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10/19/2023 11:29:11 AM


Rabbi Jeffrey Myers

It is far more than coincidence that when I prepare a D’var Torah, somewhere within the weekly parashah will be the appropriate text for that moment. The best word that comes to mind is the Yiddish word bashert, which means “meant to be”. This week is another example of bashert-ness. We read of the story of Noah, which all of us learned at some point in our lives. The Torah states in Genesis 6:11: The earth became corrupt before God; the earth was filled with lawlessness (JPS 2001 version). What is rather compelling is the Hebrew word translated as lawlessness: hamas. How profound! How timely!

You may not know that the name of the terrorist organization Hamas is not a word, but rather an acronym. Its letters stand for Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiya, which translates into Islamic Resistance Movement. I daresay that a sufficient number of people have spoken of the horrific attack. What I find disappointing is the lack of compassionate outreach from so many that I thought might understand. A momentary word of support and consolation would have been appreciated. I am grateful for those who have reached out, or have spoken publicly in a rejection of evil. Words matter, and those who have tried to conflate everything have missed an opportunity to reject evil. As Elie Wiesel taught us, silence is complicity. Someone who cannot reject evil tells us much about whom they are. Collaboration and allyship is a two-way street. If you want me to support you, then you must support me. When the existence of the homeland of my people is threatened, your silence is deafening.

Early on in the Torah we read of the world’s first murder. Ten generations later, God observes how evil humanity had become, and feels compelled to offer one solution: wash it away while saving one family and one set of every animal. Even mosquitoes and lanternflies! Yet what happens shortly thereafter is rather telling. Noah plants a vineyard and becomes intoxicated. Who might not do so after the trauma of the flood? He passes out, and apparently is sleeping it off in a rather revealing position. His youngest son Ham sees him, but does not cover him up to avoid embarrassment. Rather, he runs to tell his two brothers. The description of their response is quite stunning. They take a sheet, and as they approach their still-sleeping father, they turn their backs to him, and walk backwards, covering him with the sheet without ever seeing him. This certainly reflects the latter commandment to honor your father and your mother.  

We would not consider Ham’s actions evil, but we will continue to learn of humanity’s potential to do evil. I will be speaking about the presence of evil and God’s words about this at Shabbat morning services this coming week, and I invite you to be part of that conversation. God made an eternal promise to Noah that never again would the earth be flooded by God, and set the rainbow in the sky as a reminder. What God did not promise is that evil would not flood the world. That has entirely been our doing. We have the potential to reject and eliminate evil if we choose to do so. In the absence of anyone in the world stepping up to eliminate this evil, it has fallen upon Israel to defend herself from annihilation by removing evil. As Golda Meir so powerfully put it, “You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist”. May peace and prosperity for Israelis and Gazans come speedily in our day.

Sat, December 9 2023 26 Kislev 5784