CCAR Newsletter Sep-Oct 2015 - 4
Voices of Torah
Because we are a people who sanctifies
time, how we read Torah helps us mark
the passage of time. By reading Torah
according to a prescribed cycle, we are
reminded that as we progress through life,
texts read time and have the ability to grab
us with new insights each time we read them
anew. This is a wonderful quality and why,
when you have experienced deep Torah
learning, it is easy to experience Torah as an
eitz chayim-a tree of life. This is a tree with
multiple small "t" truths.
The story of Creation seemingly invites us to speculate on the grand scheme of the universe, but an
alternative approach might follow Deuteronomy 10:12, which asks, Now, Israel, what does the Eternal
your God require of you? Instead of looking to grasp the grand expanse of the Creation, shift your focus
to what you see through your own eyes.
We experience the collapsing of time vividly
in that special moment on Simchat Torah
when we quite merrily read the last word of
Sefer D'varim-Yisrael-and then launch
into the first word of Sefer B'reishit-b'reishit.
There is no transition from the end to the
beginning. The old is made new again.
When we live through cycle after cycle of
the Torah's reading, we come to see that
Torah reflects our lives. Returning to the
familiar to glean new realizations is a great
gift the cycle of reading, and, particularly,
the transition from D'varim to B'reishit
again, affords us. It is well worth rejoicing.
(Continued from page 3) Holding Contradictions,
hugs, and the commitment to end racism. A
commitment that binds us as tightly as hands
clenched together in hope and love.
Originally appeared on August 3, 2015, https://
Ethics Action from Douglas Krantz, Chair of
the CCAR Ethics Committee
Rabbi Ronald Kaplan was suspended from
the Central Conference of American Rabbis
for violating the following provisions in the
Code of Ethics:
1. Section V: Ethics Guidelines Concerning
2. Section I.C: Financial: The rabbis must
be beyond reproach in conducting his/
her financial affairs.
3. Section II. C.4: A rabbi should neither
solicit nor sanction efforts to solicit
members of another congregation.
Rav Kook writes (Orot HaKodesh 1:83), "If you wish, ben adam, look at the light of the Shechinah that
is in all creation, look at the paradise of heavenly life, how it expands into every nook and cranny of
spiritual and material life which is before your body and your soul." Creation surrounds you at every
instant. In daily life, we categorize it, making it mundane and masking its splendor, but Rav Kook urges us
to "know the beautiful magnificence within which you live."
Appreciation is not the sole goal. "Elevate the love that is within you to the root of its strength and to the
gentleness of its beauty, spread it through its branches." Love, a product of this recognition, draws the
Divine Presence down into our very being. "You have wings of spirit, wings as strong as eagles. Don't let
them be denied you."
B'reishit-from the beginning the Divine Presence that surrounds you imbues you with love. If you can see
every person and every creature that surrounds you as filled, in every nook and cranny, with the Divine
Presence, think how it might change the world.
Midrash Tanchuma offers details on the Noach narrative that lift it out of the mold of the familiar
The word usually translated "ark" in the biblical text is teivah, an Egyptian loan-word meaning "box."
This particular box kept danger (the Flood) out, but nonetheless it was a box of misery. The midrash tells
us that Noach and his sons did not sleep for a year because all the animals needed feeding around
the clock. Some of the animals were dangerous: a lion bit Noach so badly that he carried the scars for
the rest of his life. Noach's family was trapped for forty days and forty nights with ravenous, miserable
animals. Quoting Psalm 142:8, Bring my soul out of prison, that I may give thanks, the Rabbis tell us this
refers to Noach's prayer to be released from the prison the ark had become because life inside his box
had become nothing but misery. The Rabbis pitied Noach, but they also judged him harshly because he
accepted God's orders without asking any questions. In comparison with Abraham, who advocated for
his fellow human beings, the Rabbis found Noach wanting.
The Rabbis urge us to compare Noach, who only saved his own, to Abraham, who cared for people he
did not know. Had Noach the courage to confront God on behalf of others, might he have saved himself
and his family a nightmare? Might he have convinced God to rethink the Flood? What "boxes" do we
construct in the name of comfort or safety that ultimately turn out to be prisons?
Some years ago I was speaking with a woman who knew she was dying and felt great fear. She asked
if there were words of comfort I might offer. After reflecting on her question, I turned to Lech L'cha and
shared with her that Abraham was leaving for a place he did not know, and was doing it after living a full
life, grounded in family and place. She found this text comforting, for it was a concrete way of expressing
the unknown from a place of familiarity and knowing.
Lech L'cha affords us the opportunity to draw inspiration from Abraham's reaction to God's call to leave
(Continued on page 5)
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of CCAR Newsletter Sep-Oct 2015
CCAR Newsletter Sep-Oct 2015 - 1
CCAR Newsletter Sep-Oct 2015 - 2
CCAR Newsletter Sep-Oct 2015 - 3
CCAR Newsletter Sep-Oct 2015 - 4
CCAR Newsletter Sep-Oct 2015 - 5
CCAR Newsletter Sep-Oct 2015 - 6
CCAR Newsletter Sep-Oct 2015 - 7
CCAR Newsletter Sep-Oct 2015 - 8
CCAR Newsletter Sep-Oct 2015 - 9
CCAR Newsletter Sep-Oct 2015 - 10