Out of the Ark
We’ve just begun the month of MarCheshvan, the only month of the Jewish calendar that has no holydays other than Shabbat. This allows us time to recover from the endless holy days throughout the month of Tishrei, but it also gives us time to plant the seeds of intention we identified for ourselves during the reflective season of the fall festivals. Rabbi David Kimchi of 13th century France teaches that the name of the month “Cheshvan” is related to the word for “crop.” Now we get to work, planting and sowing the seeds for the future harvest. Remember all those good insights we held so clearly in our minds and those good intentions we felt so deeply in our hearts just a few short weeks ago? Now we get to work and put our plans into action. That’s the blessing of Cheshvan.
The little prefix “Mar” means “drop of water.” We pray for the rains to fall in their proper proportion to nourish and nurture those seeds of intention. Also during Cheshvan we read about the rains of Noah’s time. The destructive rains that swelled from below as well as from above. Noah is a troubling figure. He is said to have been “righteous for his generation.” A flawed hero, to be sure, but a hard worker, devoted to the task. Noah saw things through. As the Toronto weather turns grey and blustery, let us take some cues from Noah. Roll up those sleeves, take action, take up the call to do one’s part in our God-given missions of rescuing, protecting, care-taking, feeding, and preserving life for ourselves, for those we love, and for those whom we don’t know, but are our responsibility nevertheless.
This Shabbat Adam and I will enjoy a family reunion. Seventy-five loved ones are coming from The States to see our son, Jesse, take his place at the Torah as a Bar Mitzvah. The good question Jesse asks in his D’var Torah is “Why did Noah wait for God to tell him to come out of the ark when it had already come to rest on dry land?” I won’t steal his thunder (no pun intended), but I will draw the parallel between the moment of emerging from the ark to this moment of Cheshvan on our calendar. The High Holy Days were the time for turning-inward with introspection. Now is the time to impatiently emerge to face the world with curiosity and renewed vitality.
Like each of our B’nei Mitzvah, Jesse is at that wondrous stage of his life – curious and armed with newfound skills and strengths to make his mark on his community and all the world. It is a delight to watch him go. Adam and I thank you, our congregation, for helping to raise him and his older brothers to be the menschen that they are. We and the Temple Board invite you to join in our simcha. Everyone is invited for a joyful Kiddush-lunch following the service.
I share with you a poem perfect for Shabbat Noach. It names the moment for me in surprisingly moving ways. I hope it does the same for you. Shabbat Shalom!
“Into the Ark”
by Wislawa Szymborska
translated from the Polish by Stanislaw Baranczak and Claire Cavanagh
An endless rain is just beginning.
Into the ark, for where else can you go:
you poems for a single voice,
short-range sorrows and fears,
eagerness to see things from all six sides.
Rivers are swelling and bursting their banks,
Into the ark: all you chiaroscuros and halftones,
you details, ornaments, and whims,
countless shades of the color gray,
play for play’s sake,
and tears of mirth.
As far as the eye can see, there’s water and a hazy horizon.
Into the ark: plans for the distant future,
joy in difference,
admiration for the better man,
choice not narrowed down to one of tow,
time to think it over,
and the belief that all of this
will still come in handy some day.
For the sake of the children
that we still are,
fairy tales have happy endings.
That’s the only finale that will do here, too.
The rain will stop,
the waves will subside
the clouds will part
in the cleared-up sky,
and they’ll be once more
what clouds overhead ought to be:
lofty and rather lighthearted
in their likeness to things
drying in the sun –
isles of bliss,