I suppose it all started last fall. I have a nasty habit of tossing the contents of any bag I brought to class on the floor in a fit of looking for something, usually my glasses, when I'm running late--usually for life in general, not just classes. This happens quite often. After a particularly violent search one afternoon, my copy of the Tanakh (pronounced "ta-NAK", it's the Jewish Scriptures, otherwise known as the Old Testament) from my Hebrew Prophets class lay desolate on my floor amidst a pile of notebooks, pens, and (conveniently enough) my glasses. While I was perched on my chair, trying to stack books above my desk, Ali, my neighbor across the hall, leaned into my door on the way to her room, "Hey, how are y.......OH MY GOSH......kiss the Tanakh......KISS THE TANAKH!!!!!!!!!!!!!" At this sudden outburst I half-jumped, half-fell off my chair, onto the floor and grabbed the text. Stopping in mid-action with puckered lips and the Tanakh halfway to my mouth, I realized that I had no idea why I was about to kiss an inanimate object. I looked up at Ali in what I'm sure was a scene she'll never forget. She explained to me that the Tanakh isn't supposed to touch the floor, and if it does, you're supposed to kiss it. I've neither researched this nor heard about it, so I assume it's just some sort of religious apology to the book....you know, an "I'm sorry for letting you touch the ground. Do you forgive me?"-type situation. I did as I was told--far be it from me to anger God by letting the Tanakh touch the ground. My Tanakh didn't jump to life in a Harry Potter-esque rampage against my insolence, so I assume that it forgave me. Phew.
It got me thinking--most of the other major religions of the world deeply respect the physical form of their holy scriptures. There is certainly a deep respect for the Bible as the Word of God, for its content and its importance, but how well do we really treat the actual book? I'll have to toss that one around in my mind for awhile.
Just in case you were worried, I treat my Tanakh much better now. Case in point: I walked into my friend Taryn's room this morning with a bowl of cereal perched atop a pile of books, the Tanakh on top. "Is it a sin to balance a cereal bowl on top of the Tanakh?" I asked as I entered the room. Taryn laughed, shrugged, and returned to Facebook. At least I'm trying.