Today we had a guest speaker come in and talk to us about Judaism. Judaism is a wide umbrella of practice including groups such as Secular Jews, Traditional Jews, Orthodox Jews and Ultra-Orthodox Jews, just to name a few. With such a wide range our speaker knew she couldn’t present all the intricacies of Judaism to us in one short day. She decided therefore to focus her talks on some of the commonalities amongst most Jews. One of those topics was Midrash.
Midrash is kind of like a collection of stories or sayings that have built up around the Bible. They often attempt to clear up confusion or answer questions that come up during the reading of the Bible. As examples we looked at three Midrashim connected to the story of Cain and Abel. In Genesis it says that Cain invited Abel out to the field. The Midrashim attempt to give possible conversations that they might have had on their way to the field. The conversations presented are attempts to explain why Cain killed Abel. Without giving the entire stories I will summarize the three Midrashim to say that the first said it was a conversation over money, the second over power, and the third over sex. The Rabbis were basically saying that these are some of the reasons that we as humans fight and kill each other. We fight over money (or possessions), over power, and over sex. That held true then and it holds true today.
The Midrashim gave insight into human thought and human life. One of our classmates compared this to our Catholic Lectio Divina. In Lectio we use our own imagination to place ourselves into events and explore the setting, much like the Midrash does. By doing so we can also come to know ourselves better and come to a deeper appreciation of our human condition. The Midrashim and Lectio Divina stand as examples for us as to how we can further engage the Bible stories that we know so well in order have a second and deeper look. Sometimes when we think we already know something we miss another lesson that is waiting to be discovered.