other’s classes, there were equally fruitful sideline discussions generated there too.
For example, in the rabbi’s understanding of the interactions between Jesus and the Pharisees, which we so often see as their attempt to trap Him, she suggested that it could well be a heated discussion as to the meaning of certain laws which were not yet fixed. It was a group of Jews wrestling with a text. Interesting to mull over.
I will be doing much of that in the days to come. In the meantime, my head is filled with new ideas generated in the presence of friends. What could be better?