The Se(A)lah Bible
Se(A)lah, samech, lamed hay in Hebrew is said to be untranslatable. One finds the term in the Psalms, the Book of Habakkuk and the See-doer, the Hebrew prayer book.
Se(A)lah means: stop and listen, pause and reflect. Se(A)lah is an instruction to the choirmaster that a shift and transition is in order.
Se(A)lah is similar to “Amen” an affirmation that adds
All in all Se(A)lah is, I believe the perfect term for the final movement of the symphony of the Bible. The “A” is added as a poetic flourish that acknowledges God, the people of the earth, and the mountain of revelation. The Se(A)lah Bible is a poets scripture.
The Bible remains an unfinished book. The Old Testament is not superceded by the New Testament, nor does any Final, or Third, or Last Testament get the last word.
All praise to God and the Hebrews for insisting that Torah be a scroll. The scroll contains remarkable notes for a symphonic reading. Note that the text of the Torah consists of consonants. Every Torah reader breaths and sings the text according to how they have heard the cantillation. Vowels and cantillation were noted by the Masorites according to ancient oral traditions. A Book was created to guide the Torah reader/conductor called The Tikkun . The term is instructive, for it fixed trope to the text in the scroll. Everything turns on the trope since the melody they indicate becomes the punctuation of the text. Remember the scroll is neither voweled nor punctuated. Mastering the trope, or Ta’amay Mikra is the conductors first task. The musical variations on the Trope
breath the breath of life into the bible. The Torah reader must play an almost God like role in relationship to the text.
Olivier Revault D’Allonnes, in his finale to Musical Variations on Jewish Thought, reminds those without direct access to the text, that they put their trust in the translator. He is excited by a new French translation of the Bible that treats the Bible as a musical instrument. A musical Bible returns us to inspiration and even revelation. We are all too familiar with the idolatry of
of the unschooled who pick up the instrument and strum out discordant melodies and messages. We have all sat through those sermons.
However, every translator is not necessarily a traitor. With mastery of the material and hours of practice the conductor stands and the music begins. This discipline is also required of the Torah Reader. Back to our Tikkuns!
The scroll calls us to breathe divinity into dark words. The scribe writes the letters with ink from gallnut and copper sulfate. The reader brings these words to life.
In olden times the ink was steeped in a mixture that contained a little honey. It is my goal to bring out the sweetness of the text by teaching you how to write your own Bible. I will also intentionally strive to irritate, since without sand in your craw you will never produce pearls of wisdom.
Traditionally, every person is instructed to write a Torah Scroll. This involves more than purchasing a letter or two. Honoring Emerson we write our own Bibles and thus connect heaven and earth. The coming kingdom is defined by our words and dreams. We are creating much more than another book in the Se(A)lah Bible, we are constructing a library. Your response to this commentary will be your Torah. Your comments, adding to the conversation, will be our Oral Torah.
A Devar Jonah Bible
The Se(A)lah Bible in its printed form, is also a Devar Jonah Bible. Devar Jonah is my ministry to incarcerated felons of all faiths. In prison Bibles abound, we often have more Bibles than inmates. Hebrew Bibles are much more rare. Stacked on my desk at this moment at Washington Correctional I have The New American Bible (no, not the Constitution), The KJV, Old and New, Free on the Inside, a Good News Bible (with Deutero-canonicals and Apocrypha), The Amplified Bible, and The Daily Bible.
Our Se(A)lah Bible will follow the readings outlined in The Daily Bible. My Jewish inmates follow the readings of the Rabbis which begin and end in the fall of the year. Since my goal is broader appeal we will use the American winter cycle and begin Genesis One One on January One. The entire Bible will be presented; we will not Jefferson or Readers Digest the text.
Imbedded in the text you will find a separate book I call “Jesus for Jews.”
I will cross, and star, and crescent, and stars and stripes reference the Se(A)lah Bible. I will invite you into our prison studies which, my inmates wittily inform me, transform jail into an entirely new type of concentration camp.
Prisons may also be thought of as laboratories conducive to experiments. For me the Corrections Chaplaincy has been the ultimate ecumenical experience. In a row where I work, are the offices of the Imam, The Pastor, the Priest, and my own, which I share with the Rastafarians, Native Americans and Nation of Islam. I dedicate this Bible to my colleague’s.