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Posted By The Stash

When I taught Bar Mitzvah students how to write Divrei Torah, one of my students read the same comment by Nachmanides (the Ramban) that Rabbi Sacks begins today’s column with. The Rabbi of the synagogue, a Conservative one, refused to allow the Bar Mitzvah to make that comment, even though the student had arrived at this conclusion independently after researching other comments. Now read on and see what makes Rabbi Sacks so fearless and so interesting.

How perfect were the matriarchs and patriarchs?

Posted By The Stash

Technology has ever been a challenge for humans. The iPhone 6 is simply its latest incarnation, with the future prospect of legions of cars crashing as they check their  emails on their iWatches running close behind. This week the Torah portion looks at the good use of technology—the knowledge that allowed Noah to construct an ark large enough to house many species and shield them from the Flood. It is notable that this technology was constructed with the Divine blessing to “build yourself and ark...”

The imprimatur the Divine is absent from the Tower of Babel, an example of the negative use of technology. In contrast to the ark, built by Divine command to save the relatively deserving few, who were good, from the evil of their age, the Tower was the response of a supposedly chastened and cleansed generation, the survivors of the Flood. They clearly still had much to learn. Though the text does not explicitly condemn the decision to begin building the Tower, the ignominious failure of its builders to complete their task and G-d’s reaction to its erection make its negative judgment clear. A famous midrash explains this by saying that the builders pushed the construction forward so quickly that the workers frequently fell off the tower to their deaths. The work did not even slow when these tragic events occurred; rather, more workers were demanded to replace those who had died.

The Ark and the Tower symbolize opposing views of great relevance. The former is that of a society valuing technology that preserves life, the latter depicts a civilization that views human life as incidental to technological progress. The Ark was at the mercy of G-d’s Flood—it was clear that its technology was superseded by the power of Nature. But the builders of the Tower sought to supersede Nature—indeed they wished to physically reach the Heavens and G-d, forgetting the physical and metaphysical distance that separated them. And for this they were consequenced.

The Shabbat is designed as an island of tranquility in a sea of technology. It is a day for family and friends and true conversation about important topics. Time for laughter and learning. Time when friendship is real, not virtual. The immediate worth of these truths may not be “flashy” but their power is immense. Let us enjoy technology, but be wary of its power over us.

Posted By The Stash

I was planning to revert to my own Divrei Torah, but Rabbi Sacks will be dealing with Ethics this year and what he will say about Religion and Morality are well worth hearing giving his broad knowledge and fearless desire to confront the main questions of our day. We have frequently discussed morality and religion, and I hope that Rabbi Sack’s vigorous and rigourous writing will help us further sharpen our own points of view on these vital topics.

From Rabbi Sacks: The Genesis of Justice

Posted By The Stash

We have learned a good deal of this material together over the years, but this is a lovely review and jumping off point for further analysis.

From Rabbi Sacks: Sukkot: The Dual Festival





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