The second temple period brings Torah, and our modern liturgy


4 Ezra 14:21 presents the view that Torah was burned. It had to be re-created from scratch. Torah, Naviim, and Kitavim, do not mention Torah before II Kings 22:8. Second Temple and afterward, the Jewish people are the people of the book. This is the biggest change of the Second Temple period. The establishment borrows from the surrounding cultures. “Sanhedrin” and “Synagogue” are Greek, not Semitic terms.Second_Temple

Mark 7 mentions the Pharisees’ ritual washings. This references, what was to become Berakoth 53B. Berakoth 60B lists the required blessings, well over 500 words. One group of Second Temple Jewish elders, the school of Ezra and Nehemiah, were dedicated to making sure Eretz Israel was pure so God would never bring the disaster of 587. Compare:

לֹא-תַעֲנֶה בְרֵעֲךָ עֵד שָׁוְא translates, “Not witness in your neighbor in vain.

לֹא תִשָּׂא אֶת-שֵׁם-יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ לַשָּׁוְא “Not take the name of the Name in Vain.

“שָׁוְא”, “Vain,” is key. “You will not add to the word, nor diminish it.” Torah must remain pure. The rule is impeccable honesty, as related in Job. How to have an exact replica of pre-exile Torah, when a written Torah violates living Torah is the question. “Hear, Israel, the customs and precedents I proclaim in your hearing, this day….” Customs and precedents, by definition, develop over time. Each generation interprets Torah in light of Exodus Experience and its current situation.

This understanding brings Passover/covenantal relationship, reliving for the first time, each time, the Physical Presence of Exodus. As they eat, all recline, representing equality/freedom during the feast. They enter another dimension of space and time. Jesus celebrates Eucharist at Passover and gives us the Physical Presence.

Israel and Judah develop different traditions merging in postexilic Israel. Each is imaginative remembering, interpreting reality in light of its own time and space. Picking traditions to relate requires interpretation in each remembering generation. Recreating an impeccably precise and honest work that never existed before, using competing traditions, drives the creativity of Torah. In their effort, they created a work of enduring value.

Hillel the Jewish St. Francis and Shammai, representing Ezra’s way are two schools. Hillel represents Covenant Reality. Not fulfilling Tzaddic to the poor caused the disaster. Shammai represents purity. The disaster came by not being pure enough, kosher enough, holy enough. Aristocrats, the schools of Ezra and Nehemiah represent Royal Consciousness. Jesus and Jeremiah represent covenantal relationship.

Exodus 23:19, Exodus 34:26, Deuteronomy 4:21, and Hullin 113b, 115b discuss eating meat with milk. Genesis 18:8 relates a story discrediting this rule. In Genesis 1 we can almost hear Ezekiel discuss how God created the world. Other prophet’s voices present alternate, folk views of history and reality from Genesis 2:4 on. Torah is a dynamic text; many traditions argue against one another, trying to explain 587 B.C.E. in light of verbal traditions.

Nehemiah 8 presents Torah’s first reading. The Levites sing songs. The Water Gate represents Penance. There was Torah reading, in Hebrew, as part of purity, according to tradition. Kavanah requires Torah be interpreting into vernacular, Aramaic. This, our homily foundation, echoes the Latin/vernacular fight, the fight to get it right. The Magnificat is a poem to Elizabeth about how God will destroy the wealthy, by extension, including Elizabeth. Josephus relates a similar story about Pontius Pilate.

Hope and Possibility are definitional for Jews. Before 587, there is little to no reference to life after death, angels, and so much more coming in the postexilic period. This development, and Passover shows, during the exile, while living within Eretz Israel, there is always room for hope.

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