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  • Cantor Sarah Myerson

Parashat Noah


Dear Mishkan Tefila community, Noah’s dove flew out once, twice, three times, until it landed dry and free. God’s wind drives the floodwaters from the green valley. Enemies sit down at the table without arms. Puddles of weapons long hidden are beginning to go bad. Here a trigger has fallen off, there we are a bullet shy. Couples are walking, rejoicing, coupling their way off the ship. Each heart that has been shut up in the Ark is born again. The above text is Josh Waletsky’s English translation of his Yiddish song “Irland, 5758.” Irland, you ask? That’s the Yiddish name for the country that we in English call Ireland. What has this song about Noah and the Ark to do with Ireland? If we look deeper at the lyrics, we realize immediately that this cannot just be a song about Noah and the Ark. Otherwise, why highlight the enemies at table without weaponry, and the puddles of weapons revealed by the receding flood waters? Songwriters often choose to write about current events in a way that is oblique enough that the song can continue to be meaningful long after the current issue has faded from public discourse. In this case, Waletsky wrote about the breakthrough in peace negotiations in Ireland, 1998 (in the Jewish calendar, that’s 5758, thus the title, “Irland, 5778”), through the lens of the biblical story of Noah and the Ark. Noah sending out a dove three times, while in accordance with the biblical story, is also a reference to the three attempted ceasefires preceding the peace negotiations between the British and Irish governments. Waletsky’s song focuses, not on the evil people that perished in the flood in the biblical story, but on the weapons, decaying in muddy waters. In this song, it is the armed conflict itself, which has come to an end, and it is now safe for the survivors to emerge from the Ark. Not only do they make their way physically out of the Ark, but their hearts, too, which Waletsky tells us had been “shut up in the Ark,” are now born (in Yiddish, “hatched”) again. This can be the hardest part, to heal inside after a conflict, and to move forward together, rebuilding trust and acceptance of the Other. Rather than making a recording of this song specifically to send to you this week for Parashat Noah, I’ve attached a link below to a video on Youtube, from a concert that was part of Yiddish Summer Weimar 2014. Performing this song at that time was very meaningful for me; it was July 2014, and I had just left Israel in the midst of the war, after having lived there for a year. I prayed then, as I do now, again, that people would find a way to live together in harmony; accepting one another’s differences and respecting the essential humanity of all people. In the Torah, God tells Noah that God will never again destroy the world with a big flood. In our world, with so many violent attacks now, in every corner of the Earth, may our prayers for peace be heard. May we listen to the prophet Isaiah’s teachings, beating our swords into plowshares, and our spears into pruning hooks; repurposing these tools in order to provide sustenance for the world. Oseh shalom bimromav: may the One who makes peace on high, make peace on us, on all Israel, and on all the world. Ken Yehi Ratson, may this be God’s will. Wishing you a peaceful Sabbath, a Shabbat Shalom,

Cantor Sarah Myerson

Click above to play video: Irland, 5758 Music and Words by Josh Waletsky (who conducts this performance!) Performance by faculty and participants of Yiddish Summer Weimar 2014


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