Standing in the ring of Jews holding Torah, I watched those not holding the scroll climb into the centre. Talliot over their heads, they slowly walked around the interior of the circle looking at all of Torah. Their posture evoked memories of Jews praying at the Western Wall. The scroll itself was a wall wrapping them in towards the centre, as the Wall once wrapped around the Temple.I thought how fascinating all this was, and wished Graham was there to share it with me. But, in the next thought, I thought maybe it was good that he wasn’t. On a personal level, I have to grow into my own faith, and have experiences that are unique to me; on a community level, being encircled by Torah is something that would have more significance to a Jew. For Jews, the Word of God comes from a scroll; for Christians, from a book. It includes some of the same passages, but their copies of the Book are not artefacts the same way the scrolls are for us.
Torah as the heart of the Jewish davening experience is the equivalent to the Eucharist. In every service, the point at which we bring out the Torah is a celebration – a moment of joy, discovery, and renewal echoing the moment at Mount Sinai when we first received it. It is the moment in the service when we renew our covenant with God, where we kneel again at the foot of the mountain, just as the Eucharist is the moment where Catholics renew their covenant with God, and experience the resurrection over again in real time. For Catholics, the Eucharist defines them as a community. In the Diaspora, the scroll-in-the-ark is our living Temple, God’s heart that beats at the centre of us, that recalls us back together as a community from the great scattering, that wraps around us, holds us together, and proclaims that we are Jews – the grateful ones.