Shabbat Shalom: On Noah – The Verb Tense of Living

Oct 27, 2022

We had a great staff meeting on Wednesday. In our weekly staff meetings, each department highlights a bit of its work. We have several newer and younger staff. As each person spoke, I sat and listened with such pride. Each person reflected innovative efforts to improve JEWISHcolorado’s work with and for our community. The energy was high and fresh and inspiring. After these reports, I congratulated our staff and thanked them for their hard work taking the opportunity to reiterate something I try always to emulate and teach, namely, leadership is a verb, not a noun.

This concept, that nouns become amplified – activated and strengthened – in their verb form, finds relevance in last week’s and this week’s Torah story. In Bereishit, Adam names all the living beings. One may read this as a declarative act of authority and rank. Or Adam’s action underscores his role as caretaker and steward.

Contrast this with the act of naming in Noah.  In this week’s Torah story, that act of naming becomes an act of self-aggrandizement and ego. According to the Torah commentators, Nimrod leads the rebellion of chapter 11. He and those among the rebellion are quoted as calling out, “Come, let us build a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves.” Nimrod turns the act of naming into declaration of self as supreme, while Adam puts every living creature into a context of stewardship and responsibility. Instead of the means to an end and symbol of relationship, the ability to produce and name is turned upside down, becoming the object and objective.

Our actions – to lead, to name, to steward, to build – are at once an expression of role and responsibility, power, and authority, and simultaneously imbued with the potential for care and compassion, and the multitude of ways we can act, not for our name but for those in amongst us whose names we can lift.

 

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Jay Strear
President & CEO

Please email Jay Strear at CEO@jewishcolorado.org with comments or questions.