- Posted by Elaine Zecher
- On October 16, 2020
- 0 Comments
Welcome to Shabbat Awakenings, a weekly reflection as we move toward Shabbat.
The story goes something like this:
A child approaches her parent and asks, “Where do I come from?”
“Oh my gosh!” The parent thinks. “This is the moment when my child wants to know about the ‘birds and the bees’!” And so the parent regales the child with how the various anatomical parts work to produce a baby.
The child listens intently and then the onslaught of questions begin, or at least this is what the parent had assumed. Instead, there was only one question.
If one parent comes from Ohio and the other from Vermont, where do I come from?
Follow up questions matter.
As we roll the scroll back to Genesis and begin again our journey through our sacred text, we ask the important question of where we come from. The explanation of creation provides a beautiful origin story. But the follow up questions are just as important.
In Chapter 1 of Genesis, humans appear on the 6th day, a culmination of the transformation from a chaotic world to one of order. Through the designation of the earth and its inhabitants coming into being, on day six, God creates humanity.
וַיִּבְרָ֨א אֱלֹהִ֤ים ׀ אֶת־הָֽאָדָם֙ בְּצַלְמ֔וֹ בְּצֶ֥לֶם אֱלֹהִ֖ים בָּרָ֣א אֹת֑וֹ זָכָ֥ר וּנְקֵבָ֖ה בָּרָ֥א אֹתָֽם׃
And God created man in God’s image, in the image of God, God created him; male and female God created them. (Genesis 1:27)
What is the follow up question then? There are many possibilities. How did God create their bodies? Why does it start with male and singular but end in the plural with God creating both male and female? If God looked in the mirror (impossible), would God see a human reflection? When we look in the mirror, do we see God staring back at us? (possible)
This is the beauty of Torah text. It cannot stand alone in its original form. It comes to life through our follow up questions and infuses meaning back into it. If we only regarded it as literal, with a specificity that limits how it speaks to us, we surely end up with the wrong assumptions, some of which could be dangerous to our wellbeing and others.
For Jews, the Torah is our constitution. We turn it and turn it, examining each letter, space, crown, word, and intertextual connectivity. We would be impoverished without this kind of exploration.
Doesn’t the Constitution of our own country deserve the same respect through follow up questions beyond its original intent and deep reading informed by the ancients and our lives today as well?
Join us for Qabbalat Shabbat! Tonight at 6:00 p.m., we gather together to share Qabbalat Shabbat. We can pray together HERE on the Temple Israel website, or HERE on Zoom, or even HERE on TI’s Facebook page. Or, just find it all on the website www.tisrael.org/TogetherWithTI .
Tonight at 5:00 p.m. our littlest congregants join for Tot Rock Shabbat. Join us on Zoom here
Torah study engages everyone. We start with a short Shabbat morning service at 9:00 a.m. with Torah reading and then launch into a provocative discussion. To join the conversation interactively, access Zoom HERE. You can also watch HERE on Temple Israel’s website or HERE on TI’s Facebook page.
Thank Goodness It’s Shabbat takes place at 10:00 a.m. Join us on Zoom here.
End Shabbat together with Havdalah HERE on Zoom, or watch along on the website HERE, or on Facebook HERE. This week, stay on Zoom after Havdalah is over for our monthly Post-Havdalah Meditation and Intention Setting. Led by Rabbinic Intern Andrew Oberstein, we will also have an opportunity to express gratitude and set positive intentions for the coming week.
I look forward to hearing how you are doing and what you are thinking. Connect with me HERE.