Translated into more than a thousand languages, the Bible is probably the book that is the most read, and paradoxically the least understood and the least followed. Indeed, if its word is the most spread out, it is also the one which has most divided. Jews and Christians have found there all the reasons to justify their hatred for each other; and the hatred also takes place among Jews and among Christians.
The Bible has never been as read as nowadays. The creation of the State of Israel, the discoveries of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the profusion of biblical translations have contributed to this awareness. Everyone now can read the Bible, and everyone can verify in Israel the historical truth of the biblical words. The study of the Bible has been elevated to the highest scholarly levels. In Europe, in Israel, and in the United States personalities such as the Jewish philosopher André Néher and the Christian biblical scholar William Shea have illuminated the Bible and brought it closer and deeper into the hearts and the minds of its readers.
Yet the Bible has not changed the human person. The Bible which was supposed to bring peace, love, and hope has on the contrary carried a reference to rejections, to wars, and to murders. The assassination of Yitzhak Rabin tragically witnesses to this confusion.
The lesson has hit us like a bullet. It is not enough to study the Bible, to know all about it; not only our mind but also our heart, our life, should be inhabited by the dynamics of the holy words. Simhat Torah, the Jewish festival which celebrates the gift of the Torah, has retained this tradition and this requirement. The Bible is not just an occasion for studying the law and its wisdom and the past history of Israel; it is also a reason for joy, a part of our happiness and of our daily life. “I learned all the Torah,” boasted the proud student of the Bible. “Good,” the Master answered, “but what did you learn from the Torah?” (Mendel de Kotzk).
Image: The Kennicott Bible, by Benjamin Kennicott, with illustration, Jonah being swallowed by the fish, 1476. Public Domain