Sacred Storytelling Hour
Once upon A time, communal storytelling set the stage for every meaningful moment in our private and public lives. On some levels, it still does. From the ' ‘how do our rituals work’’ discussion, the Leviticus list of holy laws turns to the question of ‘when’ - with detailed rituals and recipes for each holiday gathering on our ancient calendar. Brisket included. These festive events are called ‘Mikra Kodesh’ - often translated as ‘holy convocations or proclamations’. You wouldn’t know it from the way most translators and commentaries interpret this Hebrew expression that connotes ‘gathering’ but a close reading may reveal that the original purpose and central activity of our historical festivals was the dramatic and often dramatized sharing of the tribal story. Meat and music are a lot of what makes such gatherings, then, and now, successful, but myth was at the center, as still seen in the meta-title of holidays: Mikra Kodesh literally means ‘sacred reading aloud and/or inviting into - the story’, recalling our oldest primal urges to gather around the fire to remember who we are, and how, and why. Before the brisket, or alongside, was the binding narrative that brought us all together.
"אֵ֚לֶּה מוֹעֲדֵ֣י יְהֹוָ֔ה מִקְרָאֵ֖י קֹ֑דֶשׁ אֲשֶׁר־תִּקְרְא֥וּ אֹתָ֖ם בְּמוֹעֲדָֽם׃ "“These are the sanctified appointed occasions for sacred gatherings of the scriptures that are to be" proclaimed at their appropriate time." Va 23:2
Interestingly, the holiday laws outlined in this chapter are transmitted to all the people, not just the priests. In 13th century Spain, the mystically inclined Nachmanides explained why this is for the ages, and for all: “And the reason for this instruction for all of Israel is that all are instructed to listen to the Torah portions, read in the special way, on each shabbat and holiday.” He is referring to our ancient and most enduring storytelling ritual - The tradition of chanting the Torah publicly at the communal gathering centers on big occasions, and holidays - a tradition that began 2,500 years ago and still happens today. At the next B Mitzvah you attend, a religious service, civic ceremony or family event such as a wedding - notice where and how the sacred or ritualized storytelling happens. That’s likely where the heart of what’s happening beats to the baseline of life, as we keep updating the sacred stories we inherited and evolve alongside them, storytellers of a better and ever more justice driven life.
Image: The Commandment Keepers: African-American Jewish Congregation in Harlem, photograph by Alexander Alland, 1940.
The Smithsonian Collection
#jewishholidays #calendar #storytelling #torahservice #Nachmanides #jewishfestivals #leviticus23 #vayikra #whystoriesmatter #postpatriarchy
#hebrewmyth #929 #torah #bible #hiddenbible #sefaria #929english #labshul #929project #myth #belowthebiblebelt
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