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Archive for Octubre de 2018

In this week’s parashah, following the flood, and learning that the waters had been progressively diminishing and the tops of the mountains became visible, we read; “Then he (Noah) sent out the dove to see whether the waters had decreased from the surface of the ground. But the dove could not find a resting place for its foot, and returned to him to the ark, for there was water over all the earth. So putting out his hand, he took it into the ark with him” (Gen 8:8-9).

The hope was that the dove would not return to the ark, that it had found a place to settle on the dry land, signalling that it was safe for all of the inhabitants of the ark to start preparing to disembark onto dry land.

Rashi explains that Noah wasn’t merely sending the dove on an errand, but rather he was sending it away or letting it go, to be free to go where it wanted to. If the dove found a place it could be free, it would not have returned.

But as we know, the dove did come back to the ark. What we also learn is that Noah wasn’t angry with the dove, nor did he express to the dove his dissatisfaction at not being able to return to dry land. He did not take the approach that we often do when we find ourselves in similar situations, he did not shoot the messenger. He did not, in any way, take out his frustrations on the dove. Instead, when Noah saw the dove on its way back to the ark, he simply put forth his hand and took it, and brought it to him to the ark.

Throughout history there has been a vast amount of blameless and innocent messengers that have delivered news that was either tragic or sad, and on many occasions it has been contrary to what the recipient was expecting to hear. Most often, the recipient of the news has reacted with words and/ or actions that are less than exemplary, especially since these reactions have come from leaders and high profile members of society. The messenger is not responsible for the news, they are merely delivering it to the recipient.

Noah, however, showed impeccable behavior and leadership. He did not rebuke or blame the dove, nor did he cast doubt over the dove’s ability to do its job. Moreover, he put out his hand and welcomed the dove back to the ark.

The result was that when Noah sent the dove out again just seven days later, the dove didn’t feel as though it had to be frightened to return the ark if it couldn’t bring back good news. It took on the same task just one week later and then again one week after that with the same amount of enthusiasm it did the last time it went on the mission. The result – “The dove came back to him toward evening, and there in its bill was a plucked-off olive leaf! Then Noah knew that the waters had decreased on the earth. He waited still another seven days and sent the dove forth; and it did not return to him any more.” (Gen 8:11-12).

We all have examples of when someone delivered bad news to us. The likelihood is that some time in the future it will happen again. If we think about how we reacted to such news in the past, and then review our actions and reactions, perhaps we could be more restrained in our response to the messenger. We might even try to appreciate that while it’s bad news they’re delivering, they are simply the messenger. Not only could it make them not feel as bad for having to deliver the news, but it also puts the recipient in a more welcoming light, to be considered as a person who is more receiving and caring, thereby turning a potentially nasty and trepidatious experience into one where we work with each other to obtain the best outcome for the present and the future.

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At this point in the calendar, it almost seems like a let down, to come to services and nothing special will be occurring. To aid in the post holiday blues, we are treated this week to the beginning of our story, Bereshit, the first portion of the first book of the Torah.

Probably the most famous part of this week portion is the actual story of creation. Many of us recall the words at the end of each day creation, v’yar Elohim ki Tov, that the work that God had accomplished was good. In fact, for every act, that phrase is repeated. However, there are two notable exceptions. The first, is at the conclusion of creation, God says, it was very good. The second example occurs when God observes that Man is alone, and God reacts saying, “lo tov heiot adam levado” it is not good for man to be alone.

The response then if for God to create an “ezer k’negdo” typically translated as a fitting helper. Looking closely at the actual words, the translation seems to indicate two opposing ideas: ezer meaning helper, k’negdo has a connotation of being against, opposite or counter to something. How is it then that these two ideas together connote the ideal partner?

Relationships wherein one party acts only on one side of balance are not healthy relationships. Think of a relationship in which one person always acts in a helpful manner, is always complicit, and dutifully fulfills the other partner’s requests. Is this a healthy relationship? It is almost as if the relationship lacks free will on the part of the helpful participant. It runs the risk of ploughing ahead on paths that will not lead to good places. One person becomes more in control of the other; the partners are not equal. This is not a healthy relationship.

Likewise, think of a relationship in which one person always challenges the other partner, is always playing devil’s advocate and disagreeing, who always has a better idea. Is this a healthy relationship? This type of relationship is destined to fights and hurt feelings. It is destined to stagnation, since agreement is impossible. This too, is not a healthy relationship.

In a healthy relationship, one partner is able to recognize when to be helpful and when to challenge. Is able to be the cheerleader and assistant at times and is able to push the other onto a better path at other times. The one side creates a sense of support while the other side pushes the partner to be better. This balance over time allows for honesty and integrity in the relationship without dooming one partner to submission or the relationship to argument. In this relationship, when one partner takes the side of acting counter, both parties know that it is from a place of love and care, and not from anger or a need for control. In this relationship, when the helpful side is chosen, both parties know too that this is from a place of love and care and not submissiveness.

Let us strive, in this new year, to be that healthy, balanced partner, and in that way, create the healthy relationships that will sustain us.

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