Jethro Wann - Dvar Torah
Today, as I celebrate my right of passage into manhood with my family and friends, I feel honoured to share what I have learnt from the Torah portion of Noah (insert portion).
With thanks to Rabbi Malcolm who has helped me take the first steps in understanding the valuable role I play in protecting the environment, staying true to what I believe to be right, and the importance of empathy. I have learnt this by finding the common theme in the stories of two very courageous heroes Noah and Nelson Mandela.
The story of Noah’s Ark speaks of the courage it takes to overcome fear of the unknown, and to stay true to what you believe to be right even if others don’t see things the same way.
Nelson Mandela’s life also shows me the courage it takes to stand your ground against oppression and to find a way to bring about freedom for all.
Both lives were full of sacrifice for the sake of fulfilling their life’s purpose of bringing about necessary change for the better. One for the sake of all of humanity and the animal kingdom, the other for the sake of human dignity and equal opportunity.
In the story of Noah’s Ark, Noah was described as a righteous, truthful and obedient man who trusted Hashem to see a future that he could not, and took the necessary steps to save the animal kingdom from total extinction. This required him to live in faith and do his part to support G-d’s will for the planet. He was able to connect directly to Hashem by keeping all the animal species fed and kept clean during the long flood that devastated the planet according to the Torah. This selfless work taught him humility.
After 40 Days of devastating floods, Hashem created the most beautiful rainbow across the sky as the water receded. This symbolised G-d’s promise to his people, never to bring such total destruction upon them again.
Madiba was a man of substance and conviction, he however, refused to be obedient to laws that he felt reinforced inequality and slavery in South Africa, going directly against the teaching of ‘Love Thy Neightbour’. His disobedience in this case, was necessary for the change that he wanted to see in the world
Mandela’s walk to freedom was long and painful, but his rainbow came in the form of the hope that he would live to see the day when the apartheid laws were abolished and he could walk free to enjoy equality and dignity for his people, and all South Africans. He never gave up.
Ultimately, both men were pioneers of ‘unchartered waters and had to be brave enough to believe in their cause. Their stories show that there are always tough decisions that have to be made but ‘with freedom comes responsibility’.
In conclusion, I believe that these two stories of righteousness and courage give me a good idea of what it means to be an upstanding mensh in my community; to value all life and to be brave in the face of adversity. I close with this quote from Nelson Mandela’s A Long Walk To Freedom.
"I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear." -Mandela