The Jewish Eucharist

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.

5 thoughts on “The Jewish Eucharist

  1. Aside from the Old Testament being more or less the same for both of us – even the New Testament was for centuries in the form of scrolls before being transcribed into codex form etc. But we still take the physical form seriously when we “swear on the Bible” in court. Interesting parallel with the Eucharist as renewal of Covenant – though I don’t think you go quite so far as to formally identify Torah with God, as we do the Eucharist (a matter of “degrees of Presence”, I’d think).

    I’m happy to celebrate with you, but also glad to see you function on your own.

  2. miriamdoba says:

    Right, I realize the scroll vs. book point was a bit weak historically – but as your Book has been translated into many languages, for use in Masses in many countries – while we’ve translated the Old Testament into common languages for home study, in every service in every country the Torah remains a vellum scroll, only declared kashrut if the letters are acceptably black, and every one accurate to the last nuance. The scroll itself is maintained as a sacred artefact; the Book is just a book.

    As for formally identifying Torah with God, I think what I may have done unintentionally is intermixed artefact with ceremony – both the bringing out of Torah, and the Eucharist ceremony are renewals of the covenant(s) with God. The scroll itself, to us, is G-d’s living Word, but not G-d itself, whereas your bread and wine literally become His body.

    I could go one step further – as we are ensouled Jews, Torah already lives within us, is connected to the G-d spark within, in a similar way that the Eucharist brings G-d within you, or otherwise provides a tangible or physical connection to the G-d spark within.

    Let me know if I’m getting warmer; a theologian was not built in a day *G*

  3. I do find you very warm, indeed.

    In John 1:1, we do go so far to affirm “The Word was God”; in 1 Corinthians 3:16 , “Do you not realize that you are a temple of God with the Spirit of God living in you?” – the same Spirit that helps us keep the Law (through Charity), and keeps the Law alive within us. So, yeah.

    More on this in CS Lewis “Beyond Personality” , and Dorothy Sayers “The Mind of the Maker”.

  4. I’ll have “Mind of the Maker” out Sunday. And, by the way, I found my little purple kippah – rejoice with me!

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