Fr. James' Lectionary

The Lectionary is both a reading program for completing all of Holy Scripture on a one year schedule, and a daily comment on a portion of the day's reading wedded to a poem to give an added perspective on the theme.

Location: Amherst, Virginia, United States

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Precedents: Bible Comment on II Macabees 2 with poem by C. David Matt., Simchas Torah

Daily Readings
Proverbs 18, Joshua 7, II Maccabees 2, II Corinthians 13

Daily Text: II Maccabees 2

Why do these two letters precede the Preface of II Maccabees? It is an appropriate question and one without a clear response. It may well be that the author of II Maccabees wanted it clear from the beginning that the issue around which all of this subject swirls is the right of the Jews to worship God according to the Torah in Jerusalem. One would think that the author was trying to convince the Gentiles of their rights, but that would probably be misleading. They convinced the Gentiles by going to war and winning. II Maccabees was written for the Jewish community in dispersion, many of whom had founded competing temples. Precedents are a good way to think of them.

The letter which began at 1:10b and continues into II Maccabees 2 is considered to be a forgery, however, not one created by the compiler of the condensation which is II Maccabees. Rather he used the forged letter, probably unaware and unconcerned that it was not all that it claimed to be, because it makes his point. The condensation is accepted as exactly what it portends to be—a synthesis of a five volume work by Jason of Cyrene. That source volume is no longer extant, but it would been known by those to whom he was writing. In the two letters and in the preface the author keeps the hope alive and growing that God is bringing his people out of bondage into their political own once again. Amazing how hope continues to spring in Jewish breasts.

Simchas Torah
C. David Matt.

Full oft has the ark been opened
And in the sad procession,
Our Fathers bore the sacred Law
Their one most dear possession.

While unto the foe abandoned
To ravish and to spoil,
They left their rich and plenteous store,
The fruits of a life of toil.

And into the regions unfathomed
They bore the precious scroll,
To shield it or to die for it,
To pay the exile’s toll.

Yet in to-day’s pageant procession
Of banner and scroll and light,
The Jew clasps tight the self-same Law
He bore through oppression’s night.

Rejoice then, O Israel! Thy praise
Unto thy Maker give.
No more the Torah bids thee die;
To-day it bids thee live!

To live for it, and to cherish
Each sacred memory,
Which time has woven in a crown
Of glory unto thee.

Let revelry hold its sway, then,
And the hour be given to cheer;
For the cycle of reading is ended
On the happiest day of the year.

And lest the mocker, derisive,
Avow you delight to be through,
Lovingly wind it from end to start;
Begin to read it anew.

Collect for the Day
Let us declare the greatness of our God and give honor to the Torah.
For out of Zion shall go forth Torah, and the world of the Lord from Jerusalem.
Praised be the One who in His holiness has given the Torah to His people Israel.
[471:417 For the Reading of Torah]


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