The only righteous one left in the world because everyone else has gone crazy ...

Hebrew Calendar

Tishrei 5776

28th Day of Tishrei

Gregorian Calendar

October 2015

Sunday, Oct. 11th

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The NAME Game

If you call us SKINNY, will we lose weight? In Judaism, a name isn’t just what we’re called. It’s who we are and who we hope to be. We give our children names that represent our hopes and dreams for them or to engender a feeling or characteristic we hope they’ll embody. People often say that Jews don’t name their children after someone who’s alive. But that’s only partially true. Ashkenazi Jews (those of Central and Eastern European descent) don’t generally name their children after someone who’s living. Since naming someone in memory of a deceased person was such a popular custom, giving your kid the same name as your healthy, but distant Uncle Bill might seem like you’re hoping he’ll bite it and leave you his fortune. Sephardic Jews (those of Spanish and North African descent) honor their living relatives by naming their children after them. Either way, names are a powerful and symbolic reference point to something or someone. 
In the Torah, Moses asks the Big Guy, “What’s your name?” And he’s not just wondering what name to put in his iPhone contacts. Moses is asking God: “WHO are you?” God’s response: “I am that I am… I am the God of your ancestors. This is my name forever and this is my memorial to all generations.” (Google it: Exodus 3:13-15) So
SKINNIES, we ask you: What is your name? WHO are you? What is your memorial to all generations? When the ride is over, how do you want to be remembered?
Later in the Torah, God adds: And by the way, don’t take my name in vain. Meaning: Don’t diss me. In Judaism, there are two mirrored concepts related to giving respect to God: Chillul (chh – throaty clear – eee- loole – bossy “e”) HaShem (ha-shem), which means: Desecration of The Name (of God) and Kiddish (key-douche) HaShem (ha-shem), which means: Sanctification of The Name (of God). What we say and what we do can either desecrate or sanctify not just God's name, but other people's names, and even our own. And don’t get us started on the children’s nursery rhyme: “Sticks and stones will break our bones, but names will never hurt me.” It’s just plain wrong. Names do hurt, but they can also heal and offer respect. That’s why, in Judaism, we treat God’s names with respect. In Jewish tradition, God has a lot of names. You’ve probably heard many of them. There are lots more than these, but here’s the
SKINNY on the Big List of The Big Guy’s Names:
ADONAI:  A long long time ago, we can still remember that we were prohibited against pronouncing God’s name outside of the Temple. (The Temple that stood in Biblical times, not the synagogue that we now refer to as temple). The Temple got destroyed (twice, actually, but more on that in another
SKINNY). For generations afterwards, scholars told people how to pronounce God’s name, but eventually – like the childhood game of Telephone – the correct pronunciation was lost. Some scholarly smart people think God’s name was pronounced: Yahweh, but lots of other equally scholarly smart people say, “No Way.” While we may no longer know how to pronounce God’s name, we do know how to spell it. It’s written with the Hebrew letters: Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey, which we generally read as Adonai (Ah-dough-night – without the “t”). It’s related to the Hebrew root that means: To Be and echoes God’s response to Moses, “I am that I am.” This name is generally used to refer to God’s relationship with us and when God’s in a merciful and loving mood.
YAHU:  Yahu is pronounced like, but not to be confused with, Yahoo! and is a shortened version of Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey.
YAH: Yah is another nickname for Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey and we think it’s deliciously ironic that in tween-talk, Yah means Yes!
ELOHIM:  It’s pronounced: el-oh-heem and is the name used to refer to princes and judges. In Jewish scripture, it tends to be used when describing God as a powerful ruler.
ELOHEINU: Same as above, but pronounced: el-oh-hey-noo and means Our God.
HALLELUYAH:  It means: Praise the Lord and gives us another opportunity to plug our other favorite Big Guy,
Leonard Cohen. And a special Hebrew version.

HASHEM: This one’s easy. It literally means: The Name.
YEHOSHUA: It’s Joshua in Hebrew, pronounced: yeh-ho-shoe-ah, and means: the Lord is my Salvation.
ELIYAHU: You know the messiah-dude who comes to drink the glass of wine we set out on the Passover Seder table? Eliyahu (el-ee-ya-hoo) is Elijah in Hebrew and means: My God is the Lord.
EL SHADDAI: Pronounced: el-sha-die; it means something like: God Almighty. It’s the name of God that’s written in the mezuzah (meh-zoo-zah) scroll that we hang on our doors. (More on that in another
SKINNY.) The exact translation of Shaddai isn’t known, but some people think it’s an acronym for Shomer (show-mare) Daltot (Dahl-tote – bossy “e”) Yisrael (Yis-rah-el), which means: Guardian of the Doors of Israel.
SHECHINAH: It’s pronounced: sheh-chee – scratch – nah and is the Girl Power name of God. Shechinah comes from the Hebrew word shochen (show-ch –scratch – en), which means: To Dwell Within. It’s represented as light and refers to God in the divine feminine form. 
GOD or G-D:  Adhering to the teaching of Kiddush HaShem and not taking God’s name in vain, in Judaism, we don’t write the name of God carelessly. And when we do write God’s name, we don’t write it on anything that’ll be erased or thrown away. This mostly comes from a passage in the Torah (Forget Google…
Sefaria it: Deuteronomy 12) when we’re told not to destroy anything holy, including God’s name. This technically only applies to the four-letter name of God – Yud, Hey, Vav, Hey, but some people extend it to the universal English use of GOD, by replacing the letter “o” with a hyphen: G-D. TEAM SKINNY adheres to the Yud, Hey, Vav, Hey rule and doesn’t write God’s name using those Hebrew letters, but we’re okay with the “o” in the English word for God. We encourage you to follow whichever custom you’re accustomed to!



1st Book 
Genesis  | Bereisheit (In the Beginning)

2nd Book 
Exodus | Shemot (The Names)

3rd Book 
Leviticus | Vayikra (And God called)

4th Book 
Numbers | Bamidbar (In the desert)

5th Book 
Deuteronomy | Devarim (The Words)


Weekly Torah Reading:

Parshah Noach 
Genesis, chapter 6: verses 9 through chapter 11: verse 32

Parshah Noach (No-ach – scratchy ch)
Noach is Hebrew for Noah. And we drought-dry California
SKINNIES are Noach’ing for a flood!



Fast forward. It’s been 10 generations since last week’s parsha, Beresheit, when Bob-the-Builder (aka God) created the world and built everything in it, including Adam and Eve who dined in the Garden of Eden, then got evicted. Lots has happened since then. If you think Adam and Eve were unruly for eating the forbidden fruit, you aint seen nothin’ yet. Now, it’s the masses who are no-goodniks. God thinks Noah is the only righteous one left in the world and that everyone else has gone crazy with violence and corruption. (We wonder: Is this a Biblical story or a modern-day tale?)  In this week’s parsha, God tells Noah to build a large wooden ark because a tsunami-sized flood is going to wipe out all the bad guys, sparing Noah, his family, and two of each animal who get to float gently away. Rain falls for 40 days and nights. Eventually, the ark settles on Mount Ararat (thought to be in modern-day Turkey) and Noah lets a raven and some doves loose to see if the waters have drained. After several weeks, a dove comes back with an olive branch in its beak as evidence that the earth has dried and trees are growing. Noah and his crew disembark and repopulate the earth. God promises never to be so nasty again and seals the deal with a beautiful rainbow that stretches across the horizon. It’s a good story, but it’s not just surface. Dig deep. There’s some cool take-home nuggets. Here’s just 4 of ‘em:
Nugget 1. During the flood, rain falls for 40 days and nights. Just like with names, in Judaism, numbers have meaning. The number 40 appears many times in Jewish texts and represents transition, change, and new beginnings. Remember last week’s
SKINNY: The Israelites journeyed in the desert for 40 years. But there’s more… In the Torah, we read that Moses hung out on Mount Sinai for 40 days and 40 nights waiting to get the Ten Commandments. And, we’re not supposed to study the mystical philosophy of Kabbalah (kah-bah-lah) until we’re mature enough to deeply understand it, which the rabbis of long ago pegged at age 40. (We think: 1. Some of us at TEAM SKINNY are very immature 40-year-olds, and 2. The equivalent must be when our 40-year-old friends buy a red Tesla.) There are also 40 days between the first day of the Hebrew month of Elul, when we begin preparing for Rosh Hashanah, and Yom Kippur, during which time we engage in a process of repentance and renewal. 
Nugget 2. After God tells Noah to build the ark, it takes Noah 120 years to do it. Okay, for starters, that’s a lot of overtime pay. And set aside that Noah is a really old guy by now. It took that long because Adonai (Read: God's in a loving mood) wants to give people time to repent from their evil-doing ways. Noah builds the ark really really really slowly. Not only that, he posts regularly on his blog that he’s building the ark because God’s going to destroy the world if they don’t repent. Like many blog posts, people don’t pay attention to it. The rain starts to drip, then it drops, and then a big huge waterpark-size flood covers the entire world and destroys everything. In the smash hit musical, Amélie, at Berkeley Rep Theatre, a character in the play is pointing up and young Amélie says: “When a finger is pointing at the sky, only a fool looks at the finger.”  Noah’s warning of the pending doom can be equated to the mocked preachers of today who squawk that the sky is falling and the apocalypse is near, only to claim oops, they got the date wrong. Or, we can read Noah’s warning as a metaphor (You know it by now,
TEAM SKINNY loves metaphors!) Who are the Noah-like equivalents pointing at the sky today? Environmentalists warning of climate change? Health advocates decrying the dangers of eating foods jam-packed with GMOs? Your toddler who’s clamoring for more quality time from you? Who is pointing? And, are we looking foolishly at their pointed finger or somewhere else for answers?
Nugget 3. After Noah and the other survivors repopulate the earth, everyone’s living in peaceful harmony. They even speak the same language and have the same customs, but then a group of angry activists build a tower so high that they claim it’ll reach the sky as proof that they’re more powerful than G. O. D. Not a good idea. God’s like, “OMG! Why’d you do that?” Then God gets awfully mad – not flood 2.0 mad, but still really pissed off. God makes everyone speak a different language so they can’t understand each other and the harmony splits apart and people adopt different customs and form separate nations and well….one might say that’s how we got into the mess we’re in today.
Nugget 4. God builds a rainbow as a pinky-swear promise to us that no matter what, God’ll never destroy the world again. Rainbows are such a cool reminder of that covenant, and of our miraculous, glorious world, that we recite a blessing whenever we’re blessed enough to see one:



Suggested SKINNY Read:

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