October 25, 2009
How embarrassing – I missed posting on only the second parasha of the year! I had things to say about Noah, but life got a little bit overwhelming at the end of last week, and I didn’t manage get to posting them here.
Part of my busy-ness was spending time with a most amazing baby and her parents. I held her and helped feed her and entertain her and just got to enjoy hanging out with her. I also got to watch her parents be parents, which was amazing in its own way – seeing people I’ve known for years in this incredible new role, all of the responsibility and exhaustion, and all of the joy.
At services yesterday the person who removed the Torah from the ark just stood there for a minute, holding the scroll close to her. I glanced around the room and at that exact moment there was a father holding his baby in the exact same way, the same arm position, the same shifts of weight, everything.
The Torah, in Jewish thought, is much more than the physical scroll containing the Five Books of Moses – it is teaching, and learning, and the generations-long conversation about how we humans can and should respond to each other, and the Divine. But Torah is also the physical scroll, and we wrap it in precious fabrics and precious metals, hold it tightly to us whenever we get the chance, walk it around the room so everyone has a chance to kiss it, and just generally treat it like one of the most special and holy things in our world.
Babies are special and holy, too. We wrap them in soft fabrics, hold them close to us, and pass them around so all of their loved ones get a chance to kiss them. Babies are miracles of potential and imagination, our link to a future beyond our own lifespan.
The Torah is our link to the past. It is our inheritance, the stories of our ancestors, the schematic and tool-kit and language we Jews are given with which we can make sense of the world. But the Torah also needs to be a link to the future – we need to look at it and see the potential for new interpretations and new understandings and new imaginings of what it has to tell us. Just like a baby who has her mother’s nose and her grandfather’s eyes, but who will grow into something neither of them could have dreamed of.