Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Three Torahs

Like many other people, I enjoy watching rare events. I remember, as a child, being able to stay up late, or get up early, to see certain eclipses, because they were so rare. Then something rare in sports happens, it is a thrill to watch because you know you won’t see it every day.

I like to see that same excitement transferred to religion, to Judaism. Periodically, throughout the year, we read from two different Torahs (two different scrolls that contain the written laws, the Five Books of Moses). Reading from three Torahs, however, is truly uncommon.

We read from three Torahs on Simchat Torah as we read the last portion of the fifth book from one Torah, the first portion from the first book from the next Torah and a special Maftir, special additional reading (which usually is just repeating the last part of what is read). This is the only time during the year when it is guaranteed you will be reading from three Torahs. The other times may or may not happen during the year.

If, for instance, Shabbat Channukah happens to also be Rosh Hodesh, the beginning of the new month, we read from three Torahs. You read one Torah for Shabbat, one for Channukah and one for Rosh Hodesh. You also read three Torahs when it is Shabbat, Rosh Hodesh and Parchat HaHodesh (the first Shabbat in the month of Nissan).

We also read from three Torahs, as we did this past Shabbat, if it is Shabbat, Rosh Hodesh and Shabbat Sh’kalim (the first of four special Shabbats that take place before Passover). By the way it is impossible for three Torahs to be read on Shabbat Sh’Kalim and Shabbat HaHodesh of the same year and it is possible that none of the three events happen in a year.

My son, whose age is still in single digits, is fascinated when we read three Torahs and specifically looks forward to it. I think that is the kind of excitement we want to instill in our youngsters. Make them excited about coming to services.

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