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Learn about this week’s Torah portion with our Rabbis
“Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God.”
What does it mean that “Noah was blameless among the people of his time”? When God comes to Noah and tells him the world will be flooded, Noah says nothing. Unlike Moses and Abraham who argue with God, Noah seems to accept the fate of mankind without batting an eye. This hardly seems like the acts of a righteous man.
According to the Seforno, a Rabbi from the 15th century, his commentary on the Torah states that, “Noah walked in God’s ways by trying to help others and to instruct and if necessary rebuke them.” One can assume that by walking in God’s ways, Noah did try to tell the people to do the right thing but they did not listen to him. Therefore, when God told Noah to build the ark, the fact that Noah did not say anything in response to God is more a reflection of the fact that even Noah thought the people were beyond helping.
However, according to Rabbi Yochanan, a third century Rabbi, Noah was only righteous in comparison to the other people that lived at his time. If Noah had been born at a later date, he would have been no better and perhaps even worse than most people. Therefore, according to Rabbi Yochanan, had Noah been such a great man he would have spoken up and tried to negotiate with God.
The lesson we can derive from these teachings is that we are all products of the age in which we are born. We are molded and shaped by those around us. Yet, we always have the power and the ability to rise above and be our best selves. When you are remembered, do you want to be remembered as righteous in your generation, or as a model of righteousness for all time?
Rabbi Micah Ellenson
“Bereshit bara Elohim…In the beginning, God…” The first words of Torah, which we begin reading anew this week, present us with a challenge. Why does Torah starts with the letter “bet” instead of the first letter in the alphabet? The Zohar, the mystical text of Jewish tradition, presents a creative answer. “As God verged on creating the world, all the letters presented themselves before God, from last to first.” Each letter presents the case for why it should begin Torah, the sacred work of all creation, and each is ruled out in turn. Tav, which is the seal of the word for truth, emet, is also the seal of the word for death, mavet. Shin, which is the first letter of God’s holy name Shaddai, is also the first letter of the word for lie, sheker. The text continues in similar fashion until the bet is reached, the first letter of blessing, bracha. “Master of the world,” bet said, “may it please You to create the world by me, for by me You are blessed in the heavens and on earth.” May this new year give us the opportunity for the recreation of our worlds closer to how we wish them to be, and may this new cycle of reading Torah be a blessing for us as we bless our God.
“…u’dar Adonai mirushalyim.” As part of our Torah service on Shabbat morning, we sing that Torah comes from the Land of Israel, the word of God from Jerusalem. A city central to our people’s narrative and promise, we might actually conceive of two Jerusalems as did the Talmud. Jerusalem shel mala, the heavenly, ideal concept of Jerusalem mentioned in prayer; and Jerusalem shel mata, the everyday Jerusalem subject to human struggles and strife.
In two weeks, these Jerusalems collide. The World Zionist Congress, an every five years gathering of 500 Jewish leaders from the world over, gathers in Jerusalem to discuss and debate issue of global Jewry. I have the honor of being a voting delegate at this conference and need your help! I will be journaling the experience on a Facebook page linked to Temple with two purposes: first, to share this unique experience with the our TDHS community, and second to allow your voice to be heard in real time. You can read about the issues being discussed and the resolutions up for vote, and your feedback and responses in real-time will help inform my vote and voice!
Please “like” the Facebook page to receive daily updates, https://www.facebook.com/TDHSatWZO, and share with anyone who might be interested!