Sunday, February 27, 2005

Moving at a different pace

Speaking of cycles, you should check out a new site. From what I hear behind the scenes, things should get interesting there in the (hopefully) near future.

The English version there isn't working yet, so I'll attempt a short explanation. Most (Orthodox) congregations read the entire Torah in the course of one year, completing the cycle on Simchat Torah. Various sources reveal that, according to the Palestinian rite (minhag Eretz Yisrael), they took three and a half years to finish. That may sound a little inelegant, but - as Shlomo Naeh pointed out in Tarbiz 67 (1998) - it's really aimed towards a major public finale once in seven years. Like Hakhel.

Anyway, Sidra aims to present the alternative division of the Bible to accomodate this triennial cycle. This is supposed to be complemented by the appropriate haftara sections from the Prophets, and by midrashic and liturgical compositions which were composed around them. The system survived until sometime in the 12th century, mostly in the Jerusalemites' synagogue in Fustat (Old Cairo). Mordechai Akiva Friedman wrote a fascinating article on its demise, in the Ezra Fleischer festschrift, Knesset Ezra.

If they do in fact bring all that material together, it will be enlightening and exciting. I hope they succeed.


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