Torah: The Great Unifier or the Great Divider?
1 א

(א) וּבְיוֹם֩ עֶשְׂרִ֨ים וְאַרְבָּעָ֜ה לַחֹ֣דֶשׁ הַזֶּ֗ה נֶאֶסְפ֤וּ בְנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ בְּצ֣וֹם וּבְשַׂקִּ֔ים וַאֲדָמָ֖ה עֲלֵיהֶֽם׃ (ב) וַיִּבָּֽדְלוּ֙ זֶ֣רַע יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל מִכֹּ֖ל בְּנֵ֣י נֵכָ֑ר וַיַּעַמְד֗וּ וַיִּתְוַדּוּ֙ עַל־חַטֹּ֣אתֵיהֶ֔ם וַעֲוֺנ֖וֹת אֲבֹתֵיהֶֽם׃ (ג) וַיָּק֙וּמוּ֙ עַל־עָמְדָ֔ם וַֽיִּקְרְא֗וּ בְּסֵ֨פֶר תּוֹרַ֧ת יי אֱלֹהֵיהֶ֖ם רְבִעִ֣ית הַיּ֑וֹם וּרְבִעִית֙ מִתְוַדִּ֣ים וּמִֽשְׁתַּחֲוִ֔ים לַיי אֱלֹהֵיהֶֽם׃

(1) On the twenty-fourth day of this month, the Israelites assembled, fasting, in sackcloth, and with earth upon them. (2) Those of the stock of Israel separated themselves from all foreigners, and stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers. (3) Standing in their places, they read from the scroll of the Teaching of Adonai their God for one-fourth of the day, and for another fourth they confessed and prostrated themselves before the Adonai their God.

2 ב
(א) וַיֵּאָסְפ֤וּ כָל־הָעָם֙ כְּאִ֣ישׁ אֶחָ֔ד אֶל־הָ֣רְח֔וֹב אֲשֶׁ֖ר לִפְנֵ֣י שַֽׁעַר־הַמָּ֑יִם וַיֹּֽאמְרוּ֙ לְעֶזְרָ֣א הַסֹּפֵ֔ר לְהָבִ֗יא אֶת־סֵ֙פֶר֙ תּוֹרַ֣ת מֹשֶׁ֔ה אֲשֶׁר־צִוָּ֥ה יי אֶת־יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃ (ב) וַיָּבִ֣יא עֶזְרָ֣א הַ֠כֹּהֵן אֶֽת־הַתּוֹרָ֞ה לִפְנֵ֤י הַקָּהָל֙ מֵאִ֣ישׁ וְעַד־אִשָּׁ֔ה וְכֹ֖ל מֵבִ֣ין לִשְׁמֹ֑עַ בְּי֥וֹם אֶחָ֖ד לַחֹ֥דֶשׁ הַשְּׁבִיעִֽי׃ (ג) וַיִּקְרָא־בוֹ֩ לִפְנֵ֨י הָרְח֜וֹב אֲשֶׁ֣ר ׀ לִפְנֵ֣י שַֽׁעַר־הַמַּ֗יִם מִן־הָאוֹר֙ עַד־מַחֲצִ֣ית הַיּ֔וֹם נֶ֛גֶד הָאֲנָשִׁ֥ים וְהַנָּשִׁ֖ים וְהַמְּבִינִ֑ים וְאָזְנֵ֥י כָל־הָעָ֖ם אֶל־סֵ֥פֶר הַתּוֹרָֽה׃

(1) the entire people assembled as one person in the square before the Water Gate, and they asked Ezra the scribe to bring the scroll of the Teaching of Moses with which Adonai had charged Israel. (2) On the first day of the seventh month, Ezra the priest brought the Teaching before the congregation, men and women and all who could listen with understanding. (3) He read from it, facing the square before the Water Gate, from the first light until midday, to the men and the women and those who could understand; the ears of all the people were given to the scroll of the Teaching.

3 ג
(א) בַּיּ֣וֹם הַה֗וּא נִקְרָ֛א בְּסֵ֥פֶר מֹשֶׁ֖ה בְּאָזְנֵ֣י הָעָ֑ם וְנִמְצָא֙ כָּת֣וּב בּ֔וֹ אֲ֠שֶׁר לֹא־יָב֨וֹא עַמֹּנִ֧י וּמֹאָבִ֛י בִּקְהַ֥ל הָאֱלֹקִ֖ים עַד־עוֹלָֽם׃ (ב) כִּ֣י לֹ֧א קִדְּמ֛וּ אֶת־בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל בַּלֶּ֣חֶם וּבַמָּ֑יִם וַיִּשְׂכֹּ֨ר עָלָ֤יו אֶת־בִּלְעָם֙ לְקַֽלְל֔וֹ וַיַּהֲפֹ֧ךְ אֱלֹקֵ֛ינוּ הַקְּלָלָ֖ה לִבְרָכָֽה׃ (ג) וַיְהִ֖י כְּשָׁמְעָ֣ם אֶת־הַתּוֹרָ֑ה וַיַּבְדִּ֥ילוּ כָל־עֵ֖רֶב מִיִּשְׂרָאֵֽל׃

(1) At that time they read to the people from the Book of Moses, and it was found written that no Ammonite or Moabite might ever enter the congregation of God, (2) since they did not meet Israel with bread and water, and hired Balaam against them to curse them; but our God turned the curse into a blessing. (3) When they heard the Teaching, they separated all of the mixture from Israel.

4 ד
ת"ר הכל עולין למנין שבעה ואפילו קטן ואפילו אשה אבל אמרו חכמים אשה לא תקרא בתורה מפני כבוד צבור

§ The Sages taught in a Tosefta (Megilla 3:11): All people count toward the quorum of seven readers, even a minor and even a woman. However, the Sages said that a woman should not read the Torah, out of respect for the congregation.

5 ה

(ח) כל הטמאין ואפילו נדות ואפילו כותי, מותר לאחוז ספר תורה ולקרות בו; שאין דברי תורה מקבלין טומאה. והוא שלא יהיו ידיו מטונפות או מלוכלכות בטיט, אלא ירחצו ידיהם ואח"כ יגעו בו.

Any impure person, even [a woman in] a niddah state or a gentile, may hold a Torah scroll and read it. The words of Torah do not contract ritual impurity. This applies when one's hands are not soiled or dirty with mud. [In the latter instance,] one should wash one's hands and then touch the scroll.

6 ו

תניא ר' יהודה בן בתירא היה אומר אין דברי תורה מקבלין טומאה.

It was taught in a Baraita: Rabbi Yehuda ben Beseira used to say: Words of Torah do not contract ritual impurity.