Parashat Noah Torah Reading: Genesis 6:9-11:32
Our congregation follows the practice of trienniel Torah reading. This is an ancient practice established first in the land of Israel in which the entire Torah is read over the course of three years instead of one. In the system we follow, each full Torah portion (as cited above) is divided into thirds. Each year we read a designated third . . . one year we read the first third of each parasha, the next year we read the second third, and so on. This year we are reading the last third of each parasha.
I particularly enjoy the last third of this week's parasha, Noah, because there is a passage there whose message I treasure: We read the story of the tower of Babel . . . you may remember this story from your own days of Sunday school: all the people of the earth gather together to build a tower to reach the heavens. God destroys the tower, disperses the people and infuses these dispersed people with different languages.
What do I love about this story? Well, different languages imply different cultures, different thought patterns, different approaches to life. I see in this story God's insistence on and value of diversity. The God of Israel is not interested in all of us thinking alike or seeing the world from the same vantage point. Were we all cookie-cutter replications of each other we would miss the intricate nuances of both God's created world and the infinite capacities of intelligence and creativity of the human soul.
May this be a Shabbat during which we come together as a community to celebrate our God-inspired blessing of diversity.
Rabbi Amy Levin
has been Torat Yisrael's rabbi since the summer of 2004 and serves as President of the Board of Rabbis of Greater Rhode Island.