Bereishit – Genesis 12:1–17:27
Part of the Torah portion: G-d instructs Noah — the only righteous man in a world consumed by violence and corruption—to build a large wooden teivah (“ark”) coated within and without with pitch. A great deluge, says G‑d, will wipe out all life from the face of the earth; but the ark will float upon the water, sheltering Noah and his family, and two members (male and female) of each animal species (and 7 of the "pure" species).
In this blog I want to focus on the first verse of this Parshah
וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יי אֶל־אַבְרָ֔ם לֶךְ־לְךָ֛ מֵאַרְצְךָ֥ וּמִמּֽוֹלַדְתְּךָ֖ וּמִבֵּ֣ית אָבִ֑יךָ אֶל־הָאָ֖רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֥ר אַרְאֶֽךָּ׃
HaShem said to Abram, “Go forth from your land, birthplace and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you.
Many of us can relate to the story of Abraham. After all, many of us have known the feeling of having to depart from our familiar religious surroundings to an unknown destination. Knowing that their quest would take them where it would be better for them.
While it is debatable whether Noahides should literally detach themselves from their country, birthplace or family - after all, it is precisely when Noahides live in their birthplace that they can influence others - Noahides do need to spiritually detach themselves from their land, birthplace and paternal home.
We can think of this as our cultural background. Our cultural values largely determine how we think and behave, what we perceive as normal and what we consider deviant.
An example: Looking someone in the eye during a conversation. In some cultures it is respectful if you do that in other cultures it is actually indecent, because eyes can get into places and see things that are not suitable for the eye. As Noahides, you must learn to see such cultural values and norms through the lens of the 7 Noahides laws. In this case, you could think about the laws regarding "forbidden relationships". Can you just look at anyone, or are there certain situations where it is better to look away. For example, when people are scantily clad or can you speak to a person of the opposite sex in a confined space.
The place where you grew up, your immediate social environment. For some this means a religious environment, for others an atheist environment. But wherever you grew up there are customs, habits that people consider normal and valuable. If, as a Noahide, you recognise that certain customs are incompatible with the 7 Noahide Laws, it is much more difficult to take your own positions in them, live up to them and defend them.
An example of this is chr'istmas. Can you join your family if they give this feast a whole religious interpretation and what if it is just a family party out of tradition?
Many difficulties that apply to "birthplace" also apply to father's house. Understandably, in the above example of celebrating Christmas, this will be more drastic when it comes to a party at your parents' house than a party at friends' house. But it seems the same.
We can also give these a deeper meaning. The birthplace, that is yourself. It is your own customs and habits. Things you have been doing or not doing in a certain way for years. Changing those is the hardest part.
Were you used to looking very breezy in summer and now you want to be more covered up? That can be a challenge to maintain in very hot weather. Or were you not used to saying a blessing over your food and now you want to. Then that's going to take time to teach you.
Leave ( be critical) of your cultural background/environment, leave (shift your focus) in social activities
Leave (learn new dignities) old habits.
Brought By Angelique Sijbolts
Angelique Sijbolts is one of the main writers for the Noahide Academy. She has been an observant Noahide for many years. She studies Torah with Rabbi Perets every week. Angelique invests much of her time in editing video-lectures for the Rabbis of the Academy and contributes in administrating the Academy's website in English and Dutch. She lives in the north of the Netherlands. Married and mother of two sons. She works as a teacher in a school with students with special needs. And is a Hebrew Teacher for the levels beginners and intermediate. She likes to walk, to read and play the piano.
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