Friday, November 07, 2008


Storahtelling Show at Kol HaNeshama

By Amichai Lau Lavie

Storah On The Road

Saturday, November 3rd was a full Storah Weekend at Kehillat Kol Haneshama in Jerusalem. 25 trainees in the Israel Maven Training course met for a full day of study with Amichai on Friday, and then joined him for a Saturday Morning Maven show in the main sanctuary – packed with hundreds of people who came, especially to see Storah translate Torah from Biblical Hebrew to Modern Israeli.

I had two accomplices for the retelling of AFTER THE FLOOD – the Noah story - two of the Maven trainees. Varda Ben Hur, a local actress, and Michael Klein-Katz, a member of Kol Haneshama. Michael played Noah –a pessimistic alcoholic who refused to leave the ark and has trouble believing that the world is worth a second chance after the terrible destruction of the flood. Varda played Naama – Noah's wife – optimistic and eager for life to resume – including making more babies with her reluctant husband…

We Maven'ed three of the seven aliyot, engaged the audience in a great discussion about post traumatic hope, and spent the afternoon debriefing with the Maven training team. Even my Orthodox nephews and nieces came – and had to get over the shock of being inside a Reform synagogue for the first time! They gave us great feedback and really liked the concept. Why, they wondered, was it not more cynical??? We got into a great conversation about earnestness and irony in religious settings – interesting differences between Orthodox and Liberal – Israel and America! This Noah telling was a great precursor to the celebrations that followed on Nov. 5. – YES – this is a world worth saving….

Next Storah at Kol Haneshama in JM – February 7th.

See below – a letter sent from one of congregants in reaction to the Noah Maven:

Dear Amichai,

In addition to saying thank-you, I want to let you know that I think your approach to Torah-reading is deeply important, right and inspiring. Not only did I laugh, but I also thought about elements in the parasha in a way that got me excited. I'd like to share some of my thoughts with you.

I once read that teva (ark) also means 'word'. If Noah and all of us leave the WORD, language, verbal communication, what do we have to hold onto?

A rainbow is an apt response. A rainbow expresses the individual's longing to reach up to Heaven. We imagine we can cling to this miraculous, beautiful ladder and it will take us up to God, just as it seems to be a gift from God every time it appears in the sky. But alas, this is an allusion. Just as we ascend and reach the top, so we must descend. We come down a changed person -- sadder and wiser.

The place of man is on earth, not in the heavens. We all want to fly with the dove, but we are grounded.

When we leave the teva (ark), we are traumatized. Only by talking about life in the ark, and remembering all its details (how each animal ate a different food, etc etc, the sleeping arrangements, the sound of the rain outside etc etc) and sharing these stories with others from generation to generation, only with the word (teva), can we overcome the trauma.

The teva (word) is the tikun for the teva (ark), just as the fig is the tikun for eating the forbidden fruit, the fig. Story is how we overcome trauma.

Another thought: God's sense of smell saved the human race. The sense of smell is considered the most spiritual of the senses. It is said when the Ten Commandments were given, the whole earth filled with a lovely fragrance. The etrog is the chosen fruit for the four species because of its smell. Smell is our most primitive sense, according to some pediatric researchers. Smells from our childhood stay with us all our lives, so that when sight and hearing and taste and touch have deteriorated, a smell can still conjure an entire childhood and take us to far-away places, even on our death beds.

This Torah is so rich. Thank you for sharing its riches this morning.


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