Posts Tagged 'Dove'

The Right Dove: A Study in Empathy

A few weeks ago, at Mincha on the afternoon of Yom Kippur we read the book of Yonah. There we saw a recalcitrant prophet unwilling to carry out God’s bidding. He was directed to speak truth to the power of Nineveh. Yadda yadda yadda…he was being vomited by whale. Finding himself back on dry land he is called a second time to prophesize to the people of Nineveh. This time he carries out the task, walking across the large city proclaiming, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” (Yonah 3:4) I was always troubled by what happened next. There we read:

Now Yonah had left the city and found a place east of the city. He made a booth there and sat under it in the shade, until he should see what happened to the city.

Yonah 4:5

Maybe Yonah wanted to leave the city out of fear of what would happen when it was overthrown. But, then why did stick around to see what would transpire? It just seems cruel or at least insensitive. It is as if he were child watching ants getting burned by the sun being focused by a divine magnifying glass. What is the nature of Yonah’s character?

I was thinking about Yonah this week when reading Noah, this week’s Torah portion. Here we see that the world has been overthrown and Noah is trying to figure out when to leave the ark and return to the world. At first, he sends out a Raven, but it was to no avail. While the rain has finally stopped the water had not receded. And then he sends out a dove. That does not work either. There we read:

He waited another seven days, and again sent out the dove from the ark. The dove came back to him toward evening, and there in its bill was a plucked-off olive leaf! Then Noah knew that the waters had decreased on the earth. He waited still another seven days and sent the dove forth; and it did not return to him any more.

Genesis 8:10-12

So the dove came back and saved Noah, what is the connection with the story of Yonah? Well it turns out that Yonah- the name of the prophet means dove. One dove is sent by God to get them to leave their evil ways out of fear of destruction. After delivering the message he sits out to see if they will pass or fail this test. The other dove is sent by Noah who has seen the world destroyed to help him determine when he can re-enter the world. This dove could have just made it life on dry land, but instead returns to invite Noah and the rest of the Ark to join them.

The difference between these two doves reminds me of one of my favorite scenes from The West Wing. The context hardly matters:


Leo McGarry’s character says:

This guy’s walking down a street when he falls in a hole. The walls are so steep, he can’t get out. A doctor passes by, and the guy shouts up, “Hey you, can you help me out?” The doctor writes a prescription, throws it down in the hole and moves on. Then a priest comes along, and the guy shouts up “Father, I’m down in this hole, can you help me out?” The priest writes out a prayer, throws it down in the hole and moves on. Then a friend walks by. “Hey Joe, it’s me, can you help me out?” And the friend jumps in the hole. Our guy says, “Are you stupid? Now we’re both down here.” The friend says, “Yeah, but I’ve been down here before, and I know the way out.”

West Wing

Like the doctor and the priest, Yonah the prophet is the classic consultant. He told the people of Ninevah what was wrong as if tossing down a script or prayer and then sat on the side to watch. The dove is very different. The dove shows Noah how to get out of the hole. He knows how to get out of the ark and live in the world. As if to say, “Yeah, but I’ve been out here before, and I know the way.”

This makes me pause and reread the story of the dove in a new way. Why did the dove carry the proof of land in its mouth and not in its talon? Just like the friend in Leo McGarry’s story, it is not about what you say that is important, it only matters what you do. Noah needed proof of land to leave the ark. The way out was not through words, but the doves actions of bringing back the olive branch in its bill. The world is sustained by empathy- our capacity to jump into hole.

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What the Eye Sees: Manoah, Noah, and Emunah

In Parshat Naso we learn about the case of the Nazir, and I am excited to learn more about that from Emunah. In the Haftarah we learn about Shimshon, who was a warrior leader, a biblical Judge Dredd, and apropos our Torah portion a nazir. He is a bit of a tragic superhero with extraordinary strength and a sad ending. It seems fitting that the haftarah is told like a classic Marvel origin story.

Here we are introduced to Manoah and his wife (sadly unnamed in the text). They were childless, but an angel appeared to Manoah’s wife and told her that she would give birth to a son. The child was to be dedicated from the womb as a Nazir, which entailed restrictions on drinking alcohol, coming into contact with the dead, and not cutting his hair. The woman told her husband, “A man of God came to me”. Manoah was incredulous, prayed and the angel returned to instruct the both of them that their son would be a nazir and they named him Shimshon.

This got me thinking about this guy Manoah. Who is this character? What is his significance in this story? It also got me looking at the connection between Manoah and Noah. Manoah was the father of the judge, general, leader, and savior of his generation. Noah saved the world by building an ark to perpetuate life through the flood. Linguistically their names are connected:

  • Manoah (מנוח) is “a place of rest”
  • Noah (נוח) is “ being comfortable”

Their two names comes together with the story of Noah and the dove:

וְלֹֽא־מָצְאָה֩ הַיּוֹנָ֨ה מָנ֜וֹחַ לְכַף־רַגְלָ֗הּ וַתָּ֤שׇׁב אֵלָיו֙ אֶל־הַתֵּבָ֔ה כִּי־מַ֖יִם עַל־פְּנֵ֣י כׇל־הָאָ֑רֶץ וַיִּשְׁלַ֤ח יָדוֹ֙ וַיִּקָּחֶ֔הָ וַיָּבֵ֥א אֹתָ֛הּ אֵלָ֖יו אֶל־הַתֵּבָֽה׃

But the dove could not find מָנ֜וֹחַ- a resting place for its foot, and returned to him to the ark, for there was water over all the earth. So putting out his hand, he [Noah] took it into the ark with him. (Genesis 8:9)

Their names are linked but not the same. It is interesting here that Noah, the man of rest could not find Manoah, a place to rest. This place of rest eluded him. And later even when the dove finds a place to rest and brings back an olive branch, Noah stays in the ark. Even when presented with evidence that the coast is literally clear his place of rest is still hidden from him. Noah needed to be told to leave the ark.


צֵ֖א מִן־הַתֵּבָ֑ה אַתָּ֕ה וְאִשְׁתְּךָ֛ וּבָנֶ֥יךָ וּנְשֵֽׁי־בָנֶ֖יךָ אִתָּֽךְ׃

God said- “Come out of the ark, together with your wife, your sons, and your sons’ wives.”

While for some, faith could be that much needed resting spot amidst a storm, to others faith can blind us to the opportunities which are right in front of us. Like Noah, Manoah did not believe his wife when she told him that they were going to have a child. He did not believe the blessing the angel brought her. Harry Houdini said, “What the eyes see and the ears hear, the mind believes.” But in the cases of Manoah, Noah, and many of us “The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend.” Why are we limited to see what we expect to see?

I would like to take the liberty of illustrating this point with a special story about our child, Emunah:

It was Passover Yom Tov and we were at the Olsons. Emunah was 2 years old. She was a big girl and wanted to wear big girl underpants like her big brothers. We were mortified when she peed all over their floor. But Adina and I are experienced parents at this point. This is our 3rd kid. We’ve got this. So we clean her up, clean the floor, and put another pair of underpants on her. And you can see this one coming in slow motion….yes #2.

So now we are in it. There is a reason that diapers open up the way they do as a clam. Seeing that it is Yom Tov there is no way to cut off her soiled underpants. There is just no easy war to get them off of her and we do not know what to do. Adina whisks her off to the bathroom and we are screaming. Get this, get that, we are so sorry, etc.

You’ve got to see the scene. I come into their bathroom wielding wipes. Adina is trying to get her underpants off and contain the mess. Emi is contorted head down and with a leg in the air or on the edge of the toilet. We are screaming at each other and Emi says “ Mami… And we both go silent.

We have all been there. There is that moment when the child absorbs all of the energy around them and just channels it back at you. In that moment Adina and I looked at each other and braced ourselves for Emi to start to cry uncontrollably. A hot mess. This is what we expected to see.

There is our Emunah… “Look Mami- I am doing Yoga

Shanti- Ah serenity. It would have been understandable or even expected for her to cry in fear, embarrassment, or just matching our energy, but there you were Emunah at 2 years old doing Downward Dog. You pushed and continue to push us to see the world from different perspectives.

Emunah- It is wonderful to pause at this moment and see how much you have grown over the last decade. Unlike Manoah and Noah you are restless without a resting place. Emunah, you have never been about blind faith. Emunah, you have a gift to see what others do not. Emunah, you see things in your own way. Emunah, your creativity abounds- your mind is prepared to comprehend anything.

I am always reminded that no matter how bad things ever get, even if we feel that our lives are a hot mess, if we are not complacent, do not “rest”, we can shift our perspective, “do some yoga”, and things will start to look up.

Thank you Emunah. Shabbat Shalom. Namaste


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