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Torah Studies for Christians in 40th year

Published: 3/19/15 @ 12:06


By LINDA M. LINONIS

linonis@vindy.com

VILLA MARIA, PA.

For Christians and Jews, 2015 is one of those years that Passover, which begins at sundown April 3, and Good Friday, the most solemn day in Christianity, coincide. Both highlight important events in the faiths.

Torah Studies for Christians landed on the calendar at a good time. Presenters are Rabbi Saul Oresky of Congregation Ohev Tzedek in Boardman and the Rev. George Balasko, a retired Catholic priest and co-founder of Jewish/Christian Dialogue with the late Rabbi Samuel Meyer.

About 70 people attended the program Wednesday at Villa Maria Education and Spirituality Center. Sponsors are Jewish/Christian Studies and B’nai B’rith Guardian of the Menorah.

Father Balasko led off the presentation by sharing how the Jewish/Christian Studies began because of a chance encounter with Rabbi Meyer. This year is the 40th for the studies.

Rabbi Oresky said the Torah, or Pentateuch, in Judaism is the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.

The rabbi said that reading the Torah gives people “insight into the relationship of the Israelites with God.”

“The Torah came from God to Moses on Mount Sinai,” Rabbi Oresky said. “This is the word of God.”

But the rabbi cautioned that text taken from Hebrew are “not translations but interpretations.” He said the change from one language to another often does not convey the “thought patterns and flavor” of the original.

Whether one is studying the Torah or engaged in Bible study, the rabbi said both are

“theologically challenging.”

Rabbi Oresky said the Torah generally is studied “in community” or with a partner. He continued that study may involve the “plain vanilla” reading of the text, a hint of something not completely understandable, the exposition or inquiry into text and mystical understanding.

“Since the text is in Hebrew, it’s a different mindset and thinking,” he said.

The rabbi distributed handouts including one with passages from Exodus 12:1-20. People in the audience read passages aloud, and the rabbi then reviewed what was revealed.

The passages lead up to the day of liberation of the Israelites from ancient Egypt. Passover commemorates that event.

In verse 7, reference is made to marking Jewish homes with the blood of a lamb so that the angel of death would “pass over” those homes. The Israelites had been passive, Rabbi Oresky said, but by marking their homes they showed “membership as a Jew.” “God wanted to see a commitment from the Israelites,” the rabbi said.

The passages also give directions about the “lamb without blemish” and the unleavened bread, or matzah, which the Israelites would eat because their exodus left no time for bread to rise.

The passages give instructions for the first Passover and those that will follow: “[T]herefore shall ye observe this day throughout your generations by an ordinance forever.”

Some believe the Last Supper celebrated by Jesus was a Passover Seder. Father Balasko said it is important to remember that “Jesus is Jewish.”

Rabbi Oresky asked participants to study the Torah and “understand and interpret” on its own without “prefiguring Jesus.” “Understand the text as it is written, not project future theology,” he said.

Joan Gearhart of Mineral Ridge and Linda Hahn of Austintown, members of Ohltown United Methodist Church, attended.

Hahn, who leads Bible study for seniors, said she wanted to learn more background for her class and liked the idea of delving into Bible texts. Gearhart said the topic was interesting, and she liked the exchange of ideas.

Another session of Torah studies will take place from 1 to 2:30 p.m. April 15, when a date in May will be announced. Register online at www.vmesc.org or call 724-964-8886.


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