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You could randomly place a finger on the text and find something worth an entire course of study. To me, the most interesting phrase of the entire section is in the very first sentence:. But one might rightly ask: if Noah was worthy of this distinction, why include any qualifier?

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That seems unlikely, insofar as it is at least somewhat at odds with what would later become a mitzvah-centric culture. For me, a compelling way of understanding the distinction is this: Noah was blameless in his generation, in that he was without sin, but could not be considered righteous because he did not speak out against the evil of his contemporaries. From this, we might conclude that it is not enough to live a righteous life—we are also obliged to help others do so as well. I freely confess it. Years of cold stares from unappreciative conversation partners and one comically abbreviated dinner date have, for the most part, taught me to keep my corrective voice to myself, but privately?

For those of us for whom Hebrew is a second language, rather than our native tongue, Hebrew provides a veritable bounty of new grammatical mysteries to explore which should make us dikduk dorks, no? Sometime around my bar mitzvah, I was blindsided by the realization that the written Torah did not possess Hebrew vowels. I mean, literally—how do I know how which vowel is used and where? Is this a thing?

Am I commanded to speak? Context only tells you so much. As it turns out, syntactic uncertainty appears immediately in the Torah—like, in the very first syllable. Depending on your philosophical bent, you might think: is this a simple transcription error? Possibly; but really, the first syllable of the most closely inspected text in human history?

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This seems unlikely. Is it possible that linguistic convention has changed over time in some miniscule way that is otherwise invisible? Most scholars doubt it, since every other appearance of the phrase in the torah assumes a trailing preposition. That leaves only one other option that I can see, which is to ascribe specific intent. But what could that be? Some have argued that the phrasing is intended to imply a sense of timelessness, that God created and has never stopped, and will never stop, creating the world.

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I do know this, however: for those of us who enjoy language games, there is nothing more intricate, more complex or more compelling than a page of Torah! Shalom and Chag Sameach—season greetings. In fact, I am starting to write this Dvar Torah on the eve of Sukkot. What a meaningful and inspirational start to the new Jewish year.

It began with the confident, optimistic atmosphere of Rosh Hashannah. It continued, a week later, with the solemnity and intensity of Yom Kippur, which ended with the final, long tekiya gedola of the shofar. When you read this Dvar Torah, we will be in the midst of the simcha -infused festival of tabernacles, Sukkot. This series of tishrei chaggim —festivals—is a happy one for me, although it is tinged with some sadness. Yoni Jesner and I were very good friends.

We both grew up in Glasgow, Scotland. Yoni was much younger than me. He loved being Jewish and took nothing for granted. Every time I visited my hometown I would see Yoni, usually in synagogue or at his home, either in the morning or throughout Shabbat. Yoni was always helping someone. Something needed to be completed and Yoni would be the one who volunteered. You see, Yoni loved his community and the Glasgow community loved Yoni Jesner. He wanted to study medicine when he graduated high school in order to help heal others less fortunate than him. Yoni aspired to be a medical doctor because he felt that was his calling.

At morning prayers on Friday, July 6, , a few days before his brother Ari was getting married, we spoke for the last time. I told Yoni that I was going to be teaching Talmud. Yoni told me not to worry we would see each other soon. We bid each other farewell. Two months later Yoni was on a bus with his cousin in Tel Aviv, on his way to visit friends. Suddenly, there was an explosion, an act of terrorism. Yoni was taken to hospital, but succumbed to his wounds the next day.

His parents, Marcia and Joseph, made the decision to donate four of his organs to people who were desperately waiting for a transplant. His kidney was donated to a seven-year-old Palestinian girl, Yasmin Abu Rumeileh.

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Without it Yasmin would have died. So even after his death Yoni was able to give life to other people whom he had never met. This summed up Yoni Jesner.


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They contained life lessons. When I think of Sukkot and what it represents to both myself and the Jewish People it reminds me of Yoni Jesner, of blessed memory. I remember him because Yoni personified for me this joyful festival. One of the names of Sukkot is zman simchatenu , the season of our happiness.

Yoni was full of happiness. Always with a smile, always asking how he could help, and always doing what he said he would do. Yoni would be the one who would bring people together both in times of celebration and in commemoration. When it is used I always think of Yoni and his selflessness and acts of lovingkindness.

Yoni Jesner personified this verse. When I feel a little sad, I think of my good friend and what he would say. I am blessed to be part of Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School, who not only value helping the community but doing so with a smile. I would like to take this opportunity to wish all of you both a Shabbat Shalom and a Chag Sameach.

Enjoy celebrating the final days of Sukkot. We have now reached the four intermediate days between Yom Kippur and Sukkot. Jews throughout the world are about to enter actual sukkot—temporary homes for seven days. Our relationship with God returns from the heavens of Yom Kippur to the more earthly Sukkot—the festival of tabernacles. In my life, I have witnessed a number of times when rain has become both destructive and a life-saving miracle. I have experienced flooding in the Emek Yizrael valley and the destruction of fields of barley, just before it was supposed to be harvested.

Yet, I have also seen rain bring brachot, blessings, when young crops have suddenly breached the surface of the soil on their way to being sources of food for humanity. Special prayers for rain were inserted into our daily prayers. One even became an instant hit on Israeli radio, nationwide.

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When I see rain I feel much joy, especially if there has been a mini-drought and the earth is waiting to be drenched in it. It comes in the form of a song and I love singing. Torah is often described as taking the forms of both dew and showers. Just like the rain showers and droplets can be absorbed into fertile soil, so to can Torah come forth and be absorbed if it falls into an environment or society that is open to its teachings and words of wisdom.

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Here, at Bernard Zell, we appreciate both the rain and the chochma, wisdom, of Torah. So this year, when you are in the sukkah, which is often seen as the wedding canopy for God and the Jewish People, take a deep breath, look up to the skies and feel free to be thankful that we usually dwell in strong houses that protect us from the elements. At the same time, be cognizant that our sukkah is our tardes or time capsule thanks, Dr. Alternately, just sit back, relax and capture the precious moments inside this flimsy, yet holy structure.

May we all be blessed with a year of rain falling in its season, Torah learning and global peace and harmony. Let us count all our brachot and be forever grateful for all that we receive from our Bernard Zell community. May we also be blessed with the ability to give back to our community, when, or even before, our new beautiful building is officially opened in the next few weeks. If you decide to go out and enjoy the rain please bring your shampoo and conditioner. Show that you really mean it. Gather the people—men, women, children, and the strangers in your communities—that they may hear and so learn to revere the LORD your God and to observe faithfully every word of this Teaching.