Earlier this month the Torah cycle ended and started anew with the Book of Genesis. If you've never read any Torah, it's a pretty fascinating exercise. Secular Jews don't normally make Torah reading or study a regular practice, but I have found it to be really interesting to see how our people have thought and constructed our foundational stories. A great resource to start experimenting with Torah for any newbies is Sefaria.org. They are digitizing Torah, Talmud, have source sheets up, and more. Check it out if you're interested! This blog started with secular commentaries on each of the weekly parshah. You can search them by name or simply go chronologically. Fun, right?
This week the parshah is Noach (you know him better as Noah). You likely encountered the story of Noah and his ark in school or your early education. It's strange that we make it a kids' story given how violent and apocalyptic it is. Not just the flood, but what happens with Noah and his family after (you'll have to read it to find out).
Jewish environmental groups take the story of Noah as inspiration. We are facing terrible storms and other devastating effects of climate change. There was the recent earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia, for example. It's not just Noah, we live in a deluvian time. And predictions are that it's getting worse.
The Noah story provides us with some interesting symbols - the olive branch and the rainbow. Both are symbols of peace. The rainbow in particular is a nice symbol because it is made possible only by the rain itself. We need the harder times to see the beauty that can emerge from it.
I see that in the beauty of environmental and other forms of social action. People are coming together in all kinds of ways to make positive change. There is lots of work to do, and lots of difficult moments and things to encounter, but there is beauty too.