This blog, at least for now, will follow the style of the Jewish Torah reading calendar. For non-Jews, what this means that I will begin reading Genesis shortly before October and complete a full cycle, ending with the close of Deuteronomy, just shy of a week later. This leaves quite a bit of the bible unexplored, obviously. But it also gives just enough time for reflection and consideration of the Bible, something that a more fast-paced reading does not do.
This is not my first time reading the Bible, not by a long shot. I’ve just completing a cycle of weekly Torah portions from this year and so I’m coming into thing, and blogging, not from a perspective of a “newbie” but of someone who is constantly learning something new about a great text.
In the Jewish tradition, the Torah (the first five books of the Bible, and the same for both Jews and Christians) is divided into 54 portions, or parashah. As most years do not contain 54 weeks, even in the Jewish lunar calendar, some weeks cover multiple portions. These portions generally cover a few chapters each and do not generally stop on convenient chapter boundaries, but I’m going to trust the early rabbis to know why they picked where they did to stop each week. Each portion is also given a name in Hebrew, generally one of the first unique words of the tex. For example, the first portion is called Bereishit and stretches from Genesis 1:1 to 6:8, from creation to the beginning of the Noah story.
Closely related to the weekly portion, which I may discuss or not, are the haftarah. These are additional readings, usually related to the main reading, but from other portions of the Hebrew Bible. Unlike the parashah, these appear to differ from one religious community to another. For Bereishit, the readings are generally from Isaiah.
Christian communities also have their weekly readings, although these are as diverse as the communities themselves and are not frequently in order. Roman Catholic mass, for example, will generally have one reading from the Old Testament, one from the Psalms (part of the Old Testament, of course), and one from the New Testament. I am looking for a guide to readings from different communities so please let me know if you know about this.
Given the immense ground even these small portions cover each week, it will be quite a challenge to keep up!