Tuesday, August 3, 2010

How Weighty is the Bible?

I’m on vacation in the Bible belt.  We have two very large vacation condos for three families of four: ours and my husband’s sisters’ families.  In each unit we found a “prayer for our guests” awaiting us and two copies of the New King James version of the Bible.

I awoke on our first morning here ready to exercise.  I’d brought my favorite exercise DVD and we had plenty of space in front of the living room television after I moved the coffee table aside.  But what would I do for weights?  A quick review of the options left me with a pot in one hand and a pan in the other.  My daughter considered this a prime photo opportunity, but I’m pleased to report that she was using our old camera that can’t capture anything indoors.

The pot and pan proved sub-optimal. Unevenly weighted and rather clumsily shaped.  As I struggled along with these, the thought came to me:  two Bibles in each hand.  That’s offensive, my husband said later when I announced my bright idea.  You’d never have let me exercise with the Bible in synagogue, my daughter objected.  (My son is wise enough to stay out of these conversations and look on with amusement.) Upon reflection, I found that the only strong sensitivities I have regarding the use of sacred texts involve placing them on the floor or in the trash. The disrespect of these actions has been ingrained in me, yet the notion of exercising with them fails to jar me at all.

I’d have had no problem with you using the Bible to exercise in synagogue, I told my daughter, but I’d have had a problem with you exercising at all in synagogue.  That’s when we started to think creatively. With Humash in hand, all that standing and sitting.  All that swaying and rocking.  It could look like intense davening (prayer), all the while a front for a great workout.  Spiritual and physical strengthening together; two for the price of one.

As for my sisters-in-law, for whom the Bibles in our condos are their Bibles, they found nothing offensive in the idea and were happy to donate their bedside volumes to my cause.  Then I came to another realization.  However weighty the content may be, or the philosophical argument about its appropriate use, the hotel edition of the New King James Bible simply does not weigh much at all.  Granted it’s got twice the Bible, with both the Old Testament and the New, but only the English text.  How I suddenly appreciated the weight of my Etz Hayim (Tree of Life) Humash, with the Five Books of Moses and the weekly Haftarah portions (selections from Prophets), all in both Hebrew and English, plus considerable amounts of commentary.  It gives me plenty to lift when in synagogue—certainly physically, as I’ve noticed on those Shabbat mornings when my back is out—but also intellectually.  Then there are the precious moments when the sensations of body, mind and emotion manage to align, and the lift becomes spiritual as well.

This morning I exercised again.  As weights I used a selection of the library books we’d brought for vacation reading.  The weight distribution was not as even as the four New King James Bibles would have allowed, but it was close and the books were considerably heavier—physically, that is.  I hope that no Dune devotees will be offended by the inclusion of two in that series; I am aware of the religious fervor these books can engender.  I’m just glad to be done with the pot and the pan.
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