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October 10, 2015 | 27th Tishrei 5776
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Torah As an Object of Devotion


  1. Oct 2006 Digest 157

                …Is there basis in Jewish law or other history/text for this type of personal worship?  One of the issues this raises is the status granted to the Torah itself.  I know a few people, including some Rabbis, who express concern that even the touching and kissing of the Torah is akin to idol worship (and they will not do it).

                Personal prayer in a quiet meaningful environment is always important and appropriate. Standing before the Ark? What does that signify? I acknowledge that when I have the chance to hold the Torah (especially during services) I feel differently, and it does have an impact on me.

    So one can acknowledge that being close to the Torah can create a "moment."

                Praying in front of it however, does raise some questions. Is it akin to idol worship? What is the significance being given the Torah in that context? And most importantly, what does our tradition have to say about the practice?


  2. Oct 2006 Digest 157

                I don't think it makes an idol of the Torah though--just a focus of quiet, personal prayer. I was a little taken aback when I first saw it at [a temple]. Then I tried it and found it a moving experience…

  3. Oct 2006 Digest 158

                I am always surprised when the issue concerning  praying before the Torah might be considered potentially akin to idol worship is raised. One of the great arguments in the ritual of the prayer service has been whether or not it is correct to stand during the Torah portion when the ten commandments are chanted. Some rabbis have believed that this might give the impression that certain portions of Torah are more important than other parts. This is not the case. Likewise, some have been concerned that the reverence we give the Torah might be considered by the uninitiated to be akin to idol worship. It just ain't so.

                We rise before the opened ark for various reasons, and we do not pray to that which resides within it. It is all about kavannah. When ritual supersedes kavannah, and we forget why we do what we do and do it by rote, yes this can approach the level of idol worship…



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