03 August 2019

Night prayers with
a Talmudic summary
of Prophetic teaching

‘Teacher and student’ by Judel Gerberhole (1904), in the Jewish Museum in the Old Synagogue, Kraków (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

The Lectionary readings these weeks are inviting us to work our way through some interesting readings from the Prophets: Amos (14 and 21 July); Hosea (28 July and 4 August); Isaiah (11 and 18 August); and Jeremiah (25 August, 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29 September.

During my prayers last night [2 August 2019], using the Jewish prayer book Service of the Heart, edited by Rabbi John D Rayner and Rabbi Chaim Stern, in the section on the theme of ‘Sincerity,’ I came across a beautiful summary of the Prophets:

Our rabbis taught: six hundred and thirteen commandments were given to Moses. Then came Micah and based them upon three: ‘Do justly, love kindness, walk humbly with your God.’

Isaiah based them upon two: ‘Keep justice and righteousness.’ And Amos based them upon one: ‘Seek me and live.’

Habakkuk too based them upon one: ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’

Akiba taught: ‘The great principle of the Torah is expressed in the commandment: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’

Ben Azzai found an even greater principle: ‘This is the book of the generations of man. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God.’

And Hillel summarised the Torah in this maxim: ‘What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow-man. The rest is commentary: go and study it.’

The Talmudic sources for this reading are:

B Makkot 23b-24a (quoting Micah 6: 8, Isaiah 56: 1; Amos 5: 4; Habakkuk 2: 4); Sifra 89b (quoting Leviticus 19: 18 and Genesis 5: 1); and B Shabbat 31a.

‘Adoration of the Torah’ by Artur Markiowicz (1872-1934) in the Jewish Museum in the Old Synagogue, Kraków (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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