October 2017, Parshat Noach

Dear Friends,

This week we read Parshat Noach, the second Parsha in the Torah.

In many ways the order of the Parshiyot reflect the cycle of events and chaggim that we have just experienced.

The Jewish month of Tishrei is one of the highlights in the Jewish calendar. Starting with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, then followed by Yom Kippur, and finally ending in quick succession with Sukkot and Simchat Torah.

The large number of festivals and fast days in such a short period of time make for an exciting experience, albeit a bit of a whirlwind. The many days spent with family and friends can even be a little exhausting! By the time the month of Cheshvan hits, there can almost be a sense of relief that there are no further festivals upcoming and we are given a breather from the constant exhilaration and intensity of Tishrei.

In many ways, last week’s Parsha, Parshat Bereishit is reflective of the month of Tishrei. In Parshat Bereishit G-d creates the world in a haze of excitement and with each new day, G-d builds upon His work of the previous day, creating and designing the earth.

In an almost frenzy like fashion G-d crafts and refashions the planet over and over again until the world is the epitome of the vision He originally set out to create.

However, in this week’s Parsha, Parshat Noach, after the intense period of creation, G-d decides that the world is untenable in the form He created and floods the earth and destroys it.

While G-d choose to save Noah and his family in the Ark, he floods the earth and destroys all His previous creations. In the context of last week’s Parsha, this reality is astounding!

How could G-d decide to destroy his creation and leave the earth with nothing left of the original creation other than the few souls left on the sole Ark above the waters?

The famous commentator Rashi notes that Noah entered the Ark only after the waters began to rise and he was forced to seek refuge from the ensuing flood.

While this is seized upon by the commentators as showing a distinct lack of faith on Noah’s part, the flood itself can be seen as second chance for the world.

While previously the world that G-d had created with so much hope and expectation had descended into a place of evil and sin, destroying and rebuilding the earth represented a chance for renewal.

When Noah exited the Ark he saw the world afresh and it is this same earth that we live in today, one where opportunity is plentiful and we are given the chance to renew ourselves.

In some ways this is the period we are entering into, the Jewish month of Cheshvan is known as “Mar Cheshvan” – “Bitter Cheshvan” as after following the intense month of Tishrei, in Cheshvan there are no festivals at all!

As we enter into the month of Cheshvan the parallels with the Parsha are clear. While a break from the continuous highs and festivities may initially be nice and even needed, the long dry spell of festivities until Purim and Pesach may leave us uninspired and even feeling disconnected from our heritage.

We are required to constantly renew our commitment and our connection to Judaism to ensure that we remain floating above such feelings.

This week’s Parsha reflects this idea. We must find our own personal Ark to float above the period we are entering into, both spiritually and physically.

In this congregation, we already have an ARK in the physical sense, but we must make our own spiritual Ark during this same period. In this way, Cheshvan represents an opportunity for us to immerse ourselves in potential Jewish growth using the energy of the previous month.

While prescribed festivals are non-existent, let us capitalize on the highs and energy of Tishrei to infuse this same exhilarating energy into our day to day lives.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Gabi