"All the fountains of the great deep burst apart, and the floodgates of the sky broke open." (Bereshit/Genesis 7:11)
Noach, as the title suggests, is mostly about Noah and his family, but we also get the Tower of Babel and the first appearance of Abram and Sarai.
It's hard, these days, not to read Noach and feel the dread of climate change as our own seas rise. After all, the planet doesn't get destroyed--it merely becomes uninhabitable for any human who isn't in the ark.
A few generations after barely surviving an apocalypse, humanity's back at it, building a tower that can reach the heavens. I used to resent this story--after all, human ambition isn't inherently a bad thing. We touched the starry firmament when we went to space, and I think that's amazing, not call for a divine smackdown.
But on the other hand, there's a poignant midrash about this story, that says of Babel's builders: "When a person fell, the work went on. When a brick fell, all wept." As I watch the cranes dominating the Seattle skyline, building, building, building ceaselessly, building a shining, brutal city with the third highest number of homeless in the country, in which parents can work two fulltime jobs and still not be able to keep a roof over their children's heads, in which there are waiting lists to be accepted into tent cities, the story takes on an entirely different tenor.
There's a great deal of wailing and gnashing of teeth any time a brick falls, but people are crushed and the work goes on.
Join us at 9:00 am this Saturday for coffee, donuts, and what's always a lively discussion.
Want to know what other Jewish thinkers are saying about this parsha?
Wikipedia has an incredible treasure trove of geekery about the weekly portion, laying out everything from the number of Hebrew letters in the parsha to summaries of classical commentaries. Prepare to go down a very deep rabbithole.
Sefaria is an amazing free resource--an ever-growing library of Jewish texts in both Hebrew and English. In addition to the Hebrew text and translation, it provides the text of most of the classical commentaries (not all of which have been translated... yet). The parsha is one of the first links on the main page.
Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism, does a podcast called Ten Minutes of Torah--perfect for when you're time-constrained. The Union for Reform Judaism has a whole page of resources for the parsha, ranging from beginner's guides to pieces on the contemporary relevance of the portion. The Women of Reform Judaism site has a glorious archive of the entire text of The Torah: A Women's Commentary divided up by parsha.
My Jewish Learning has a summary of the portion, the parsha itself and the haftorah, and commentary.
For a Reconstructionist take, visit Reconstructing Judaism's weekly learning page.
T'ruah, the Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, has a weekly d'var that looks at the parsha as a starting point for contemporary political issues.
The World Union for Progressive Judaism has a parsha commentary archive.
Keshet's Torah Queeries page provides commentary from an LGBTQ perspective (search on the portion name).
The Jewish Theological Society (the Conservative Branch seminary) provides weekly commentary at JTS Torah Online.
Yeshivat Maharat, the first Orthodox yeshiva to ordain women, has a collection of Divrei Torah written by women and organized by parsha, on its site.
Limmud, a 35-year-old grassroots Jewish learning event that started in the UK and has become an international phenomenon, maintains an archive of commentaries.
Liberal Judaism's Thought for the Week provides concise but thoughtful analysis of the portion.
Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi Emeritus of England, engages in profound commentary on the weekly portion in Covenant & Conversation.
InterfaithFamily puts out an animated Torahlog including contemporary reactions, poetry, folk music, and Jewish scholarship on the parsha.