Tag Archives: tefillin

Re the Daily Office Readings 4/17/2020

The Readings: Exodus 13:1-2, 11-16; 1 Corinthians 15:51-58; Luke 24:1-12

There’s a world of difference between “I don’t want to die” (near universal) and “I’d be happy if my life continued forever” (not so much). Ask Tithonus, that Greek fellow who asked for immortality but forgot to ask for eternal youth. So death is destroyed at the last trumpet (Paul): until we get the living part right death can provide a merciful end.

Moses is working at getting the living part right in the interwoven practices regarding the first born (Exod 13:1-2, 11-16) and unleavened bread (Exod 13:3-10). The practices will serve “as a sign (ˀôt) on your hand and as a reminder (zikkārôn) on your forehead” (v.9), and “as a sign (ˀôt) on your hand and as an emblem (ṭôṭāpôt) on your forehead” (v.16). By Jesus’ time Jews interpreted these texts literally, underwriting the use of tefillin (“phylacteries” Matt 23:5), small leather cubes bound on the arm and forehead.

For better or worse, Christians do not follow this practice, but the interpretive challenge remains. What Moses understands is that what and how we remember are profoundly formative of both the individual and community. Torah—particularly Deuteronomy—is filled with calls to remember; Jesus and the New Testament writers are no less attentive to remembering well and effectively. Torah is about love of God and neighbor: healthy memory nourishes that love; diseased memory starves that love.

In this season social distancing sidelines some of our cherished ways of remembering (e.g., Holy Eucharist), but may create space for other ways (e.g, Compline and the other services in the Daily Office). So, what are we supposed to remember, and how in this season can we better help ourselves remember?