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D'VAR TORAH | OCTOBER 20, 2023

10/20/2023 12:07:26 PM

Oct20

Senior Rabbi Benjamin Sharff

We love to tell the story of parashat Noach to our children, and what’s not to love? There are cute animals. There is a 40-day cruise. There is a rainbow at the end of it all. But truth be told, at the end of it all, it is a deeply challenging story. It begins with God deciding to start all over by wiping out humanity, except for Noah and his family. God chose Noah because he was “an ish tzadik tamid hayah b’dorotav, he was a righteous man; in his generation.” And when God tells Noah of this plan, Noah simply did what God asked of him.

In subsequent rabbinic commentaries, the rabbis wrestle with the question of what does it mean to be “a righteous man; in his generation?” For some, this means he was considered righteous because everyone else was wicked. For others, he would be considered righteous in any generation. For the first argument, they note that unlike Abraham, when he was told of the planned destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Noah did not argue with God. He simply did what God asked of him. 

In his silence, we are left wondering how Noah, how Na’amah (his wife) and how his children were feeling and thinking about what had transpired. In addition, when seeing all that was going on, Noah and his family were safe on the boat, but were powerless to respond.  Once the waters receded, and they landed on dry land, Noah planted a vineyard. He processed his own the trauma of witnessing the destruction of humanity by getting drunk and passing out. 

When you dig into it, it is a deeply painful and challenging story. So too, we as Jews and those who are our allies and Jewish adjacent, or who are exploring their own Judaism, are wrestling with our own thoughts, experiences, and emotions following the recent terror attacks in Israel. We are all struggling with what is the best way to respond. 

The history between Israelis and Palestinians is long and complicated and messy. There are many voices speaking up right now coming to us from a multitude of directions, and it can be challenging to deeply think about how we feel about all that has and continues to transpire. 

We want you to know that Temple Israel is a space for you to be able to come and pray, think, and be able to converse. We recognize that there is a diversity of opinions and we welcome that diversity. Your clergy are here for you. And we are working on creating a time to hold a larger communal conversation. In the meantime, if you need a safe space, you have one here. 

We continue to pray for the redemption of those kidnapped, for the grieving families, and for all those innocents who are suffering.

Instead of wishing you a traditional greeting of a Shabbat of peace, we invite you to have a Shabbat of intention, a Shabbat of meaning, a Shabbat of comfort, and a Shabbat of community.

Shabbat Shalom.

Fri, July 19 2024 13 Tammuz 5784