Literal and Meaning

“But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments.” (Matt 23:5)

Wikipedia: Tefillin, (Hebrew: תפילין), also called phylacteries, are two black leather boxes containing scrolls of parchment inscribed with biblical verses. The arm-tefillin, or shel yad, is worn on the upper arm, while the head-tefillin, or shel rosh, is placed above the forehead. They serve as a “sign” and “remembrance” that God brought the children of Israel out of Egypt. According to Jewish Law, they should be worn during weekday morning prayer services.

The sources provided for tefillin in the Torah are from vague verses. The following verse from the shema states:

“And you shall bind them as a sign upon your arm, and they shall be as totafot between your eyes” (Deut 6:8)

Here is an example of an idea that we can discuss that is taken to some literal form – yet I think contains ‘deeper meaning’ also – the phylacteries concept.

Nowhere in scripture is the idea of phylacteries seen as a bad thing – it is a ‘just is’ thing. For me, the idea seems simple – they are to be in 2 places – your hands and on your head. If I stick to the literal – I am doing an act of rememberance – which is in and of it self a nice thing. If I think upon it deeper, could it be the idea is pointing to remembering the teachings of God in our minds (to memorize) and in our hands (to do them)?

After hearing about how literal the bible is – I am not sure just sticking to the literal will provide all the meaning we need for some action. I am thinking even the literal action of wearing the phylacteries is a sign of something more deep than just some outward symbol. Maybe in that action we pay homage to Torah – the teachings – to both be studious and to ‘live by them’.

Just doing the action can become a routine – and eventually mean nothing without more to it than just a ‘literal meaning’. This is the school of thought I am coming from on ideas we bounce around the net about teachings in the gospels (and this one is from the Tanakh) – even literal has to have more to it than ‘just do and prove your trust in God’.

Paul relates something (and I am paraphrasing here) that makes sense concerning growth in faith – ‘when I was a child I ate as a child, but now that I am an adult I eat like an adult’. Literal ideas might be the start of one’s faith journey – but to not flesh those out in the long haul will leave an adult eating/thinking like a child. That’s all I am saying.