Was Noah a Righteous Dude?

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This week we enter into the story of Noah. The story of Noah comes right after the story of creation. We learned in last weeks Torah portion that God created the world and declared it was very good. Then by the end of the portion, it seems as if God has what a friend of mine called a bit of buyers remorse. God says that people are evil and God wants to wipe out not only people but all living things on the planet. But... the Torah says "Noah found favor in the eyes of God" Then the portion ends with a bit of a cliffhanger.

This week we learn “Noah was in his generations a righteous and a wholehearted dude and Noah walked with God.” But what does it mean to be a righteous dude in Noah’s time? Noah was around during a time when the world was crap and people were just not nice and treated each other like ...well... you can insert the rest.

Noah was righteous for his generation but how would he stand up next to people from other generations?

I would argue that Noah is righteous but not a leader. Noah doesn’t even speak in this weeks Torah portion. In an age, when all is corrupt when the world is filled with violence when even God has “regretted that God made people on earth, and it pained God at God's heart.” Noah, in God’s eyes, justifies God’s faith in humanity, the faith that led God to create people. Noah is, after all, the man through whom God makes a covenant with all humanity, and as a queer person, I can thank Noah for the rainbow.

Noah is to humanity what Abraham is to the Jewish people. Noah was a good man in a bad time. Some would argue there are two types of righteous people. Some who do what they are supposed to do and nothing else and those who look around and try to do more. Noah was the type of guy who did what God told him to do, he built an ark and did not tell anyone or try and save anyone.

But I don't want to sound like I'm putting most of the fault on Noah. Our great sage Rashi explains that the men of Noah's generation would see Noah building this Ark, which by the way took 120 years. If those men saw Noah working on this Ark, at some point they might ask, "Dude what are you doing?" And Noah could answer the question and tell them that "God has instructed me to build this Ark because God is bringing a huge flood that will destroy the world" According to Rashi this might give the people of Noah's generation time to repent. But as we know they never asked.

Finding God

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Every year after Sukkot and Simchat Torah I get so excited about starting the Torah over with this week’s Torah portion Breishit.  The Torah begins with,“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

There is something about the story of creation, about moving back to the beginning of it all that I find exciting.

As a student, I have been challenged by my own concepts of God. What does it mean for me as someone who believes totally in science and not a being up there in the heavens creating everything down here on earth? As a rabbinical student, I have wanted to understand not only what God means in our modern Jewish world, but what God means to me. 

As my graduation date gets closer and I move from student to rabbi. I see God in much the same way as Mordecai Kaplan (the founder of Reconstructionist Judaism) did when he wrote, "Those who possess enthusiasm for living and strive for a better world are believers in God." And to quote a modern rabbi Toba Spitzer she says “God offers us an ideal toward which we strive and God is the Power that urges us to respond to suffering, to seek our own fulfillment and to help others toward their fulfillment.”

I am becoming a rabbi to do my part to make the world a better place. The God I believe in encourages us to do Good in the world, “God is the power that makes for salvation”

This brings me back to this coming Shabbat’s Torah portion of Breishit. "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Every year we get the opportunity to start again. From the beginning and continue God’s work of creation. And to be in partnership with God, to create a better world. 

I'll close with one more quote from Kaplan:

"When we break through our narrow and prejudiced conception of religion and begin to realize that it is inevitable for the conception of God to reflect one's mental and ethical development, we will learn to identify as divine that Power in the world to make it what it should be. The name of God will stand for truth about reality, not in terms of a division between natural and supernatural but in terms of normal human experience"

Shabbat Shalom

Sandra

 

Another Introduction and My Thoughts this Morning

I love connecting with people

I love connecting with people

I'm a writer, a public speaker, future rabbi, fitness and nutrition coach and a Social Media Consultant and host a Podcast on Torah, Prayer and Jewish music I am also a proud U.S. Army Veteran and of course, like most of us there is more to my identity so let's just say I want to move through the world in a way that makes the world a better place for all. 

In June 2018 I will be ordained as a rabbi. The role of the rabbi is rooted in Torah (teaching and learning), service of the heart, and acts of love and kindness, and it is our job to adapt as the times change. And the times have changed.

Today, many Jews do not belong to synagogues, many live outside the reach of a synagogue, still others have been turned off by synagogues for a variety of reasons, ranging from dues structure, to not feeling welcomed or simply not wanting to go.

I’ve spent a good chunk of my time as a rabbinical student thinking about these kinds of issues and how my role as a rabbi can help foster Jewish community in the 21st century. The ever-evolving Jewish community challenges rabbis to meet people where they are in their lives, help people make discoveries about themselves and their place in society, and maybe even find their connection to God. What we also need to do, however, is think more creatively about how to reach out to and connect with Jews.

As an emerging rabbi, I’ve learned that people still need access to clergy, even when they don’t belong to a religious community

Here’s the Question I Ask Myself? If we create sacred spaces outside the walls of our synagogues, will Jews Participate?

I believe that Jews want to engage in Jewish life and want to be part of a Jewish community. For many, the current model of the synagogue does not work and it is time to create innovative ways to connect with those people. And to create different models of what it means to be a rabbi in the 21st century.

Since the day I entered the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College my vision has always been to find ways to connect with Jews who do not feel welcomed in Jewish institutions, find ways to connect with those who do not want to belong to a synagogue, and to build an inclusive Jewish community, one that is welcoming to all who want to come. BTW it is not enough to just say “We are welcoming.”

I want to meet Jews where they are in their lives and create sacred spaces outside the boundaries of synagogues. I want to talk and listen to Jews about Jewish life and to help them be with the God of their understanding. I think this is important because, as many of you already know, just because we built a synagogue does not mean Jews are going to come. I’ve been to some amazing synagogues and one of the reasons I’m studying to be a rabbi today is because I am a product of an amazing synagogue, and I had an amazing rabbi who mentored me and provided the best example of how I want to be in the world.