Long ago, before the printed word and technology was in every home and classroom and before there were people who say that rote memorization was not a good learning strategy – at about the time when Jesus was a little boy growing up in a small town, children in his village would walk into the classroom for the first time and find a slate coated in honey. A rabbi said these words, “How sweet are your words to my taste! Yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth.”~ Ps 119:103
Being a teacher it is so easy to see this first century classroom. I can hear the smile in the rabbi’s voice as he issued the first assignment, “Lick the slate clean and repeat after me.” As the students gleefully got to work (because there was no one around who said, “Yuk – germs!), they repeated the verse over and over until the slate was ready to be written upon. Thus, they learned their first verse of the Torah.
“If you abide in Me…”
According to rabbinical writings from that time, the sound of those voices repeating verses over and over and over were like the chirpings of little birds. Once upon a time, rote memorization was the underpinnings of all education all over the world. Books were rare and way too valuable for ordinary folk. Students learned by stories and rote memorization. In the Jewish community, by the time the Jewish children were ready for the next level of schooling, most of them knew the entire Torah by heart.
I’m sure there were those who struggled just like some struggle in today’s classroom. However, what we fail to remember is that the chirpings didn’t stop at the school. Every morning, every meal, every bedtime was filled with more recitation of verses and better yet – discussion – debate – exchange of thoughts – prayers filled with those same words until the verses became alive – vibrant with love between the family members – lustrous with the Breath of the Father’s Spirit – shaded with every jot and tittle of the language.
“And My words abide in you…”~Jn 15:7a
Cool thing to note – most scholars agree that boys and girls – around the age of 4 or 5 – would begin their schooling together. The cooler thing is that school didn’t stop at the doorway of the classroom. All the children in the family would participate in the discussions with their parents, so – for the most part – Our Father’s words took up residence within each family member who comprised this group of people called Jews.
They didn’t have to go look up a reference to string verses together. They didn’t have to google a phrase to find a verse. They didn’t have to look at their notes from school or find an expert. The words were part of everything in their everyday life. Trip over a stone and say a blessing of thanks because it wasn’t a rock. Get an extra few coins praise G-d for His goodness. Prayer rising without thought – never ceasing – because the WORD lives in each individual.
“How sweet are Your words to my taste!”
Tonight, as the thunderstorm and hail pelt our little house, I look at the little gathering of early violets and spring flowers and touch creation with my heart. Life becomes so much sweeter as we chirp. Spring is here – well – kinda – in name anyway. The peepers have started to peep in NC – I think they are probably hiding deep in the mud tonight. The birds were chirping earlier today as they hopped about and hopefully found shelter somewhere now.
And I – well – I think I need a little more of those 1st century chirpings in my life so that the WORD abides in me.
“Sweeter than honey to my mouth.”~Ps 119:103