Friday, October 12, 2007

The Death Star, Ark Parallels (Noach)

Imagine someone is building a gigantic ark. I mean, the Ark that Noah built had to be huge. Probably the size of a Carnival Cruise-liner. At some point, we have to realize that one person cannot do this alone. And unlike our friend Steve Carrell in Evan Almighty, we all know animals cannot hammer a nail.

Noah had three sons, but if they were so upset with him that they cut off his Peter Pecker after the flood was over, I doubt they were very helpful during the pre-flood efforts.

Looking for guidance on all this I turn to a personal wise man, Randal Graves, video rental salesman in the movie "Clerks," directed by Kevin Smith.

Here is what he had to say when discussing the second Death Star, in the Return of the Jedi:
Randal: So they build another Death Star, right?
Dante: Yeah.
Randal: Now the first one they built was completed and fully operational before the Rebels destroyed it.
Dante: Luke blew it up. Give credit where it's due.
Randal:And the second one was still being built when they blew it up.
Dante: Compliments of Lando Calrissian.
Randal: Something just never sat right with me the second time they destroyed it. I could never put my finger on it-something just wasn't right.
Dante: And you figured it out?
Randal: Well, the thing is, the first Death Star was manned by the Imperial army-storm troopers, dignitaries- the only people onboard were Imperials.
Dante: Basically.
Randal: So when they blew it up, no prob. Evil is punished.
Dante: And the second time around...?
Randal: The second time around, it wasn't even finished yet. They were still under construction.
Dante: So?
Randal: A construction job of that magnitude would require a helluva lot more manpower than the Imperial army had to offer. I'll bet there were independent contractors working on that thing: plumbers, aluminum siders, roofers.
Dante: Not just Imperials, is what you're getting at.
Randal: Exactly. In order to get it built quickly and quietly they'd hire anybody who could do the job. Do you think the average storm trooper knows how to install a toilet main? All they know is killing and white uniforms.
Dante: All right, so even if independent contractors are working on the Death Star, why are you uneasy with its destruction?
Randal: All those innocent contractors hired to do a job were killed- casualties of a war they had nothing to do with. ... All right, look-you're a roofer, and some juicy government contract comes your way; you got the wife and kids and the two-story in suburbia-this is a government contract, which means all sorts of benefits. All of a sudden these left-wing militants blast you with lasers and wipe out everyone within a three-mile radius. You didn't ask for that. You have no personal politics. You're just trying to scrape out a living.

So even though Noah was the only holy man left on Earth, what about all the people that he would need to build an ark that would last for an entire year, who then got washed away?

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We the Undersigned, Moose and Squirrel (Noach)


Global Warming is going to raise the water level across the world. Manhattan will be underwater. Miami will be underwater. Boston will be underwater. Kansas and Toto, however, will be fine.

The weather will change. Climate will change. The sky will look different. You will need a parka and suntan lotion simultaneously.

We call on the people of Earth to right their ways, take care of the planet and one another, otherwise we are facing a catastrophe unlike anything we have ever seen.


Noah, Mrs. Noah. Noah’s Sons, Mrs. Noah’s Sons.

Mr. and Mrs. Gorilla, Mr. and Mrs. Lion, Mr. and Mrs. Bunny, Mr. and Mrs. Giraffe, Mr. and Mrs. Moo Moo Cow, a couple of birds, Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Moose and Squirrel, Chip and Dale.

Apparently this petition didn’t reach enough people of Earth, leading to a series of events in which an ark was built, the undersigned made it onto the boat and the world as we know it was washed away.

Can you imagine what it would be like for someone to preach to us that the world was coming to an end? All the Earth will be covered in water. The way we live will be put at risk. The future is unknown.

Who would listen to such conjecture?

I know what you’re thinking. Parsha Noach cannot truly be related to what we face today with Hurricane Katrina, the Tsunami, seasons changing, bees disappearing, diseases shifting, gas prices rising and then falling and then rising, and wars over energy. Al is not even mentioned in the Parsha.

I drive to work in the morning, sometimes with my roommates, sometimes not. The commute is not so bad; it’s no more than 17 minutes depending on what lights I make. I eat out for lunch. It’s hard on the pocketbook, but easy on convenience. There is a great bbq place next to my office. Sometimes after work, I go to the gym. Several times a month I fly, usually indirect, with a stop in Charlotte or Memphis on my way across the country.

So if you’re asking me to change you better have a really compelling reason. The fact that Manhattan might be underwater in 20 years is not going to affect whether I bring a canvas bag to the grocery store, or if I buy recycled paper for my office.

Because really how can one canvas bag really make a difference?

When we are little, change is not so hard. We find from our parents that it’s either their way or the highway. Not looking to relocate when I was young, I stuck to their way. Whenever I was about to do something really wrong two “Pintos” would pop up on my shoulders, one in white, one in a devil costume, to argue it out in my head. Or in the Jewish tradition, I would hear my mother’s voice ringing in my ears.

But when we are of age, when we make our own decisions, change is not as easy. Some of us cannot decide where to eat for lunch “Uhmm … I don’t care.” But the constant thing about change is that when it is forced upon us - when change is the only option we have - it happens.

When Manhattan sinks under a couple of feet of water in 20 years, when Miami goes down, the people of the United States and the World will start to get it. They will see that this is real and change must come.

Between now and then, petitions will be signed, canvas bags and new light bulbs will be bought, and the bubbling of a Green movement will build. So it is put to us to make a difference now.

  1. Reduce, reuse, recycle
  2. Use Less Heat and AC
  3. Change a light bulb
  4. Drive less and drive smart
  5. Buy energy-efficient products
  6. Use less hot water
  7. Use the off switch
  8. Plant a tree
  9. Get a report card from your utility company
  10. Encourage others to conserve

Why should you make these changes? Why should you have to change when everyone else will not? Because change is coming whether we like it or not. Because the important thing in life is not how many times you fall down, not how many mistakes you make, not how you failed your last test or missed your last interview, but how you respond.

Is global warming real? Is not the most relevant questions anymore.

The world is changing. A flood may be coming.

What are we going to do about it now?

Change does not come easy. Even God, the most powerful, most energy efficient, all-knowing, all-powerful, all-American first team, did not change existence all at once. God, The Commissioner, took six full days for creation. Building our world little by little. Change is not an overnight process. It is not a flip of the switch.

Change is a string around your finger. Change is a note card in your pocket, a new time to wake up in the morning. A canvas bag, a light bulb, a little less.

Even God makes change and even God finds that sometimes those changes do not always go as intended. After the flood, God promised Noah that the Earth would not be flooded again by his hand.

With the New Jewish Year, with Winter right around the corner, with Parsha Lech Lecha coming to you next week here at The Watering Hole, the time is right to consider what we can do to help the world,

our communities,

our friends and


to make some small changes in our lives. We are not God and nor do we have to change the whole world at once. But what we can do is change our worlds - your world. Because beach-side property in Kansas may sound nice, but where will J-Lo live?

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Listen to Your Ark When It's Calling to You (Noach)

Something struck me immediately as I read this Parshah: Man, that is one huge ark! 300 x 50 x 30 cubits where at “fifteen cubits above did the water prevail … the mountains were covered up” (Genesis 7:20).

How did Noah accomplish this gargantuan task? He had very specific instructions, which is more than most of us are provided with, but it still seems amazing that Noah accepted this task with no questions asked – “[and] Noah did; according to all that God had commanded him, so he did.” (Gen. 6:22). He had an open heart, and confidence in his heart’s — and G-d’s — words.

Do most of us set out with this determination and steadfast confidence in the tasks we undertake each day?

Shouldn’t we?

Do we even always fully understand the implications of our actions, or stop to contemplate if we’re on the right path?

I recently saw a documentary on a marching band at a public high school in southeast DC, the place where tourists never go and few young professional yuppies rarely travel either, the place where children attempt to overcome overwhelming odds to succeed. The documentary followed the story of how the marching band was such a positive force in students’ lives and how so much of the love, safety, and achievement were the outcome of the band director’s hard work. What struck me most about the documentary was how obvious it was that leading the band was his path in life and he was living out his unique destiny. He listened to and trusted his heart and followed it to a life of personal fulfillment. He also created a space for others to feel safe enough to listen to their own hearts too.

At Yom Kippur services this year, one leader asked us to listen to our hearts to be able to find the path of our journey. G-d set out very specific guidelines for Noah, but the blueprints for most of our lives are slightly more elusive. Maybe G-d is trying to give us guidance, but we’ve created so many petty and materialistic distractions that we’re drowning him out. Or maybe we’re not listening hard enough.

This leads me once again to say, cherish the things in life that are really important to you. Next time you see a rainbow, remember that G-d is keeping up his end of the bargain. Call your friends and tell them you love them, smile at a stranger, make the world a better place.

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