Shemot – I am called by my deeds

Talking about God has always been out of the ordinary for rabbis.  We are trained to help our congregations embrace lives of mitzvot, not discuss the nature of God.  We talk about how our actions honor God, the mitzvah of kiddush hashem, of emulating God in our actions, of growing closer to God through life choices.  We rarely, if ever, delve into pure theology.  We watch as God passes before us, but we do not seek to see God’s face. (Ex 33:17-23)  We understand God through God’s actions: God created, God gave us Torah, God visited the sick, cared for the mourner…  God in turn, asks us to seek our the divine through our actions, our study of Torah, our care of the world, our following of the mitzvot. We are a religion who places Torah and text, mitzvah and action, well before theological inquiry.

Perhaps the most powerful words to describe God are in this week’s Torah reading, Shemot.  Moses asks for God’s name. God answers, “אהיה אשר אהיה (I am that I am/I will be what I will be). Tell the children of Israel that אֶהְיֶה (I am/will be has sent you).”  God continues, “I am יְהוָה the God of your fathers. (Exodus 3:14-15) With Moses’ question comes our introduction to the tetragrammaton, the four letter ineffable name of God, Yud-Heh-Vav-Heh.

In the midrash, “God says to Moses: You want to know My name? I am called by My deeds. I might be called E-l Sha-dai, or Tzevakot, or Elokim, or Yud-Heh-Vav-Heh. When I judge My creatures, I am called Elokim. When I wage war on the wicked, I am called Tzevakot. When I tolerate the sins of man, I am called E-l Sha-dai. When I have compassion on My world, I am called Yud-Heh-Vav-Heh.”

Seek God through action.  We can not see God’s face.  God’s nature is beyond what we can simplify by speaking a name aloud.  If we want to truly make a connection to God, we must do so through our deeds.  God’s deeds are the guide for our own mitzvot.  Our actions are what bring us closer to Torah and the divine.

There has long been a debate among Jewish scholars about whether one needs to believe in God in order to follow the Torah, or one needs to believe if Torah in order to follow God.  Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972) wrote that the universe is an image of the Torah and the Torah is an image of God. Through the study of Torah human beings draw the secret wisdom and power of insight into the essence of things.

The Talmudists clearly believe the Torah is a divine instrument and thus its study leads to God.  Rabbi Akiva called the Torah “the precious instrument by which the world was created”. Rav said that God created the world by looking into the Torah as an architect builds a palace by looking into blueprints.

A remarkable Talmudic teaching has God say, “If they were to forsake me, I should forgive them, for they may yet keep my Torah. For if they should forsake me but keep my Torah, the leaven that is in the Torah will bring them close to me.” (Jerusalem Talmud, Haggigah 1:7, 120b-121a)  The context of the discussion is one in which Israel’s worst sins are forgivable, all except complete abandonment of the Torah.  Clearly Chazal gives Torah priority over theology.  In this midrash, God acknowledges that it is Torah that draws the people to holiness, to relationship with the divine.  Torah, mitzvot, deeds, are the means by which we form relationship with God.

This week’s parashah “אהיה אשר אהיה (I am that I am/I will be what I will be)” mirrors this teaching, telling us that just as approach God though our deeds, God appears to us through God’s deeds.  Mutuality of action over thought is the basis of our covenantal relationship.  I am that which will be, that which emerges in our actions today and tomorrow with each other.


Vayechi – Power of Words

I once visited a woman who had been told she only had a few more weeks to live.  She said to me “I have had a long and happy life and I’d just as soon go right now rather than stay here waiting for death.”  I asked her if she would like to use the time before her to tell her family anything and she said “No. I’ve already told them everything.  They know how much I love them.” Her family gathered around her in love and support  and she went to sleep.  She stayed asleep most of the time, waking once a while to ask with great irritation why she was still alive then fall back to sleep.  She passed within a few days.  When we buried her, her family felt great peace.  They did in fact already know how much she loved them and loved her and her strength of will in return.

We each face death in our own way.  The midrash suggests that Jacob requested illness before his death so as to gather his family and his thoughts in the days and weeks before he passed.  (Bereshit Rabbi 97) Jacob’s is the first death scene described in the Torah. He gathers all his sons around him to prophesize their future and to bless them.  Abraham’s death is described simply in Gen 25:7.  Abraham breathed his last, died at a ripe old age, contented, and was gathered to his kin.  The texts describes that he left everything to Isaac, having given his other children gifts while still alive. There is no deathbed farewell.  Isaac is described as being old with dim eyes when he calls Esau in to bless him.  There is no mention of death.  Even though Jacob steals his brother’s blessing, it is quite a while before Isaac passes away.  Jacob is the first to know he is dying and to make use of the information to “put his affairs in order.”

The first action Jacob takes is to ensure he will be buried with his ancestors in the land of Canaan, in the family plot.  His words are very carefully used.  His greeting to Joseph demonstrates great respect to the Pharoah’s second in command, asking him for a “favor” (Gen 37:29) and “bowing” to him from his bed. (Gen 37:31)  He then asks Joseph to swear to him that he will bury him with his ancestors (Gen 39:30), in the cave of Machpelah, in Canaan.( Gen 51:30)  The wording is important, as Joseph must ask Pharoah’s permission to leave Egypt.  Pharoah’s response confirms this “You may go because you promised on oath (Gen 50:6).  Jacob has engineered all this with care.  He is an old man, dim of sight, living under his son’s protection in a foreign land.  He is without the patriarchal power of the past.  Yet he uses words to give him power and create this reality.  (Aviva Gottlieb Zornberg,The Beginning of Desire  p.353)

Having established he will be cared for according to his will after death, Jacob gathers his sons around him to offer them his last words.  It is an odd set of final statements for a father to make to his children.  To Reuven, Simon, and Levi, his words are scathing.  His words to his other sons fall somewhere between poetic description and opaque prophesy.  As he concludes his words to each individual son, he ties them all together, pronouncing them the twelve tribes of Israel. Here finally the word blessing is used, not once but three times:  “All these were the tribes of Israel, twelve of them, and these were the words with which their father blessed them, each man according to his blessing, he blessed them.” (Gen 49:28)  The Jewish Publication Society, my favorite English translation, refuses to use the word blessing at all, translating instead “he bade them farewell with appropriate parting words.”  Their reason for the translation: “not all the tribes received blessing.”  Alternatively, a midrash suggests while at first Jacob blesses some sons and not others, in the end he blesses them all in unity. He knows they war with each other, that they are human and stubborn and so he ties them all together in this blessing and has them “suckle from one another.”  (Pesikta Rabbati 7:9)  Aviva Zornberg suggests he is trying to influence his children and their future in this speech, offering them a path to rely on one another in their differences rather than fight.  (The Beginning of Desire  p.364)

Perhaps most fascinating, is the interpretation that Jacob is trying to tell his sons the future, to give them a prophesy, the future of Israel until the end of days and the final glory of God, but is blocked. Vayechi is the only parshah with no “blank space” to announce it’s beginning in the Torah.  Each Torah scroll is written carefully by hand, and each weekly parashah has a blank space before, making it easier for the Torah reader to find, and announcing it’s distinct importance. Vayechi, the final portion in Genesis, has no blank space, no blanks at all between it’s beginning and the words of the prior portion.  Rashi, in his commentary, suggests lack of blank space is a physical block.  The parashah text is physically blocked in by lack of space.  Rashi (11th c France) offers two answer, one national, the other personal and spiritual.  The first suggest that when Israel died, Bnei Israel, living in exile, were blocked: They closed their eyes and hearts to seeing God fully.  Rashi’s second explanation interprets the block as Jacob being blocked from seeing or revealing to his sons his vision of the end of days.  Israel’s sons stand at the precipice of the first exile, their enslavement in Egypt the paradigm for all future exiles. Jacob sees this and wants to share it with them, to ease the waiting for generations to come, but as he opens his mouth to speak, is blocked. Instead of providing the vision for all of Israel’s future, his words to each of his sons reveal only a partial truth.

Rashi suggests that in the moment Jacob begins to share the divine illumination with his sons, the shechinah leaves him, and he is blocked, left in darkness.  Rambam (12th c Spain) further extrapolates that Jacob has a life history of losing the shechinah in times of darkness.  While Jacob mourned Joseph, thinking him dead, he was melacholy and God’s presence left him.  When Jacob and Joseph were reunited in Egypt, Jacob, “lived again” (vayechi – Jacob LIVED for 17 years in Egypt) and the shechinah returned to him.  In Rambam’s view, depression, lethargy, melancholy keep us from achieving our full human potential, and block prophecy, or connection to God.  Aviva Zornberg suggests something of Jacob’s light flickers at his end, losing him God’s presence. He is blocked.  This block is released in his final words, “All these were the tribes of Israel, twelve of them, and these were the words with which their father blessed them, each man according to his blessing, he blessed them.” (Gen 49:28). Somehow in his words to each son, replete with images of nature and water he finds the fluidity and light to reconnect with God and to make his final words ones of true prophecy: You are the twelve tribes of Israel, united in blessing.  (Beginning of Desire, p 360-365)

How much of our children’s and grandchildren’s lives can we influence with our words.  What blessings and prophecies can we leave them?  Gluckel of Hamelin (17-18th c Germany) has been a role model to generations in the ethical will she left her children.  In her carefully recorded journal, she used stories of her life to ask her children to remember the mitzvot and live by their tradition.  I love her motherly chidings, spoken from the grave, and now published, educating the many generations that followed.  Like Jacob, her words have made her vision a reality.  Like Jacob, her fondest wish was for her children to lean and depend on each other, making their differences, their strength in unity.

People often know when they are about to die and can take the opportunity to “put their house in order.” They have power to make a difference in their words to loved ones, those with them, and those who will follow in years to come.  Tradition tells us that the shechinah sits by the head of those who are very ill, supporting them in courage and love.  From this we can also take courage, and faith, that God is present for us.  What we want most  is to find acceptance, peace in the time before we are asked to leave this world.  Through Jacob’s long blessing he moved from darkness to peace, and found again God’s presence in his life.  We too can reach out to family and friends, and through connections of truth and love, find our way closer to God.

Super Healthy Rabbi Mommy’s Original Pancake Recipe

I am taking some time off from work while Tim has vacation days and enjoying some lazy family time at home.  This morning I had fun making up a new pancake recipe. They turned out pretty tasty and even the baby ate some!

Pancakes a la Reb Tziona

1/2 cup whole wheat flour, 1 cup oatmeal, 1 tbsp chia seeds, 1 tbsp wheat germ, 1/4 tsp salt, 1 tbsp baking soda, 1 tbsp sugar, 1/2 cup yogurt, 1/2 cup water, 1 egg, 1 banana, handful blueberries – fried in olive oil.

Missing lighting our Chanukah candles but it’s always  time for pancakes.

An Angel Whispers to Us

Laying in her bed, she asked me to turn off the television and sit close to her.  She was an artist. Small pictures of her beautiful work on the nursing home wall and a few photographs were her only decorations.  She told me she felt there was a something she was supposed to have learned, as a Jew, that she hadn’t, and now in her late 80s, she didn’t know where to start.  It wasn’t the first time she had said this.  On previous visits we talked about her youth, her decisions to leave Judaism behind in search of being a real American.  But today she got to the heart of her worries.  She was afraid of death, afraid that there was a great Jewish task left undone as she neared her end.  I told her this midrash.

In the months before we are born, an angel whispers to us in our mother’s womb, teaching us all of Torah, all the Jewish wisdom in the universe.  Just as we are about the enter the world, the angel touches us lightly above our lips, and we forget everything we have learning. This is the source of the depression in the shape of a finger between nose and lips.  We spend our lives trying to regain the knowledge of the universe that was ours before birth.  I suggested to this older woman that in the moments before death, as God reaches out to embrace us for eternity, we find again all the knowledge that was ours in the beginning and we understand.

I believe this midrash with all my heart.  I believe that a small drop of the divine rests within our souls and returns to God upon our death.  All that is unique about us is carried in that divine drop to be be part of God and to be part of the world for ever.

As I left the room I prayed with this dear woman.  I prayed that she felt the Shechiyna, God’s presence, resting next to her, giving her comfort, that she feel the healing power of the divine and that she find the peace she sought.

First Chanukah Candle Together

Last night our family had our first Chanukah candle together.  It was a special moment.  One I didn’t anticipate would carry such sweetness. I came home from leading prayer services, Eliyana tired out from a long day, my energy flagging behind hers.  We had planned a taco dinner but were just too bushed to cook or eat.  DSC00538My husband arrived home from his hour long commute just a few minutes before us.  He set up the Hannukiah in the window with candles and matches. We lit the candles together, Eliyana first in Daddy’s arms, then mine, as we sang our prayers together.  Such a small moment together and so meaningful to me.  I was touched that my husband had everything ready for us when we walked it.  I was warmed by the picture of our family standing together, our first Chanukah.  We didn’t buy Eliyana or each other presents this year.  We lit the candles.  We said the prayers.  We ate chocolate.  It was perfect.  Perhaps gifts seem superfluous in the face of the blessings we have received this past year.  This time last year, Tim and I were booking a flight to Ethiopia to pick up our beautiful daughter and bring her home.  My eyes are tearing now at the memory… so grateful for our family now complete with little Eliyana Bracha Nuhamin.  God answered our prayers with blessing and joy.  She is a light in our hearts and souls.

Peace of mind and body – Vayeshev

“When the righteous seek to settle in peace in this world, Satan comes to accuse them.” (Bereishit Rabbah 84:1)

Vayeshev – “Jacob settled in the land where his father had sojourned, the land of Canaan.” (Gen 37:1)  There is such depth in this small opening sentence.  The first part of the sentence is defined by the second.  While Isaac sojourned in the promised land, megurei from the Hebrew root ger, a stranger, Jacob yashav, he settled, he made his home.  Rashi points to a settling down not just of body but of mind. After years of exile and strife, Jacobs wants only to settle down quietly in the holy land to find fulfillment and closure. Following his troubled youth, his flight from his brother from his brother, servitude to his uncle, Jacob sought tranquility in mind and soul. Instead, Jacob’s story plunged him into further turmoil.  His son Joseph was stolen and sold into slavery, killed in Jacob’s mind, and at the hands of his own brothers.  Jacob’s story, which began in struggle with his own brother, circled back to that familiar pain.

We all seek to settle in peace in this world.  Our greatest dream is to live our lives quietly, settled cozily in homes and jobs that are supportive and rewarding.  To this Jewish tradition admonishes us:  “Is it not enough for the righteous, what is prepared for them in the world to come, that they seek to settle in peace in this world?” (Rashi on Gen 37:1)  Jacob, and we who yearn with Jacob, to live simply in peace, are mocked for our naivete. The world is a broken place.  Our mere wanting of peace will not make it so.

Rabbinic literature praises yishuv ha-da’at, composure, peacefulness of mind, clarity, and cogency.  It’s opposite is tiruf ha-da’at, to be of torn mind, bewildered, and confused.  Our lives are always in process, trying to put the pieces in order, to find clarity, coherence.  We think that one day we will find that peace and all will be smooth sailing from that point on.  There is no such perfection.  Aviva Zornberg puts it succinctly “No elegant composure can veil the organic disease of this world.”  Yishuv and tiruf, the tension of composure and discomposure, is felt acutely by those who seek beauty and harmony and find the shock of reality.

Chaos, confusion, and brokenness are elements of the human experience.  Our tradition’s admonishment to those who seek peace in this world might be harsh but appropriate.  Are we seeking peace by begging off from reality, by dropping our responsibilities?  This seems unfair.  Why should those who are “good” suffer?   Job hits the nail on the head when he bemoans the peace of the wicked who die in immaculate tranquility. (Job 21:23)   The righteous struggle with the messiness of this world as they seek to make it better.  It is their innate “goodness” that prevents them from looking away, prevents them from settling for their own corner of peace while those around them suffer.

My life as a working mom is anything but “peaceful.” I am allowed moments of transcendent beauty, in work, in family.  But as the rollercoaster of life restarts itself I am reminded of Jacob, and the sages response to his quest for peace.  “The day is short, the work is hard, the reward is great, and the master presses.” (Pirkei Avot 2:20)

My thanks to my teacher Aviva Zornberg whose writing (The Beginning of Desire) inspired this drash.


Losing ground on our path to hope

Rumain Brisbon, Michael Brown, Eric Gardner…  My heart aches for their deaths.  I grew up in a world where the police officer was my friend, someone who visited my primary school to talk about the right way to lock up my bicycle, who smiled and waved when I walked by.  I don’t know what world I live in now, certainly not one of blind justice and trust.  I see our civil liberties eroding quickly away.  Safety and fear replace freedom and reason.  In the 70s, 80s, and 90s, we seemed on track in our work to end race inequality.  We seemed on track for each in our country to make a living wage, to be treated as a human being in their place of employment, their home, and on the streets.  I thought with each generation life would get just a little bit better.  Instead, this tremendous backslide to a world where torture and imprisonment without trial is acceptable in the name of fighting terror and national safety.   Acceptable to beat or shoot an unarmed person, unless he’s white.  We turn away, believing it could never happen to us.   This is familiar to me.  My family once thought it couldn’t happen to them… and one day the Nazis arrived and every freedom they had worked generations to gain was taken away overnight.  Please know that every civil liberty lost by one is lost by us all.  When a black man is harassed and physically assaulted by police, he is the canary in the mine, the first to suffer in what will kill us all.

I am proud of the demonstrators.  Too often we feel so powerless, but they remind us that our future is our responsibility to shape.  Each of us has the responsibility to bring about a better world.  In the midst of these horrors I hold fast to the Jewish teachings of ahirat ha-yamim, the end of time, the messianic age.  According to our tradition, the messiah will come when our world has achieved a degree of righteousness previously unknown.  Our work is to continue the process, each generation, each individual doing their part to bring closer the time when war, violence, jealousy and greed cease to be.  We seem to be losing ground on our path to hope.

“We do not know when the Messiah will come, nor whether he will be a charismatic human figure or is a symbol of the redemption of mankind from the evils of the world. Through the doctrine of a Messianic figure, Judaism teaches us that every individual human being must live as if he or she, individually, has the responsibility to bring about the messianic age. Beyond that, we echo the words of Maimonides based on the prophet Habakkuk (2:3) that though he may tarry, yet do we wait for him each day.”  Emet ve-Emunah: Statement of Principles of Conservative Judaism

Bal Tashchit on Black Friday

I spent Black Friday this year having a ball shopping.  Treated myself to a babysitter and luxuriated in the freedom, the thrill of the find, and the high of the purchase.  Interestingly, I spent the day at two used clothing stores, Once Upon a Child, and Fabulous Finds, here in Vestal.  I was filled with the spirit of Bal Tashchit, the mitzvah that commands us not to waste.

I am not a Black Friday shopper.  The wild consumerism of the day is a little frightening to me, as is my guilt at store workers forced to get up at 2am to open the doors before the crack of dawn.  I am most saddened by the new trend of Black Friday sales that start on Thanksgiving Day itself.  Thanksgiving has long been a secular Shabbat in America, where all but emergency workers are allowed a day of complete rest with family.  We have allowed this beautiful tradition to die at the hands of corporate greed.  We have so many “things” in our western lives.  Why do we need to constantly search for that great new gadget or piece of clothing?   A momentary high or to the fill emptiness within?  In the end we fill only the pockets of the companies preying on our need and desire.  We are their cattle, bred to work hard so that we may purchase to the point of debt.

While in Ethiopia, Tim and I visited a coffee farm.  It was tiny, just a couple dozen trees and a single family farming by hand.  They were incredibly poor, happy to take the very few dollars the tour guide offered.  They lived in a small mud  hut.  When we arrived the wife came out to great us, then went back into the hut to get her husband.  He emerged wearing the shirt she had just had on.  I think it was their “best shirt,” a five dollar long sleeved tee we would purchase without a thought at Walmart.  P1000305Normally, when we in the West are finished with our clothing, we donate them away and thousands of pounds of our used clothing is shipped to third world countries where it is sold.  It destroys the local cloth industry.  Very few in Ethiopia still wear the beautiful hand woven cloth of tradition.  Such is modernity, it moves us forward.  But we in the West have the luxury to look down the path, to choose. Are we replacing lifestyle, family, caring for our planet, caring for our neighbors, with “things?”

I can not bear the thought that my technological gadgets, clothing, or food, are made by workers an ocean away barely making money to subsist.  I think of worker in China living in factory dormitories, barely seeing the sun.  I think of children, babies really, working in cocoa fields, or fishing, for a few cents a day.  Most of these “things” are shipped to the West, for our consumption, our need to purchase more and more things at the lowest price.  What if we bought less, consumed less?  What if we reused, shared, cycled up?  How would our world change?

A culture of parents introduced me to a wonderful world of shared clothing, of passing things outgrown to fellow parents.  Some who have shared with me barely know me.  The culture is to pass it forward, knowing another parent somewhere will also pass to us.  We share knowledge too: to the best used clothing stores, the best free places to entertain children in summer and winter.  It is the spirit of Bal Tashchit.  This Black Friday I took that spirit a step further.  I filled my need for jeans a size smaller at a used clothing store. A first for me.  I rejoice that this small step is a right one, one in the direction of caring for our planet and our fellow human beings.

We are blessed.  Happy Thanksgiving.


Halloween is a interesting time. There has long been dialogue in the Jewish community about whether or not it is in keeping with Jewish values. I love the neighborhood quality to the day, the practice of families all congregating together outside their homes to visit each other and neighbors, adults smiling at the costumes and makeup of the children. The issue of the origin of the holiday, pagan, Christian, or sugar greed, is not relevant to most families today. It is a holiday of chocolate and make believe. However many parents no longer feel collecting candy from strangers is safe and often children trick or treat at malls or from selected friends and their trunks. The neighborhood joy seems to have been lost to the modern issues of safety.

I struggle with how to proceed with Halloween with my daughter. What is the message of halloween now? Getting free candy? The joy of letting loose for a day, the fun of costumes and candy? If there is a lesson that life is intended to be enjoyed, treasured, and shared, I can embrace that aspect of this secular holiday. If I can take it a step further to show her how much joy her happiness and presence can bring to others, by including a costumed trip to our neighborhood nursing home, even better. If I can moderate the giving of candy by purchasing chocolate treats free of slave labor, paying a little extra for the fair trade label, I can be proud of the message I am providing for my daughter.image

This Friday, Eliyana and I will first visit our neighborhood nursing home at 5:00pm then attend TI Shabbat services at the JCC at 5:30pm. I invite my congregation, friends, and neighbors to join us. The rabbi will have fair trade chocolate to share with anyone in costume (of any age).

Finding Hope in Darkness – Noach

Just two days ago, a lone gunman shot and killed a guard near the Canadian Parliament buildings.  I immediately felt for my family in Canada, and especially for my father and stepmother who live in Ottawa. I don’t think I fully appreciate the horror until I saw the pictures of of the members of parliament barricading themselves indoors for safety, chairs and desks piled against the exit.  It brought everything back, and my heart beat more quickly.  I thought immediately of the lone shooter who killed 13 at our American Civic Center here in Binghamton in 2009.  I thought of those victims fear, their terror.  I pray God bring comfort to the families of all victims of violence. There is such terrible darkness in the world.  I am bewildered by it.  I am overwhelmed.

Today I opened the news to find that Ebola has arrive in my home state.  My heart goes out to the brave doctors and nurses who travel to Africa to fight this terrible disease.  No one deserves to suffer from this illness, least of all those putting themselves on the line to help others.  But the terror that stays with me, is that of the disease inching closer to my home, to my child.  I am at a loss.  Do I bubble wrap my family and stay home… or do I continue to live?

Thank goodness the rain finally let up today and we have a beautiful sunny fall day to celebrate in Binghamton.  I don’t think my poor soul could take the grayness for one more day.  I need the sun.  I need it to remember the brightness and beauty in life.  Rabbi Meir Shapiro of Lublin taught a similar lesson in relation to parashat Noach.  A midrash explicates that during Noah’s flood, the sun, the moon and the stars ceased functioning. The entire earth was plunged into complete darkness. Afterward, God produced a magnificent rainbow across the sky, adding to the beauty and illumination of the sun. The rainbow is a covenant that God will never again destroy the earth. It is also a message for each of us on our personal journey.  “Light can shine even after the darkest periods. No matter how “dark” things become, there is the possibility of the restoration of light, and even greater light than that which existed beforehand.” Within the destruction of the flood is a message of hope, even as things are at their darkest and we fall into despair, there is the promise of beauty and light.  We have the potential to shine more brightly after we have come through the terrible darkness.

Rav Shapiro ties this to a Zoharic teaching that Noah was punished for his lack of hope.  For his despair, the event became known to all generations as “Noah’s flood.”  (Meh NoachIsaiah 54:9)  Noah never went out to his neighbors to try and convince them to repent.  He was overwhelmed by their sin and aggression.  He didn’t know what to do and so did nothing.  For this, teaches the Zohar, he shares in the responsibility of the flood, tying his name to it forever.  We each have a role to play in tikkun olam, in healing the world.  None of us is released from it, not even when the world is at its darkest.

How do we as individuals deal with the acts of terror and horror perpetrated by our fellow human beings?  Our most basic instincts are to collect everyone we love and hide from the world in our ark.  Parasht Noah, with great kindness, teaches us to have hope.  As dark as our days get, there is sun that will shine again, perhaps even more brightly than before.  When we feel depleted we can hold on to the promise of the rainbow.  This can give us strength and courage to be a part of the world, it’s repair and healing, to bring our own light to help, to give support, and to speak out about what is right and just.