Virtual Talmud

Virtual Talmud


Of Love and Torah

I don’t share Rabbi Waxman’s ambivalence about whether kissing the Torah smacks of the very idolatry Judaism has always been so vigilant against. I think of it more like kissing a love letter: a physical expression of a passion for the writer, in this case God.

Idolatry is when something takes the place of God as Number One on our priority list. We may have many idolatrous relationships in our lives: with our credit cards, our stock portfolios, our jobs, our looks, our electronic toys, all sorts of things we give higher priority to in our lives than to God. But when we show reverence for the Torah, we are directing our attention to the One who is the reason why we are here as Jews in the first place.

That is why kissing the Torah is not idolatry in my book: because the Torah is not a substitute for God. It is what God has left us with. Therefore, it represents the closest most of us can come to “hearing” God’s voice in our lives.

If you have ever lost a loved one, you may know what I mean. There is power in my holding the sweater my late mother wore and breathing in her perfume one more time, or seeing her handwriting on a letter she sent me. Touching these things brings her closer to me. L’havdil (to make a distinction), this is how kissing and hugging the Torah works for me: it is an expression of my love for God. All we can do is hold what God has left us, this Scroll with its ancient words, dressed in a way that shows our respect and reverence. That is also why hugging the Torah and dancing with it this weekend on Simhat Torah is such an act of true spirituality and piety.

Perhaps we would be a stronger Jewish community if more of us made an effort to leave our credit cards and computers alone one day of the week and made more of an effort to kiss the Torah more regularly.



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eastcoastlady

posted October 10, 2006 at 7:42 pm


Very nicely said, Rabbi Grossman.



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jethro

posted October 11, 2006 at 8:08 pm


The problem is not with Jews kissing the Torah scroll. The problem is that there are usually so few Jews in shul to kiss the Torah scroll.



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windbender

posted October 12, 2006 at 3:12 am


Exactly.



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Julie Beth Boe

posted October 12, 2006 at 5:16 am


I do not believe it is idolatry in the least. It is RESPECT.



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Tzvi

posted October 12, 2006 at 5:28 am


perhaps there is a “reason” there are so few jews in shul. Religion can be rather dry, and we who are modern jews, may be uncomfortable with some of the imagery. Heck, I’m even thrown by RAMBAM, and he is considered a “Neo-Aristotelian rationalist” who declared that anyone who accepted litterally where torah says :”the finger of G-d” and the like should be executed as a heretic… Maybe we need to shape up what we look at, why we believe what we do and make it “mean” somehting to us.



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Rev. Dr. John Tierno

posted October 12, 2006 at 5:25 pm


Rabbi Grossman said it well… why would a “kiss” in any way suggest idolatry? It is clearly, socially and traditionally a sign of affection and love. If we love the word of God why not express it with a kiss?



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Stephen Lewis

posted October 13, 2006 at 12:17 am


Kissing the Torah is another indication of Word of God idol worship where the idol is not made of stone or wood or metal but made of little black ink marks set in rows on parchment or paper. When the Decalogue was first set in stone was the beginning of Word of God idolatry amongst the Abrahamic monotheist believers. The final overthrow of idolatry will not happen until we overthrow idolization of ancients instead of realizing the Creator is God of the living, not the dead.



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windbender

posted October 13, 2006 at 12:40 am


“…of the living, not the dead.”? From what source of angst did that come?



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Stephen Lewis

posted October 14, 2006 at 2:00 am


From no source of fear but from the teachings of Yeishu/Jesus found in the New Testament.



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tzvi

posted October 14, 2006 at 2:32 am


well considering that this is a “JEWISH” blog, on JEWISH topics, i am not surprised that ppl here would not recognise something from the Non jewish Texts. That said I go back to something i said that unless you are jewish or have something direct to say in regards to the text at and, one should keep quiet.



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Stephen Lewis

posted October 14, 2006 at 4:15 am


Why? I have Jewish ancestry. Why do I have to keep my mouth shut about Judaism if I not of that faith? Is that how Jewish people are supposed to deal with criticism from other religionists, tell them to get lost?



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Stephen Lewis

posted October 14, 2006 at 4:16 am


If the Virtual Talmud is off-limits to non-Jews why is it on these open public debate boards?



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Scott

posted October 15, 2006 at 5:52 pm


Because Stephen, in the dozens of screennames you have taken on these forume – and been banned from countless times – you have expressed the most venemous hatred of Jews I have ever seen on these boards. You are not to be taken seriously because you have an agenda – to attack Jews and try to hurt us. Therefore, you are to generally be ignores, oh DonCoyote, oh Blessed Beast.



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C. Brown

posted October 15, 2006 at 7:45 pm


I agree and I’m not Jewish! It is like kissing a letter from a loved one.



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Stephen Lewis

posted October 16, 2006 at 3:09 am


Why are you resorting to personal attacks? I am asking questions about beliefs here and there’s no need for you to defend yourself by resorting to breaking Beliefnet r.o.c.



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Scott

posted October 16, 2006 at 3:38 am


I’m not breaking Beliefnet ROC, Steve. I’m letting people know what you’re all about. Ever since you showed up on Beliefnet, you have been an unabashed anti-Semite. People have a right to know Know your new username too. I’ll be reporting it. I’m the one who always does that.



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Tzvi

posted October 16, 2006 at 5:40 am


I will admit to a level of frustration, but it more stems from the fact that there ways of expressing ideas that are “grasp-able” by people, that do not require refering to obscure texts. I mean you would not see Orthodox jews on Christian boards refering to arcane judgements by rabbis to support a fact or opinion, or even as part of something. I also admit to being frustrated by the fact that many of the Christians who post here, do make anti-jewish comments(like on a prev portion of this blog where someone made a comment that they didn’t understand why rabbi Grossman didn’t accept Jesus). If *I* offended anyone, here I am sorry.



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eastcoastlady

posted October 16, 2006 at 2:28 pm


Tvzi, I guess I should not be surprised then that “Stephen Lewis” is posting on other Virtual Talmud blogs telling us why we have it all wrong.



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eastcoastlady

posted October 16, 2006 at 3:18 pm


Tzvi, There’s this one poster who seems to harrass Crunchy Con all the time. When the poster gets going, CC tells other posters to “ignore the troll”. I wonder if we should do the same in this case?



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Scott

posted October 16, 2006 at 4:47 pm


One word: noosphere11



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Luke Lea

posted October 16, 2006 at 7:25 pm


Idolatry? Isn’t that worshiping a physical thing or image instead of God? In that case, only when, and if, Jews worship the Torah as a material object made of paper and ink but ignore its semantic content, that would be a form of idolatry.



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Stephen Lewis

posted October 16, 2006 at 8:15 pm


Look, please lay off the character assassination of this Gnostic Christian. It is unbecoming to your religious beliefs or is that your intention? To show how intolerant you can be? I should be able to post my opinions about Judaism or Islam or Christianity or Buddhism or any religion on Beliefnet without being hounded off the boards. That’s not fair and you all should know it. Since I am being tracked by some of you why don’t you tell the truth about my criticisms of other religions and how they take it? I have heavily criticized Muslims and my fellow Christians and yet not once have they tried to have me taken off the boards. I have a point of view that I want to share with Jewish people because I do care about the people who are in my own family ancestry.



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Clyde

posted October 16, 2006 at 8:18 pm


You’ve called us baby killers in the past. That point of view ain’t the way to open a dialogue. And in your numerous screen names you have broken the ROC so many times on Judaism Debate and the mini-boards it is impossible to count. You bring shame upon your Jewish ancestors.



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eastcoastlady

posted October 16, 2006 at 9:11 pm


Well, Clyde, when common sense and reason fails, why not resort to saying, “Stop calling me names!” How many times have we read “character assassination” here? Honestly! If SL actually “cared” about his supposed partial Jewish ancestry, surely there’s a better way to express those feelings.



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STEVEN SAWCZUK

posted October 19, 2006 at 12:59 am


out of all the wisdom posted here by all the rabbi’s , let me just say we have all learned something today !Keep up the good work , reluctant leaders who accept responsibility, not influenced by power, great idea , poor follow through, kissing the torah , showing great respect , great idea to much conflict, whose the authority, i’d say it’s the rabbi, respect the rabbi respect his ideas and religion becomes more humble, of course God is the ultimate source , but by showing respect for the rabbi we show respect for God. Finding one small flaw in a rabbi is not pleasing to God. I’m a catholic , and even I can see knowledge starring me in the eye and i welcome it into my heart. Humility is the best test of knowledge ,whether we receive it or share it with others.



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