Moses Receives the Tablets of the Law by  João Zeferino da Costa (1868)

This week in Covenant and Conversation we completed the section of Rabbi Sacks book concerning the parasha (readings) of Yitro (Jethro) which covers Exodus 1:20 to 20:23 . We will begin the parasha of Mishpatim next Thursday which covers Exodus 21:1 to 24:18.

In the words of Rabbi Sacks:

Following the revelation at Mount Sinai, Mishpatim fleshes out the details of the predominantly civil law that was to govern the Israelites: laws relating to slaves and their release, personal injuries and property laws, laws of social responsibility, justice and compassion, and laws relating to Shabbat (Sabbath) and the festivals. It ends with a ratification of the covenant, and Moses ascending the mountain for forty days.

In the essays that follow, the first examines the law about helping an enemy, and the social [psychology that underlies it. The second look at two interpretations of a passage that would eventually lead to divergent Jewish and Christian approaches to abortion. The third is about the contrast between simplicity of the Ten Commandments and the complexity and detail of the laws of Mishpatim. Why does the Torah (the Five Books of Moses) use both methodologies? The fourth is about one of the most challenging and distinctive of all biblical imperatives: the command to love the stranger.

Our studies are based on a text by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks titled Exodus: The Book of Redemption,  Maggid Books (2010). In addition scriptural passages are read from The Five Books of Moses, by Everett Fox, Shocken Books, Inc. , New York (1997) a translation of the Hebrew Scriptures.

Covenant and Conversation meets each Thursday at nine o’clock in the library of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, Columbia, South Carolina. Generally we meet for one hour. All are welcome to join us.


Covenant and Conversation

Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn, Moses Smashing the Tablets of the Law, 1659, Leinwand, 168,5 x 136,5 cm, Gemalde-galerie, Berlin, Germany / The Bridgeman Art Library, Nationality Dutch (out of copyright)

A group has formed at Trinity Cathedral Parish (Trinity Episcopal Cathedral) in Columbia, South Carolina to study the relationship between the Hebrew Scriptures specifically the Torah or Five Books of Moses and the Christian Old and New Testaments. The group is called Covenant and Conversation. It meets on Thursday mornings at nine o’clock a.m. to ten o’clock a.m. in the Cathedral Library.

Currently we are reading Exodus: The Book of Redemption by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks (Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregation of the British Commonwealth) supplemented with readings from The Five Books of Moses, a translation of the Torah by Dr. Everett Fox, Professor of Judaic and Biblical Studies at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Our purpose is expressed best in the words of Professor Fox himself:

The purpose of this work is to draw the reader into the world of the Hebrew Bible through the power of its language.

Fox, The Five Books of Moses, Translators Preface p ix

In entering the world of the Hebrew Bible we hope to gain a greater understanding of the world from which Jesus came and the influence which it had on his ministry as well as why his ministry was perceived by the religious authorities to be such a radical departure from traditional Judaic thought when in fact to Christians it is the fulfillment of that thought rather than a departure from it.

All are welcome to join. The purchase of the books is not required but may be purchased online from Amazon or Barnes and Noble and other booksellers. Rabbi Saks’ book sells for about $20.00 on Amazon and Professor Fox’s book is available in both paperback and hardback new and used. On Amazon the paperback runs about $32.00 new and the hardback $75.00 new, with used copies available at much lower prices.

If you are interested or need further information please contact Paul Nicholson by email at or just drop by on Thursday morning for covenant and conversation and of course coffee or tea.