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Parashat Noach

October 20, 2023
5 Cheshvan 5784
Genesis 6:9 - 11:32


Dear Friends,

We continue to be in the eye of a storm, much like Noah in this week’s Torah portion. Like Noah, we do not know how the story will end. One thing we do know is that, as in Noah's experience, the world will be different then it was before the events of October 7th.

It was a day when pure evil revealed itself and we knew not what to make of it or how to respond. Simply stated, there was a pogrom on October 7th in Israel and along with it there was a failure to protect ordinary people. This week’s Torah portion gives us Noah and his family, who are the only survivors of a lethal catastrophe amidst a world characterized as being evil. Like Noah and his family, we are unmoored. Noah’s storm lasted forty days and forty nights but they were unable to get out of the Ark until there was clearly dry land.

We will continue to be in this uncertain territory for a while, with little clarity about how things will turn out. What can we do? What do we have to hold on to in this time of uncertainty, as each of us is affected differently?

We are in shock. All that we have is one another. After destruction there is silence.

The Ukrainian-Israeli poet Leah Goldberg wrote about the aftermath of a storm:

Five minutes of flood and then,
The innocent sky denies everything;
And stillness,
And green fragrant earth…
And of the flood-
Not a single witness.

We need to bear witness to those killed and those kidnapped before we go beyond that moment. Take the time to take it in as painful as it is. And then to take a breath and let it go. Give yourself a break and watch less news. This moment is a process and it will take time to find our bearings in this unfamiliar landscape.

At the end of Noah's journey, God promises not to destroy the world again, as signified by the appearance of the rainbow. We have a part in that bargain. We have to refrain from destruction. We are full of uncertainty as to what to do next. With that in mind I offer you the following lyrics.

Days of Stillness
Yarden Bar-Kochba


They’re coming now, the days of stillness.
We’ll go to the window to see
If the waters have gone,
And if, perhaps, there’s land out there,
On our horizon.

Two by two,
We’ll come out two by two;
Gazing up at the sky,
Together, waiting for the dove.

 They’re coming now, the days of stillness.
After we’ve lost everything, you and I,
Come sit with me here on the balcony,
Cry with me here for yesterday.

They’re coming now, the days of stillness.
We’re together, you and I, on this mountaintop;
The water is quiet now;
The rainbow’s here as well.
We can stand again now,
For the end of the world has passed.
[Translated from the Hebrew by Henry R. Carse]

My prayer for all of us is that we reach out to others, we give each other support, allow ourselves to feel what we need to feel, and take concrete actions that come from a place of care and lovingkindness.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Linda Shriner-Cahn

Wed, May 22 2024 14 Iyyar 5784