“The World exists only by virtue of the breath of little children studying Torah.”
These wonderful words are accredited to Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish, or Reish Lakish, who lived around 200 AD. He had a colourful life and was known for his amazing strength and large body. When sleeping on a hard floor, he was heard to say, “My fat is my cushion.”
For such a great lover of the divine he also had a very colourful life. He was once a bandit, skilled in the use of knives and swords, and even performed in a circus showing off feats of strength. However, his life knew a deep transformation, and this big, hard, bandit, became a giant of a scholar from whose lips such sensitive inspirations came.
It is said that the Jews had such a high view of the word of God and the Torah, that they would introduce the word to the pure mouths of young lips as soon as possible. The first book to be appreciated was “Leviticus”, as, with all its blood and rituals, it is considered the book of purity. It is said that they would coat the scroll with honey to encourage the not yet literate young mouth to find succulence in the living word.
I think back to the aging prophet Ezekiel, who, having received a mandate to “speak my (God’s) words” to a rebellious people, saw a vision.
“Then I looked, and I saw a hand stretched out to me. In it was a scroll, which he unrolled before me. On both sides of it were written words of lament and mourning and woe.”
“Then he said to me, “Son of man, eat this scroll I am giving you and fill your stomach with it.” So I ate it, and it tasted sweet as honey in my mouth.”
I love the sweetness of friends, fellowship, celebration and word – written in all the three “books” of Bible, Humanity and Creation. I may still be just a child, licking the honey and learning to go deeper into the depths of life.
One man who went deep, was the old “camel-kneed” apostle, and best friend of Jesus, John. While a prisoner on the island of Patmos, he too received a tremendous vision of prophetic words to speak to the troubled waves of the world.
He saw a mighty angel, like the one the prophet Daniel saw, astriding earth and sea, a finger pointing heavenward, and holding out a scroll. The triangular pose of the angelic messenger, linking heaven to earth, and earth to sea, is an awesome encouragement to seek the words which bring a fulfilling harmony to history and humanity.
“Go, take the scroll that lies open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land. So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll.”
“Take it…” – That’s the easy bit! It is always easier to have “words”, theories and even prayers on our lips. They are not always costly to say, and add to the superficial tide that is drowning the world, creating, as Walter Benjamin so wisely said: “More wreckage at the feet of the angel of history.”
“Eat it…” – The hard bit! Can I own in my heart the words and wisdom I so glibly speak? Can I grow from a child to a man – yet keeping the essential, pure, sweet breath of a child?
John had a go:
“I took the little scroll from the angel’s hand and ate it. It tasted sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour.”
I think the world needs a new generation of “prophets” willing to not just chew, but swallow -those, who, joying in the pure, sweet taste of honey, are also willing to own the sour, sullied pain of the world.
Such a generation will speak to kings and nations…and keep the world spinning!