This week we completed a three-session, 30-people class called A Taste of Judaism TM, for which Temple Sinai received an advertising grant through the Union for Reform Judaism. It was a wonderful and diverse group of interfaith couples, Jews from birth who were raised with little or no Jewish education, and non-Jewish spiritual seekers curious to learn about Judaism.
In the last class on “community,” we learned about how the Jewish people’s covenant with God sets Judaism apart among the religions. God may have created the world. Yet we as human beings and the Jewish people in particular are God’s partners in the work of bridging the gap between the world as it is and the world as it ought to be. We do not blame God for the suffering and brokenness of our world. God for us represents a model for us as human beings (made in God’s image) to emulate. God promises in this week’s Torah portion, Parshat Noach, never to destroy the world again after the great flood. To symbolize this promise, God sets a rainbow in the sky. But it is up to us to be responsible for making good on God’s promise.
The metaphor the Hebrew Prophets use most often for our relationship with God is that of marriage. (Sometimes our relationship with God needs counseling!) Like in any healthy marriage, there is a covenant of love at the basis of the bond. Because the “marriage ketubah” with God is the Torah, we engage with it to ensure that our decisions, actions and leadership reflect God’s values. The world is on fire, literally and figuratively, through violence, suffering, intolerance, hatred and greed. It is up to us, as God’s partner, to put out man-made fires and restore balance and reason to the world. This calling is a high order, for ours is a sacred and revolutionary mission.
Last week we began reading Genesis as we re-rolled the Torah on Simchat Torah. May the stories of our patriarchs’ and matriarchs’ marriages and family histories, reflected in the earliest stories of Genesis, remind us of the sacred challenges, as well as the purpose our lives: to strive to fulfill God’s promise of infinite future generations. Floods and fires abound. It is up to us to hold aloft a vision of a world of wholeness and peace, a world redeemed. This is the meaning of our covenant and the organizing principle of Jewish community. Our responsibility to the world and to God is as real and as personal as our most intimate commitments.