Thursday, October 06, 2005

Happy New Year, People of the Book

Tuesday was Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and the greeting is L'Shanah Tova Tiketevu, may you be inscribed for a good year in the book of life. Rosh Hashanah marks the first of the ten Days of Awe which will close on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. One of the themes for this period is that G-d opens a book for each of us on Rosh Hashanah to write our names, and who will live, who will die, who will have a good year or a bad year. The book is closed on Yom Kippur and that's that until next year. Repentance, prayer and good deeds are the way to make sure a good year gets written up in the book.

On Rosh Hashanah we read the first words of Genesis, In the beginning.... While watching Ayelet and Fred roll the heavy Torah scroll all the way back to the beginning, and all the ensuing awkwardness of having all the weight of the parchment on only one of the two rollers, I had a wave of sympathy for readers and writers of the pre-codex era. (In case you don't know and can't be bothered following the link, codex is the kind of modern book you know best, with sequential pages attached to a spine and covers.) Even with a smaller scroll it would be a hassle to find your way around different sections. Yet, I expect G-d is juggling a lot of scrolls this time of year.

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