We Are The Text

Since ancient times, a ritually prescribed Torah reading—a parasha— has been known by a title taken from the prescribed opening biblical verse. In addition to its conventional designation, some sages have given us the precedent of calling a parasha by a name that draws the eye and ear to an inner theme.

The parasha called, “Noah,” might resonate more deeply today if we were to name it parashat Come Into The Ark (Genesis 7: 1).

All generations share the outer name, the name that puts us on the same communal page. The inner name invites personal experience and imagination into the story. For example, parashat Noah, the second Torah reading in Genesis, is deeply, invitingly, reflectively relevant to those living in the generation of a pandemic; a generation in need of living shut tight within the ark.

The Torah offers only a rough blueprint of the Ark’s outer dimensions. But our challenge is to go into the ark by exploring, appreciating, and elaborating its inner space. Two second century teachers were curious enough to go through the door and explore the undescribed interior of the Ark, treating parashat Noah as though it were parashat Come Into The Ark.

Inside the Ark, Rabbi Yehuda found two rows of stalls along the length of the Ark that were separated by a single corridor. His colleague, Rabbi Nehemiah, saw three rows of pens with two corridors. Neither sage offered any argument or biblical proof in support of his vision. Each teacher entered, as do we, because the outer story gives us entrée and the inner life gives us need and imagination. And, parashat Noah in the scroll shows us precisely where to find the door. Thanks to parashat Come Into The Ark, we are moved to enter and to learn about the Ark, which is our own, that shapes and is shaped by each of us.

Everyone shares the image of the Ark’s door. Each of us inhabits the interior space that is shut against violent and viral seas. In addition, we might say, there are Arks within Arks—houses and bodies that bring one another to life. Parashat Come Into The Ark invites us to explore the vessels that keep us afloat—and alone—together.

My own body-ark is now at sea in the treatment of recently discovered cancer. Consequently, our house-ark is now refitted with a bathroom anticipating my body-ark’s falling and rising on seas of regular chemotherapy. I find myself stocking the house-ark with stores of books and music—more than enough for a lifetime. Between seas of pandemic virus and personal disease, mortality is a snugger fit, at the very least. Perhaps books and music are life preservers, waving, floating, and pulsing me forward. In any event, I feel secure and energetic; one ark within another lovingly supported by family and community.

I imagine that Noah, flesh and blood, fearful and hopeful exemplar, certainly must have made accommodations for personal and family needs in the Ark. It must be true since the Torah has told him and us to shut ourselves within and we have entered—each of us—with experience, hope, and imagination.

Parashat Come Into the Ark allows me to see the interior of the ark for myself while seeing the ark that is my own self. Just as for Rabbi Yehuda and Rabbi Nehemiah, that inner space is made from my own experience and imagination; it needs no proof or confirmation by an outside verse. I am—we are—the text. The Torah is the commentary.

This entry was posted in Midrash, Parshat HaShavuah, Torah. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to We Are The Text

  1. Jerome and Carole Fox says:

    Shabbat Shalom to you and Sibby, Steve. What a beautiful and apt metaphor you have given us.

    Thank you so much.

  2. Stephanie says:

    At the open doorway of the Ark I see ribs protecting a beating heart…and one of the tibs is Eve…

  3. Norman Newberg says:

    Dear Rabbi Steve
    We continue to learn from you and with you.
    Thanks for being a deep model of faith and hope.
    Your lessons about our long journey of living inside our skins and wearing our skins holding our lives knitted together even as they will always be inscribed in our hearts.

    With great love to you and Sibby,
    Norman and Adina

  4. Katherine Burk says:

    Dear Rabbi Sager, Thank you for this post. I live very comfortably at The Cedars in Chapel Hill but alone. My family is not local so no one visits during this time of COVID. However I do reach out via Zoom so I have limited contact. The image of being enclosed in the ark to come through the flood or the storm is so right for this time. Many thanks, Kathy Katherine Soule Burk

    On Fri, Oct 23, 2020 at 4:27 PM Sicha – Continuing the Conversation wrote:

    > Rabbi Steven G. Sager posted: ” Since ancient times, a ritually prescribed > Torah reading—a parasha— has been known by a title taken from the > prescribed opening biblical verse. In addition to its conventional > designation, some sages have given us the precedent of calling a parasha by > a ” >

  5. Steven Loevy says:

    Steven. 

    I can’t get rid of the line “mortality is a snugger fit” tucked into the middle of a central paragraph as if it weren’t the core of it.  The line goes deep for me.

    Many, many thanks for this powerful d’var.  Have a wonderful weekend with your friends at the shore.  I imagine the ark of the six of you.  What a comforting thought it is.

    Fondly to you.

    Steven

    Steven R. Loevy

    The Loevy Consulting Group

    1700 East 56th Street, #3207

    Chicago, IL 60637

    Office/Home: 773-536-3777

    Cell: 773-575-6710

    steven@loevyconsultinggroup.com

    http://www.loevyconsultinggroup.com

    From: Sicha – Continuing the Conversation Reply-To: Sicha – Continuing the Conversation Date: Friday, October 23, 2020 at 3:28 PM To: Steven Loevy Subject: [New post] We Are The Text

    Rabbi Steven G. Sager posted: ” Since ancient times, a ritually prescribed Torah reading—a parasha— has been known by a title taken from the prescribed opening biblical verse. In addition to its conventional designation, some sages have given us the precedent of calling a parasha by a “

  6. Linda W. McHenry says:

    Dear Rabbi, I am a friend of Amy Huacani. She has blessed me with this reflection and I am holding you and those who love you in my ark as I pray for so much healing these days. May you encounter shalom as each day unfolds. I am encouraged that you are out there teaching with such integrity and wisdom.
    Pastor Linda W. McHenry
    St Mark’s Lutheran
    Asheville, NC

  7. David Winer says:

    The door to the ark
    Can become for us all our
    Stairway to Heaven.

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