Food Day Shabbat & Parshat Noach

Food Day Shabbat/ Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan/ October 24, 2014

What is Food Day?

Food Day inspires Americans to change their diets for the better and to improve our food policies. Every October 24, thousands of events all around the country bring Americans together to celebrate and enjoy real food and to take action to solve food-related problems in our communities at the local, state, and national level. Food Day was created by the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest, and is possible thanks to a network of more than 100 national groups and over 80 Advisory Board members that work together to raise awareness about food issues and strengthen the food movement.

In 2014, the 4th annual Food Day will have a special focus on food access and justice for food and farm workers.

What is the Hebrew date and the weekly Torah portion?

Friday October 24, 2014 starts the Hebrew month of Chesvan, or as it is also known, Mar-Cheshvan. Cheshvan is the only month which has no holidays or special mitzvot (good deeds). We are taught that it is “reserved” for the time of Mashiach (Messiah), who will inaugurate the third Temple in Cheshvan. In the Bible, Cheshvan is called the month of bool a name that stems from the word for “flood” (mabool). This week’s Parsha (weekly Torah portion), is Noach. The general gist:

God tells Noah there is corruption on earth, and because of this all flesh will be destroyed, and so tells the righteous Noah to build an ark (which takes 120 years) and bring in two of every animal. Noah is 600 years, 2 months and 17 days old when the rain comes. Starting the 17th of Chesvan, it rains for 40 days and 40 nights. The water “strengthened” on earth for 150 days. Then, after another 150 days, the water recedes. Noah sends a raven to see if it was dry or if there was land. The raven circles and circles above and returns with nothing. Then, Noah sends a dove, but it returns as well.

Noah waits seven days and sends the dove out again. In the evening on that day, the dove returns with an olive leaf in its beak. This is a good sign, Noah thinks, but waits seven more days to send the dove out again. When the dove does not return, this is an even better sign.

On the following day, the 28th of Cheshvan, Noah brought his sacrifice to God and God swore never again to bring a flood upon the earth to destroy all mankind, God blesses Noah and his sons, telling them to “be fruitful and multiply” and spread throughout the land, and then revealed the sign of His covenant with the world, the rainbow.

Discussion points

1. Why did it take Noah 120 years to build the ark? One Midrash says that God specifically wanted Noah to undertake a strange and unusual project, to arouse people’s curiosity. God accentuated the oddity of it all by having Noah construct this huge boat ― not at the seashore ― but on a mountain-top! This way people would ask Noah, “What the heck are you doing?!,” and Noah could engage them in discussion about the global crisis, and how catastrophe could be avoided if people would change their ways.

120 years is a long time, and one may think that Noah would have convinced a lot of people to get back on track. Commentators have mixed opinions on this, some say Noah saw the Ark as his own ticket to survival ― a chance to build a big wall and insulate himself from the evils of society while others say he used the time to plant trees that he then used to build the ark.

  • What do you think is so important about the emphasis on Noah’s (staggering) age?
  • What do you think of Noah’s priorities?
  • Do runs, bike rides, ice bucket challenges, and climate marches have this ‘what the heck are you doing’ effect? What are effective ways to raise awareness of food and environmental justice issues? What “accentuated oddities” have you developed?

2. The Ark was larger than a football field and contained over a million cubic feet of space. It was outfitted with three separate levels: The top for Noah and his family, the middle for the animals, and the bottom for the waste (animal feces).

  • The world was being destroyed and Noah and his family set up an internal system to account for their waste. Does this help us see the world as a closed integrated system? Why might Noah prioritize that way if the world was being destroyed (anyway)?
  • As you dine together, consider the waste created or purposefully avoided in the preparation, consumption and eating of your meal. What will happen to leftovers and waste from food preparation? What packaging did the food come in and how is it disposed? Who is responsible for where waste goes – the consumer or producer?
  • According to the Midrash Tanhuma, “throughout those twelve months, Noah and his sons did not sleep, because they had to feed the animals, beasts and birds.” Imagine spending a year caring for others, what does that look like? What are our responsibilities to others in the food system, existing and ideal?

3. The Kabbalists explain that “taiva,” the Hebrew word for “ark,” also means “word,” for they are two sides of the same coin. Each of us wants to build an ARK ― the best life possible for ourselves and our family. Yet at the same time we are obligated to use the power of WORDS to reach out and influence others. Noah was given 120 years to build his “taiva.” So too, we are given 120 years ― or a full lifetime ― to do the same. The Ark was Noah’s solution to a global environmental crisis.

  • Do you hold certain privileges, or aspects of the ARK? What do you do to influence others using WORDS? What obligations do you think people with a modern day ARK hold?
  • When deciding what to eat, how do you balance values and constraints, including time, finances, and access?


Some quick wit

All I need to know I learned from Noah…..

1. Don’t miss the boat.

2. Remember that we are all in the same boat.

3. Plan ahead. It wasn’t raining when Noah built the Ark.

4. Stay fit. When you’re 600 years old, you may be asked to do something really big.

5. Don’t listen to critics, just get on with the job that needs to be done.

6. Build your future on high ground.

7. For safety’s sake travel in pairs.

8. Speed isn’t always an advantage. The snails were on board with the cheetahs.

9. When you’re stressed, float awhile.

10. Remember the Ark was built by amateurs, the Titanic by professionals.

11. No matter the storm, when you are with God there’s always a rainbow waiting.