Rabbi Shafir's Weekly D'var Torah
B'reyshit (Genesis)
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Noakh (Noah)

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1. Parsha Details
2. Questions (and a few observations) on the excerpts
3. Some Observations
4. Exercises
Parsha Details: Gen 6:9-11:32 (tri 11:1-11:32) [Haftorah Isaiah 54:1-55:5/10] 
2. Questions and a few observations

Again, a lot of history covered in one week.  The story of Noah, the tower of Babel and setting the stage for Abraham.

Looking at the Tikun, there is an interesting pattern to the text.  Much of the Noah details are in one long section (6:13-8:14), from God first telling Noah to make the ark until the earth is dried.  This is certainly not the longest solid section of text in Bereyshit, but it is a longer one.  Later, the 'generations of Shem' take on the typical 'generation' look.  In most of Bereyshit, sections start with a vav -- And.  Two of the sections in this Parsha do not -- they both start with eyle  "These" are the generations (Noah and Shem).

The first 'generations' acts as an introduction to the Noah/Ark details.  And such details.  I included a few of them in the excerpts just to give the flavor.  The water reached 15 cubits above the tallest mountain.  The exact days for the start of the rain, the various stages of water up and down, again with dates.  Why would such detail be included?  Are they typical of deluge stories?  We would expect that Abraham and his sons would have known the popular deluge stories of the times.  And if a flood really occurred, wouldn't we expect that many people knew something of it?  Especially if everyone descended from Noah and his three sons?  However, only the Biblical account gives reasons for the flood and covenants resulting, as opposed to random acts of various gods playing at this or that.

Once again, Torah gives insights and reasons to the otherwise randomness we see and hear about.  And isn't that what Torah is all about?  Teaching us aspects and understandings of our relationship with God as it has been passed down generation to generation.

Part of me always imagines the early oral times of our history and the transition to written.  What parts were memory aids to the tellers, what parts were visual cues to the early readers?  The Rabbis tell us that Torah is a collection of 'seferim' that became our Torah (with the same thought and intensity that was present in later rabbinic collections).  They did not do things casually, and the collection of the Torah was not casual.  And to ask the same question they often asked -- what's the underlying message here?

These early parts of Torah tell us a great deal about the people who originally listened to it, as the telling transitioned to a written scroll.  Perhaps part of my inner Self is showing here:  Torah, when I read it or hear it being read takes me back to early Israel and connects me both with my ancestry and with the Presence I feel deeply and throughout.  

Knowing that man has had a hand in the final product  (and not just as a pen)  is actually part of the strength of Torah.  What did they (whoever 'they' were) mean when they said that Noah walked with God?  (Talmud, of course, tells us that Abraham walked before God as an older child might)

The redactors, the early scribes and teachers took these words very seriously as they sought to teach us and future generations how to approach God, how to walk with, face, and so on, that Life-giving Breath, that Energy.  And they taught us that approaching wrong or too fast is not good either.

And telling us of people and things in the past is how they do this.  We learn how various people lived their lives in their times and situations.  And that's perhaps a key here.  Each of us, alone, decides how to approach God.  Noah lived in evil times -- wouldn't it have been easier to be 'part of the crowd'?  But in the end, Noah decided for himself.  And he and his sons and the wives, like ALL characters seen in Tanakh, are flawed.  My father always pointed to these flaws as evidence that Torah was not 'made up stuff' because made up stories tend to have very 'black-and-white' characters who are either all good or all bad.

We are not perfect -- we recognize that.  That's why we have Torah to teach us what to do, as it has guided our people for generations.  Perhaps the real wonder is that it is still a wonderful guide with a wealth of appropriate and timely information -- if we just look, read and listen. 

3. Some Observations

Two things come out at me particularly right now.  One is the phrase: "the earth was filled with violence (khamas)" which, for obvious reasons, strikes home.  

And the other is the story of the Tower, and how much that story sounds like too many meetings I've been in during my life.  (And it doesn't matter whether the meeting is business, organizational, social or what). Are they different languages -- or just meanings and agendas?

What can we do to help move the world closer to Peace and understanding?  How do we do effective Tikun Olam?  How do we create effective communication?  What if the efforts appear to be one-way or one-sided?

Somehow, I believe the issue, in the end, comes down to validation, validation of the individual and of life itself.  Prayer and meditation hold part of the key, perhaps the insight into the path.

And what if the other participants don't want Peace?  (I have a real problem with parents who teach 12-year olds to go to stone-throwing activities)  

I have walked parts of Jerusalem that are probably seeing a great deal of violence these days  I think of my old neighbor, Sid (and his wife and two sons), who was buying a flat in Hebron.  We would go shopping together in the old and new city.  Wonder where they are now and what they are doing.  I wonder about our Armenian friends that lived in or near the Old City  And so many other friends from that time  Haven't kept in touch -- that was over 25 years ago.  I left Jerusalem late summer of 1973 -- also a tense time.

And world leaders who talk about peace -- are they talking as if at Babel?  Is their goal their own name (like the tower builders) or will we learn that His Name must be bigger than man's?

And the rainbow, the sign of God's promise to ALL of man (since Noah and sons and wives were everyone).  Even the flood didn't fix everything, not even for a few pasukim.  Perhaps this is God's way of saying to all of us  "folks -- it is up to you -- where do you walk and will you walk your talk?" 


1.      Animals: Think about all of the different kinds of animals, birds, etc.  Imagine the ark with Noah, his family and everything else for one full year plus 10 days.  Floating on the water for half the year and waiting for the water to dry up for the rest.  How would you keep peace?  

2.      Rainbow:  Look at or imagine a rainbow.  Smell the wonderful fresh smell after a rain.  Feel the rainbow touching you, wrapping you in its glorious colors and light.  Shekhina wraps and permeates and nourishes us, filling us with wonder and light.

3.      Name:  Clouds -- look at clouds and find God's Name there.  God often appears as a cloud.  Rainbows touch clouds and the earth in a splendor of color.

Last words. 

Thanks for reading this. If I have offended you, please forgive me -- that was not my intention. If you found some joy or happiness in reading this, thank you for allowing me to be a part.  If you found a reason to think about something more deeply - kol hakavod and thank you!

And to the people giving me feedback  thank you so much!  I enjoy all of it.  (Including the typos)



(c) 2000 Candy Lobb  All rights reserved. 

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