10/19/2017

Shabbat Noah

Shabbat Rosh Hodesh Heshvan
Candles - October 20th @ 5:48pm
Havdalah - October 21st @ 6:41pm

Mazal Tov to Nico Moinian and Alexa Hakim on their wedding!

Two birds figure prominently in this week’s reading, the dove and the raven. One kosher and one not. One a symbol of peace, the other of evil and magic. One white the other black. One feeds on grain, the other on flesh.

In the story of Noah’s flood the ark finally comes to rest on the 17th day of the 7th month. It takes time for the water to drop further and on the 10th day of the 10th month he sends out a raven and the raven does not return. Leaving aside the symbolism of the numbers, the raven immediately found flesh to land on and eat. He did not need the ark anymore. Noah then sent the dove out and the dove returned because, there was nothing yet for the dove to eat. Noah waited another seven days. This time the dove returned with an olive leaf in its bill. A good sign but not enough to feed on. That was why the dove returned. Noah waited another seven days and sent out the dove again. This time it did not return.

The dove with an olive leaf has become the symbol of peace in cultures influenced by the Biblical story. How ironic that even the Disunited Nations has adopted it as its symbol. Though they seem to think it was an Olive branch (which has now entered the English language) rather than a leaf. Question. Were Adam and Eve covered with branches or leaves?

We project on to animals our own thoughts and interpretations. Dove good, raven bad. In truth their habits, in terms of caring for their mates, their young, competition for partners and nesting sites are pretty similar despite their different diets. If anything, ravens are cleverer both as mimics and in creativity. They can mimic humans too. Both served Noah. And from this we learn that animals, birds, all creatures, have skills we can make use of and should be valued.

But we humans are so self-centred that we think only of what serves us and in imposing our superstitions, preconceptions and cultural icons, our world on theirs. Noah’s flood is a story that reminds us of natural catastrophes but it should also remind us of man-made ones too.

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PS: After years of reluctance, I’ve decided to experiment with a pilot “conversation” podcast. The format will be for a moderator to present topics or questions to me and I will discuss them while engaging in a conversation with a moderator and/or guests and then we will post and distribute them.

I have been fortunate in that Michael Deutsch has been instrumental in helping me with my site altogether. And has offered to help gather the topics and questions for this pilot. He’s currently taking suggestions. If you have anything you would like to ask or have discuss, please send him an email to michael(at)4thbin.com. Your input goes only to him and he will withhold names. So don’t be shy.